Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout
Playing at: Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
Writer/director Neill Blomkamp broke onto the scene in 2009 with “District 9,” a film that garnered a lot of praise, including an Academy Award best picture nomination.
I was among the minority who was underwhelmed by the film, feeling it never quite delivered on a promising opening.
Now comes the follow-up, “Elysium,” another science-fiction film that left me with the same hollow feeling as “District 9.” This is a heavy-handed piece of work that is not very imaginative, taking spare parts of other (and better) films in the genre.
“Elysium” is set in 2154 with society divided into two groups. The wealthy live on a man-made space station named Elysium, while the poor are still on an overpopulated, dying Earth.
Matt Damon plays Max, a career criminal trying to take the straight and narrow path while longing to someday earn a way to Elysium. When an accident puts Max on the brink of death, he agrees to take a mission from a former associate who has aspirations of getting control of the space station.
Considering the film is titled “Elysium,” Blomkamp’s script provides little insight into the space station. Jodie Foster gets a few moments as the head of the space station, but her character never quite develops in the manner I was hoping.
Most of the film takes place on Earth, echoing apocalyptic science-fiction films like “Mad Max.” The story plods along with too many subplots (including a love interest played by Alice Braga) that pile on the hokey melodrama.
The sluggish pace picks up slightly in the final act, but even that has its problems with a confrontation between Max and a bounty hunter played by Sharlto Copley that quickly devolves into unintentionally laugh-out-loud ridiculousness.
I will give Blomkamp the director credit – he does know how to make a movie that looks interesting. If only Blomkamp the writer could write a script that was interesting, then maybe we might have something.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Olympus Has Fallen” (B-), the better of the two “ ‘Die Hard’ in the White House” movies released this year. It’s a take-no-prisoners, unapologetic action flick that exceeded my low expectations.
Gerard Butler plays Mike, a former member of the Secret Service who is thrust back in action when the White House is infiltrated by a terrorist group that kidnaps the president (Aaron Eckhardt).
Mike serves as the eyes and ears for the cabinet members on the outside, trying to thwart the terrorists and save the president.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the man behind “Training Day” and “Shooter,” “Olympus Has Fallen” is bloody, violent and borderline over-the-top, yet it somehow comes together.
Butler proves to be a much better action hero than romantic lead. The cast also includes Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo – some high-caliber performers that class up the joint.
“Olympus Has Fallen” does have some moments when it looks like it is going to go completely off the rails (a scene where Leo recites the Pledge of Allegiance as she is being dragged around by her hair by terrorists comes to mind), but for the most part it succeeds as a mindless action flick.
It’s definitely much more entertaining than “White House Down,” which tried to cover the same ground.
“Olympus Has Fallen” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout and is now available on DVD.