A decent remake and a stunning summer smash added up to a whole host of thrills for renters this week.
“Pacific Rim” — When giant beasts enter the world through a hole in the ocean, the only recourse is to fight back with enormous manmade robots, in this action epic from the amazing Guillermo Del Toro. This director has, so far , failed to make a genre movie and his streak stays firm with this effort. The film is a treat for fans of giant monster movies, as well as those who dig on “The Transformers.” The fight scenes are epic, as scientists feverishly work in the background to find out how to stop these monsters and close the trans-dimensional portal they are using to invade our planet. Great stuff.
“Maniac” — In 1980, William Lustig directed the original version of this story and was almost run out of Hollywood for his excessive use of gore (courtesy of Tom Savini) and an overall nihilistic mood. His story focused on a serial killer with serious mommy issues preying on hookers in New York City. This time, the story is moved to L.A. and now we have Elijah Wood as a vacant-faced artsy type running a mannequin factory where he lures his victims. This version benefits from first person camerawork and the same nihilistic tone. The gore is a little more reserved, but the story survives the update and remains utterly creepy.
“The Heat” — Buddy-cop action flicks don’t get much better than this flick that teams a by-the-book fed with a Boston detective who goes by gut instinct. The best twist in this tale is having women in the lead roles usually reserved for Bruce Willis or Mark Wahlberg. Sandra Bullock is fine as the buttoned-down agent, but Melissa McCarthy is on fire as the foul-mouthed Boston cop.
“Drug War” — If you can stand the subtitles, or lousy dubbing, you might enjoy this action drama from China’s suspense master, Johnnie To. Here, he offers a gripping account of what happens when a meth lab chemist gets nailed with enough product for a death sentence (China says no to drugs with capital punishment, folks). He is drafted to turn in his bosses and the ensuing cat-and-mouse games are rife with white-knuckled action.