Movie Reviews: Hanna, and I Saw The Devil

Hanna – Directed by Joe Wright

I’m used to being disapointed at the movie theatre. It happens pretty regularly. Hollywood has been slowly dumbing down their product for so long, that when I see something that counters that trend, it can take me a while to recognize the quality of what I’m seeing.

Enter Hanna. On the surface, Hanna is a murder-by-numbers thriller, with a comic book plot that doesn’t deserve a second chance. But not only is it worth a closer look, it demands it. The plot: Hanna is a teenaged girl that has been trained by Eric Bana to be a lethal killing machine. Once he deems her ready, he sets her loose on her unknown mission.  Simple right? Right.

But wrong. What’s important here isn’t the what. The what is a teenaged girl kicking ass. Big whoop. And It’s not even the why. The why is interesting, but ultimately predictable. What makes this movie interesting is the how, specifically in regards to stylistic choices. What I loved about this movie is that Joe Wright NEVER takes the easy way out here. He could have easily set the entire film in the US, slicked it up a la Zach Snyder, and millions would have been made. Instead he set the entire film in North Africa and Europe, with accents, subtitles, and an avant-techno soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Ibiza dance floor.

The thing about this movie that’s worth remembering is that it’s got balls the size of grapefruits. The plot is simple, but the emotions behind it are not, and Wright gets every last drop of pathos out of the excellent script by Seth Lochhead & David Farr. And so the movie is quite intense, and the acting performances are over the top at times. The only time this actually detracts from the film is when Cate Blanchett shows up. She’s one of the finest actors in the world, but  she’s guilty of the worst performance I’ve seen since….um….well, since she was in Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. I don’t think her and action movies mix well.

What else? The fight scenes are short, but realistic. Almost no slo-mo, sound effects, or enhancements at all. The acting performances (other than Blanchett’s) are laudable, and Saoirse Ronan is well on her way to becoming a star. It’s her deft portrayal of naivete and revenge that makes this movie ultimately work so well.

Hanna is a risky, ambitious thriller that more than delivers a perfect mix of action and drama.

Rating: A-

I Saw The Devil – Directed by Jee-woon Kim

I’m a big fan of the modern Korean action movie. Huge. And that fact, combined with the fact that this was directed by the guy that made one of my favourite Korean films of the past few year (The Good, The Bad, & The Weird) , and it starred the guy that was in one of my favourite films of all time (Oldboy), made this a must-watch in my book.

I wish I hadn’t.

The concept here is solid: When his pregnant girlfriend dies horribly, a secret agent goes after the man responsible. Awesome, right? Yes, except that our hero catches up with the serial killer 45 minutes into the movie. Huh? Exactly. There is a good movie here, but it’s paced so weirdly that it’s impossible to enjoy. The serial killer (played by Min-sik Choi) is portrayed as strangely inept, and our hero (Byung-hun Lee) isn’t much better. So it’s not so much a game of cat and mouse, as it is a game of cat missing both eyes, and mouse with one leg.

What happens for the rest of the movie? Torture porn. Lots and lots of torture porn. Cop beats up killer. Killer beats up cop. Cop beats up other killer. Killer beats up two random killers he finds in a taxi. Cop beats up killer again. And again. And again.

Although there are a few scenes that held my interest, for the most part this movie just made me mad at the lost opportunity. In Jee-woon Kim’s attempts to own a genre that died two years ago, he lost the opportunity to make something even better: a decent thriller.

Rating: D+

One thought on “Movie Reviews: Hanna, and I Saw The Devil

  1. Not to mention it looks and feels like a Euro art house film, a la Run Lola run. I was grinning at the end of this movie . The visuals were so fantastic and while fun and action packed, never too souped up as you say. I’m going to say though that I think Blanchette was still interesting and added a great dimension to the story as this over the top character. She wasn’t the star but I think she worked. Obviously to have overseen what she did, she has to be a bit crazy. Loved it!

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