Not the second coming of lightweight studio comedy as claimed, but pretty good. Jon Hamm is less annoying than he seems from that one weird promo photo everyone is running. This fits into Poker Face Premiere Month nicely since Fletch isn’t a detective, but a journalist who keeps getting mixed up in investigations. The girl who looks like April Ludgate on the poster is Chilean Lorenza Izzo, an Eli Roth regular – suspiciously second-billed then barely in the movie. Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden “Griz” Mayeri are investigating the dead girl in Fletch’s apartment while he’s investigating the kidnapping of his girlfriend’s dad and some stolen paintings that Kyle MacLachlan is mixed up with. I appreciated the Caldor reference.
The intro shows Nick Offerman getting killed after burying some stolen money under a hotel room floor, and between this and The Sisters Brothers, I’m having a Coen Brothers-reminiscent double-feature. Ten years post-Offerman, four guests meet in the hotel lobby: false priest Jeff Bridges, pissy Dakota Johnson (A Bigger Splash, daughter of Melanie Griffith), salesman Jon Hamm, and downtrodden singer Cynthia Erivo (Tony-winning star of The Color Purple musical), along with lobby boy Lewis Pullman (The Strangers 2). Four of these people are not who they seem (the singer is exactly who she seems), and the movie will cut back and forth in time introducing each of their backstories as they violently collide in the present day of 1970-something. I heard this movie was a fun Tarantino knockoff, and it’s kinda Four Rooms-meets-Hateful Eight, maybe not up to the high standard of Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods and The Good Place, but it looks excellent and is a fun way to spend two long hours (each scene deliciously stringing you along, knowing you ain’t got nowhere better to be).
Chris “Thor” Hemsworth is introduced in the second half. After so much violent duplicity it seems like overkill to suddenly introduce a sex/death-cult leader, but I was busy being distracted by thinking he was definitely Chris Pine, but knowing he couldn’t be since Pine has bright glowing eyes and the only person in this movie with bright glowing eyes is Jeff Bridges as the false priest. Bridges was Offerman’s partner, seeking the money after a decade in prison, and Johnson and her psycho-killer younger sister Cailee Spaeny (Pacific Rim 2) are escapees from the Hemsworth Manson/Morrisson cult. Hamm is an FBI agent looking for God knows what but stumbling across the surveillance system in the hotel, run by self-hating Vietnam sniper-turned-heroin addict Pullman. Everyone kills everyone else, but Cynthia is too sympathetic to die, so she makes it out, possibly with the cash and/or Jeff Bridges, I don’t remember. Desplat lays down some fun music, but most of the entertainment comes from the jukebox songs and the ones Cynthia sings, sometimes in fragments, pausing and backing up.
Reminds of Heat in its attempt to build drama with a career criminal’s romantic relationship endangered by his line of work. But here the girl (Rebecca Hall, Christian Bale’s wife in The Prestige) was a hostage in the gang’s previous job – Ben Affleck was supposed to check on her afterward, eliminate her if she knows too much, but falls for her instead. She is traumatized by her heist & hostage experience so it’s no surprise at all when she’s working with the FBI at the end, although somewhat surprising that Affleck manages to escape the huge shootout after their final Fenway Park heist, killing boss Pete Postlethwaite then escaping to Florida.
Solid crime flick, though Ben is better at Boston-accented dialogue scenes and filming criminals wearing weird masks in cool poses than assembling distinguished action sequences. Jeremy Renner (between Hurt Locker and Mission Impossible 4) got an oscar nomination as the hotheaded, trigger-happy second in command (so, the Joe Pesci role), whose druggie sister (Green Lantern’s Blake Lively) the FBI gets to. FBI is led by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, are very good investigators but not the best marksmen. Small roles for Victor Garber as a banker and Chris Cooper as Affleck’s imprisoned father.