Finally, justice for Chiwetel. McQueen’s follow-up to Shame, which I skipped. I was bracing for a no-holds-barred art film, but it’s closer to a typical Hollywood drama than Hunger was, based on the real guy’s memoir and adapted by John Ridley (Three Kings, Red Tails).
Chiwetel is kidnapped by circus tricksters and sold to Django Unchained vet Chris Berry, who immediately kills fellow slave Omar and throws him overboard. Chiwetel is auctioned by Paul Giamatti to relatively-decent Benedict Cumberbatch, but pisses off watcher Paul Dano and so is sent to Fassbender’s place. Fass is fucking female slave Lupita Nyong’o and Fass’s wife Sarah Paulson knows it – guess which of those three will get the shit end of the stick (or the whip). Chiwetel seeks help from Garret Dillahunt, who sells him out, finally gets it from forward-thinking Canadian Brad Pitt.
Amazing story, certainly a well-made and well-acted movie, but the closing titles leave things depressingly unresolved and one yearns for some Django-style payback. IMDB lists the previous adaptation, starring Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame, as a comedy/drama!
Back with his rival/writer Lem Dobbs of The Limey and Kafka, but I don’t see much point in celebrating the reunion since this was a straightforward double-crossed super-spy story. If not for the Soderbergh name and the A-list cast that always follows the Soderbergh name, this would be filler content on HBO starring Edward Furlong or the like. I’m starting to think that I’ve been suckered into believing that Soderbergh is some important auteur, when really he just makes slick entertainments rather well. But I guess he goes back and forth – some turns out better than others – and this one is firmly on the slick-entertainments side of things.
The reviews focused entirely on whether action hero Gina Carano can act in the non-action scenes, and the answer is “well enough”. More surprising is that the stars (particularly Fassbender and Tater) can keep up with Gina in the fighting scenes, also well enough.
Gina is a spy/mercenary/thing working for Ewan McGregor’s private organization, rescues a Chinese fellow from kidnappers along with her buddy “Tater” Channing, then accepts a quick follow-up assignment with British agent Michael Fassbender at the house of Mathieu Kassovitz (Amelie‘s photo-booth boyfriend), where she finds the dead Chinese guy, realizes she’s being framed, gets jumped by Fassbender and shoots him dead after a struggle.
But wait, the movie starts in the middle, where she’s met by Tater in a diner while being tracked by Ewan’s people, kicks Tater’s ass but does not kill him, then kidnaps a dude named Scott (the kid who was shot by Stephen Root in Red State) to escape. Now she’s off to clear her name, tracking down Ewan (traitor with a bad haircut who gets left to drown Ted Danson-style), Tater (killed by Ewan), Michael Douglas (gov’t good guy who helps slightly). We know the big baddie at the end will be Antonio Banderas, since we saw him with a Castro beard early in the film then he never came back, and he wouldn’t just have the one cameo. Help also comes from her dad Bill Paxton (his first movie since 2007, and the first I’ve heard of since ’04).
According to the IMDB, shot and edited by Soderbergh under pseudonyms, well enough.