Mediocre Mercenaries, Murderers and Marvel | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Mediocre Mercenaries, Murderers and Marvel

Three movies, no memories

When I go to the multiplex to do a double or triple feature, the movies I end up seeing are mostly based on what time everything is playing and if I can string the showings together without too much downtime in between. I'm like a conductor, but with random strangers in dark rooms. Sometimes that creates a dynamic and thematically potent double feature like "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer." Other times it ends up like last weekend: a painful shit show ranging from deeply terrible, to inexplicably mediocre and then finally across the spectrum into fun and forgettable.

click to enlarge Mediocre Mercenaries, 
Murderers and Marvel
Courtesy of Disney
These three are completely Marvel-ous.

If I had planned better, these would not be the movies I watched, but I'm also kinda glad that it ended up being such a slapdash smattering of schlocky garbage and dumb fun, because A) I like bad things and B) I ended up not knowing much about the movies I watched, which is always more fun than knowing too much.

After girding myself with a perfect cup of coffee from Sisters Coffee Company, I started with "It's a Wonderful Knife," an absolutely dreadful attempt at making a comedy/horror satire of "It's a Wonderful Life," but without any of the things that make that movie a classic. Basically, this follows a teenage girl who saves her idyllic small town, Angel Falls, by killing a serial killer known as, you guessed it, The Angel, in the middle of his murder spree. She then wishes on the aurora borealis that she was never born, wakes up the next morning without anyone knowing who she is anymore and then experiences what Angel Falls is like without her around.

Joel McHale, Justin Long and the truly great scream queen Katherine Isabelle are fun to watch, but, aside from Long, are mostly wasted in this tonal misfire that mistakes sappy sentiment for heart, loud noises for scary moments and contextless romance for queer representation. There could be a fun movie in here somewhere, but director Tyler MacIntyre didn't have any connection to the movie he was making, so what exists is something so dull, dumb and dreadful that, if I could have lined up something else to watch, I wouldn't have sat through all 90 endless minutes.

I then hopped from that one straight into "Freelance," an action/comedy starring Alison Brie and John Cena. Brie is a disgraced journalist who heads to the fictional South American state of Paldonia to interview its leader, President Juan Venegas (a star-making performance from Juan Pablo Raba). Her protection is Mason Pettits (Cena) a retired Special Forces soldier who has a deep hatred of Venegas. You get it. You've seen this movie before when it was called "The Lost City" and it starred Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum (except that one is funny and romantic and exciting).

Look, this is objectively a bad movie, but I still found it (very, very mildly) entertaining. Brie, Cena and Raba have such great chemistry that even though most of the dialogue is tin-eared and painful, it's still enjoyable watching these actors playing these characters and hanging out. The biggest problem (aside from the dialogue, the graceless direction, the boring villains and anticlimactic ending) is that the movie is too long (109 minutes shouldn't feel like two and a half hours) and director Pierre Morel doesn't make any of the action actually exciting. Morel not only directed the original "Taken" back in 2008, but also made the French action classic "District B13," which was groundbreaking in how it combined Parkour and martial arts.

click to enlarge Mediocre Mercenaries, 
Murderers and Marvel
Courtesy of RLJE Films
There have been better bromances than the one in “Freelance"

"Freelance" is better as a character-driven dramedy than as an action movie, and that's a shame. It was like Morel either didn't have the time or budget to stage any entertaining set pieces. Either way, as (very very) mildly entertaining and as this one was, the missed opportunities far outweigh the things that work.

Next was the new Marvel movie... "The Marvels," which really wants you to watch "Captain Marvel," "WandaVision," "Secret Invasion" and "Ms. Marvel" so you have all the context of the plot involving mystical bangles, Quantum Bands, the war between the Skrull and the Kree Empires and the relationship between Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).

If that sounds like a lot of homework to do before watching the newest Marvel movie, it is, but I think it still stands on its own just fine if you haven't seen any of the backstory. Kamala, Carol and Monica are amazing together and once the movie slows down and lets the characters just hang out and breathe, "The Marvels" becomes an assured and entertaining sci-fi space adventure.

If you're burned out on Marvel, this won't change that even a little bit, but it's still a fun diversion and could be the beginning of an exciting new direction for the MCU. I'm a Marvel fan for life, so don't necessarily believe me, but I think we're leaving the disappointing section of the MCU behind and headed into some genuinely weird and interesting places (like "Deadpool 3!").

None of these movies are going to set the box office or your brain on fire. If you're a fan of Marvel still then you should like "The Marvels," but I would rather chew an open flame than recommend the other two. Maybe if you're bored and stoned? Nah, even then, there are better things to subject yourself to than "It's a Wonderful Knife" and "Freelance." A dark and quiet room would be better. Someone else's old vacation videos. Anything.

"It's a Wonderful Knife"
Dir. Tyler MacIntyre
Grade: F
Now Playing at Regal Old Mill

Dir. Pierre Morel
Grade: D
Now Playing at Regal Old Mill

"The Marvels"
Dir. Nia DaCosta
Grade: B-

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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