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On Blu-ray/DVD: FINAL SCORE (2018), BEL CANTO (2018) and THE PADRE (2018)

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FINAL SCORE
(UK/US - 2018)


As DIE HARD celebrates its 30th anniversary, it's only fitting that FINAL SCORE exists as a testament to its enduring influence. Entire scenes and situations are lifted completely, whether it's the hero listening in on the bad guys' walkies and jotting their names down or throwing a henchman off the top of a building with a message for the asshole police honcho who refuses to believe his story. The busy Dave Bautista gets a rare heroic lead as ex-Navy SEAL Michael Knox, who's in London to visit his dead combat buddy's widow Rachel (Lucy Gaskell, a second-string Sally Hawkins) and troubled 15-year-old daughter Danni (Lara Peake), who's always angry with her mum but appreciates "Uncle Mike" still being in their lives and looking out for them. Knox scores two tickets to the West Ham football semi-finals (he keeps calling it "soccer" like every American) at a nearby stadium, and--wouldn't ya know it--fanatical "Sokovian" terrorist Arkady Balov (Ray Stevenson) has packed the place with bombs and commandeered the power grid in an attempt to force the British government to turn over his brother Dimitri, who was presumed killed in a 1999 skirmish when Russia quashed a Sokovia rebellion led by the Balov brothers. Turns out Dimitri is very much alive, having turned himself over to the CIA after faking his death, getting plastic surgery, moving to London, becoming a huge football fan, and getting as much screen time as director Scott Mann (reteaming with Bautista after the better-than-average Lionsgate DTV thriller HEIST) could manage in Pierce Brosnan's two, perhaps three days on the set.





Like John McClane at the Nakatomi Plaza, Knox figures out what's going on and starts taking on Balov's goons one by one while the sellout crowd and the teams are oblivious to what's going on, which also gives FINAL SCORE a chance to rip off the 1995 Van Damme hockey actioner SUDDEN DEATH as an added bonus. After Danni gets separated from Knox, he finds an unlikely sidekick in lowly security usher Faisal (Amit Shah) while butting heads over the radio with both Balov and Steed (Ralph Brown), the bullheaded London police commissioner and this film's Dwayne T. Robinson. He also get in a couple of throwdowns with Tatiana (Alexandra Dinu as Alexander Godunov), Balov's most feral accomplice, who of course takes it personally when Knox dunks her lover Vlad's (Martyn Ford) head in a boiling concession stand fry vat, after which he bears an uncanny resemblance to The Toxic Avenger. As far as belated DIE HARD knockoffs go, you can do a lot worse than FINAL SCORE if it's a slow night and you're looking for a brainless action movie. Bautista (one of 25 credited producers) is an engagingly brutish hero who doesn't have much tolerance for bullshit ("Seriously? That guy's a dick," he scoffs when introduced to Danni's would-be boyfriend), and he's a better Bruce Willis than Bruce Willis is capable of being right now. There's nothing wrong with FINAL SCORE--it's better than a lot of DTV and Redbox-ready B action movies--but there's really nothing to make it all that memorable, either. (R, 105 mins)


BEL CANTO
(US - 2018)


One of the most inert hostage thrillers ever made, BEL CANTO is a lifeless and ultimately absurd adaptation of Ann Patchett's 2001 bestseller, itself inspired by a several-month hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Peru in 1996. Directed and co-written by an out-of-his-element Paul Weitz (AMERICAN PIE, LITTLE FOCKERS), the film also takes place in 1996, as wealthy Japanese industrialist and opera enthusiast Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe) travels to an unnamed and politically unstable South American country with his interpreter Gen (Ryo Kase), where the president and assorted investors and diplomats plan to woo him into a building a factory by arranging a swanky dinner and intimate birthday performance by world-renowned American soprano Roxane Coss (Julianne Moore). The president bails, sending his VP (J. Eddie Martinez) instead, and Roxane is barely into her first piece when a group of armed rebels led by Comandante Benjamin (Tenoch Huerta, a last-minute replacement for Demian Bichir) storm the mansion and hold everyone hostage. They're demanding the release of a group of fellow guerrillas imprisoned by the president, as Red Cross negotiator Messner (Sebastian Koch) is called in to attempt to broker a peaceful resolution. Messner manages to convince Benjamin to release the women as well as Roxane's diabetic pianist (22 JULY's Thorbjorn Harr) but Roxane remains held due to her value as an American celebrity.





Weeks and months drag on as Benjamin refuses to budge and Messner comes and goes from the grounds as he pleases, and eventually Stockholm Syndrome-esque bonds form between the captors and their captives, especially with Gen falling in love with Carmen (Maria Mercedes Coroy), one of Benjamin's loyal soldiers. Romance blossoms between Hosokawa and Roxane as well, and as time goes on, the mansion becomes a sort-of idyllic paradise that no one really wants to leave ("This is where we live now," Carmen tells Gen). Call it DOG DAY AFTERNOON meets THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL as the outside world gradually ceases to exist. They play chess and soccer, they exercise together, they eat lavish meals, they teach Benjamin's soldiers English, Hosokawa learns Spanish, Roxane becomes a mentor to one of the rebels who's inspired to pursue his love of singing, and all the while, an incredulous Messner--perhaps a surrogate for the viewer--can't believe what he's seeing. There seems to be no urgency on the part of anyone--Messner, the president, various world governments (also among the hostages are Christopher Lambert as the French ambassador and Olek Krupa as a Russian trade delegate), and the hostages themselves--to bring this crisis to an end. When Messner finally loses it with Benjamin and shouts "You must release these people! Now!" it's hard to tell if he's talking about the hostages or the audience  This sort of kumbaya utopia might've worked better in Patchett's novel where the medium allows the reader to get into the characters' heads, but it's absolutely ludicrous and deadening on the screen, and the abrupt shift in tone of the last ten minutes shows that Weitz had something in mind here, and I get it, but by that point, it's too little, too late. BEL CANTO is hobbled by wishy-washy politics and the bizarre intent of being a feel-good hostage thriller, leaving great actors like Moore (who doesn't even lip-sync Renee Fleming's vocals convincingly) and Watanabe completely defeated by the material, and even their presence couldn't get this barely-released dud on more than 30 screens for a paltry $80,000 gross. (Unrated, 101 mins)


THE PADRE
(Canada/Ireland - 2018)


Some good performances and gritty location work throughout Bogota elevate this minor chase thriller/character piece slightly above the norm among the plethora of VOD and Redbox options out there. Disguised as a priest, British con man Clive Lowry (Tim Roth) is on the run in Colombia, picking pockets and running scams and doing whatever he can to keep moving. In pursuit is Nemes (Nick Nolte), a retired and still-obsessed US marshal hunting the man known as "Padre" on his own time and dime, even hiring local cop Gaspar (Luis Guzman) to be his guide and translator. Padre crosses paths with Lena (Valeria Henriquez), a 16-year-old orphan desperately trying to get to the US to find her 12-year-old sister, who's been bought on a black-market adoption web site by a family in Minnesota. But with Nemes and Gaspar never far behind, Padre and Lena only keep moving south, with a plan to rob a church and fence some priceless goods to secure passage to the States. It's obvious Nemes' quest is personal, in ways that are both poignant and predictable, as is the way that Padre seems destined for redemption, but Gaspar is quick to remind Nemes of that old adage "Those who seek revenge should dig two graves." Nemes is hesitant to get into specifics in the quest for what's essentially his white whale, telling Gaspar--in a way that sounds awesome when grunt-croaked by a grizzled, 77-year-old Nick Nolte--"I'm bound to him...I lashed my fate to a spear and I aimed it at his heart!" a line fraught with such heavy-handed portent that he repeats it verbatim later on. Henriquez carries much of the dramatic weight, and Roth and Guzman play characters similar to those they've played before (Guzman seems to be the same guy he portrayed in THE LIMEY), but it's great seeing Nolte get such a showy role that keeps him onscreen from start to finish, even busting through doors with his gun drawn and constantly grumbling like a geriatric Jack Cates. With a cast headlined by Roth, Nolte, and Guzman, THE PADRE would need to take a time machine back to 1998 to have any chance at a wide theatrical release. It's easy to see why Sony relegated it to VOD--it's slight and forgettable, and it gets a little sluggish in the second half--but it's a decent enough time-killer that's worth seeing for some frequent flashes of vintage Nolte. (R, 95 mins)





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