2014 / English / Movie Review / Short Take

Fleeting Thoughts on Chef, Lucy, Neeson, Blue Ruin and Rover

Jon Favreau’s Chef did the impossible. It pulled me out of hibernation. Much like the movie’s premise to do your own thing, and to do what you do best, Chef worked for me at the meta level and gently nudged me to re-start writing about movies. So, DUN…DUN…DUN…presenting the resurrection of Prakash J with four not-so-new flicks off the block:

What’s Eating Chef Favreau?


What’s Eating Jon Favreau?

Coming from the director/actor and producer of the Iron Man franchisee (Jon Favreau), Chef took me by surprise. What started off as a stale piece of meat slowly grilled into a juicy steak I could dig my teeth into. Chef Casper (Jon Favreau), whose talents go unnoticed, loses his job, prestige and temper, thanks to an egoist food critic who rips apart his culinary skills without as much as a burp. Casper is a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain. He rises to the occasion by starting his own food truck on his own terms.

What’ll get you kicked is not just Favreau’s old-school cool-dude act and brief appearances by Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey, Jr but Favreau’s ingenuity in using food as a metaphor for one’s passion: be it cooking, singing, writing, filmmaking or anything a man loves to do and is good at. Casper not just nurtures this passion but channelizes years of repressed angst in to his cooking to ultimately find true expression in his meals-on-wheels venture. To sound a bit clichéd, that’s when the universe (read family & friends) conspires to help him fulfill his dream.

Chef teaches you to hell with the world; if you are good at something, just go do it and reap the fruits.

Neeson All The Way

Although A Walk Among The Tombstones is nowhere close to other movies in this genre like Seven or more recently Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, it does manage to retain interest till the very end thanks chiefly to Liam Neeson’s portrayal of world weary detective Scudder. After Gray, this is Neeson’s best character driven role and a far cry from his stereotype Taken-ish roles.

Liam Neeson

Am I Taken?

Director Scott Frank gets the atmospherics right, pulls in neat performances from his cast, brilliantly paces the script and employs all tropes of this genre effectively. Check out the intellectual montage where Scudder’s 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous program is juxtaposed with the climax leading to Scudder’s redemption. However, he falters when it comes to one important thing in any crime flick: motive. The killer’s motive, no matter how psychotic and cruel, isn’t convincing enough; at least not for the big screen. More meat in shaping the killers’ character arc and giving them a background story perhaps would have made this a different experience altogether.

Watch it for Neeson.

Killing Me Softly with His Gun

Slow kill. Slow reveal. Slow poison.

Yeah baby, it’s all slow, soft and steady. With no time for introductions and background story, Blue Ruin and Rover get straight to the point from the word go. While we’re left scratching our heads about what’s going’ on, our men get busy with the action and slowly but surely comes the revelation, layer after layer all the way to the bloody climax.

Blue Ruin

Do I Look Ruined?

The men here are half-wits who know nothing about a kill but are blood thirsty nonetheless. Lots of collateral damage, lots of innocent lives lost but how does it matter to men on a mission out to redeem themselves. And yet Blue Ruin makes the kill for being what Rover only aspires to be: true to the premise and theme of the movie. While in Blue Ruin you root for the characters, mainly the protagonist but even the smaller ones who pop-in and out, with Rover you are left feeling cheated for having invested in these people only to see them turn into stock characters sporting sullen faces and doing the usual drop-dead-cold drill.

Rover could have been better while Blue Ruin WAS the best.

There’s one thing though that despite their cold blooded premise these flicks are trying to tell us:

“You should never stop thinking
about a life you’ve taken.
It’s the price you pay
for taking it.”

ScarJo: Girl Uninterrupted

Watching Lucy reminded me of a friend from sophomore days who, in an inebriated state of course, proclaimed that man’s purpose in life is to reproduce and nothing more. I and others at the soiree laughed our guts out, sincerely doubted his intentions and took him as seriously as Santa Claus. But, I admit, it was always entertaining to hear his pseudo-nonsense. Lucy is that kind of film—you don’t take it seriously but it’s helluva entertaining; it takes pop science, urban myths, quantum theories, a race-against-time plot, a hot-as-hell Scarlett Johansson and concocts it all to give us psychedelic and entertaining piece of cinema.

Hell, it even uses the same allegory my friend used albeit a notch higher: man’s purpose is to reproduce and evolve by passing on in legacy all its acquired knowledge to the next generation.


Am I Hot or Is It The Weather?

And yet there’s no denying that some of this baloney does make philosophical and scientific sense which has tapped into the prevailing zeitgeist, and struck a chord with different sections of audiences. On the one end of the spectrum there’s the gray-matter audience who’s maybe not too satisfied but enjoys the thrills nonetheless, in between is the new age science addict cum yoga buff who enjoys his bite of quantum (read mumbo jumbo) more than his beer, and at the fag end is the lay viewer who’s come for ScarJo and the hot chase and action. How else does one explain Lucy‘s extended Box Office run in India.

No one’s complaining and neither am I.

2 thoughts on “Fleeting Thoughts on Chef, Lucy, Neeson, Blue Ruin and Rover

  1. Prakash – glad to see your return to movie blogging! And although I haven’t seen the Neeson, I am with you right down the line on the others. Chef was a pleasant surprise, Lucy is somehow dumb and smart and fun and the exact type of film I would’ve loved in my college days and then regretted later, and well, as of November 2nd, Blue Ruin (I’ve got not regrets, as its theme song goes), for me, is perhaps the best film of the year (running neck and neck with Villeneuve’s Enemy).

    • Thank you David!

      You can catch the Neeson flick on Netflix or DVD or perhaps even give it a miss. The rest are simply brilliant. I’m waiting for this Friday when Interstellar hits the screens. I will look forward to your take. It will ideally be my next review but I’m scared to review it with just one viewing. Hoping to catch it twice. Amen!

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