Jamie Foxx gets to play super cool in a summer action thriller with an emotional tug. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets to run around a lot, and this film is going to make Dominque Fishback known. She lays down some rap most excellently delivered, and shows emotion in all the right places.
We see this as a genre mashup of superheroes and villains looking to gain and retain power for 5 lethal minutes just when it’s needed. All they have to do is swallow a tiny glowing mini pill and there’s no telling what they’ll turn into. That provides a series of action-packed surprises to keep you on the edge of your couch. Right out of the box, a fight ends up with a frightening action scene producing a man totally engulfed, on fire.
Art, was former military. He’s got some special DNA. Here’s the first mashup. Art says he has “a particular set of skills,” sounding a lot like Liam Neeson in Taken. Art, too, is searching for his daughter.
Directing duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish), create threads bouncing between Art, police detective Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Robin (Dominique Fishback). Each is given their own story. Mattson Tomlin takes his time setting up who each is and how their survival becomes intertwined. He raises a number of underlying issues that all have to do with power. They include science, the military, race, drugs, cartels, corrupt government and police, social inequality, and even health care. There’s a lot packed into this movie.
Foxx, as Art, is cool, but intense. He speaks slowly, under his breath, but gets very physical in this role. He’s done action before, but he’s taking his movie star status to another level. Frank and Robin have history. She is a teenage hustler trying to make money to keep her Mom alive by paying for her medication. All she wants to do is be a rapper, and keeps getting in trouble in school.
It all revolves around those glowing little power pills. It takes many action scenes with elaborate, fiery and explosive special effects to bring these three together. With the advancement of CGI, it takes more than the usual to wow an audience. Visual Effects Supervisor, Ivan Moran comes up with some doozies. But they aren’t enough to carry a film unless there’s a good story. Tomlin weaves a pretty good tale that doesn’t really gain steam until they join forces about half way through the film. That’s when it takes off.
Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) is the bad guy. He’s the evil sleazy power broker.
Art and Frank take him on in one of the most creatively shot scenes in the movie. Director of Photography MIchael Simmonds captures the mayhem of a massacre, but from a different point of view. It’s shot from inside a see-through chamber where the female victim was being treated like a lab rat. Outside, blood spatters on the glass, and there are bodies flying, but the sound is muffled during this massacre, which makes it even more disturbing and frightening.
Biggie has a bigger boss in Gardner (Amy Landecker) who just keeps yelling orders. They all end up on a humongous container ship where Robin gets to show how quick and savvy she is. She figures out the ship’s security system giving Art and Frank guidance from the control room to navigate through the ship away from the bad guys. Of course it leads to a climactic battle with more choreographed mayhem with more fiery special effects.
When we first saw Joseph-Gordon Levitt in action in the film, we didn’t think it was perfect casting. He looked too scrawny to play a street tough detective. But he did look pretty ripped when he took his shirt off. And he adds some lightness with his rye humor.
Could this have been the breakthrough summer blockbuster if it had played to a live audience in theaters? Maybe. But there’s enough to fill any size screen when you have good actors, a power fueled story.
Netflix 1 hour 51 minutes R
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