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Stealth (November 14/05)

Stealth is undoubtedly a perfect example of everything that's wrong with contemporary action flicks, although the movie isn't quite as bad as it's been made out to be (the recent xXx sequel, for example, is far more obnoxious). With an emphasis on explosions, outrageous stuntwork, and slick special effects, the film substitutes loud noises and ceaseless eye-candy for anything even resembling a coherent storyline or genuine character development. Director Rob Cohen has infused Stealth with exactly the sort of jittery impatience that we've come to expect from the filmmaker, with the end result a piece of work that'll undoubtedly thrill teenage boys but irritate everyone else. Working from a script by W.D. Richter (who, astoundingly enough, co-wrote John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China), Cohen inundates the viewer with wall-to-wall action - from aerial dogfights to machine-gun battles to hand-to-hand combat - and it's not long before one starts to view the increasingly sporadic expository sequences as a welcome respite from all the noise. The story revolves around three ace pilots - Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) - who find themselves forced to contend with the addition of a fourth wingman, a highly advanced robot plane called EDI (Extreme Deep Invader) - with problems ensuing as EDI begins to question his programming and starts randomly blowing things up. There's not a single character within Stealth that doesn't come off as a complete stereotype (eg Foxx's sassy black guy and Sam Shepard's irate commanding officer), something that can be attributed to Cohen's impatience in developing these people beyond their most superficial qualities. The far-from-memorable performances reflect this mentality, as the three leads - who've been quite good elsewhere, particularly Foxx - mechanically (and blandly) stumble their way through the film's insipid and dumbed-down dialogue (do we really need an explanation of what a prime number is?) Additionally, the movie is packed with a number of laughable and thoroughly absurd moments - eg Kara's bizarre running commentary as she parachutes from her plane - ensuring that (at the very least) Stealth is good for a few laughs (however unintentional they may be).

out of

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Alex Cross (October 28/12)

Based on a book by James Patterson, Alex Cross follows the title detective (Tyler Perry) as he and his partner (Ed Burns' Tommy Kane) attempt to track down and stop a vicious madman known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox). It's clear immediately that Perry, picking up where Morgan Freeman left off, is simply unable to convincingly step into the shoes of Patterson's grizzled yet sympathetic creation, as the actor, though competent, doesn't possess the presence or gravitas that the role clearly demands (ie he's just bland here). Beyond that, however, Alex Cross, for the most part, feels like a substandard thriller that should be premiering on home video - as the narrative has been suffused with elements of a decidedly (and palpably) generic nature (including the yawn-inducing central investigation and the stereotypical portrayal of certain periphery characters). There's little doubt, then, that the film's passable nature is due to Fox's magnificently over-the-top turn as Picasso; rail-thin and stripped entirely of his charismatic demeanor, Fox delivers a jaw-droppingly transformative performance that's consistently engrossing and flat-out hypnotic - to the extent that one can't help but wish that his character were the focus here. The otherwise lifeless atmosphere is especially disappointing given the revenge-heavy bent of the narrative's final stretch, with the climactic battle between Cross and Picasso drained entirely of its energy by director Rob Cohen's reliance on some of the shakiest camerawork ever committed to celluloid. The end result is a disappointingly half-baked endeavor that could (and should) have been so much better, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder why Fox went to such extreme lengths for such a forgettable movie.

out of

The Boy Next Door (January 26/15)

The Boy Next Door casts Jennifer Lopez as Claire Peterson, a newly-divorced teacher who finds herself on the receiving end of increasingly unwanted attention after engaging in a one-night stand with her 19-year-old neighbor (Ryan Guzman's Noah Sandborn). It's the sort of unabashedly trashy premise that's fallen out of favor in recent years, with movies of this ilk cropping up on a pleasantly regular basis in the early '90s (eg The Temp, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Unlawful Entry, etc, etc). And while it rarely makes it up to the level of those better-than-average efforts, The Boy Next Door nevertheless comes off as a perfectly watchable throwback that contains all of the elements that one might've anticipated (and hoped for) - including a (doomed) suspicious best friend and the perpetrator's continuing efforts to undermine the protagonist's life both at home and at work. Filmmaker Rob Cohen, working from Barbara Curry's screenplay, isn't quite able to sustain a consistent tone, however, and the movie boasts its fare share of decidedly underwhelming stretches - with the sporadic ineffectiveness of the deliberately-paced midsection compounded by a lack of salacious sequences. The film bounces back with a vengeance as Guzman's character goes full psycho and begins wreaking havoc on Claire's existence, with the narrative ultimately building to a spectacularly entertaining (and impressively violent) climactic showdown that's as satisfying as it is ridiculous - which does, in the end, confirm The Boy Next Door's place as an erratic yet entertaining stalker-from-hell thriller.

out of

The Hurricane Heist (March 12/18)

Rarely as much fun as one might've hoped, The Hurricane Heist follows stormchaser Will (Toby Kebbel) as he and an ATF agent (Maggie Grace's Casey) team up to stop a band of terrorists from robbing the U.S. Treasury - with complications ensuing after Will's wayward brother, Breeze (Ryan Kwanten), is abducted by the aforementioned terrorists. It's clear almost immediately that The Hurricane Heist is never going to become the fast-paced, enjoyably silly actioner promised by the setup, as filmmaker Rob Cohen, working from Jeff Dixon and Scott Windhauser's script, immediately establishes a chintzy and fairly low-rent feel that remains a problem throughout - with this underwelming vibe perpetuated by virtually all of the movie's various attributes (including, even, the decidedly less-than-impressive, mostly charisma-free cast). And although Cohen has peppered the sluggish narrative with a handful of compelling sequences - eg Casey and Will outwit several pursuers in a storm-ravaged mall - The Hurricane Heist's downfall is ultimately cemented by a preponderance of chaotic and somewhat incoherent action sequences (ie most of the film's big set-pieces are drowning in unconvincing special effects). The ineffective final stretch, which just seems to go on and on, does absolutely nothing to alleviate the picture's pervasively subpar atmosphere and it's finally impossible to label The Hurricane Heist as anything other than a colossal missed opportunity, which is a shame, ultimately, given the massive potential afforded by both the premise and the title itself.

out of

© David Nusair