Reviewed by: Martin Gray

Call the religious right, it's true, gays can be turned straight! It wasn't electroshock treatment that did for me, it was Marky Mark Wahlberg and his massive weapons.

For make no mistake, this is a manly film. Grrrr. Raargh. From start to finish, there's no problem that can't be sorted with a big enough bullet and a slow-motion walk into the foreground (there are no sunsets here, if the sky is orange, that's an explosion). That's not beer in the Marky Mark fridge, it's testosterone. And he's going to share it with you.

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And his dog. Marky Mark's character, the splendidly named (if you're a Hillbilly) Bob Lee Swagger, loves two things - his country and his dog. Take either away and you're looking to get ventilated. The guys doing the taking in this action adventure are led by military man Danny Glover, who's left his acting chops at home along with his teeth. He whispers and growls his way through the film as the master manipulator who frames Swagger for the death of an Ethiopian bishop, suposedly during an assassination attempt on the president.

This makes the gung-ho Swagger mad, so what's a manly fellow to do but enlist the aid of his late partner's wife and a rookie FBI agent to take down the bad eggs? OK, so it takes half an hour to turn nervy g-man Nick Memphis (ooh, macho name) into a sharpshooting maverick, and the widow Sarah (Kate Mara) nearly distracts him with her oh-so-kissable lips, but together they are beautiful.

In am earthly personification of destruction, sort of way. Which isn't to say this isn't an entertaining watch in a big and stoopid way, but it could have been more. There are flashes of intelligence, moments when it seems a clever thriller is waiting to break out, but what critiques of US foreign policy there are are quickly shoved off stage as soon as they've motivated the next big fight scene.

Wahlberg is faultless, providing exactly the solid centre the film needs. The first half an hour veers terribly close to Team America territory (remember puppet Gary, whose power of acting was the only thing that could save the world?) but Marky Mark plays it so very straight that you buy into his situation. He obviously has a brain in his head - when did Rambo ever display a knowledge of advanced trig? - but is never so intelligent that the juggernaut of a plot is derailed. And the camera is more interested in his chiselled body, third nipple and all. Michael Pena is immensely appealling as the last idealist in the FBI, a big puppy dog of a fellow. But the hissing, foot-stamping Glover is pure pantomime. Oh yes he is.

The direction by Training Day's Antoine Fuqua is solid, the cinematography pretty (oops, that's not a very manly way to describe it . . . it was, let's say, inspiring, especially in a credit sequence sweep over 'Ethiopia') and the soundtrack is apparently inspired by Eurovovision - well, BOOM! BANG! A-BANG! is all I remember, anyway.

This is Saturday night popcorn stuff - very loud popcorn stuff. Don't look for sense, just sequels.

Now, where's my beer and women?

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2007
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A disgruntled ex-US marine fights a conspiracy at the heart of government. With guns. Big guns.
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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Jonathan Lemkin

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Jonathan Walker, Justin Louis, Tate Donovan, Rade Serbedzija, Alan C. Peterson

Year: 2007

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


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