Review: Sanctum

NSanctumot even support from James Cameron as executive producer could save underwater adventure Sanctum from getting that sinking feeling.

The film follows a team of cave divers who are intent on exploring an unknown abyss, only to be trapped by a storm above ground, which forces them to dive deep into the darkness for an escape route.

From start to finish the two-dimensional characters spurt clunky dialogue while wading through the dreary action. The further they progress the less engaging their plight becomes, partly due to a weak script and the lacklustre performances.


Originally posted at MouthLondon.




The Top 5: Macho Gunfights

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down

Essentially one long macho gunfight from start to finish, just with a little talking at either end and a suitably emotive, melancholic theme in Denez Prigent’s Gortoz a ran – J’attend (credit also to Hans Zimmer).

Black Hawk Down portrays the Battle of Mogadishu by showing empathy for both the East African people (apart from the Somalia Militia) and the American military forces with relative amounts of tact and respect (particularly for a Michael Bay production). Although let’s be honest, the film’s real purpose is as much about communicating the tragedy of the continued violence in parts of The Horn of Africa as Blood Diamond is concerned with the spurious diamond trade.

Black Hawk Down is all about the gunfight. There is so much shouting, weaponry and bravado, John Rambo wouldn’t even know which way was up if he was casually invited. If you are looking for a recent history lesson, pick up a big book (or at least the one this film is based on). If you are looking for a couple of hours of ‘man time’, watch Black Hawk Down.

Best bit: Tom Sizemore strolling around in the middle of a particularly hairy exchange of bullets as if looking for the ideal picnic spot, while all of his comrades take cover around him.



Al Pacino in Heat

The best macho gunfight ever committed to film. No arguments please, because I will not listen. If you disagree, it’s because you are wrong. It will never be beaten, nothing will ever come close – not even Michael Mann himself when trying to duplicate it in both Public Enemies and Miami Vice.

As if Mann hadn’t struck enough gold by securing one of the best ensemble casts in film history, he then has the audacity to stick them into a thoroughly compelling cops and robbers story of epic proportions, give them all guns – at the same time and force them to point them at each other by making the stakes immensely high. A chaotic yet controlled ten minutes of pure cinematic mastery ensues.

Best Bit: Chris Shiherlis’ (Val Kilmer) split-second reaction outside the bank as the cops appear from behind a departing coach.


True Romance

True Romance

True Romance is quite possibly the coolest film ever made. It has a colossal ensemble cast who all kindly get together at the end to shoot holes in each other for our viewing pleasure. As is apparently the theme for all good macho gunfights, every single prop and element of mis-en-scene gets obliterated, most notably some feathery cushions. But, this time, the majority of the characters expire too. Kudos to Tony Scott for keeping the death rate suitably high, but it could have quite easily become even more destructive (even Christian Slater’s Clarence Worley dies in Quentin Tarantino’s original script).

Best bit: Tom Sizemore being Tom Sizemore with the help of the poor man’s Tom Sizemore – the late Chris Penn.




The greatest macho action film ever made also features one of the best gunfights. Bill Duke’s Mac captures a glimpse of the translucent extreme sport-obsessed hunter and proceeds to unload his gigantic weapon in its general direction. Cue the rest of the platoon as they line up next to him and join in the fun without even batting an eyelid as to what they may be shooting at. Shots of muscle and metal are cut with shrubbery being fatally injured and the un-environmentally friendly massacre only comes to an end when all ammunition is positively wasted. I didn’t catch the rest but I think they wounded Slimer at some point.

Best Bit: Mac’s nervous trigger finger maintaining its grip on an emptied old-painless – sounding an unnerving, yet exhilarating metallic grind.


Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13

Much like Predator but somehow more ridiculous, this bullet laden scene in John Carpenter’s classic is gloriously silly as it is essentially a one way blind gunfight where anything but humans get pumped full of lead: stationary, office desks, windows, walls, windows again. Even a stack of paper which is depicted as if it is suffering more than Willem Defoe in Platoon is ripped to shreds repeatedly – pure machismo.

Best bit: The ludicrous amount of continuous shots which purely feature inanimate objects being demolished.


Honourable mention goes too:

The Way of the Gun

The Way of the GunThe epitome of cool as Mr Parker and Mr Longbaugh (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro) take on an army of uncompromising ‘bag-men’ in the final confrontation of this stylish and mature modern-day Western.


Originally posted at MouthLondon

The Top 5: Tom Cruise Performances

Vincent – Collateral

Tom Cruise in Collateral

Before playing Vincent, the cold-blooded, stone-hearted hitman facing off against Jamie Foxx’s cab driver, Tom Cruise had rarely played any role which wasn’t crammed with likeability and heroism. But as the blockbuster opportunities quietened and age began to rear its head, Cruise cleverly changed his career path onto a treacherous route of playing a character that is a polar opposite to his usual typecast.

Undoubtedly a gamble, but one that paid off. Cruise brought a steely, uncompromising magnetism to his silver haired, sharp suited killer. In any other film from the genre, the main character would always be the good guy, but in Michael Mann’s Collateral, Tom Cruise steals the show.

Les Grossman – Tropic Thunder

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

There are great cameo performances and then there is Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder. He is unrecognisable at first. Partly due to the costume of an overweight, balding, gorilla-handed mogul, but also due to Cruise’s extremely energetic body grinds and sporadic screaming fits when faced with the slightest of inconveniences from his soppy assistant.

Cruise as Grossman is grimy, hilarious and profoundly shocking in the performance that proved he can do funny just as well as he can do serious.

Charlie Babbitt – Rain Man

Tom Cruise in Rain Man

Essentially a road movie, Rain Man see’s Cruise in a profoundly emotional drama. After a string of testosterone fuelled action films, he was at the stage in his career where he could have easily slipped into only obtaining roles similar to his previous efforts, as many actors do. Fortunately, Barry Levinson’s Rain Man was the perfect role for Cruise to express his diversity and show us that he can perform alongside the best – in this case Dustin Hoffman as his estranged autistic brother Raymond.

All eyes are on Hoffman and rightly so for his outstanding performance, but Cruise supports him with a mature and refined subtlety. Pacino-esque at times with his outbursts and uncontrollable frustration as the ill-advised brother, but where other actors may have challenged Hoffman for the spotlight, instead Cruise understands the importance of strong support.

Ray Ferrier – War of the Worlds

Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds is not Steven Spielberg’s most applauded work, but if you give it a chance it has a lot to offer. Take away the invading Martians (and their skin crawling, alien fog horns of terror) and you are left with a heartfelt family drama, headed by Cruise in one of the finest and most realistic acting performances ever committed to film.

Through Spielberg’s immaculate direction and Cruise’s convincing display – supported maturely by Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin – War of the Worlds becomes a compelling story, and much like Orson Welles‘s radio broadcast, one that engrosses you  completely due to the magic of the acting and storytelling.

Frank T.J. Mackey – Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

Magnolia is Paul Thomas Anderson’s signature film: a four hour long masterpiece which not only informed all of his later works but influenced many other filmmakers too. The story revolves around a number of seemingly unrelated individuals all at crossroads in their lives. The umbrella above them all is one of coincidence as they all gradually meet or cross paths as their problems unfold.

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey is just one of the many great actors who put in the performance of a lifetime, but his is especially memorable. Although given less screen time than others, his impact is instant and lasts long in the memory.

Starting out as a slick haired, leather clad motivational speaker, Mackey is promoting his self-help programme which demands that his room full of hopeless disciples “Respect the cock and tame the cunt”.

Oozing confidence and completely lacking in morals and respect, it is only until a curious reporter questions his upbringing and relationship with his father that Mackey begins to show signs of insecurity.

He eventually implodes, culminating his short lived but ferocious character arc from self-proclaimed woman-magnet to sad and lonely emotional wreck.

A masterful display in his most engaging role to date, many would struggle to attain this in the span of a career whereas Cruise does it in 30 minutes.

Originally posted on MouthLondon, here, and here.