Today Benicio Del Toro turns 53. The ever intense actor who has impressed in many movies with his gravelly voice, passion for playing dark characters and piercing stare. I always like to see Benicio in movies as he always seems to deliver, no matter what the film. So happy birthday to an impressive actor who I’ll never tire of watching
2000's, Alexis Bledel, Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Crime, Devon Aoki, Elijah Wood, Frank Miller, Jaime King, Jessica Alba, Josh Hartnett, Marley Shelton, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Powers Boothe, Robert Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson, Rutger Hauer, Sin City
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
- Mickey Rourke as Marv
- Bruce Willis as Haritgan
- Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy
- Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
- Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy
- Rosario Dawson as Gail
- Brittany Murphy as Shellie
- Devon Aoki as Miho
- Elijah Wood as Kevin
- Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy
- Alexis Bledel as Becky
- Nick Stahl as Roark Junior
- Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute
- Rutger Hauer as Cardinal Roark
- Josh Hartnett as The Salesman
- Marley Shelton as The Customer
Visually outstanding, brutally realized and violently compelling, Sin City is one hell of a ride. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, from whom the source of graphic novels is based, it may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a film that is hard to get out of your mind.
Sin City comprises of three stories that intertwine on occasion. The setting is Basin City, a dirty, corrupt and downright nasty city of violence, sex and all things bad. One tale concerns honest cop Hartigan, who is ageing and has developed a heart condition but still trying to carry on with his latest case. He manages to save a young girl by the name of Nancy Callahan from serial rapist and child molester Roark Junior, who is also the son of the corrupt Senator of the city. In a cruel twist of fate orchestrated by the Senator, Hartigan is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and spends time in jail. Upon release, he manages to track Nancy down, she has now grown up into a gorgeous young woman who works as an exotic dancer in a saloon. Roark Junior is actually still alive and comes after them and it is up to Hartigan to stop him before it is too late. The middle tale tells of Marv, a lonely man mountain who is slowly slipping into madness. One night, he has a passionate encounter with a hooker named Goldie. Marv falls deeply in love with the girl, but unfortunately for him she is murdered while he sleeps. Heartbroken and filled with vengeance, he hacks his way through those in his way to track down the perpetrator; a psychopathic man named Kevin, who slaughters and then eats what remains of prostitutes. In the last of these overlapping vignettes, Dwight McCarthy protects his brutalized clandestine lover Shellie from her abusive partner Jackie Boy. Following the sadistic Jackie to Old Town, the red-light district, Dwight prowls in the shadows in an attempt to keep the girls safe. Not that they need to be protected, as they are led by the fierce Gail and have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal. When violence erupts, chaos emerges and bullets fly as the girls fight back against the corrupt powers that be.
Sin City immediately grabs you from its opening frames because of the stylish way in which it is shot. By combing the noir of black and white and the accentuation of certain colours, we are transported into this walking and breathing comic book story come to life. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller bring so much to the table, skilfully immersing us in this world of violence, broads and deception. It’s like being in a hard-boiled pulp story, and these two really keep you riveted with their assured sense of direction and respect for the material. The structure of Sin City is also a highlight, with the characters slinking their way in and out of the stories at various occasions. Sin City is most certainly not for everyone’s taste, mainly because of the often gruesome and violent content. But for those with a strong stomach, it is well worth a watch. A rip-roaring soundtrack of jazzy riffs and driving guitar rhythms brings more life to the tales of graphic slaying, seductive atmosphere and shadowy dealings.
An accomplished cast fleshes out this cavalcade of tough guys and seductive vixens. Mickey Rourke brings swaggering violence and inconsolable rage to the role of the wronged Marv, who is on a revenge mission even if it kills him. Yet he also brings to the forefront of the tough guy the lonely and severed heart of a man who has the thing he cared about snatched away from him. Bruce Willis is excellent as the emotionally abandoned and ageing Hartigan, whose sole purpose for living is to protect Nancy, who he sees as a daughter. Clive Owen is at his best as the protective but very dangerous Dwight, imbuing the part with grave humour and macho virility. While Jessica Alba is often quite wooden in terms of her acting, she does manage to give the part of Nancy a sense of vulnerability and scorching sex appeal. Benicio Del Toro is skulking menace personified as Jackie Boy, while Rosario Dawson is smoking hot as the tooled-up Gail, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. Brittany Murphy gives sympathy to the role of Shellie and Devon Aoki is a scowling presence as Miho, a mute prostitute who is more than adept with a Samurai sword. Elijah Wood is surprisingly chilling as the light-footed and sadistic serial killer with a taste for blood. Jaime King essays the roles of the ill-fated Goldie and her twin sister Wendy, while Alexis Bledel is suitably naive as Becky, one of the younger prostitutes of Old Town. Nick Stahl is sinister and twisted as Roark Junior, along with a slimy turn from Powers Boothe as his well-connected father. Michael Clarke Duncan is imposing and vicious as a mob enforcer, and Rutger Hauer makes an impression as a member of the Roark family. Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton give mystery and smoky elegance to the enigmatic opening to the film.
Violent, stylish and unforgettable, Sin City is a film that will definitely leave you awestruck.
007, 1980's, Anthony Zerbe, Benicio Del Toro, Carey Lowell, Caroline Bliss, David Hedison, Desmond Llewelyn, Everett McGill, Frank McRae, James Bond, John Glen, Licence to Kill, Robert Brown, Robert Davi, Spy, Talisa Soto, Timothy Dalton
Licence to Kill
- Timothy Dalton as James Bond
- Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier
- Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez
- Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora
- Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest
- Desmond Llewelyn as Q
- David Hedison as Felix Leiter
- Frank McRae as Sharkey
- Everett McGill as Ed Killifer
- Benicio Del Toro as Dario
- Robert Brown as M
- Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny
After his excellent turn as 007 in The Living Daylights, Timothy Dalton returned for what was to be his last outing as the agent. With Licence to Kill, the mood is much more serious than your average Bond fare and the results are dark and very brutal. Yet this change brings something new to the series and there is much to praise in this polarizing entry into the franchise.
In the beginning of the movie, Bond aids old CIA friend Felix Leiter in his search with the DEA for the powerful drugs lord Franz Sanchez. After the successful capture of the fleeing Sanchez, Felix marries a new bride by the name of Della and all seems to be going well. Their wedded bliss is cut tragically short after people on the inside and working for Sanchez, help the psychopath to escape and he has Felix’s bride murdered and Felix horribly mutilated by a shark. Severely angered and filled with a large sense of loyalty to his friend, Bond takes it upon himself to track down Sanchez and get revenge for what he did to Felix. This attitude for personal revenge has him stripped of his licence to kill by MI6 so Bond goes rogue in his vendetta against Sanchez. Recruiting tough-talking CIA agent and skilled pilot Pam Bouvier and helped by a vacationing Q, 007 goes from Florida to Mexico in his search for Sanchez and cunningly enters his inner circle, hoping it will bring him face to face with the violent drugs baron. Lets just say the results are going to be explosive and very tense to say the least.
In comparison to other Bond movies, Licence to Kill is by far the most adult of the series. With realistic violence and aggression a plenty, it is something of a departure from the adventurous nature of other Bond flicks. John Glen, in his last outing as Bond director, gives the film a welcome dose of savagery as Bond severs ties with restrictions of Government and goes at it alone. Violence is at its highest in Licence to Kill as people are maimed by sharks, Lupe, the caged girlfriend of Sanchez, is savagely whipped by him using a stingray tail and one character has his head stretched and blown up in sadistically, grisly fashion. Admittedly, some of this change may not all be effective, but it’s interesting to see the formula be twisted into something harsher and darker than before. There is a sense of brutality that hangs over Licence to Kill that marks it as a Bond movie with a different purpose than most. Even the whole main villain is not a mastermind trying to destroy the world which is usually the case, he is a powerful drugs baron with a hidden business. In this movie it brings the threats posed by him more profound as they are very believable in nature and the menace it provides is chilling. Michael Kamen provides the accented score, that gets to the heart of the revenge theme and fashions it into Latin rhythms and slinking drums. Soul diva Gladys Knight belts out the title track with power and finesse, giving the song passion and drama to boot.
Even though his tenure as 007 was too short, Dalton gave it his all. This really shows in Licence to Kill as we see Bond for the first time on a personal mission that only he can end. Dalton excellently shows the anger and hate Bond has for Sanchez and how he cunningly begins to infiltrate the drugs baron’s impenetrable system. Up until this point we hadn’t seen Bond at the end of his tether and bruised, but Dalton pulls this side of him off with grit and determination. Ably supporting him is Carey Lowell, who brings a sultry yet tough quality to the part of CIA agent Pam. This is a Bond girl who can fight her own battles, use her sexual prowess to get what she wants, match Bond in terms of intellect and is more than resilient in terms of resources. Exuding brooding menace and burning paranoia is Robert Davi as the antagonist Sanchez. Davi genuinely gives the role a darkness and he truly makes Sanchez a chilling adversary for 007. It is really interesting watching the dynamic between Bond and Sanchez and how Bond plants seeds of doubt in the head of Sanchez that cause him to doubt the loyalty of those around him. Talisa Soto exhibits vulnerability and the need for escape as Lupe, the girlfriend of Sanchez who has had enough of his cruelty. Anthony Zerbe is cunning as one Sanchez’s many workers, while there is a happy extended turn from Desmond Llewelyn as Q. In this entry, Q loyally aids Bond on his vendetta and this film really shows how valuable Q is as 007 comes up against enemies. David Hedison returns as Felix Leiter after portraying the character in Live and Let Die, and gives Felix a tragedy as his fate is what sets in motion Bond’s revenge mission. Frank McRae is a likable ally for Bond and Everett McGill is supremely slimy as the man who betrayed Felix because of Sanchez. In an early role, Benicio Del Toro is sinister and unhinged as Dario, a young henchman for Sanchez who is skilled with a switch blade and relishes the chance to dispatch those in his way. Robert Brown is strong and gruff in his last outing as M, yet Caroline Bliss this time around is not given enough to do as Moneypenny.
Brutal and unflinching, Licence to Kill may divide opinion but it does have an impact as we see the DNA of the series morph into something darker than normal.
Things We Lost in the Fire
- Halle Berry as Audrey Burke
- Benicio Del Toro as Jerry Sunborne
- David Duchovny as Brian Burke
- John Carroll Lynch as Howard
- Alison Lohman as Kelly
Susanne Bier’s first foray into American film is an intimate study of grief and addiction. Bolstered by two restrained and very powerful performances by Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro, Things We Lost in the Fire is a hopeful film showing the connection between two wounded characters as they attempt to stay afloat in a sea of grief.
Audrey Burke is a mother mourning the death of her husband Brian, who was killed whilst trying to defend a woman from her abusive partner. She shuts down emotionally and forms a protective shell around herself to protect her young children, Harper and Dory from her own grief. At Brian’s funeral, Jerry Sunborne, Brian’s friend who he attempted to help through his intense heroin addiction, turns up to pay his condolences. Audrey has never liked Jerry and believed Brian was wasting his time in his attempt to help his friend kick his habit. But after seeing how caring he is with her children, she asks him to move into her garage. Her invitation is not a romantic gesture, it is far from that. She just wants someone to be there as she tries to readjust to life after her shocking loss. Audrey and Jerry both have an impact on the other as they connect through grief, heartbreak and addiction. Examined in non-linear fashion, Susanne Bier crafts a moving movie about the need to connect , how powerful an emotion grief is and how we all deal differently we deal with it.
Refreshingly in Things We Lost in the Fire, Audrey and Jerry don’t fall in love as is the case with other movies. They connect after initial reluctance and see how much the other meant to the deceased Brian. The intimate screenplay delves deeply into the emotions of grief and anger with moving results. There are occasional times in which the movie lapses into melodrama, but Susanne Bier manages to create a deeply human movie despite the contrivances. Her camerawork is a marvel to watch as it zeroes on the tiniest emotional nuances between Audrey and Jerry. Her use of close-ups of eyes may put some off, but I personally thought it added a personal and subtle impact to the emotions displayed through the eyes. What I admired the most about Susanne Bier’s direction is her scenes of silence in which body language provide us with a heart of the story. The evocative score, mostly composed of an acoustic guitar, is organic and gets to the heart of the subtle emotions on display.
Susanne Bier draws two emotionally subtle performances from Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. Halle Berry plays Audrey with a subtle emotional core, we watch as she shuts down and keeps her emotions bottled up in order to survive her pain. She doesn’t come across as cold, but rather shielding herself from having to deal with what has happened. When she does let her emotions out, we see all of the anger and suffering she has endured since her husband’s death. It is a moving and convincing performance by Halle Berry. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jerry, the drug addicted friend of Brian who is actually a decent man caught in difficult circumstances and attempting to stop his habit. He is by turns caring, frightening but above all sympathetic as we see how Brian never gave up faith on his best friend. As the deceased Brian seen in flashback, David Duchovny is reliably warm-hearted as the good guy whose life ended tragically. In small but effective roles, John Carroll Lynch and Alison Lohman play an unhappy neighbour and a recovering addict.
Hopeful, filled with deep emotion and two stunning lead performances, Susanne Bier’s Things We Lost in the Fire is a drama of emotion and recovery that is moving and movingly observed.
- Michael Douglas as Robert Wakefield
- Don Cheadle as Montel Gordon
- Benicio Del Toro as Javier Rodriguez
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Helena Ayala
- Luis Guzman as Ray Castro
- Steven Bauer as Carlos Ayala
- Erika Christensen as Caroline Wakefield
- Miguel Ferrer as Eduardo Ruiz
Traffic is Steven Soderergh’s gritty, up close and personal look at drugs from various perspectives. Boasting an excellent cast and kinetic camerawork that gives it a feeling of a documentary, it is a kaleidoscopic look at the effects of the drug trade on different people and the consequences and situations that occur because of them.
Robert Wakefield is a judge who is appointed the high-ranking job of drugs czar, in an effort to combat the drug war that is raging. As he begins to question his new job, he becomes aware of his daughter Caroline’s serious drug problem and finds that drugs lie closer to home than he thinks. He tries everything he can to convince his daughter to give up, but the situation becomes harder and harder the more he tries and his daughter refuses help. Meanwhile in Mexico, a cop named Javier is trying also to counteract the ever-growing drug trade and supply, whilst trying to remain honest in a world where everything around him is corrupted. A further story set in San Diego concerns Montel and Ray, two undercover DEA agents attempting to bring down drug baron Carlos Ayala. After pressuring one of his friends who is on Carlos’ illegal activities, Carlos is arrested and brought to trial. His pregnant socialite wife Helena, who is at first oblivious to her husband’s job, finds out for herself. Rather than live without him and desperate, she takes matters into her own hands and goes to extreme measures as a way to free her husband.
The first thing that struck me about Traffic was the exceptional camerawork and lighting used. In order to distinguish each story, a certain colour or filter plays a pivotal part. In Robert’s story, blue is heavily used to symbolise his desperation at his daughter’s habits. Javier’s story is filmed with a blinding glow, counteracting with the corruption he witnesses on a daily basis. Helena’s story is filmed with a gold hue to show how naive she has been towards he husband’s dealings. All of this gives the audience a subtle insight into the character’s minds and how they respond to the presence of drugs in their lives. The use of a handheld camera further reiterates the struggles and conflict each character experiences, catching them off guard and examining with an almost forensic detail the various ways drugs have infiltrated their lifestyles.
The acting in the film from the ensemble cast is outstanding, especially from Douglas, Zeta-Jones and an Oscar-winning Del Toro. Michael Douglas shows the confusion of whether to concentrate on his job or help his addicted daughter from slipping any further. Catherine Zeta-Jones excels at showing Helena’s naivety in the beginning and then her gradual emergence as a scheming woman, galvanized into desperate action to clear her spouse’s name whatever the cost. Benicio Del Toro is the standout performer in Traffic, subtly portraying a man trying to remain honest but struggling when in the face of danger. In this way, he becomes the film’s heart, exuding a quiet intensity as we watch him being torn between his morals and the temptation to commit violent acts.
Steven Soderbergh has created an exceptional look at a difficult subject, without becoming preachy or cliché. Traffic is a haunting, intense and personal look at the connections of drugs and society. If you haven’t viewed Traffic, I would definitely recommend it to you.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
- Sean Penn as Paul Rivers
- Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck
- Benicio Del Toro as Jack Jordan
- Charlotte Gainsbourg as Mary Rivers
- Melissa Leo as Marianne Jordan
The second film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 21 Grams is a vivid, visceral and fragmented view of lives intersecting after tragedy. Examining the lives and actions of three principal characters, the film becomes a visual jigsaw as the audience attempts to fathom what events will lead them to redemption and revenge.
The three principal characters in this fragmented narrative are Paul, a dying mathematician, Cristina a former drug addict who has cleaned up her ways and Jack, an ex-con turned devout christian. Their lives collide when Jack after drinking runs over and kills Cristina’s husband and two daughters. This leads Cristina back to her old ways to try to cope with unimaginable grief. Paul, is in need of a new heart and eventually receives the heart of Cristina’s late husband. As his marriage to his British wife Mary crumbles, Paul begins a relationship with the grieving Cristina who is out for revenge. All of these events transpire in non-linear order, giving the viewer an insight into the characters before and after the tragedy and the events that will transpire as a result of this one fateful incident.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has fashioned an interesting film about redemption and retribution. The script by Guillermo Arriaga delves deep into the emotions of these emotionally wounded characters, revealing the inner turmoil and confusion each experiences throughout the narrative. Although at first the non-linear narrative may leave you bewildered, as the events continue to unravel we are given a bigger picture of what is happening as the pieces begin to form an inexplicable link to each other. This style is not for everyone, but it is certainly interesting to watch the past, present and future of each character’s life as they unfold like a coiled snake.
The acting of the leading trio is uniformly excellent. Sean Penn reveals a deep humanity within the character of Paul, who is just about holding on as the last flicker of light in his life begins to slip away. Naomi Watts puts in a powerful turn of sorrow, anger and heartbreak as her character tries to grieve and later get even with the cause of her pain. Benicio Del Toro is a menacing presence as the ex-con turned preacher who attempts to write his wrongs, but is ultimately unable to escape the guilt he has inflicted upon himself. Because of this powerful trio of portrayals, the secondary characters lack something and only contribute tiny things to the story. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Melissa Leo are talented actresses but are underused in this film. Regardless of this minor gripe, the film still remains an evocative look at damaged people trying to make good with their lives.
Evocative, thought-provoking and inventive, 21 Grams is a film that is once seen, never to be forgotten.