Posts Tagged ‘The Divergent Series: Insurgent’


Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 4.26.21 PMRichard’s CP 24 reviews for “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” and “The Gunman.”

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Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.35.29 AMRichard’s “Canada AM” reviews for “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” “The Gunman” and “Tracers.”

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Metro Canada: Mekhi Phifer is just along for the ride in Insurgent.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 5.05.00 PMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Years before Mekhi Phifer played the stern-faced “Dauntless” enforcement officer Max in this weekend’s The Divergent Series: Insurgent, he displayed a dauntless attitude that got him his first acting job.

The year was 1994, the movie was Spike Lee’s Clockers and over 1000 people showed up for an open casting call.

“I went with my cousin,” he says, “not knowing anything about the audition or open casting call process. Spike Lee auditioned me about seven or eight different times. I had to read with Harvey Keitel and Isaiah Washington and do improvisations. I had never done that type of stuff before so to have gotten that was a whirlwind; I just thought that was the norm. That’s how you cast movies—a thousand people come in.”

He won the lead role and parlayed that success into a string of memorable characters in movies like 8 Mile and TV shows like ER, where he played Dr. Greg Pratt for six seasons and the Dr. Who spin-off, the sci-fi series Torchwood: Miracle Day.

“I am a big fan of sci-fi,” he says. “and that was part of the allure [to signing on for the Divergent series], but the other part was that it was good. I’m not looking for one particular genre or one particular type of film I usually just gravitate towards what’s good.”

He plays Max, leader of Dauntless, the warrior bloc of a Big Brother style government that has divided the post-apocalyptic Chicago into five factions. In the new film his job is to hunt down and capture fugitives Tris (Shailene Woodley) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) because she is she is divergent, a person who cannot be pigeonholed into just one designation.

“He’s not a villain at all in any way shape or form,” he says. “He’s tasked with protecting the society and I really feel that he believes in expunging the divergents and the rebel factions. He’s not doing it in a malicious way. He’s not getting pleasure from other people’s pain. He looks at it as a necessary evil.”

Phifer hasn’t read the Veronica Roth books that make up the source material for the films—“For me it seemed like more fun to do the series and then read the books and compare.”—so he’s not sure what’s going to happen with his character, but he hopes Max comes back for next year’s instalment Allegiant – Part 1.

“I don’t know what’s happening next so I’m on the journey with the audience,” he says. “I would love to see some of who he is come full circle.”

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT: 2 ½ STARS. “the fear of the ‘other.’”

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 5.01.38 PM“Insurgent,” the second in the “Divergent” trilogy, takes one of the oldest dramatic tropes—the fear of the “other”—and blows it up into a teen epic about dystopia, guilt and artfully tossed pixie haircuts.

The backstory: In “Divergent” a Big Brother style government has divided the post-apocalyptic Chicago into five factions: the altruistic Abnegation sect, the peace loving Amity, the “I cannot tell a lie” Candor group, the militaristic arm Dauntless and the smarty-pants Erudites.

At age sixteen all citizens must submit to a personality test that will help them decide which faction they will join. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is from an Abnegation family, but chooses to join Dauntless, the warrior faction charged with protecting the city. During her training it’s discovered she is divergent, a person who cannot be pigeonholed into just one designation.

At the beginning of the new film Tris, her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) have escaped the world of factions and are living off the grid. They are fugitives from Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), the head of the Erudite faction and an evil brainiac who desperately wants to get her hands on Tris. As a 100% divergent Tris is one of the few who can unlock the secrets of a mysterious box that holds the key to the future of humanity. As revolution brews against Janine, and the fascism of the factions, Tris does the only thing she can do to stop the bloodshed.

“Insurgent” takes place against a broad backdrop but that large canvas is painted with one very simple free-to-be-you-and-me-message. There is talk of class warfare and revolution but its bottom line tutorial on acceptance and “just because you may be different doesn’t mean you’re bad” is a potent lesson for teens.

The framework the solid message hangs on is a bit creaky, however. When characters aren’t explaining plot lines—whether it is by way of truth serums or Janine’s monologue to herself—they do inexplicable things, excusing them by saying, “I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I have to do it.”

Woodley’s expressive face and eyes (not to mention the perfect Vidal Sassoon haircut) bring humanity to the story and Miles Teller’s smarmy villain character is a fun mix of Alex Delarge and Courage the Cowardly Dog, but much of “Insurgent” feels too generic to really be of interest. The action packed finale, for instance, puts Tris through her paces but none of the stunts feel real enough—thanks to the CGI—for there to be any real sense of jeopardy.

“Insurgent” is a curious thing. It’s a movie that sings the praises of being different and yet presents the story in as generic a way as possible. If it truly believed in its main thesis it would take more chances.

Richard interviews “Insurgent” co-star Mekhi Phifer.

Richard Crouse interviews “Insurgent” star Mekhi Phifer on playing Dauntless leader Max.

“I didn’t know anything. That’s the thing with this series. I still don’t know where the character is going, that’s not typical for filmmaking. Usually you read the whole script and you know what’s happening from beginning to end and you adjust accordingly. So it is interesting playing this because I have no frame of reference to where he’s going.”