Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Horde; 1911; Bourne Legacy

The Horde

A squad of cops attends the funeral of one of their number. It turns out he was murdered by a notorious drug gang – they plan to tool up and take down the gang’s tower-block hideout, strictly off the books.

Things quickly go wrong and the cops are killed, wounded or captured, but just as the gangsters are working out what to do with their new captives the dead start rising…
Heavily armed dirty cops, gangsters and zombies seems like a bland recipe these days as seemingly everyone with a camera and make up kit tries to cash in on the zombie buck, but in recent decades French cinema has broken out of the middle class drawing room and into thrillers and schlocky action flicks, with some decent results.
Unfortunately the Horde, whilst certainly not as bad as some zombie films made in the last few years, offers little to justify an audience.

There are a few short, brutal sequences of survivors beating up zombies hand-to-hand in a novel approach to traditional zombie apocalypse survival, but these few scenes aren’t enough to hang a film on, and a supposed comic relief character introduced in the last act is unpleasant if anything.


Jackie Chan’s career has been rooted in the martial arts genre, displaying his skills in straight action films and slapstick comedies and famous for performing his own stunts. Impressive as those skills still are, Chan’s acting wasn’t always seen as a strong point, but since 2004’s New police Story Chan has attempted to stretch that part of his repertoire, most likely as a fall back now that the fully action packed roles aren’t possible – Chan turned 59 in 2013.

1911 is another drama entry, released on the centenary of the Chinese Xinhai revolution of 1911, which overthrew thousands of years of monarchy.
Chan plays Huang Xing, the revolutionary leader and first army commander in chief of the Republic of China, and he holds his own against the rest of the cast.

Unfortunately the film is quite slow and stilted, struggling to hold the interest despite numerous battle scenes of conflict between the revolutionaries and Qing dynasty forces.
Much of the action sequences, thanks to the period detail of uniforms, rifles and trenches, feel like many other First World War films, and all of the political machinations both within China and between representatives of western nations are rather formal and sterile.
Ultimately it feels like a propaganda piece glorying in the overthrow of a decadent, out of touch ruling class by the rule of the people, and Chan has little to do outside give pained looks in reaction to the deaths of young revolutionaries.

Not bad enough for Jackie Chan completists to avoid (they will have already ground their eyeballs against the likes of The Medallion and Around the World in 80 Days) but certainly not a great advert for Chan’s abilities beyond spectacular stunts.

Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner was destined to be an action hero since his fantastic turn as the sniper in 28 Weeks Later. Despite this I was concerned about the first Bourne movie in franchise to trade just on the name, making it seem much more likely to be a cash-in than anything.
But! It’s good.
Renner is believable as the agent with just a little more personality than the other trained killers, but ruthless when he needs to be. The action sequences retain the improvised feel of the previous films, with a number of sequences both tense and exciting.

Director Tony Gilroy wrote the screenplays for all the Bourne films and previously directed Michael Clayton, explaining how the film retains the smarts behind the thrills, with the background and sequences of the earlier films interwoven to set up Renner as one of the few agents to avoid the cull as Treadstone is shut down. Edward Norton makes a welcome appearance as  the man responsible for terminating Renner’s Aaron Cross, and Rachel Weisz continues the Bourne films run of intelligent female roles, despite the action/thriller genre setting.


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