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Weekend Movie Preview: 'Killing Them Softly,' 'The Collection,' And 'Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning'

November 30th, 2012 1:00pm EST

Killing Them Softly Apologies that I have been MIA the last couple of weeks folks. I’ve been watching movies faster than I can write about them. Since my last column I’ve seen: “Skyfall,” “Not Fade Away,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Red Dawn,” “Promised Land,” and most recently “Les Misérables.” If you haven’t already, definitely check out my reviews of “Skyfall” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” both of which I loved. I also posted my thoughts on “Red Dawn” on my website. In short, it’s not worth your time or money.

“Promised Land” was a very cool screening because actor and co-writer John Krasinski was here in Boston to introduce the film and conduct a Q and A afterward. I should have a review coming in the coming weeks when it’s actually released. Right now, it’s also getting to be awards season so I’ve got a giant stack of screeners to watch. One of them I saw was “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which is not only well-paced, but has sharp dialogue, heartfelt performances, and poignant statements about the challenges and opportunities of old age. It’s worthy of your time.

This week you’ll have the opportunity to catch the Brad Pitt crime thriller “Killing Them Softly,” the gritty horror sequel “The Collection,” and the latest entry in the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren “Universal Soldier” franchise: “A Day of Reckoning.”

MY PICKS: “Killing Them Softly” and “The Collection”

KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is an enforcer brought in to restore peace after three hapless crooks raid a mob card game, causing the local crime economy to collapse.

Director/Writer: Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Chopper”)

Based On: Cogan’s Trade, a novel by George V. Higgins

Notable Supporting Actors: James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Max Casella, Slaine, Trevor Long, Vincent Curatola

ORIGINALITY RATING: Medium. The plot of “Killing Them Softly” seems like your average crime thriller. An ill-conceived heist pisses off very bad people, and the culprits have to run from a hit man/mercenary type. What’s interesting is that Richard Jenkins is directing Brad Pitt’s thug to distribute punishment on the robbers. Jenkins normally plays nice guys, but lately he’s been taking on fascinating, complex roles. With the sarcastic Jenkins in charge, violence takes on a very tongue in cheek quality to it, something that makes me wonder if there will be laughs in this film. The terrible Boston accents in the trailer make me a bit concerned however. I appreciate that Pitt is underselling it instead of going over the top to emulate Massachusetts speech patterns like most actors do. The slow motion shots of Pitt smoking and firing his gun in the trailer, combined with the Johnny Cash song make this movie seem like it will be very slick and artsy. That fun style combined with performances from actors like Pitt, Jenkins, Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard give me hope that “Killing Them Softly” will transcend its mediocre premise.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Viewers who enjoy highly stylized crime flicks about the dire bloody consequences of messing with the mob. If you dig Brad Pitt as an actor, especially when he’s playing characters on the wrong side of the law, then you should watch “Killing Them Softly.”

THE COLLECTION

Arkin (Josh Stewart) escapes from the captivity of a vicious serial killer called “The Collector” after the villain adds a beautiful young woman named Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) to his collection of people. He doesn’t get the chance to recover from his trauma though. Arkin is immediately kidnapped by Elena’s father and coerced into returning to the Collector’s deadly warehouse with mercenaries to save her.

Director/Writer: Marcus Dunstan (“Piranha 3DD,” “The Collector”)

Co-Writer: Patrick Melton (“Piranha 3DD,” “The Collector”)

ORIGINALITY RATING: High. About a month ago I watched “The Collector,” the predecessor to this film, and I was completely blown away. It is insanely suspenseful and utterly sadistic, easily the scariest horror movie I’ve seen in a long while. The only thing that disappointed me about the flick when I watched it is the “bad guy wins” ending that it has. But now I’m thrilled to see there’s a sequel coming out, and anxious to see Arkin take another shot at The Collector. Based on the trailer, this movie is clearly upping the ante with extra gut-wrenching violence and torture. I mean heck, we see the clip of the guy killing an entire warehouse of people with some crazy grain harvester contraption. If The Collector could set lethal booby traps on in someone else’s house, can you imagine how frightening he’ll be on his own turf? I certainly can. I’m pumped to see “The Collection,” hopefully it will be as good as “The Collector.”

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Horror junkies that can’t get enough gore, suspense, and torture in their flicks. If you really got into Marcus Dunstan’s thrilling horror movie “The Collector,” then you should see its sequel “The Collection.”

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING

John (Scott Adkins) seeks to exact revenge on Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) after a home invasion takes his wife and daughter. The battle pits John against Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) and an army of genetically enhanced soldiers.

Director/Writer: John Hyams (“Dragon Eyes,” “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”)

Co-Writers: Doug Magnuson (“Hide Out”) and Hyams’ producer Jon Greenhalgh

ORIGINALITY RATING: Low. I can’t believe that “Universal Soldier” movies are still coming out and somehow we’re on the sixth in this series. JCVD and Dolph Lundgren left for a couple, but does anyone still want to see these things? The story for this film is so convoluted I was having trouble writing a synopsis that made sense. I mean how logical can the film be with trailer title cards like “An Army of Universal Soldiers Goes AWOL” and “The Universal Soldier Cloning Program is Out of Control.” What the heck does any of that mean? The rest of the trailer is typical action flick items: hilarious fast-paced music with metal clinking in spots for emphasis, as well as shots of hand-to-hand combat and car chases. Not sure what the deal is with JCVD’s weird bald look, although at least we get to hear Dolph Lundgren yell the film’s title. I think the best course of action is to just sit back, prepare to do almost no thinking whatsoever, and be ready laugh at an outlandish movie. You should also probably watch this thing at home, where you’ll have to pay very little to see it.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Anyone who has yet to experience the unparalleled awesomeness of 80s action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren fighting in a “Universal Soldier” film. If you had fun with John Hyams’s previous entry in the franchise “Regeneration,” then you should seek out “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.”

Related: Killing Them Softly, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Starpulse Exclusives, Movies, Movie Reviews, Movie Trailers, Columns, Weekend Movie Preview

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