Tag Archives: Sebastian Koch

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013, John Moore)

Bruce Willis embarrasses himself in A Good Day to Die Hard. Not a lot, but enough the movie’s occasionally uncomfortable. Usually when it reminds of the previous Die Hard entries. But not when it actually references the previous entries–strangely enough those sequences tend to work.

This entry drops Willis into a big dumb spy action movie, which isn’t a terrible idea. Willis follows around spy son Jai Courtney, messing up a secret mission, and that concept works. Especially when Willis finds it easier to bond with Sebastian Koch, who plays the asset Courtney’s protecting. Those scenes allow Willis to show his age, which Day otherwise ignores.

Skip Woods’s script has some good moments. Not many, but some. The movie’s not too long–Day truncates its first act to about ten minutes and the subsequent eighty-five play speedily. It’s often dumb, always contrived, but never boring.

And not being boring is a bit of a surprise, since John Moore’s an inept director. He knows how to compose a shot, but not a scene. He likes pointless slow motion a lot, like it makes up for his lack of skill or personality. There’s a lengthy car chase through Moscow as the first action set piece. It should be great but Moore completely bungles it.

Koch is great, Radivoje Bukvic’s a decent villain, Courtney’s okay.

It wouldn’t have taken much for Day to have been better–just a different director and Bonnie Bedelia. Bedelia’s narratively inexplicable absence does Day irreparable damage.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Moore; screenplay by Skip Woods, based on characters created by Roderick Thorp; director of photography, Jonathan Sela; edited by Dan Zimmerman; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Daniel T. Dorrance; produced by Alex Young; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (John McClane Sr.), Jai Courtney (John McClane Jr.), Sebastian Koch (Komarov), Yuliya Snigir (Irina), Radivoje Bukvic (Alik), Cole Hauser (Collins), Amaury Nolasco (Murphy) and Sergei Kolesnikov (Chagarin).


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Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)

Black Book is a film of convenience; whether it’s a negative to further the plot or a simple positive like there being a nonsensical chute to allow easy entry into a basement, the film keeps oiling its gears. It’s not predictable—in fact, it hinges on being unpredictable (Black Book owes a lot to the heist genre)—but it is smooth. It’s so smooth, it doesn’t feel much like a Paul Verhoeven film. But maybe that lack of identity was his point. He wanted to show he was capable of being a journeyman.

Part of that journeyman approach is shooting the film in Panavision, but framing his shots for TV. Black Book would have played great as a three or four part television mini-series. While the film eventually turns into a conspiracy thriller (one or two questions go unanswered), some back story on the non-suspect characters would have been great.

Verhoeven has bookends, making Book another member of this odd new Holocaust genre. He sets up the film as an object of great importance and it isn’t. It’s a mildly boring, competent World War II thriller with some decent surprises and great performances. The surprises aren’t just narrative twists; Verhoeven makes some great observations about the winners of wars being no better than the losers.

Carice van Houten is a good lead, not great. Sebastian Koch is excellent as her lover; costars Thom Hoffman and Derek de Lint have their moments too.

It’s okay, just way too long.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Verhoeven; screenplay by Gerard Soeteman and Verhoeven, based on a story by Soeteman; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by Job ter Burg and James Herbert; music by Anne Dudley; production designer, Wilbert Van Dorp; produced by Jeroen Beker, Teun Hilte, San Fu Maltha, Jens Meurer, Jos van der Linden and Frans van Gestel; released by A-Film Distribution.

Starring Carice van Houten (Rachel Stein), Sebastian Koch (Ludwig Müntze), Thom Hoffman (Hans Akkermans), Halina Reijn (Ronnie), Waldemar Kobus (Günther Franken) and Derek de Lint (Gerben Kuipers).


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Unknown (2011, Jaume Collet-Serra)

Unknown is not a bad continental thriller. Liam Neeson is an American scientist in Berlin who wakes from a coma to find no one remembers him. As often happens in these situations, he finds himself a pretty sidekick (Diane Kruger) and a sympathetic native (Bruno Ganz) who try to help him unravel the mystery.

The film benefits a great deal from John Ottman and Alexander Rudd’s score, Flavio Martínez Labiano’s photography and the Berlin locations. Director Collet-Serra only has a handful of bad sequences—he likes the CG-aided slow motion a little too much—but he’s otherwise a perfectly mediocre thriller director.

Having Neeson for a lead helps too. He’s able to bring an air of respectability to the project, which would otherwise feel a little too pedestrian otherwise. January Jones—as his forgetting wife—doesn’t bring much substance too her performance and Aidan Quinn—as Neeson’s replacement—looks a little lost. Quinn gets this bewildered look from time to time, like he can’t believe he’s in this kind of picture. Neeson—who’s been doing these genre pieces for over a decade now—looks a lot more comfortable. Though it does occasionally seem like a thematic sequel to Darkman, which isn’t so much bad as unintentionally amusing.

There are twists, there are turns. There’s an ornate car chase (with unnecessary CG). The finale isn’t exactly predictable, but I’ve seen it before….

Unknown’s a diverting couple hours; Neeson and Kruger (oddly, a German playing a Bosnian) make it worthwhile.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on a novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert; director of photography, Flavio Martínez Labiano; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Ottman and Alexander Rudd; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Leonard Goldberg, Andrew Rona and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole), Sebastian Koch (Professor Leo Bressler), Olivier Schneider (Smith), Stipe Erceg (Jones), Rainer Bock (Herr Strauss), Mido Hamada (Prince Shada), Clint Dyer (Biko), Karl Markovics (Dr. Farge) and Eva Löbau (Nurse Gretchen Erfurt).


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