This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the films being covered here wouldn't exist.
by Philip Price
I don't know if this deserves one star for being so actively and unabashedly shitty or if it deserves five stars for being this unabashedly shitty and seemingly being proud of it. I mean, this whole thing looks like it was shot on a sound stage so disinfected and polished that not only the aesthetic, but everything surrounding it comes across as sanitized. Worse is the fact this sanitization filters down to the action where “Expend4bles” feels more akin to a Disney Channel original movie than the ‘80s schlock the earlier films assimilated to in its attempts to make the most basic movements and/or motionless tripod shots look impressive/intense via cheap tricks like slow motion and a cheesy soundtrack. I won't say I didn't have fun with Jacob Scipio doing his best Puss in Boots impression, that they use 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." as a needle drop in a movie starring 50 Cent, or that - when Jason Statham's character is fired from the titular team - that he goes looking for work in the classifieds, but this is still both a terrible and terribly made movie that only shows glimpses of what could have been when Statham joins forces with Tony Jaa and lines up against Iko Uwais.
"Expend4bles" is in theaters.
The Royal Hotel
Though assured in its commentary on how much more women must consider their every move as men tend to carelessly follow their every impulse, Kitty Green's second feature in “The Royal Hotel” is confidently directed from what had to be a thin screenplay from she and Oscar Redding as they boil this commentary down to a single location with meanings conveyed often only through the eyes and expressions. Green's muse in Julia Garner does some very strong, subtle work here to be sure and I really, really enjoyed James Frecheville as Teeth and Ursula Yovich as Carol (though probably because they both embodied light in dark, tense situations), but something about this overall still rung incomplete; aimless in the same way it’s intentional.
"The Royal Hotel" is in select theaters.
There's a scene in director Grant Singer's “Reptile” where Benicio del Toro confronts the man who’s been remodeling his kitchen and getting too cozy with his wife (Alicia Silverstone) about the latter and the way he so candidly lays things on the table while managing unreal levels of intimidation and then tops it off with one of the most confidently badass closing moves ever makes this whole thing worth watching at least once.
The fact this is also an extremely stylized noir with a very specific, intentional tone that works multiple angles of the core crime to comment on the slow degradation of our system and the institutions meant to uphold it undoubtedly makes it worth a second look. I’m extremely eager to re-visit this as soon as possible as well as to see what Singer does next.
"Reptile" is streaming on Netflix.