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The good, the bad and the robots: A look at this summer’s must-see movie and its biggest flop

Bumblebee returns to save the world (again) in the summer blockbuster ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon.’ Predictability ensues. (Sony Pictures Classics/AP Photo)

By Justin Mancini

Listen, “Transformers” franchise, I get it. You cater to people who like giant fighting robots. Hell, that’s the reason I went to see the first movie back in 2007. What I got instead was muddled, noisy, robot roughhousing.

Sadly (and perhaps predictably) not much has changed. This time, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) rejoins his robot allies as they face an extremely convoluted plot, which eventually boils down to defeating the evil robots and rescuing Sam’s girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whitely). I have to wonder if screenwriter Ehren Kruger recruited conspiracy theorists on some shady forum to devise the backstory (“and then, Kennedy sent us to the moon to find the giant talking robots!”).

There’s no doubt about the special effects; they are top-of-the-line. But what good are effects if we can barely make out which bot is fighting which? While some sequences are impressively mounted, more times than not the action devolves into a flurry of metal and combustion.

Another gripe about giant fighting robots: Do they really have to talk? Say goodbye to any intimidation factor they’ve earned from battle sequences. The dialogue, which mostly consists of Saturday morning cartoon clichés, certainly doesn’t help matters.

Neither can the human actors improve the film. Most of Shia LaBeouf’s performance involves him running wildly and shouting things like “Optimus!” and “Bumblebee!” and “Nononononono!” Rosie Huntington-Whitely fares little better than predecessor Megan Fox, proving that a British accent does not an actress make.

I’m reminded of a much better movie involving fighting robots called “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” It says something when Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing a robot, generates more life than this recent “Transformers” turkey.

“The Guard,” on the other hand, is written the way I wish more comedies were written — fast-paced, acidically witty and with an attitude that just doesn’t give a bleep. John Michael McDonagh’s film is a heavy reminder of what’s sorely missing from American comedy these days.

Brendan Gleeson stars as Sgt. Gerry Boyle, a cop who must fight a drug cartel within his own police force, in ‘The Guard.’ (Paramount Pictures/AP Photo)

The film centers on Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), an Irish police officer (the eponymous “Guard”). He is a seemingly apathetic and irreverent law enforcer, more likely to dole out wisecracks than justice in the course of a typical workday. After a series of mysterious murders within his jurisdiction, Boyle meets with FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), who informs him about an international drug smuggling ring within his area. Later, the two team up to eliminate the cartel amidst corruption within Boyle’s own force.

But there’s really no reason for me to belabor plot details any further: This is a movie more concerned with funny than anything else. Hijinks ensue. Hilarious hijinks, particularly in scenes where Gleeson and Cheadle share the screen. Conversations between the two utterly demolish political correctness, paving the way for laughs.

Funny is the primary goal of the film, and funny it is. That said, this is not a film that seeks to entertain a mass audience. It’s going to make humor on its own terms, whether you like it or not. And if that’s not your cup of tea, you’ve got to at least respect the film for having some real cojones.


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