REVIEW: TRUE DETECTIVE - SEASON 1 (2014, NIC PIZZOLATTO / M. McCONAUGHEY, W. HARRELSON)

Monday, 30 November 2015


  • Original Release: 2014
  • Creator: Nic Pizzolatto (no past significant involvement in movies)
  • Starring: Matthew McConaughey (Insterstellar, Two For The Money), Woody Harrelson (Dumb and Dumber, No Country for Old Men)
  • Also starring: Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles
  • Running Time: 127min
  • Rated: TV-MA
  • Reviewed format: Blu-Ray
  • Budget: $x
  • Gross: $x
  • Buy True Detective - Season 1 from Amazon.com


True Detective is a fairly new TV-series created by Nic Pizzolatto, previously fairly unknown name
in the film industry. Pizzolatto has worked as a writer before, of which the most notable title of his was a novel called "Galveston", that won French Prix du Premier Roman √Čtranger -award in 2010. The show is led by two actors with a lot of movie-background: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Harrelson is known of his more comical roles (Dumb And Dumber), while McConaughey of more serious roles (Interstellar, Mud).

Format of True Detective is rather interesting. One season is kind of like watching a lengthy movie; 8 episodes with the same main actors and story, after which the season ends, and a new main story with new actors take place on the next season. The old cast, as far as I know, is then ditched, because Season 2's plot doesn't connect with the one of the Season 1's. Another interesting thing is presentation of the timeline and the pace of True Detective. Season 1 of the series takes place on the modern times, but jumps on the past happenings almost majority of the play-time.

It all begins at the modern times in Louisiana, when two black detectives, Gilbough and Papania, separately interview ex-detectives Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey) of their past life; especially of their times on duty in the 90s, when they were investigating series of sinister murders. The scenes jump between Gilbough and Papania interviewing Hart and Cohle and showing what actually happened in the almost two decades earlier, while they are trying to get leads of the past series of murders from Hart and Cohle. The murder series case, which was solved back then by Hart and Cohle, seems to have taken a new twist, while new murders have happened in similar fashion of those of the old. From the interviews, the viewer is soon taken into the 90s, where the assumedly solved murder cases originally took their place...

It's 1995 in Louisiana: detective Marty Hart, a local cop, gets assigned to investigate what appears to be series of connected murders, committed in ritualistic and occult manners. Several victims all have stab-wound like patters on their lower belly, and they have been carefully positioned in a certain way after the murders, and have been decorated in a weird manner. Each of the victims seems to be posing with puzzling "antlers" on their head. The crime scenes are often filled with several weird symbols that someone left behind. What could be behind the murders, a satanist serial killer or a cult?


(Detective Cohle inspecting the crime scene)


Hart is soon given a new working partner, detective Rust Cohle to solve the crimes. Hart appears to be a good, honest, family-man with a wife and two children, but on the inside he is man with rather short temper and low-morale; as he keeps cheating his wife with young hot women. Cohle, on the other hand, seems like a wise and calm thinker type; but with sinister, almost psychotic thoughts at times. This keep frightening even Hart at times, who seems to be rather hardened type, himself. Other times he's just annoyed with Cohle's weird riddles. While Hart sinks into melancholy because of the things he does, and their consequences which affect to his own satisfaction (getting caught of cheating etc.); Cohle seems to sink into melancholy because of what kind the world is - an ugly place, which he cannot change.

The pair, which doesn't seem to get along too well, continues trying to solve the murder mysteries together, puzzled by their weird symbolism. The deeper they look, more expansive the pattern behind the murders seems to be. Is the church connected? Is the governor himself connected? Everything points to a larger group rather than a single killer, with connections to the people in socially higher class positions. The more Hart and Cohle push the case, more they are pushed behind my certain people. What could lie behind all this? How far do they have to go to solve the cases?

Without spoiling too much of the plot, all I can say is just wow! This show took me with a BLAST! True Detective (Season 1) is the best show for me since "The Shield", which was magnificent. The show succeeds to punch you in to the face with a big emotional impact; violence, sadness, excitement - without showing the actual violence and gore too much. I was excepting to see actually much more violence in the show, but no. Murder scenes are very nicely filmed and presented, making you feel the uneasy and feel the occult and sinister presence of whatever took place in there, but what I noticed is, that director actually doesn't want to show too much details of the actual murder victims wounds and injuries, per se. One example I could give is, when Cohle gets a video tape in his possession that shows one of the murders. and then shows it to Hart. Nothing disturbing about the tape itself is shown for the viewer in the scene, but instead, camera focuses zooming on Hart's face, who is frightened and enraged at the same time while watching the video. Impact of the high level violence made to the viewer, boom! The director rather focuses the overall scene and it's tone, and alternative ways of presenting the violent content, than showing the highest level gore itself to the viewer. This is not Seven with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, ladies and gentlemen, but it works quite well.

(Detective Cohle being interviewed about the 1995 happenings)


Filming, camera work, and presentation of the different scenes are done beautifully in True Detective; best ones I've ever seen on TV-show. Watching True Detective in terms of camera work quality is like watching a movie with a bigger budget: cuts, zooms, spans, It's just presented beautifully with different great looking sceneries. Roaming through Louisiana countryside, swamps, with their broken churches, while the detectives are chasing the cult (or whatever it is), really deliver the sinister and occult tone of the show nicely, in rather peaceful yet effective manner. That, combined with some of the best TV-show acting yet, is guaranteed to glue the viewer to the TV-screen.

Harrelson performs his role of slightly rough-mannered but seemingly honest family man; who in the end isn't that honest after all, in a great way. One of his best roles I've ever seen. What I was really blown away by, though, was McConaughey outstanding performance in the show. He's a joy to watch, whether he's solving a crime scene, doing some undercover cop work as a motorbike gang member, or being interviewed of his past detective work with just a face-shot. Anyone who can perform with such charisma in a long dialogue scene done just with a face-shot should be given an award, His performance is almost up there with Pacino and some of the other best. What a surprise. Of course, I previously knew he is decent actor; I did like his movie "Two For The Money", and Harrelson isn't actually newcomer in the film industry, either. Other actors didn't really stick to my mind that much, but the side-cast certainly was all right, too.

The chemistry between Harrelson and McConaughey  is fun to watch, as they are both stubborn men, who are constantly clashing with each other, because they are so different. They just generally dislike each other. Neither of them is particularly bad or good, either, so this isn't a typical good-cop-bad-cop show. Both of the main characters don't seem to be either good or bad; they both have their own good and bad sides, but in the end they come out more as a good than bad personas.

("[on the phone to with det. Hart] I really wanted to see you. I've been thinking about something all week. I think...I want you to f* me in my ass." This surely isn't Hart's wife, but can he resist the temptation, or has he finally changed his habits as he promised?)


True Detective is sort of a middle-cross in between a show which goes directly on the track with the main story, and a show which story-line divides itself into sub-stories of many of the main characters. The show follows mostly the main story, but takes a liberty occasionally to follow up life of either of the two main characters, with events that are rather non-connected to the main story. For example, in one episode they need to follow a lead to the main story's suspect; it takes Cohle to work as an undercover agent inside a motorcycle gang, which itself parts ways with the main story for a little while. Sometimes, on the other hand, the show takes a quick look into Cohle's or Hart's personal life outside the duty, but that's pretty much as far as the show departs itself from the main storyline (and on the first example, it was still "sort of connected")

The focus is primarily on the one main story; the murder crime series in Louisiana, and the other sub-stories are used in much smaller amount (compared to "The Shield", for example, where there were sometimes so many sub-stories dividing out of the main story, that one episode would lose the main story of the season almost completely). What brings some complexity to the storyline, though, is the clever way of presenting the story through the interviewing done in the modern times by Gilbough and Papania, when they interview Hart and Cohle, and then taking the scene back in the 90s, where the story moves in chronological order, until in the very end it reaches the modern times, but we're not spoiling that any more. The format works amazingly well.

The only small complaint would be the shortness of the season with only 8 episodes. That's slightly too little, no matter what way you view it. Also, while the show starts with several 10/10 ranking episodes and rather realistic approach, I always thought that the plot watered down just a little bit towards the end, while taking a turn towards a bit too weird and unrealistic path. Nothing sorf of Sci-Fi, though. But those are just my minor complaints, even the ending is pretty good. I would give some of the later episodes 9/10 or 8/10, and it's still pretty damn good!

To sum it up short: if you're seeking a lot of action, then no, True Detective isn't probably for you. Go for "The Shield". If you're looking for a lot of violence and gore, then no, go and rent "New York Ripper", or watch "The Shield", or even "Walking Dead". If you, however, are looking for a thoughtful, entertaining crime show, and expect amazing acting performance, stunning atmosphere, and interesting story - go for True Detective! You won't regret it. There's no too much blood, but atmospheric scenes are made due the great presentation and acting. Highly recommended!


The Good
  • Great main story
  • Even greater atmosphere
  • Top notch acting by McConaughey and Harrelson
  • Beautiful scenes
  • Main characters chemistry and collective story one of the best of the new Millennium
  • Effective format with jumping between several timelines, without being messy and hard to follow
The Bad

  • Too short (8 episodes)
  • Violence cut down on few places where they could had showed more
  • Story waters down from 10/10 material and drops slightly towards 9/10 or 8/10 rating







9 Bullets out of 10

(WOW! What a blast. Best crime show on TV since "The Shield" with McConaughey giving a top notch performance!)
Buy True Detective - Season 1 from Amazon.com 





REVIEW: LETHAL WEAPON 4 (1998, RICHARD RONNER / M.GIBSON, D.GLOVER)

Friday, 12 June 2015


  • Original Release: 1998
  • Also starring: Rene Russo, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan
  • Running Time: 127min
  • Rated: R
  • Reviewed format: Blu-Ray (Lethal Weapon Collection)
  • Budget: $140 000 000
  • Gross: $129 734 803 (USA) (30 October 1998)


Most of the movie series get worse towards the end. The first Lethal Weapon movie starring Mel Gibson
and Danny Glover was released way back in 1987, and was an instant classic of "buddy-cop-movies" genre. A pacey action movie flavored with a good bit of comedy. The fourth Lethal Weapon movie came out a decade later than the first, in 1998, directed by Richard Donner, still featuring the same main star actors Gibson and Glover as officers Murtaugh and Riggs. The directorship of Lethal Weapon movies has been kept in hands of Richard Donner ever since the first movie of the series, who initially came known of directing classics such as The Goonies and The Omen.

There was always this sort of a "good cop, bad cop" setting in Lethal Weapon movies, with Murtaugh (Glover) being the older, more calm and reasonable cop, while Riggs (Gibson) was the wild one with more questionable ways of solving the issues. That's something, that has ever since been done to death in the movie industry, but the humor and chemistry between these two actors was always very entertaining. The series have always been balancing themselves in the middle grounds between action and comedy, containing a good dose of both, with the first two leaning more towards action, and now, the latter two leaning bit more towards the comedy. However, those balance adjustments of the style have been more minor, than major between each of the movies, as the series have progressed forward.

Lethal Weapon 4 revolves around the same style of presentation and tricks, than what we've seen before, being perhaps closest to "the part three", continuing the same trend than it's prequel. The fourth movie of the series isn't as "raw" as the first or even the second. The first Lethal Weapon certainly was the darkest of the series with least comedy, the second bit lighter, and the third moderately lighter, with a lot more goofy comedy. Lethal Weapon 4 keeps the "rawness" up to par with the third, not being any more watered down in violence, which is a nice thing, as I expected this to be even more "family friendly" movie than the prequel.

However, if you've ever seen the first Lethal Weapon (1987), you probably remember that Martin Riggs' even at times psychopathic character, had quite serious, bitter, and dark side of personality, even though there was some humor added, too. We don't see that side in here, nor have we since the second movie of the series. But in some way, this movie still feels true to the movie series' original style, if we look the bigger picture. It's still not "too light".




In the fourth installment, officers Riggs and Murtaugh return as bit more aged, noticing themselves being "too old for this shit!", even on the Riggs' part. Things on police force, however, don't go as peacefully as they perhaps hope for, when the officers find themselves (quite randomly) involved with local Chinese mafia, who are transporting the Chinese to United States as slaves for money. The slavery-pattern involves money laundering, and one of the Chinese crime-lords is also trying to buy his brother free from a Chinese prison, to get him transported to American grounds.

As Murtaugh and Riggs are having a peaceful evening with their mouthy friend Leo Getz (acted by Joe Pesci, also featured in the third movie of the series) on Murtaugh's brand new fishing boat, they almost get overran by a bigger cruiser in the dark waters. While they start pursuing the cruiser and demand it to stop for a closer investigation, the Chinese crew of the cruiser start firing at them. After a victorious firefight (well, not quite so, as poor Murtaugh's brand new boat sinks), Riggs and Murtaugh investigate the cruiser which appears to be a slave-carrier of Chinese mafia, full of Chinese slaves.

Riggs and Murtaugh start investigating the Chinese slavery-pattern closer. They get a little help from always-so-wacky Leo (which is bit over-the-top, but you cannot not love Pesci's performance, anyways), who now works as a private detective. Also, in the group joins new addition to the movie series, Detective Lee Butters (stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock), who starts investigating the case with the two main stars.

Now that we have wacky Leo (Pesci) and almost as wacky Butters (Rock), it's unquestionable, that the movie takes turn into rather comedic approach, perhaps even more than in Lethal Weapon 3. I found the humor in the first and the second Lethal Weapon movies bit more "mature" and dark, than on third, and obviously on this fourth part. The third and fourth are slightly more childish, but still not overly so. However, Lethal Weapon 4 has some clever lines and fun jokes, which will give you many chuckles during the movie, if you give it a chance. The comedic chemistry between Gibson, Glover, Pesci, and Rock works fine most of the time, although it's sometimes bit over-acted, over-the-top so to say, almost "cartoon'y".


(some goofy moments with Pesci and Rock)


What I particularly like about Lethal Weapon 4 is, that it's action scenes are entertaining. There's a good mixture of speedy chases, gun fights, martial arts stunts (thanks to Jet Li), and even decent amount of explosions (although, do not expect anything like Schwarzenegger's "Commando"). Lethal Weapon series, while somewhat softened since the first movie, have kept relatively consistent overall style and presentation, and have always featured some good action scenes and entertaining buddy-cop-theme. The solid style has maintained probably, because Richard Donner has directed every movie in the series since the first one, and still did the fourth.

The movie starts with a good slow-burning action scene, where Riggs and Murtaugh arrive to the scene to arrest a psychotic flamethrower crook, who's wearing bullet-proof armor (looking like being ripped off from "The Exterminator" movie). It features similar cracks and jokes we've seen before, but which still make us laugh, me at least. There's the ever familiar "should we go on three, or after the three?" -count down sequence, as well as Riggs tricking Murtaugh to run on his underwear, and flap his arms like a chicken to distract the flamethrower man. There's handful of nice action scenes, in addition to the one above, like one very nicely done and memorable, speedy highway chase, which features a jump from an elevated highway road with a car to a tenth floor of an office building through the glass windows, and then driving through the office floor, and jumping back to the highway. The stuns look old-school all the way! It's gorgeous, because it doesn't look like computer generated CGI piece of crap, that we're used to see these days. Often times (especially on the action movies) the new technology doesn't provide better looking visuals with the stuns, than the old way of doing it, and we have a prime example right here.

Another thing I liked here perhaps even more than on the third movie, is that the main villain is great. The Chinese martial arts mastering crime lord's name is Wah Sing Ku, who is played by Jet Li. This time even aging officer Riggs, who knows some martial arts himself, meets his match, and finds out that he too, indeed, is "too old for this shit". Li and his Chinese mobs put up a good show, and overall I think that the fourth movie is perhaps even more speedy than the third. At least, by judging purely by it's action scenes.

Riggs' girlfriend (since the third movie), Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), who I always felt was bit out of the place in the movie series, has a slightly smaller role this time, than previously. I felt that this was a good thing. However, Lorna's role in the movie revolves around her pregnancy, and there are plenty of scenes about Lorna's and Riggs' relationship, about planning to get married and of the baby. That's my main complaint about the fourth part.

The movie runs 127 minutes, a long run for an action movie. It could had been cut up to perhaps, say, 15-20 minutes shorter, and it would had felt more effective. The parts that could had been cut, in my opinion, should had been many of those non-important relationship involving scenes (particularly of Riggs and Lorna), which seem to be adding up unecassary running time to the movie, and slowing it's tempo down.

While the story between Lorna's and Riggs' relationship is bit more "serious", and thus unfitting to the movie (at least on as lengthy form), Murtaugh's daughter's Rianne's story fits in better. Rianne is also pregnant (bit too much pregnancy on this film!) and the story revolving around that subject is done in more comedic manner. I don't want to spoil it, but there's several good jokes about it between Riggs and Murtaugh.


(The highway chase scene)

Conclusion

To sum this up. I think that the fourth Lethal Weapon keeps up the same style, generally speaking, than all three movies of the series prior to it. Action scenes are entertaining. Stunts of the movie, which are done with certain old-school flavor, following the roots of many action movies of the 80s and early 90s, look a lot more "real" and realistic, than what we see in many action movies today with fully computer generated visuals. We've seen many of the jokes between Riggs and Murtaugh in the movie before, but their chemistry is still entertaining to watch. In it's seriousness/rawness-value, Lethal Weapon 4 comes close to the third movie: it has some good jokes, although some of them are bit childish. Lethal Weapon 4 is not as dark and raw as the first, or even the second of the series, but the movie still manages to escape being dropped to "whole family's comedy" category. Pesci's and Rock's acting bring comedic tone to the movie, but the action scenes with the Chinese mafia, especially lifted by Jet Li's presence, do bring that necessary speed and rawness to the movie. Lethal Weapon 4 could had been much more disappointing, after slightly watered down part three, but instead Donner and the cast managed to avoid another drop in the quality, and bring the movie's quality level up to, at least, par with it's prequel. Yet another solid Lethal Weapon movie directed by Richard Donner, which main problems lie on unnecessarily slowed down pace at times, caused by some useless relationship issue and pregnancy based scenes, that should had probably been dropped off totally thus cutting the movie shorter, or be replaced by other scenes tied to the main storyline.


The Good
  • Rated R
  • Gibson & Glover chemistry still works
  • Good villain (Jet Li)
  • Which means there are many martial arts scenes
  • A good blend of slightly childish comedy and raw action
  • Old-school action sequences look great
  • Pesci and Rock are solid
  • Faithful to the movie series
  • Not a letdown compared to the prequel
The Bad

  • Too long
  • Too many pointless relationship scenes slow the movie down
  • ...which should had been replaced with a few more raw action scenes
  • Misses the initial darkness of the first two movies of the series, that made the movies more explosive 
  • Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) feels still bit out of the place in the movie


6 Bullets out of 10

(Surprisingly solid movie, after the series took a direction towards more watered down, family friendly approach with the third installment)
Buy Lethal Weapon 4 from Amazon.com