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Hammerle On … '3 Days to Kill' and 'Non-Stop'

Robert Hammerle
March 12, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviewsYears ago, Indianapolis’ late, great criminal defense lawyer Owen Mullin brought me on board to help him with trials as he aged. Spending a lot of time with him, he would frequently be approached by other lawyers and asked, “Ownie, when are you going to quit this business?” to which Mr. Mullin responded, “You don’t quit the practice of law, it quits you.”

Whether that rule actually has some merit to the practice of criminal law, it definitely does not apply to the cinema. Both Kevin Costner and Liam Neeson proved that with their recent films, “3 Days to Kill” and “Non-Stop.” Though both films have fundamentally ludicrous concepts, these guys are living proof that great acting can overcome flaws in any script.

While Costner may be 59 and Neeson is 61, both are mean as a snake. Costner’s CIA hitman may be dying from brain cancer, but his assassin abilities make him look like James Bond on Social Security.

Neeson is an alcoholic air marshal who is dancing on the edge of a psychotic breakdown. On the other hand, when on a transatlantic flight to London, he literally kicks the living crap out of many unfortunate innocent passengers as he tries to locate a terrorist threatening to blow everyone into kingdom come. You keep waiting for him to mumble, “Sorry, buddy, I hope your scars heal.”hammerle-actionfilms.jpg

“3 Days to Kill” was easier to take for me given that it involved moments of genuinely amusing interaction between Costner’s character and a family whom he walked away from years earlier. Hailee Steinfeld is truly wonderful as a teenage girl who will only address her missing father by his first name.

What makes the film fun is the gradual bridge built between father and daughter, frequently resulting in cell phone calls that interrupt dad during a brutal interrogation of a vicious suspect. Wait for the moment where Costner hands the phone to a petrified, Italian terrorist target, forcing him to converse with Steinfeld’s character to help her make some decent pasta. At all times Steinfeld reminds everyone of her brilliant performance in the remake of “True Grit” (2010).

Finally, you are not likely to forget the stunning performance by Amber Heard, here playing Costner’s extraordinarily hot CIA boss. The scene where she is straddling him in her 5-inch heels as he lays wounded on the pavement, wearing a tight, short dress with black seams running up the back of her nylons is as sexually unnerving as when Margot Robbie stuck her high heel into Leonardo DiCaprio’s forehead as they both were on the floor in “The Wolf of Wall Street.

Along that same line, Neeson embraces his role as a deranged air marshal with the same enthusiasm that he brought to “The Grey” (2011) and the regrettable “Taken” films (2008 and 2012). He is helped immensely by the talented Julianne Moore, here playing a passenger sitting next to him on the plane whose life is nearly as pathetic as his.

Costner kills because that is his job, and Neeson dismisses constitutional rights as if they are a regrettable aggravation. In the end, you end up liking Costner’s agent because he is trying to connect with a lost life, while you get the feeling that Neeson’s humorless character could only find future employment working for Russian President Putin in Crimea.

2014 Academy Awards

If you followed my Oscar predictions, I can only hope that you did not put good money on them. While I hit more than I missed, the failure of “American Hustle” to get one blasted award was profoundly disappointing.

On the other hand, unlike 2012, I couldn’t disagree with any of the winners. For a whole host of reasons, Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave” was a powerful film. Its only real handicap dealt with the fact that it revealed a moment in American history that we would rather forget, and as a result it was a mesmerizing film that was anything but entertaining.

Lupita Nyong’o deserved her Supporting Actress Oscar, and her acceptance speech was fabulous. As for my pick of June Squibb from “Nebraska,” I once again followed my heart instead of my head. How could I not root for an 84-year-old woman?

Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto were easy picks in their categories, and their acceptance speeches were also brilliant. And though Matthew McConaughey won out over Chiwetel Ejiofor, his performance will justifiably be remembered for a very long time.hammerle-oscars.jpg

The one thing that I did accurately predict was that “Gravity” would dominate in the production areas. While I loved that film, I had the good fortune of seeing it at the IMAX in 3-D. Ironically, I just don’t know how well it can play at home no matter how large your TV screen may be.

Two final observations. It remains hard to understand how a film like “American Hustle” could be left out in the cold despite the fact that all of its actors were nominated as well as director David O. Russell. Good grief, I loudly applauded both “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” However, the box office for “American Hustle” more than doubled the combined total of both of them, and Hollywood can’t simply ignore the opinion of those who treasure the movie experience.

Lastly, the Friday before the Oscars I received a cryptic email from my youngest sister in southern Indiana. Married with two children, she said the following: “Don’t tell my 14-year-old daughter, but I would have sex with Jared Leto any place at any time.” I sent her an email in response that read, “Don’t tell your 14-year-old daughter this either, but so would I!”

And before finding fault with me or my twisted sister, what if all you could remember of the Oscars was the completely smashed Liza Minnelli or the surgically scarred Kim Novak? Like it or not, sometimes an idiotic imagination is far superior to reality.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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