Tag Archives: D

REDEMPTION DAY

Producers: Hicham Hajji and David Zilberberg   Director: Hicham Hajji   Screenplay: Hicham Hajji, Lemore Syvan and Samy Chouia   Cast: Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, Brice Bexter, Martin Donovan, Ernie Hudson, Samy Naceri, Don Bigg, Lilia Hajji, Robert Knepper and Andy Garcia   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade: D

Hicham Hajji, the producer, director and co-writer of “Redemption Day,” also has a cameo in the movie, playing a border guard.  Let’s just say he’s no Alfred Hitchcock in any of his capacities.

This is supposed to be a taut action thriller, but it’s flabbily constructed, composed largely of dull exposition, and has no thrills whatever.  Essentially it follows the template of a typical Liam Neeson vehicle about a heroic guy doing anything to rescue his wife from criminals or terrorists. But even Liam Neeson couldn’t save this hapless misfire.

The picture begins five years ago in Syria, where Captain Brad Paxton (Gary Dourdan) was leading a convoy carrying a humanitarian cargo that came under ISIS attack.  Though his actions in response earned him honors, the event had a traumatic effect, and he still suffers from nightmares as a result.

His wife Kate (Serinda Swan) is an archeologist who’s just announced the discovery of an ancient city beneath the Moroccan desert, and has gotten permission to join the team to excavate it.  When the team arrives in Morocco, however, they stumble across the border into Algeria and are taken prisoner by a jihadist group led by a rich fanatic named Jaafar el Hadi (Samy Naceri).  He threatens his hostages with death and demands a huge ransom.

That sets Brad, the strong, silent, boring type, into motion.  Leaving his daughter Clair (Lilia Hajji, presumably a relative of the auteur) and father Ed (Ernie Hudson), a veteran himself, behind, he jets off to North Africa, where he joins with an old comrade-in-arms, the French Moroccan Younes Laalej (Brice Bexter), to plan a rescue mission.  Naturally the American ambassador (Andy Garcia) and CIA station chief (Martin Donovan) are of no help; they’re a couple of dodgy bureaucrats who, it’s darkly revealed, are in cahoots with big oil, represented at the very end by a ridiculously stereotypical, white-suited sleazebag named Key (Robert Knepper)—equipped, of course, with a bad Texas drawl.

But Paxton and Laalej go off into the desert anyway, aided by what appears to be a single chubby intel guy back in an office, equipped only with what looks like an ordinary laptop, giving them data.  They get info on the terrorists’ location through some easily fooled intermediaries and drive there (in what is only one of many interminable shots of vehicles speeding over dusty roads). Then they take on el Hadi’s army pretty much on their own, until American troops arrive late in the day.  Kate’s saved, of course, but there are losses, and the heavy hand of big oil still seems to be pulling the strings. 

Just maybe this hokey plot could have been pulled off if done with some imagination and energy, but “Redemption Day”—a pretty meaningless title, since Paxton really has no need of redemption—exhibits neither.  It’s a boring excuse for an action movie, weighed down by limp direction, pedestrian dialogue, slack editing (by Karim Ouaret) and flat performances (apart from Garcia and Naceri, who chew up the scenery).  There are a few nice exterior locations, highlighted in those extended driving sequences, but overall the production design by Rabia N’Gadi (in which the offices look absurdly small) and cinematography (by Philip Lozano) are drab, and Sacha Chaban’s abrasive score tries vainly to pump up the big finale’s explosions, gun battles and fistfights, the latter very cautiously and ineffectually choreographed.

But by the time they arrive, you might well have bailed out on this tedious farrago of genre clichés.

LOVE, WEDDINGS & OTHER DISASTERS

Producers: Dennis Dugan, Martin Metz, Adrian Politowsky, Dan Reardon, Nadine de Barros and Mike Rachmil   Director: Dennis Dugan   Screenplay: Dennis Dugan   Cast: Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, Andrew Bachelor, Andy Goldenberg, Melinda Hill, Diego Boneta, Dennis Staroselsky, Caroline Portu, Dennis Dugan, Jesse McCartney, Chandra West, Elle King, Todd Stashwick, Rachel Wirtz and Veronica Ferres   Distributor: Saban Films

Grade: D

If you thought that the ensemble rom-coms Garry Marshall made in the twilight of his career were terrible, Dennis Dugan’s almost makes them palatable.  Despite the efforts of a game cast, “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” is a positively painful collection of interlocking romantic sketches—like a sodden episode of the old “Love Boat” series.

The glue holding the interconnected vignettes together is Jessie (Maggie Grace), a florist who forces her fiancé, a Boston TV anchorman, to go skydiving with her; he breaks up with her in mid-descent, after which they land in a lakeside wedding ceremony, a disaster that earns her the nickname “The Wedding Trasher” online.  An inveterate klutz, she later bumps into Lawrence Phillips (Jeremy Irons), a stuck-up, perfectionist wedding planner, outside a Boston church.  He’s just been fired from the nuptials of mayor candidate Robert Barton (Dennis Staroselsky) , so she’s offered the job despite her inexperience.

Meanwhile Lawrence is saddled with a blind date with Sara (Diane Keaton), who, being literally blind, destroys one of his carefully-prepared wedding decorations.  Nevertheless they connect and he melts under her supposedly kooky influence, even helping Jessie arrange the Barton ceremony. 

But that is threatened by Robert’s dumb-as-a-post brother Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), a sad sack who’s deeply in debt to his bookie and tries to win a million bucks on a sleazy TV quiz show hosted by Eddie Stone (Dugan), which literally chains incompatible couples together; a vote will determine which of the duos that manage not to break the chain wins.  Among the couples are an Amazon and a dwarf, and an Arab and a rabbi (both men, but who cares?).  Jimmy’s partner is Svetlana (Melinda Hill), who claims to be a lawyer but is actually a stripper named Olga with a surly Russian mobster boyfriend. 

Then there’s Ritchie (Andrew Bachelor), the joke-spouting tour guide on a converted Boston duck boat, who falls for one of his customers, a quick-witted girl he calls his Cinderella (Rachel Wirtz) because of a tattoo of a glass slipper on her neck.  Unfortunately he loses her in the crowd before he can ask her name, and is forced to try to find her via a TV campaign arranged by a fan, who just happens to be the co-host of a program with Jessie’s erstwhile fiancée, who’s still wearing a neck brace on air.

As for Jennie, she meets her soul mate when searching for a band to play at Robert’s wedding reception.  He’s Mack (Diego Boneta), whom she pairs up, after his mate Lenny (Jessie McCartney) abruptly quits, with the park singer (Elle King) whose bland tunes have served as linking devices throughout.  The reception of course is a great success, and whom do you think Ritchie, whose TV campaign attracted lots of potential dates but no Cinderella, finds there among the wait staff?

If all this sounds contrived and mirthless, rest assured it’s worse in the watching than in the telling.  Dugan, who’s long been part of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison operation, has no talent for finesse, as his own performance here amply demonstrates, and under his heavy hand most of the cast overdo things badly.  Even Keaton and Irons, who have done exemplary work in the past, are flummoxed by the witless material and crude staging.  (Compare their initial glass-crashing sequence with the similar one in W.C. Fields’s “It’s A Gift,” for instance—his brilliant, theirs embarrassing.)  Butcher is forced into what feels like a bad Kevin Hart imitation, while Goldenberg and Hill must endure a particularly hapless succession of crass episodes.  Meanwhile Grace, who’s meant to be a cheery presence holding it all together, is near-obnoxious.         

Technically matters aren’t much better.  Nick Remy Matthews’ lensing and Matt C. Stone’s production design make little of the Boston locations, and Julie Garcés’ editing can do little with the ungainly narrative structure.  The score by Noah Needleman and Keaton Simons, with some intervention from Dugan, is predictably overemphatic.

Garry Marshall extended his late-career series of vapid ensemble rom-coms into a trilogy—“Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day.”  We can only hope that Dugan’s misguided foray in the genre will be a one-off.