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Hot Pursuit

May 14, 2015

Hot Pursuit (* ½) PG-13

It wasn’t so long ago that Reese Witherspoon was seen in interviews lamenting the quality of some of her past film projects and promising to rectify those mistakes in the future. And for a brief shining moment it looked as if she might make good on that promise with her participation last fall in such worthy projects as Wild and Inherent Vice. With the release of Hot Pursuit one can’t help but wonder if the actress’ memory must have been jarred, such is the quality of the film. By comparison, it makes one long for the days when Witherspoon was spending her time laboring on such films such as This Means War just a few years back.

The gears of the press machine for this film have been grinding at full speed for months alerting the public to the friendship that Witherspoon and fellow actress, Sofia Vergara, formed on the set of Hot Pursuit. When watching the film it is true, and more than a little evident, that the two definitely have what is commonly referred to as on-screen chemistry. Unfortunately, all the on- screen chemistry in the world can’t change the fact that the film’s script completely does the two actresses a grave disservice by giving the would be comedic duo virtually nothing of substance to do during the film’s unspooling.

That is with the exception of involvement in comedic ‘hijinks’ that barely rise above the level of a sitcom—it is, after all penned by two former sitcom scribes—and not even a good one at that. Jokes commonly fall more flat than a pancake and the ones that do seem to work managed to get not much more than a pleasant smirk from this reviewer.

Vergara & Witherspoon in Hot Pursuit

The plot of the film, courtesy of writers John Quaintance and David Feeney, is so hackneyed and contrived that it’s really not worth describing but I’ll try anyway. Officer Cooper (Witherspoon) has been relegated to a desk job ever since a taser incident gone wrong ended with her demotion. The by-the-book officer gets her chance when she’s ordered to escort Danielle (Vergara), the wife of a high ranking member of a drug cartel, to Dallas so she can testify against her husband’s employer/drug lord. As you can imagine comedic hijinks ensue along the way as the two women are, at various points, forced to pretend to be lesbians, crash a car full of cocaine and get themselves ensconced in yet another unfortunate taser incident. And that’s just for starters. Yes, it really is as lame as it sounds. Even the sight of Witherspoon in granny panties can’t save the day.

The film ends with outtakes of the actresses flubbing their lines that are so bad that you somehow wish they had just chosen to run the old Cannonball Run outtakes that ran during the end credits of that critically lambasted 1981 film. Anything would have been preferable to this mess.

Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com

Hot Pursuit is playing everywhere in this area.

Mad Max: Fury Road

By Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer

The silences in Mad Max: Fury Road are unsettling.

The moments are few and infrequent, but it’s not until the fiery roar of the engines and the thrashing of the guitars are suddenly stripped away that you can fully feel how deeply the film has flooded your being. The theater—and your heart—pulsates with the lack as you recover and wait for more.

It’s in the silences that director George Miller’s singular genius becomes evident, and for good reason: It’s the only time the film allows you to breathe.

Thirty years after Miller gave the world Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, he’s returned to his own post-apocalyptic world and created an exceptional, fearless and poetic masterpiece that’s primed to become a modern classic.

In this anarchic world, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is a lone wolf. As he tells us in the prologue, he’s a man whose past traumas have reduced him to a single instinct: Survival. Max’s only humanity seems to be in his haunting visions of a child asking for protection. Otherwise, he’s gone full animal. As Max, Hardy doesn’t so much speak. He grunts and growls and scurries for freedom.

But Max quickly gets entangled with others when the war lords of the wasteland put a fish hook in his neck and strap him on as a hood ornament to chase after the rogue Furiosa (Charlize Theron).

She’s managed to escape the Citadel in a powerful, lumbering War Rig with the wives of their tyrannical leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played Toecutter in ``Mad Max’’).

Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road

Much of the film is spent with the women, and eventually Max, on the rig as they race across the desert away from the painted fighters on their tail. Furiosa, seeking redemption for untold sins, has made it her purpose to bring the wives to ``the green place’’ —an idyllic haven she was taken from as a child.

The wives, played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton and Zoe Kravitz, are all ethereal, spiritual beauties. Though physically perfect and visibly unmarked by the harsh conditions of the land, as Immortan Joe’s property, their collective trauma is more insidious. When they fight back and jump in to help their more grizzled and skilled travel mates, they do so without fear or hesitation.

Looking almost sturdy in comparison, it is Theron who steals the show as the steely-eyed, one-armed, and aptly named Furiosa. Her fierce and unwavering commitment to her self-assigned mission propels the sparse narrative and invigorates those around her, when death often seems like not just the easier option, but probably the more appealing one, too.

Painted and scarred to the point of disguise, Nicholas Hoult is also a standout as Nux, an unlucky, but endearingly devoted Immortan Joe foot soldier who delivers on one of the few actual character arcs of the film.

Ultimately, Mad Max: Fury Road is almost aggressively anti-character, though. The dialogue is beautifully lean and purposeful, allowing what does exist to have maximum impact. For Theron and Hardy, their triumphant performances are is in their eyes.

In the end, it is the bright, fresh visuals juxtaposed with the impressively choreographed and always surprising action and pacing that make the film. Cinematographer John Seale (‘’The English Patient’’) has infused the barren landscape with a feast of striking, saturated colors, while Miller has made a two-hour race across the desert into a truly riveting must-see and see again.

As we drive full speed into another summer (and half-decade) of sequels and interconnected universes, Miller has reminded us that blockbusters have the potential to not only be art, but radically visionary—even the fourth in a series. What a lovely day, indeed.

Mad Max: Fury Road is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for ``intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.’’ Four stars out of four.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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