Down boy: Jason Statham deals with a big fish in ‘Meg 2:The Trench’.
MEG 2 THE TRENCH *** (116 minutes) M
It’s Jason Statham vs Giant Sharks: Round 2, only this time he’s got corrupt corporate femmes to deal with as he and his crew dive to the bottom of the Meg-infested ocean.
And it’s a hoot.
Given how low expectations might have been, Meg 2 turns out to be quite a lot of fun.
Let’s be honest: nobody really cared one way or t’other about a sequel to the 2018 hit, so kudos to director Ben Wheatley (Kill List; Sightseers) has done a perfectly serviceable job here as Meg 2 unspools as a nicely cranked out creature feature time killer, a big serving of multiplex chowder with lots of cheesy mega-shark action spun out to a B-movie tune.
For something with “the trench” in the title, the film doesn’t actually hang out in “the trench” all that long.
Statham and team hit the ocean floor and do spend a decent amount of time in the murky depths fighting megs and scheming femmes who want him dead, yet the proceedings really spark up once the action goes above the waterline.
Serving as a nice contrast to the film’s gloomy first hour, the second half of the monster shark shenanigans occurs in bright sunlight as a snack-searching triad of megs violate their code of conduct by heading to the surface to munch on holiday makers partying at a tropical island getaway.
The tourist-hotspot-turned-to-hell premise not only serves as a tribute to Jaws, the film actually contains a handful of direct references to Jaws 2, including one lovely bit where a giant sea attempts to devour a helicopter.
Sharing much of the action with Statham (also a producer) is Chinese actor Wu Jing who, with Sophia Cai returning as Statham’s step-daughter, should help the film – a $130 million US-Chinese co-production – neatly key into the meg-sized Chinese movie market.
It’s a marker of just how important Asian audiences have become for certain blockbuster films, especially in China, a country that absolutely loves Hollywood movies far more than their leaders would like to let on.
THE MIRACLE CLUB *** (90 minutes) PG
Four women with various motives head to the French catholic mecca of Lourdes hoping for various degrees of miracle in an unassuming, inoffensive drama set in 1967.
The quartet comprises of Eileen, Lily and Dolly (Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith and Agnes O’Casey), being three salty women from Dublin, and one estranged American, Chrissie (Laura Linney), who has returned after 40 years away for her mother’s funeral.
The ever-versatile Bates (she of Misery,
Yet it’s veteran Maggie Smith (now 88) who owns the show as the mother of Chrissie’s long-deceased fiance. Addressing the rift between them certainly entitles both to some Lourdes intervention.
Priests, crucifixes, Christian iconography and Jesus are unavoidably all over the shop, especially when they get to France. Wisely, there’s a strong dose of skepticism about the whole Lourdes scenario without which the film probably would have been unbearable.
While being obviously faith-driven, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Call the Midwife) strikes a sound note about how the power of belief can be both comforting and delusional.
An ultimately uplifting tale, the film ventures to impart a worthwhile message – via a priest no less – about having the strength to face the hand life had dealt you when praying to stone statues for divine intervention doesn’t quite pan out.
CHEVALIER *** (108 minutes) M
For lovers of handsomely produced, issue-based period dramas with lovely set design and lush costuming comes Chevalier, a sturdy, if ham-fisted biopic about Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a courtier to Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) whose music made a big impact on French art and society, despite being black.
Set in pre-revolutionary France, the film features a fine leading performance from Harrison (B.B. King in Elvis), who plays Bologne as a rocknroll-type figure whose passion for justice and human rights was matched by his love of music and his taste for groupies.
The film’s issues-conscious exchanges might be dialled up a tad too high, but it’s still a solid historical drama with fine performances throughout, including Australian actress Samara Weaving as married temptress Marie-Josephine de Montalembert.
To its credit, the film’s overriding purpose is to shed light on an important figure who was deemed by Napoleon as being unworthy of a legacy due to the colour of his skin.
On that score the film does its job and also serves to remind us how petty tyrants can be. We look forward to how Napoleon shapes up when Ridley Scott’s film hits in November.