Posts Tagged ‘John Travolta’

John Travolta Criminal activities Crimezine

John Travolta: Criminal Activities.

Criminal Activities, we love them Crimeziners, especially when John ‘Chilli Palmer’ Travolta is involved. Travolta is in full on Elmore Leonard mode for this stylish cameo. But the great man is upstaged in virtually every shot, by his heavily architecturalized hair-helmet. No matter. His crazy dialogue that references Marcel Proust, Macbeth and economic theory 101 will have you snorting so loudly you will be distracted from this spectacle, at least momentarily.

Criminal Activities is the kind of b-grade crime flick that snooty film critics love to hate, but having said that it does have a large number of redeeming features.

The Get Shorty and Usual Suspects reference points are blatant and unashamed. No bad thing. But the collage of reference points often intrudes—threatening to overwhelm the narrative thrust of the movie—drowning out its identity with a deluge of cultural cleverness.

The movie kicks off when four college buddies, Noah (Dan Stevens), Zach (Michael Pitt), Bryce (Rob Brown) and Warren (Christopher Abbott)—reunite at a friends funeral. We never get to know our four foils, but that hardly matters, because pretty soon they are talking over an insider dealing scam that is going to make them rich, rich, rich!

But things go awry, almost immediately and our heroes are in hock to mobster Eddie, played by Travolta. Eddie suggests he will offer the boys a clean slate if they kidnap the nephew of a rival gang leader, who has taken Eddie’s niece hostage.

What could be easier? Unfortunately, Marques [Edi Gathegi] is wayyyy more gangster than our hapless heroes can handle. Yikes, Crimeziners! We have got ourselves a Reservoir Dogs style hostage situation! Sadly, the second act sags as glib verbosity apes Tarantino but over-eggs the Pulp Fiction pudding and quickly descends into the realm of self-parody.

Light-relief and more than a touch of menace is offered in the form of Jackie Earle Haley as hit man Gerry, a journeyman gunsel who is about the only member of the cast who doesn’t over act his way the unfolding shenanigans.

Writer Robert Lowell is to be commended for the Keyser Söze style ending, which gooses up the third act and changes this movie out from being a run of the mill farce into an altogether more stylish mélange of crimetastic set pieces. Derivative sure, but if you dig two-fisted gangster theatrics you will love Criminal Activities.

Crimezine Selma Heyek

Sema Hayek and Blake Lively in Oliver Stone’s Savages

Dude, who stole my weed, my money and my girlfriend? Like, Bummer!

Here comes Savages the latest crimetastic Oliver Stone movie, based on the bestselling book by Don Winslow. Stone is a crime legend due to his involvement in such classics as Natural Born Killers,  Scarface (1983) and Midnight Express. This latest venture into the world of crime might be remembered slightly  differently however, here’s why.

Savages is a nightmare tale for every pot huffing twenty something who has ever considered getting into the drug business. Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is a trigger happy veteran with a penchant for violence, while Ben (Aaron Johnson) is a swirly haired do-gooder who likes growing Marijuana and helping little kiddies in Africa with the proceeds (seriously).

Things couldn’t be going better for the dynamic duo: they live in a swank pad in Laguna Beach, have all the weed they can handle, and enjoy a ménage a trios relationship with the gorgeous Olivia, (Blake Lively.) Like way awesome dude, but it is here that things go badly awry, when the tightly outfitted Elena, played to marvelous effect by Selma Hayek, and her assistant Lado (Benico Del Toro) kidnap the lovely O, demanding all the money and dope our young hero’s can harvest. Like Bummer dude.

Del Toro and Hayek are the real stars of this show. Del Torro who is looking like a human waxwork melting in the Socal heat these days, puts on a particularly awesome performance as the gruesome hit man Lado. There is a whole bunch of cranial splattering unpleasantness in this movie and Del Torro is usually centre stage when it happens. Hayek meanwhile, plays a big mama cartel owner with a heart, a woman who can preside over head-lopping and eye-ball popping one minute and then gets all teary because her daughter doesn’t ring her enough.

Savages is a value for money stoner romp, that goes part of the way to highlight how gruesome the real world drug trade can get south of the Mexican border, yet simultaneously glamorizes the homegrown lifestyles of stoner kingpins Ben and Chon. Del Toro calls them Cheech and Chong at one point, but these guys are strictly Bill and Ted—without the sense of humor. Bogus!

Blake lively is tousled and impossibly pretty in virtually every scene, but her character comes across as vacuous and self-absorbed. When she gets kidnapped, there is a moment when you  think the guys are actually going to replace her with a look-alike from the Laguna Beach gene pool of generic blondes. Totally non awesome!

In the real world the multi-billion dollar operations of the Mexican cartels would be untroubled by the likes of Ben and Chon, if they wanted their expertise as growers they would buy it; if they felt that they were in the way, they would kill them without mercy and their pretty little girlfriend too. But we are not dealing with the real world here Crimeziners, we are dealing with a world in which John Travolta is a corrupt Federal agent. The increasingly bloated Travolta hams it up no end, which provides an entertaining respite from our stoner hero’s.

If you are looking for an excellent adventure that lasts a couple of hours, then this is it. If you are looking for Scarface part deux, you will be disappointed. But wait a second, what’s this, a twisty-turny ending? Crimezine saw this movie as a pre-release and the Hollyweird focus groupers were out in force, chances are this movie will have had another edit before you see it. Crimezine fears that will not be enough, unless Mr. Stone can find another 45 minutes of Selma Hayek in tight dresses.

Oliver Stone doesn’t have the answers to the Marijuana question. When asked recently, he said that he, “Believes we should get the problem under medical control, rather than criminal control.” Crimezine wholeheartedly agrees.