Three Thrillers from Sony
Bobby Z (June 2/08)
Though saddled with an almost relentlessly uneven sensibility, Bobby Z ultimately manages to overcome its myriad of deficiencies to become a surprisingly entertaining little actioner - with Paul Walker's strong lead performance and the inclusion of several delightfully over-the-top fight sequences cementing the film's unexpected success. Walker stars as Tim Kearney, a three-time loser looking at a life behind bars who agrees to pose as recently-deceased drug dealer Bobby Z (Jason Lewis) for FBI agent Tad Gruzsa (Laurence Fishburne). If all goes according to plan, Tim will be allowed to walk away from his prison sentence with no strings attached - although, of course, things start to go awry almost immediately. Director John Herzfeld - working from Bob Krakower and Allen Lawrence's screenplay - opens Bobby Z with a series of energetic introductory sequences that effectively set an off-kilter tone for what's to follow, yet there's no denying that the comparatively sedate and increasingly tedious midsection inevitably does test one's patience (something that's particularly true of a long stretch revolving around Tim's attempts at shepherding a young boy to safety). Even during such weak spots, however, it's impossible not to derive some enjoyment from the oddball antics of the film's exceedingly eclectic supporting cast, which includes M.C. Gainey, Jason Flemyng, and Keith Carradine (the latter, playing a fu manchu-sporting henchman, is especially amusing here). By the time hilariously absurd climactic standoff rolls around, Bobby Z has certainly (and definitively) established itself as a refreshingly loopy direct-to-video action effort that'll surely impress even the most jaded genre fan (ie Tim's throwdown with a baddie inside the tight confines of a trailer is virtually worth the price of a rental by itself).
The Cottage (June 5/08)
The Cottage follows two squabbling brothers (Andy Serkis' David and Reece Shearsmith's Peter) as they kidnap the daughter (Jennifer Ellison's Tracey) of a feared underworld figure, with the majority of the film's first hour devoted to their progressively desperate efforts at ensuring the plan goes off without a hitch (something that quickly proves easier said than done). Though it's impossible to deny the effectiveness of both Serkis and Shearsmith's work here, there does reach a point at which the seemingly relentless bickering among the various characters becomes awfully tough to take - with such problems exacerbated by the increasingly claustrophobic vibe that writer/director Paul Andrew Williams has hard-wired into the proceedings (ie the movie initially transpires almost entirely within the confines of a cramped cottage). Having said that, The Cottage improves immeasurably following an out-of-left-field plot twist that hits at around the 55-minute mark - as the film, in a manner reminiscent of From Dusk Till Dawn, essentially morphs into a far more entertaining and altogether horrific endeavor than its comparatively sedate opening might've indicated. The degree to which the movie is redeemed by its impossible-to-anticipate third act is consequently quite staggering, as one can't help but derive a fair amount of enjoyment from the downright brutal situation the central characters find themselves embroiled in. The inclusion of an appropriately grisly finale only cements The Cottage's effective late-in-the-game turnaround, although - admittedly - it does seem clear that the whole thing would've fared a whole lot better had the film's first half been condensed into a briskly-paced 20-minute stretch.
Edison Force (June 6/08)
One ultimately can't help but scratch one's head at the presence of such well-known figures as Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey within Edison Force, as the film slowly-but-surely comes off as a typically convoluted and entirely underwhelming straight-to-video thriller that eventually wears out its welcome in a substantial way. There's a lack of authenticity that's been hard-wired into the proceedings by writer/director David J. Burke, with the filmmaker's continued emphasis on impossible-to-swallow, downright laughable plot developments certainly not helping matters. The movie - which follows an ambitious young reporter (Justin Timberlake's Josh Pollack) as he attempts to expose a den of corrupt cops and politicians - kicks off with a relatively exciting action sequence involving a botched bank heist, and it goes without saying that the impressive cavalcade of familiar faces does prove effective in initially holding one's interest. There reaches a point, however, wherein Burke's garrulous modus operandi becomes flat-out oppressive in its relentlessness, with the eye-rollingly on-the-nose instances of dialogue exacerbated by an increasingly pronounced emphasis on superfluous exposition. And while it's hard to deny the strength of a few individual sequences - ie a vicious throwdown between LL Cool J's Deed and Dylan McDermott's Lazerov in which the two employ phone receivers and staplers as makeshift weapons - Edison Force's progressively unwatchable sensibilities will even turn off fans of the film's various high-profile actors.