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Review: CONCUSSION and 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI.

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My enjoyment of watching American Football has taken a bit of a heavy knock, after seeing ‘Concussion’ the sports medical drama starring Will Smith.

It’s the true story of Dr Bennet Amalu (played by Smith), a Forensic Pathologist who discovers a deadly neurological condition suffered by professional football players called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a progressive regenerative disease that damages the brain after severe blows to the head.

He discovers this while undertaking an autopsy of a famous professional football player who killed himself. He later finds out that more ex-players are suffering from this condition and he decides to go head-to-head (or in this case helmet-to-helmet) against the sports corporate giant – the NFL, to uncover the truth.

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Will Smith is charismatic as Dr Amalu, and underplays his character well (even with the Nigerian accent). He leads a solid team of actors, getting strong pass-protection from a capable Alec Baldwin, who plays the ex Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor with a guilty conscious who helps his cause, and a wickedly funny Albert Brooks as his boss, who cheers him on the sideline.

Dr Amalu is certainly brave in his crusade, trying to get his medical research recognised by the all powerful National Football League – who’ve already noticed ex-players suffering years before, which they try to cover up. It’s a classic David vs Corporate Goliath story – only this time Goliath is Americas’ sacred game.

Critics have called ‘Concussion’ a bit of a bore – but I didn’t see it that way at all. And neither did the 15 or so people who watched it on Tuesday night at the Empire Cinema. Yes, it’s a slow burn, and the relationship between Dr Amalu and his wife borders on cliche, but the film is engrossing – showing how the medical profession diagnose a new illness, and revealing in horrific detail what the players experience – severe mental illness, panic attacks, and violent mood swings – resulting in attempts to commit suicide.

For a slow and carefully paced film – its’ subject matter is immediate and hard-hitting.

A final settlement was made between football players with CTE and the NFL last year, but there are still reports of players dying and killing themselves – after suffering from this mental illness. It’s an on-going concern, and one that has reverberated all the way here to New Zealand, and the sport of Rugby. With the amount of head-knocks and big-hits Rugby players experience these days – it makes watching ‘Concussion’ definite food for thought.

 

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI

I can’t believe I’m saying this.

But Michael Bay has made an OK film.

’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi’ is the true story of 6 American Security Personnel (who are trained Ex- Navy Seals and Marines), deployed to safeguard a covert US Consulate – and find themselves in the middle of an ambush as hundreds of Libyan militants storm their compound. With no help from the US (Hillary Clinton was US Secretary Of State at the time and was heavily criticised for not taking action) the six decide to go against orders and fight it out to the very end.

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Despite the un-political correctedness, bad cliche stereotype of middle easterners, rapid gun fire, loud explosions, and cheesy dialogue that belongs more on a 80s’ Arnold Schwarzenegger film, the director I’ve despised since watching the awful ‘Pearl Harbour’ and the Transformers franchise monstrosity – to my complete surprise, has made a film I actually enjoyed watching.

It’s a major step up from his last film, ‘Pain & Gain’ which starred Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg (what that film was about I still have no idea), and his best film since he had Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage battle it out on Alcatraz Island in ‘The Rock’ back in 1996.

You know what they say, “You steal from the best” and Michael Bay is the consumate master thief, copying Ridley Scotts’ riffs note-for-note, from his war film ‘Black Hawk Down‘.

‘Black Hawk Down’ is a masterpiece in showing the relentless nature of modern combat. Michael Bay’s version shows this too to an extent. Setting the premise, and the characters up in the first half hour, before all the mayhem starts. And it’s indeed mayhem. For the next 2 hours you are right in the middle of a full-scale battle.

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It’s a modern day Alamo last stand, as the secret soldiers lock and load and shoot to kill. At times, I felt like I was watching the PS4 video game ‘Call Of Duty’. Video gamers (like Vaughan) would love watching this film.

But through all the sound and fury, the film loses itself with all the military hardware. Coupled with terrible macho dialogue, written by a guy called Chuck Hogan (who sounds like he’s Hulk Hogans’ brother) and spoken with John Wayne-type bravado by men with beards, who look like the gang members from Sons Of Anarchy – you have the makings of one big, bombastic mess.

Much like any Michael Bay film.

And that’s OK.

Because this type of movie fits Bays’ loud and brash directorial style to a tee. No wonder Donald Trump likes this film.

Whether it’s suited to portray an actual real-life event that had people killed, which included a US ambassador – is another story.

 

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This entry was posted on March 6, 2016 by .
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