‘The Misfits’ Serves Run-of-the-Mill Heist Energy, But Nick Cannon is Kind of Dang Compelling

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The Misfits (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Hermione Corfield, Nick Cannon, Rami Jaber, Jamie Chung, Mike Angelo, Tim Roth

Director: Renny Harlin

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Loose-Lipped Language Here and There

Release Date: June 11, 2021 (Theaters)/June 15, 2021 (On Demand)

The best way I can possibly enjoy The Misfits is by pretending that it’s an unusually elaborate episode of The Masked Singer. How else to explain TMS host Nick Cannon teaming up with Pierce Brosnan for a globetrotting heist? That’s the sort of maniacal thinking that happens around an elaborate display of costumed singing celebrities, not a major action blockbuster directed by Renny Harlin. And after all, like The Masked Singer, The Misfits opens with some tone-setting narration from Cannon. Here’s a sample line from the latter that could very easily be at home on the former: “Funny thing about safety deposit boxes: ain’t nothin’ safe about ’em.” For the uninitiated, it’s not hard to imagine a Safety Deposit Box costume on the next season of The Masked Singer. (In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a major Masked Singer devotee.)

Okay, I suppose I should spend at least some of this review describing the actual plot in some detail. Despite what the opening scene might lead us to believe, the focus is not primarily on Cannon, even though his character’s name is Ringo. (And he makes a big deal out of how much he loves his namesake Beatle!) Instead, the main character is Brosnan as some fellow named Richard Pace, who gets wrangled into the whole heist scheme by his estranged daughter Hope (Hermione Corfield). Then he meets up with the rest of the crew, who are just as anti-complementary with each other as the title implies. Then as with a lot of crime flicks, I’m not entirely sure what’s actually going on, although I’m pretty sure Tim Roth is the mark. Also, they head to somewhere in the Middle East that I’m pretty sure is fictional (“Jazeristan”?), and yeah, this isn’t exactly the most sensitive movie. Oh well, at least it’s thoroughly lightweight.

Anyway, my biggest takeaway from The Misfits is that I like Nick Cannon’s energy, and I’m not sure I would’ve said that 10 or 20 years ago, although it was probably true then as well. Or at least it’s now true in retrospect. He’s certainly not immune to the aforementioned insensitivity, but despite some missteps here and there, I feel like I’m in good hands with him if I’m promised a good time. Does that make me a fellow Misfit? I don’t know, probably not. It’s doubtful that I’ll be spending very much mental space on this movie for much longer. But I do also love Ringo (the Beatle), so there is that.

The Misfits is Recommended If You Like: Nick Cannon’s emcee energy, Ocean’s Lite, Fast and Furious Lite

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Heists

Movie Review: ‘Luce’ Walks a Unique Tightrope of Cinematic Manipulation

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Starring: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, Brian Bradley, Andrea Bang

Director: Julius Onah

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rating: R for Profanity When the Passive-Aggressiveness Becomes Too Unbearable and Some Sex and Nudity When It’s Too Pressure-Filled to Keep It In

Release Date: August 2, 2019 (Limited)

Sometimes I will come around on a film a few days or weeks (or even years) after an initial watch. But now I have discovered that it is possible for that dramatic transformation to complete itself over the course of the film itself. I thought I had Luce pegged about fifteen minutes in as a bunch of stiff, confounding nonsense, and the next sixty minutes or so didn’t do much to change my perception. But then the conclusion came along, and the puppetmasters revealed themselves. This film wanted me, all of us in the audience really, to be highly skeptical, only to declare: that’s how we gotcha.

The title character (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a prized high school student: a model student, athlete, and debater. He’s got loving adopted parents (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) and a concerned mentor in the form of his history teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer). But not all is as hunky-dory as it seems. Ms. Wilson is worried that something dangerous might be lurking under the surface when she discovers some fireworks in Luce’s locker. The hubbub that ensues has me constantly thinking, “All this over fireworks?” But of course there’s more to it than that. Ms. Wilson has given her students an essay assignment in which they must assume the perspective of a historical figure. Luce chooses a war criminal, which is unnerving to some because he was trained as a child soldier in Eritrea before he was adopted.

This setup is ripe to touch upon the pressure of expectations (either good or ill) based on stereotypes. But most of Luce feels ill-equipped to handle that, opting instead for melodrama and overwrought hand-wringing. I frequently wanted to yell, “Is anyone in this movie an actual person?!” Throughout it all, though, my attention is held, if for a while only because of the baroque score courtesy of Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury (hot off their indelible work on Annihilation). The secrets are exposed, with multiple layers needing to be ripped away, and the game is complete. By the end, it is still a weird mix of high and low stakes, but it manages to be a masterclass in filmmaking manipulation.

Luce is Recommended If You Like: Having your expectations upended

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Fireworks