Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about movies on VOD to watch this weekend including the Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman,” the raunchy revenge flick “Ravage” and the gritty gangster flick “The Tax Collector.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Stephanie Smythe have a look at the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman,” the gritty gangster flick “The Tax Collector” and the glossy rom com “The Broken Hearts Gallery.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman,” the gritty gangster flick “The Tax Collector,” the glossy rom com “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” the Shakespeare update of “Measure for Measure” and the violent revenge film “Ravage.”
No one will ever say that Shia LaBeouf isn’t committed to his art. He left behind a big-time career in blockbuster movies to concentrate on making smaller, more interesting films. For his latest role, a sociopath who says things like, “Do I have to kill anyone today? I have my nice shoes on,” he got a giant torso tattoo to help him find the character’s authenticity. That’s commitment. It’s a shame “The Tax Collector,” now on VOD, doesn’t make good use of LaBeouf or the tat.
Set in South Los Angeles, the movie follows David (Bobby Soto) and sidekick Creeper (LaBeouf), violent men who collect payments, or “taxes,” from 43 different street gangs for Wizard, an enigmatic crime boss currently residing as a guest of the state. They are feared and respected in equal measure but when Wizard’s old rival Conejo (Jose Martin) shows up after a ten-year absence, life on the street changes. Conejo and his deadly girlfriend (Cheyenne Rae Hernandez)—“She’s like the female you,” David says to Creeper.—plan on taking over, edging Wizard out. David can either sign on or face the grim repercussions for his loyalty to the old regime. When he refuses to kiss the ring and join the new family things get bloody. “Everything you love is going to die real fast.”
“The Tax Collector” is rich with details of gang life and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s also ripe with hackneyed depictions of the same. Director and screenwriter David “Training Day” Ayer replays themes of love, honor, loyalty and family that have been played to death (literally) in almost every gangster film ever made. It’s stylishly made but no amount of tricky camera angles will erase that sense of déjà vu.
It’s propped up somewhat by solid performances from Soto and LaBeouf, who, contrary to internet chatter is not playing a Hispanic character. Soto, as the family man with a dark side, shares good chemistry with LaBeouf in their chattier moments. Ayer perfected the riding-around-in-cars dialogue schtick in “Training Day” and uses they make the most of it here.
The movie’s biggest surprise is the casting of comedian George Lopez as David’s Uncle Louis, a garage mechanic with a violent past. He’s gutsy and gritty and in his limited time on screen makes an impression as opposed to Martin who plays Conejo with all the finesse of a pantomime villain.
“The Tax Collector” is a violent, gore soaked portrait of gang life with nothing new to say.
There was a time when Christopher Walken’s name on the marquee meant quality. Think The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone or King of New York. Oh, how things have changed. He’s a great performer, but in recent years he has allowed his quirky personality and off beat vocal pattern to take precedence over real acting. In short, he has stopped acting and become a personality. His movie choices of late have been erratic. A supporting role as an existential TV repairman in Click, an idiosyncratic campaign manager in Man of the Year opposite Robin Williams and even a joke shop operator married to John Travolta in Hairspray. Eccentric roles all, but they all pale by comparison to his latest outing, a silly hybrid of Enter the Dragon and The Karate Kid with a dash of The Keystone Cops thrown in called Balls of Fury.
Walken plays the evil Feng, crime family boss and table tennis fanatic who bets heavily on child ping pong prodigy Randy Dakota (Dan Fogler) to win a major tournament. When the youngster suffers a humiliating defeat at that destroys his career Feng kills the youngster’s father to satisfy a gambling debt.
Cut to 19 years later. Dakota is a ping pong performer at a Las Vegas dive when he is recruited by a CIA agent (George Lopez) to infiltrate Feng’s super secret ping pong play-offs and help bring down Feng’s crime syndicate.
This is an extremely silly movie, and I don’t have no trouble with silly as long as it’s funny, but that’s where things go south in Balls of Fury. There are some laughs, but instead of the wall-to-wall guffaws the trailer promises, the jokes are few and far between. Walken, dressed in a series of outrageous Madame Butterfly inspired gowns, should be hilarious, but he settles for strange rather than funny. He really needs to be a bit more discerning when it comes to choosing scripts.
As Randy Dakota Tony Award winner Dan Fogler comes across as the poor man’s Jack Black. He has Black’s tubby-but-agile style down pat, but doesn’t deliver the charm or the grace of the School of Rock star. His resemblance to Black becomes distracting when it becomes obvious that this might have been a funnier movie if the filmmakers had just spent the money for the real Jack Black instead of settling for a pale, frizzy haired imitation.
Balls of Fury is the first table tennis movie to come out of Hollywood since Forrest Gump, but I don’t expect its modestly funny charms are going to spark a revival of this long-neglected genre.