*ing: Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Tagline: They were here first.
The wrath of nature unleashes in Hollywood’s latest creature feature Crawl, a survival adventure that offers a generous helping of silliness along with its requisite quotient of fun.
Kaya Scodelario stars as student-athlete Haley, a struggling swimmer. After being informed that her father (Barry Pepper) hasn’t been answering his phone and that his whereabouts are unknown, she goes back to her hometown during a Category 5 hurricane to check up on him, eventually finding him lying injured and unconscious in the crawlspace of her old family home. But her attempts to get him to safety are thwarted by the appearance of a giant, voracious alligator that is eager to turn the humans into its next meal.
Trapped under the worst possible circumstances, the father and daughter (and their dog Sugar) must battle vicious predators and rising waters. They not only have to struggle to survive the ordeal but try to mend their strained relationship.
It’s the family drama that ends up being the most grating element of the movie. What is clearly meant to give the characters more depth instead comes off as unnecessary and corny drivel.
The on-the-nose pep talks delivered by Haley’s swimming coach dad and the formulaic self-actualization angle keep foreshadowing where the film is eventually heading.
While there are parts of Crawl - the menacing monsters, the claustrophobic setting - that do work, some of the tension is eroded by the fact that the setbacks don’t hold much weight since their effects don’t really seem to last. The gators may easily munch on the disposable extras but the leads preposterously continue their heroic endeavours despite their many injuries.
Crawl leaves you with the sense that it could have been more entertaining if it didn’t take itself so seriously. That said, if you are in the mood for an unpretentious man-versus-nature thriller, then that’s exactly what you’ll get here.
Crawl does deliver enough excitement and gore to please fans of the genre, and its simple but taut setup as well as Scodelario’s energetic performance, ensure that the movie remains watchable even when it is busy being implausible.
*ing: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, and Richard Roundtree
Directed by Tim Story
Tagline: More Shaft than you can handle.
Almost five decades after the release of the first instalment in the series and nearly two decades after its last big screen outing, the Shaft franchise gets its fifth entry, passing the torch to the third generation in a sporadically entertaining action comedy.
Titled Shaft (just like two of its predecessors), the film continues the Shaft family’s detective lineage while retconning a few details in the process.
It turns out that private investigator John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) abandoned his son John "JJ" Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher), who was raised by his mother, Maya (an impressive Regina Hall) and has grown up to be an FBI agent. When JJ’s childhood friend Karim (Avan Jogia) is found dead under suspicious circumstances, JJ is forced to seek out his estranged father in the hopes of finding out what really happened to his mate.
How things unfold is largely unexceptional. Tim Story’s direction and the screenplay by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and writer Alex Barnow aren’t as kinetic or inventive as they should have been. The film touches on intriguing topics but then chooses not to explore them with any depth. Plus a few of the movie’s more questionable attempts at humour are tone-deaf, and there are moments that might be too crass for some viewers’ taste.
Despite all that, however, the proceedings are still intermittently fun, especially because of Jackson who is clearly in his element here. Much of the beige action seems to target the general audience, but you realize the sequel is aimed squarely at the fans of the franchise when it starts banking on nostalgia with the return of Richard Roundtree with all three Shafts working together giving the film its only memorable scenes.
But if you enjoy watching Jackson do his thing, then Shaft will provide an entertaining enough diversion on a lazy summer evening.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection