An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


How often does a movie pull you so deeply into the screen that you forget where you are? Try Kidnap. Call it a B movie as the reviews do, but then explain to me why it grabs an audience, holds it, and needs only one hour and twenty-one minutes to wrap them in fear that lasts long after leaving the theater. Maybe that’s the definition of a good B movie: many faults wrapped in emotional overkill. Let’s look.

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) has taken her adorable eight year old son Frankie (Sage Correa) to the amusement park for some fun. She answers her cellphone when she sees the call is from the lawyer defending her against her ex-husband’s suit for custody of their son. As she hangs up, she sees Frankie being hauled into a car. As Karla rushes to her Chrysler minivan, she drops her phone and loses her only way to summon help during the unfolding chase. She has only seconds to follow the turquoise car.

Whether it’s a good, bad, or mediocre movie to you, the theme goes to the heart of every mother’s deepest fear. We are given just enough time in the amusement park to see the love between Karla and her son. It’s right there that we begin to appreciate Halle Berry and Sage Correa.

Because the boy is whisked away so early, the movie falls entirely into the hands of Halle Berry who comes through in grand form. She drives at breakneck speed, causes pileups on highways, and slices across interstates. The fact that in reality none of this could happen matters not a bit.

Director Luis Prieto and writer Knate Lee wisely avoid following anything but Karla, and that brings up the only suspense lapse. Alone in her car without her phone, there can be no conversation so they have her say a prayer and reminisce a little. The effect? This is the only time the tension slows. The fuel of this story is adrenaline, and we don’t need to be relieved of our fear.

Halle Berry is so effective that we’re rooting for her through every single awful moment. Forget that none of the sudden plot changes could happen in real life. Not one of them is predictable or possible and each comes as a jolting surprise. It is the abduction itself that can and does happen in reality and that is what generates fear in the audience. So don’t waste time criticizing the ridiculous twists and turns. Just think about Frankie.

The best solution is to cheer this brave mother on and enjoy the cockeyed twists and dangers that challenge her at every turn. And remember that Halle Berry is convincing in all the incredible situations. This is a B movie? Of course, but I promise you will never figure out what’s coming next to make you slam your eyes closed and you can thank special effects and Halle Berry for that.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Kidnap
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:21
Rating : R
Date : 13 August 2017


This review was posted on August 21, 2017, in Thriller.

Atomic Blonde

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Atomic Blonde

Two odd but interesting things have happened in an otherwise grim summer for movies. Wonder Woman, the summer’s biggest hit, gave women the comic book version of the hero they have wanted for so long. And now Atomic Blonde has given them their own action hero. Together, they are an announcement that women have arrived.

Charlize Theron doesn’t kid around. Her action figure, Lorraine Broughton, uses every part of her body to kill enemies and when that’s not quite enough she uses whatever happens to be at hand. In grand collusion with director David Leitch, she levels the field.

Theron has trained herself to such a state of fitness and strength that the movie becomes a flaming announcement that women in movies can now say, “Don’t mess with me!” They no longer have to express rage just by being mean. The only problem here is that the action is so overwhelming it’s hard to track the plot. But does that matter? No.

It is 1989. Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 agent with a new assignment: head for Berlin and recover a list of secrets hidden in a wrist watch that has been stolen. The plot, along with its various alliances, is secondary to the wallop of the sight of Lorraine dispatching every man who tries to kill her.

Three characters stand out. James McAvoy as her primary problem, Eddie Marson as a bundle of brilliance who she must protect because he has memorized the list, and Sofia Boutella, another spy, who joins Lorraine in a red hot sexual encounter that plays out in prolonged detail. Through Lorraine, Charlize Theron is eyeing the decades of female roles screened by men and with a big smile is saying “Take this, you guys.”

The bulk of the film unfolds in absolutely brutal physical violence. What is it then that lifts it to high style? It’s Lorraine who we first see bruised and battered before learning why. All during the why of it, we have the abiding pleasure of watching her stride in perfect stern grace through the city in a different outfit for every scene.

Though brutalized by fists and weapons, short minutes later she is striding across Berlin in clothes of superb simplicity – no adornments. Almost always in stark black and white, then suddenly a bright red coat – all covering perfect posture atop bright red heels that become, when required , weapons. She is looking ahead as if she weren’t in full time danger. And then in moments she will be plummeting down a staircase, hit from behind by an enemy.

In two terrific symbolic performances this year, Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot gave us a fighter for moral rectitude and Charlize Theron shows us a battler against all odds. In grand exaggeration, they have handed women the recognition they want as they fight to transcend the supporting role that has been their lot for centuries. Comic book symbols? You bet. Earned, deserved, and delivered in style.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Atomic Blonde
Word Count : 502
Running time : 1:55
Rating : R
Date : 6 August 2017