While the works of William Shakespeare are adapted nonchalantly and frequently, few can grip the core of his work and shake it into some formidable or intense creation. Macbeth is not just a constant recurrence, but an obvious choice for adaptation. Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender and now Denzel Washington have taken on the role in the past decade. To pick a favourite is difficult, for The Tragedy of Macbeth is yet another interpretation of historic work. Washington has admitted he only has so much time left to work with the greatest, and this pairing with director Joel Coen is a monumental one, a savage and biting turn for Washington who is usually presented as the hero or troubled lead.
Armed robbers storm a Manhattan bank and this Spike Lee ensemble. What a loss Clive Owen was to the mainstream playing field. It is hard to tell why he dropped out of the spotlight after a strong track record. In the same year Inside Man, a braggadocious detective feature released, so too did Children of Men. On the up and up, it is hard to see a way down. But it is better to appreciate the cold and tense work he provided, rather than whatever he got up to after this. With tension looming and excitement growing, Inside Man is a slick and clear bit of film from Lee, whose running commentary on gang warfare and the rise of violent video games is as mixed as all his other messages.
If we must dive deep into the murky depths of the deep blue sea, Tony Scott, Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman are certainly the team that will offer the most entertainment. The third most powerful man in the world, the opening crawl says, is the captain of a nuclear submarine. Only Bill Clinton and a Russian are more powerful. Crimson Tide gives weight to such a proclamation, setting up a heavy story of international tensions that rely on Cold War ructions in the modern era. That war may have ended, but its impact and tensions between the two mighty powers of the world still linger. They must, considering Crimson Tide depends on the warring, fraught relations between the two.
Dependable the charms of Denzel Washington and the allure of Funky Bunch alumni Mark Wahlberg may be, their pairing within 2 Guns is an odd one. Baltasar Kormákur’s second of four flirtations with Hollywood sees the team-up of a Naval Intelligence officer and a DEA agent, taking down the relatively broad and loose ensemble of mob figures and criminal chancers. With a black Dodge Challenger and a Starsky & Hutch attitude between the leading pair, 2 Guns hits the ground fumbling and never quite recovers from there. It strikes up moments of quality, but moments are not good when spread so thinly. Adapting itself to the action tropes of the modern era, but never quite committing to them, 2 Guns is shaky from the start and degrades itself from there.
Corruption and crime go hand in hand, and yet it is no surprise that the just and heroic officers who are meant to protect are the men and women pulling the strings of wrongdoing. Training Day adapts that premise well, and with variety. Are these not-so-buddy cops doing the right thing? This line is blurred almost immediately, and it is hard to untangle the fear and isolation of communities found within this Antoine Fuqua piece. He applies the strains of police work to the gritty streets that, should they be cleaned up, will provide a rather noble goal for one, but a loss of cash and respect for the other. It is an odd balance, but a necessary one that lingers throughout the relationship between both of these undercover agents.
“Luck has no business in the rail yard,” and with that, the scene for Unstoppable is set. Gaudy action has its place, but the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are far behind audiences. Eliciting the same explosive, tantalising action that they could once muster up without much thought is a tough task to take on. Near impossible. Considering the shifting scope of film, it is hard to think of a place Unstoppable could suitably adapt to. Action has changed, but this Denzel Washington-led feature decides to ignore the changing tides of the genre and burrows deep into what lit the flames of ingenuity all those years ago. There is no climate for this sort of entertainment, and it is a damned shame that director Tony Scott was one of the few keeping this genre mainstream.
Collaboration. An important tool in the arsenal of many great directors. Wes Anderson has Bill Murray. Quentin Tarantino has Samuel L. Jackson. Tony Scott was the luckiest of all and had Denzel Washington to work with on numerous occasions. Their collaboration within Déjà Vu lends itself to their previous collaboration on Man on Fire. Its titular feeling of having lived in the moment before is found in its soundtrack and opening moments. These characters are going about a normal day as they usually would. Boat captains usher out the families as they cruise along the coast, another day in the life for them. As The Beach Boys kicks in, though, it is clear that there are ominous intentions afoot. Never have Brian Wilson and company sounded so horrific and demented.
With a tint of green and no control over the manic camera angles, cuts and zooms of the opening, Tony Scott presents a headache-inducing montage for the opening credits of Man on Fire. It is not a sign of things to come, thankfully, as the chemistry between Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken breaks through. A jaded, bored ex-CIA man (Washington) does not know what to do with himself. He reluctantly accepts a contract as a bodyguard for a ten-year-old girl. He is perhaps moved by the piano he hears in the background or caught up in the adrenalin of getting close to working in the field he once excelled in. Either scenario brings the same result, Man on Fire is all about a man refusing to make peace with his past.
I’ve always thought it odd that Robert Zemeckis, a man who crafted such classics of the 80s and early 90s, could spiral so rapidly into films that were lifeless hack jobs, failing to capture anything close to the magic he could put to screen in his glory days. Perhaps he became a parody of himself somewhere along the way, for all his Oscar success with Tom Hanks, he soon found himself recycling the same style and formula in the hopes of bagging more favour with those in high places with the Academy Awards. Flight feels like his strongest effort at nudging himself back into the public eye, with Denzel Washington taking centre stage, but this pairing fails to take flight.