Category Archives: 2007 Movie reviews

28 Weeks Later-2007

28 Weeks Later-2007

Director-Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Starring-Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner

70058018

Reviewed November 6, 2016

Grade: B-

At the time of its release, I remember 28 Weeks Later to be a successful follow-up to the original 28 Days Later, a clever play on the title and picking up events some seven months after the original. Watching the film now, however, I see flaws, mostly in the lack of character driven story and the resulting traditional action-type film. Still, the film is far from all bad.

The action begins as the audience meets a “family”, barricaded in a homey residence, attempting to resume normalcy in life by preparing and serving a delicious family dinner- almost reminiscent of Thanksgiving. The scene is tranquil and rich in familiarity. When a little boy pounds on the door to be let in, the terror begins and the Rage virus is proven to still be alive and well.

The story written for 28 Weeks Later has nothing to do with the original and contains none of the original characters. Rather, a father, mother, and young boy and girl, are the family that we follow throughout the film. Rose Byrne stars as a doctor- laughingly named Scarlet- and Jeremy Renner as a U.S. military presence, NATO having been sent in to keep order as best they can.

The opening sequence is fantastic as peacefulness turns deadly rather quickly and the characters are in immediate peril. Another scene, when father and mother are alone in a laboratory and events go awry, the sequence is gory, shocking, and quite heartfelt. These are merely moments, however, and are not quite enough to carry the film into a successful sequel.

Another positive to note about the film is, even more prevalent than in the original, are the wonderful location shots of London. From the London Eye to Big Ben to street shots of downtown London and the surrounding streets, are capably done and I loved seeing the ariel views of said city.  The conclusion at Wembley Stadium was also great. This was a treat for any fan of London and made the film a clear sense of location.

Conversely, I was not a fan of the characters in 28 Weeks Later. Whereas, in 28 Days Later, the characters were well drawn and compelling, rich with beauty and emotion, the same cannot be said for the sequel. In fact, I am unclear what the purpose of Renner’s tough, no-nonsense military type was for, or Byrne’s sympathetic, but pointless turn as a scientist/doctor. Both held little appeal and gave snore-worthy performances. Or perhaps the roles were just not written well. Regardless, neither worked. The dynamic between the father and mother did work, but the kids were not the best actors and I found their additions pointless as well.

The last scene, a frenetic trip through a tunnel by the infected and arriving in gorgeous Paris- a shot of the Eifel tower as proof, is a nice touch.

With a few nice touches added, cool location shots, intense peril in a few sequences, but with limited compelling characters, 28 Weeks Later is okay, but hardly an upgrade to the original or even close to the character driven film. No follow-up film, while initially planned, was ever completed.

Eastern Promises-2007

Eastern Promises-2007

Director-David Cronenberg

Starring-Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts

70059994

Reviewed December 15, 2014

Grade: B

Eastern Promises is a 2007 Russian mafia thriller directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) that stars Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, and Vincent Cassel. The film is an uneven experience, seemingly meshing two stories together- one fascinating, one unnecessary.

Watts plays a British-Russian mid-wife named Anna, who works at a London hospital. She attempts to find the family of Tatiana, a 14 year old girl who dies during childbirth leaving a diary written in Russian along with her newborn. Anna struggles to unravel the mystery surrounding the girl which ends up involving the mafia. Mortensen plays Nikolai, mysterious chauffer to crime lord Semyon, and Cassel plays Kirill, disturbed, alcoholic son of Semyon. The plot segues into a story of a somewhat relationship between Nikolai and Anna that is not quite romantic and also a much more intriguing relationship between Nikolai and Kirill as a brotherhood of sorts develops between them. In fact, this relationship is complex- Kirill wants Nikolai to prove he is a straight male by having sex with one of several female prisoners he and his father keep as part of a sex trafficking group. During this scene, and a few others, the two men seem close, almost too close, given the sexual nature of what is happening during the scene, so this relationship is left vague, but intrigues nonetheless. The latter story holds more interest to me, whereas the former seems contrived and rather uninteresting. Was the intention of the film to imply a romantic interest between Anna and Nikolai? I found zero chemistry between the two and wondered if the audience was supposed to root for them as a couple or not.

The four principal characters in Eastern Promises are interesting to unravel. I found the characters of Nikolai and Kirill complex and interesting. Not so much with the character of Anna. Why did I not find her so compelling? Besides a skimmed over mention of how she lost a baby what vested interest did she have of mixing with the Russian mafia and putting her mother and uncle in harm’s way? Sure, anyone would want to find an orphaned babies family, but why not just call the police? This seems a large plot hole. Conversely, Nikolai is a fascinating, layered character played wonderfully by Mortensen. What are his true motivations? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? His attempts at being accepted by Semyon and the family in order to join the mob family makes him seem dangerous- but his kindness towards one of the Ukraine prostitutes is sweet. Kirill is a despicable character, but what is his sexuality? Does that make him get so drunk and angry? How does one explain his confliction over the baby shifting his character to sympathetic? Ultimately, Nikolai and Kirill are complicated- Anna and Semyon more one note.

I would have preferred the story solely revolve around the mafia family and the Godfather-type scenes, specifically the two throat slashing scenes violently done, and perhaps leave out Watts’s character and story altogether.

A gritty scene that takes place in a steam room pits Nikolai against two rival mafia men. The scene is long and intense. Mortensen performs the scene completely naked, which adds to the rawness and the brutality of the fight. It is one of the most masculine scenes I can remember watching.

At times compelling, but riddled with plot holes and requiring some suspension of disbelief, Eastern Promises is an entertaining Russian mafia film that is a decent watch.