Frank Grillo

REVIEW: Copshop (2021)

To escape the assassin on his tail, con artist Teddy (Frank Grillo) gets himself arrested by rookie cop Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) so he can hide out in a small-town police station but when the hitman (Gerard Butler) turns up at the precinct things don’t go according to plan and Valerie finds herself caught in the crossfire.

Directed by Joe Carnahan, Copshop is full of larger-than-life characters, gunfights, swearing and chaos. Set primarily in the police station, this film makes great use of the space as the action unfolds. It’s the scenes in the holding cells between Valerie, Teddy and the assassin (kept in separate cells) that standout – especially when things go wrong and Valerie is trapped in the holding cells with the two of them. The verbal sparring between the three is great and while Gerard Butler is good as hired killer Bob, his performance is of the more quiet and menacing kind, and he seems more than happy to give his co-stars the floor.

Teddy is the kind of wily conman character who you want to trust even though you really shouldn’t. It probably helps that Frank Grillo is a charismatic guy who, when not playing out and out villains, often plays characters that verge into more of an antihero. So, it’s easy to see why Valerie might be more willing to trust Teddy (a conman) than Bob (an assassin). With Teddy there’s more of a grey area but to her as a cop Bob is the opposite of the law.

Alexis Louder as Valerie is the true standout. She holds her own against her growly counterparts and knows exactly what film she’s in. She makes Valerie a fully realised character through her playfulness with a friend to her intelligence baiting a colleague who she’s not sure can be trusted. Plus, she’s got the physicality to handle the action sequences too.

Copshop does lose momentum at times but it’s the off-the-wall characters keep you interested and it’s hard not to have a smile on your face when the guns start firing. Got to give a shoutout to Toby Huss’s hitman Anthony Lamb too, he’s delightfully unhinged and is a great contrast to Butler and Grillo. 3/5.

REVIEW: Black and Blue (2019)

After capturing footage of corrupt cops killing unarmed young black men on her bodycam, rookie cop Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is on the run from the police as she fights to get the truth out there.

Black and Blue is the kind of film you’ve probably seen before. It’s a corrupt cop film that follows some very similar beats to films that have come before it and in fact the final showdown definitely had some echoes of Training Day. That’s not to say Black and Blue is a bad film, it’s just one that has very few surprises.

Naomi Harris is very good in the lead role, capturing the resolve to do what’s right while being unsure of who she can trust because just about every other cop she encounters as she tries to get back to the police station to upload the bodycam footage seems to have an ulterior motive. The one person she does learn to trust is Tyrese Gibson’s Mouse, a guy who works at a shop and doesn’t want any trouble but ends up helping her anyway. Having mostly seen Gibson in the Transformers and Fast and Furious franchises where he’s often cracking a joke every five minutes, it was nice to see him tackle a more serious role where his character was more stoic and thoughtful.

Almost unsurprisingly Frank Grillo plays the lead corrupt cop. He always does a good job of playing a bad guy though his character seems to have a slight manic edge to it that doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the tone that Harris and Gibson seem to be going for. Still, he’s always fun to watch and the scenes where he’s stalking Harris’ West are quite tense.

Themes of racial tension and whether or not a Black person can still be Black while being a police officer are sprinkled throughout the film. Black and Blue never really commits to these themes though; it’s like it’s trying to combine more recent Black Live Matter messages with a corrupt cop film of the late 90s/early 2000s and it doesn’t really hit the mark. West is someone who sees people as people and while she knows some people who ended up affiliated with gangs, she sees them as more than what her colleagues tend to do. Many of the cops and the Black people she meets seem to have an us vs them mentality which she does not share, meaning she struggles to fit in with her co-workers and the community she used to be a part of. Harris does a good job of showing West’s inner turmoil about this but neither her nor the script are really strong enough for this complex topic.

Black and Blue is a decent corrupt cop action movie. There are some lulls in the action but when Alicia West is on the run it’s often tense and entertaining. 3/5.

REVIEW: Boss Level (2021)

Retired Special Forces officer, Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo), is seemingly trapped in a never-ending time loop that restarts as soon as he dies.

I shall start off this review by saying perhaps you shouldn’t read this review. Because Boss Level is one of those films that is truly a delight and perhaps works even better when you know nothing about it. All I knew was that it starred Frank Grillo (an actor I always like) and I’d seen some positive buzz about it on my Twitter feed. But I enjoyed this film enough to want to write about it so do read on if you fancy learning about why Boss Level worked for me.

Boss Level begins by throwing you right into the time loop with Roy. By this point he’s died over 100 times and can predict and counter the moves of his attackers. His dry narration sets the tone of the film and shows just how bored he is of going through the motions. People are trying to kill him and he doesn’t know why and sometimes he doesn’t even care. By starting the story after Roy is used to his predicament, you’re learning about any new occurrences as he does and it adds to the mystery of it all.

Boss Level is also really fun and often funny. The fights, car chases and shootouts are great, and as there’s so much trial and error for Roy as he goes through certain scenarios (the error leading to his death again) you get to see how his skills grow as he learns what works and what doesn’t in a fight. The editing between the different loops as Roy gets further and further before dying is great too. How the film never over explains things and manages to briefly show you the steps Roy has taken since waking up without it ever getting boring is impressive. It trusts the audience to understand the time loop scenario (as there’s been many a time loop film) so if we join Roy in a loop further along, we have a good idea of what he’s already had to do since it’s pretty much the same every time.

The humour comes from Roy’s attitude to this situation he’s in, and from a lot of his deaths. Some are so sudden and unexpected while others he just sighs and waits for it to happen. Frank Grillo’s voice suits the almost wry narration style perfectly and he looks good doing a lot of the fight sequences himself. There are times where the tone gets more sombre, almost naturally there’s a lost love, but Grillo handles those moments well too.

Boss Level is action packed and innovative. The reasoning why Roy is stuck in a time loop is slowly revealed and the action and fights are always entertaining. Boss Level is just a real good time and it’s one of the first new-to-me films I’ve watched in a while that I’ve fully enjoyed and not just thought was simply fine. Honestly, I was starting to think I didn’t know how to like films anymore! 4/5.

REVIEW: Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

Bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is trying to put his life together when Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) arrives guns blazing, saying her husband hitman Darius (Samuel L. Jackson) has been kidnapped by the Mafia and she needs Michael’s help to get him back. Naturally, chaos ensues.

I very much enjoyed The Hitman’s Bodyguard so I was looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor. They’re both loud and brash and stupid but the sequel just isn’t as funny (maybe it was the unexpectedness of the first one that worked more) and it mistakes over use of vulgarity for humour and that gets old quickly.

Let’s talk about the trio of leads. Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is that quintessential Ryan Reynolds character and boy does he get beat up in this movie. While it is an action comedy and violence/injury is often used for laughs, it gets to a point where this man should not be able to stand let alone run, fight and shoot bad guys. Samuel L. Jackson’s Kincaid is the act-first-think-later kind of guy and while he is impulsive and violent it turns out, he’s nothing compared to his wife. Salma Hayek gets a lot more to do as unhinged con artist Sonia. Practically every other word out of Sonia’s mouth is an insult or a swear word and while how she clashes with Michael is amusing to begin with, it soon becomes repetitive and almost grating. She is far more of a loose cannon than her husband though and the dynamic between them and Michael is one of the things going for this film.

Antonio Banderas plays the big bad villain and the gaudy costumes and makeup he has makes him appear like a knock-off Bond villain. That’s not entirely an insult as he makes it work for the most part and it suits the unrealistic nature of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Frank Grillo is also in this and as someone who likes Frank Grillo it’s always nice to see him pop up in films but his character is pretty nothingy and anyone could’ve been in that role and it wouldn’t have changed anything.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard just doesn’t know when to let moments rest. While it is an action/comedy there are a few dramatic moments that could’ve been affecting if they’d left the comedy alone for a moment to let the scene and actor’s performances breathe. Also, the editing in the vast majority of the action sequences is incredibly quick and it can be hard to follow what’s going on, especially in car chase sequences.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard has mindless action and violence and the comedy just doesn’t land – I think I smiled a couple of times and maybe chuckled once. A lot of the attempts at humour is derived from the same things, Ryan Reynold’s being long-suffering, Salma Hayek being crude and unpredictable, and Samuel L. Jackson being violent, it gets predictable and boring fairly quickly. 2/5.

Possibly a lot of the same criticisms can be levelled at the first film, but for some reason that one worked for me, and even held up upon rewatch. If anything, I think that I’d like Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard even less a second time around.

REVIEW: Point Blank (2019)

When ER nurse Paul’s (Anthony Mackie) heavily pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) is kidnapped, he has to work with injured murder suspect Abe (Frank Grillo) to get her back as they face off against rival criminals and renegade cops.

Mackie and Grillo work well together here. Their characters are polar opposites which leads to some amusing moments, but they bring a lot of energy to their scenes together as thy have a common goal. Paul wants to get back to his wife, while Abe wants to get back to his younger brother Matteo (Christian Cooke) and all four of them are trying to keep ahead of the criminals who want them dead.

Point Blank is a predictable action thriller but the way the action is shot and how the plot speeds along makes it a fun ride. Quick edits a long with some decent fights make those scenes interesting however the car chases are more pedestrian than exciting. There are some surprisingly emotional moments though the script isn’t good enough to really pack an emotional punch.

There are some odd music cues in Point Blank as a fight or something will kick off and it’s like a needle drops onto a record but the song that starts playing isn’t one that really fits. It can be quite jarring and takes you out of the film as what you’re hearing and what you’re seeing really don’t mesh that well together. Sometimes the music choices even cheapened those times where they were going for something dramatic.

Towards the end of Point Blank, it starts to lean too far into the buddy comedy element and the ending is cheesy, but that doesn’t stop most of the film being a fast-paced and a generally compelling action film. 3/5.

SPOILER REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Right. Here are all my spoilery thought about Avengers: Endgame, I highly recommend not reading this if you haven’t seen the film. My spoiler-free review is here.

I probably haven’t mentioned everything I noticed or wanted to say because there was so much and I see new things every time I see it. I’ve seen Endgame three times now and still think it’s an incredible end to a series of 22 films. My comments are a mixture of stuff that happened in order, and character focussed stuff. This post is probably a mess so you’ve been warned. (more…)

REVIEW: Beyond Skyline (2017)

When LA detective Mark Corley (Frank Grillo) and his son Trent (Jonny Weston) get caught up in an alien invasion, they must fight to survive.

Beyond Skyline is a kind of sequel to 2010’s Skyline which featured different characters but the same alien invasion. You don’t need to have seen Skyline as Beyond Skyline it is its own thing (a thing that’s a lot better than the original), but it does tie to some of the events of the previous film surprisingly well.

Where Beyond Skyline really succeeds compared to its predecessor is that it has a core group of characters you actually care about. Mark and his son have a fraught relationship, but Mark will do anything to keep Trent safe – Frank Grillo is as great and as charismatic as always. There’s subway conductor Audrey (Bojana Novakovic), and freedom fighter Sua (Iko Uwais) and his sister Kanya (Pamelyn Chee), all of whom getting the lightest of backstory but due to their chemistry with each other, and the actors talents, make them characters you want to survive.

The action-sequences are top notch, especially the ones featuring Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, both of whom star in martial art, action film The Raid. The fights are interesting, well-shot and thrilling. The fact that it’s often physical beings these characters are fighting rather than CG-creations, makes it a more authentic encounter, and one that feels like it has more consequences to it.

There’s a good mix of digital and practical affects in Beyond Skyline. The CGI is generally quite good, and the practical effects are very creative. Together they bring to life these alien creatures and their ships, making them a menacing adversary to the people on earth.

Beyond Skyline is fun, exciting and pure bonkers sci-fi. Yes, the actual plot might not hold up under close scrutiny, but it’s a fast-paced adventure that’s thrilling and has a surprising number of emotional beats. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

purge election yearYears after almost taking part in Purge night himself, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) has become the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) a Presidential candidate whose vow to end Purge night makes her a huge target.

The Purge: Election Year is grounded by solid performances from its central leads. Grillo and Mitchell have good chemistry and you can feel that their characters have had a solid relationship. The secondary characters who each try to survive Purge night but also end up helping Leo and Charlie along the way are pretty one-note but likeable enough. Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) is one of the more interesting characters as she’s a volunteer paramedic who offers her services while the regular paramedics don’t venture out on Purge night.

When it comes to the fight scenes they are often chaotic and hard to follow, you could say this is a stylistic choice or it could just be bad filmmaking. The film tends to get away with it whenever there’s a gun battle or a chase scene but when it’s a one-on-one fight that’s when things become confusing.

The Purge: Election Year tries to say a lot about socio-political themes that are very relevant to today while still having a lot of gore and violence. It doesn’t always work and it’s pretty heavy-handed at times but it is interesting.

The Purge: Election Year keeps the tension and surprises but it does feel very similar to but not as good as its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy. 3/5.