Two Thrillers from Universal
Bulletproof (June 3/11)
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson, Bulletproof details the fallout that ensues after lowlife criminal Archie Moses (Adam Sandler) discovers that his best friend (Damon Wayans' Rock Keats) is actually an undercover police officer - with the film subsequently following Rock as he attempts to keep Archie safe from central villain Frank Colton's (James Caan) various goons. There's little doubt that Bulletproof fares best in its opening half hour, as the strong chemistry between Sandler and Wayans' respective characters effectively lays the groundwork for what initially appears to be a conventional yet entertaining buddy film. It's only as Archie learns of Rock's true identity that the movie morphs into an increasingly tedious piece of work, with the characters' relentless bickering merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the film's various problems - as scripters Joe Gayton and Lewis Colick have flooded the midsection with one questionable sequence after another (eg Archie and Rock's encounter with an unreasonably quirky motel owner.) And although the movie does recover for an admittedly exciting climactic shootout, Bulletproof is, for the most part, a forgettable actioner that consistently wastes the talents of its two stars.
Sanctum (June 4/11)
Produced by James Cameron, Sanctum follows the members of a cave diving team - including Richard Roxburgh's Frank, Ioan Gruffudd's Carl, and Alice Parkinson's Victoria - as they find themselves trapped within an expansive underground system and must subsequently attempt to escape by venturing further into the labyrinth. It's a promising setup that is, at the outset, employed to seriously underwhelming effect by director Alister Grierson, as the filmmaker, working from John Garvin and Andrew Wight's screenplay, offers up a bland assortment of characters and tosses them into one tedious scenario after another. It's not until the situation begins to worsen that the movie starts to improve (albeit slightly), with the inclusion of a few admittedly gripping set-pieces (eg one character's breathing apparatus malfunctions) certainly proving instrumental in resuscitating the viewer's dwindling interest. And while virtually all of the protagonists remain hopelessly unsympathetic from start to finish, it does become marginally easier to root for their ongoing efforts as they're slowly-but-surely killed off one by one. The mindlessly watchable atmosphere is perpetuated by Grierson's emphasis on sequences of a decidedly suspenseful variety, with the highlight undoubtedly a cringeworthy, impressively brutal scene in which one character's hair winds up caught in her gear. The passable vibe persists right up until the absolutely ludicrous finale, with Garvin and Wight's decision to transform one of the surviving characters into a monstrous villain smacking of desperation (and needlessness) and ensuring that the film concludes on as anticlimactic a note as one could possibly envision - which effectively cements Sanctum's place as a well-intentioned yet utterly misguided underwater thriller.