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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

04/13/2016

The Boss
By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — “The Boss” (Universal) is obviously intended as a comedy vehicle for its star and co-writer, Melissa McCarthy. Presumably, audiences were meant to be tickled by McCarthy’s brash humour and charmed by insights into her character’s vulnerable side.

Unfortunately, whether she’s blithely exposing her rear end to other members of the cast or working through the emotional problems bred during her childhood in an orphanage, McCarthy’s onscreen persona makes a thorough nuisance of herself. And her ill-organized adventures inspire more grimaces than giggles.

At least the starting point of her fictional biography is an institution presided over by a kindly nun, Sister Aluminata (Margo Martindale). However, as McCarthy’s Michelle Darnell swiftly grows into the famed businesswoman of the title, whatever credit with Catholic viewers the script — penned with director (and real-life husband) Ben Falcone and Steve Mallory — may have momentarily racked up is quickly squandered.

An entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Michelle enjoys a Tony Robbins-like ascent, only to suffer a Martha Stewart-style fall when Renault (Peter Dinklage), an ex-lover-turned-competitor, rats on her for insider trading. In what passes for a recurring joke in this movie, Renault’s real name, which Michelle insists on using, much to the annoyance of the pretentious eccentric himself, is Ronald.

Emerging from prison with her fortune confiscated and her reputation ruined, Michelle is given shelter by her long-suffering former secretary, Claire (Kristen Bell), and forms an uncharacteristic emotional bond with Claire’s preteen daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson).

After attending — and predictably disrupting — a meeting of Rachel’s Girl Scouts-like youth organization, the Dandelions, Michelle strikes on an idea for a comeback. She’ll create a for-profit rival to the Dandelions, Darnell’s Darlings, as a means of marketing Claire’s outstanding brownies.

Dead-end subplots and trashy humour alternate with failed attempts at a more serious tone as Michelle’s scheme advances.

A large-scale catfight, an awkward discussion with Rachel about the fact that Claire’s boyfriend, Mike (Tyler Labine) had a sleepover with Mommy, as well as Michelle’s wholesale lack of modesty are all passed off as fodder for smiles. And there’s some gravely intended pseudo-feminist babble about how the Dandelions only prepare girls to be housewives but the Darlings will equip them for a career.

But you’ll likely forget that bit as soon as Renault starts threatening Michelle’s life ... with a Samurai sword ... on the rooftop helipad ... of his skyscraper headquarters. As Rachel’s real-life peers like to say, “Whatever.”

The film contains much slapstick violence, pervasive vulgar humour, drug use, an implied premarital encounter and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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Hardcore Henry
By John P. McCarthy

NEW YORK (CNS) — The obscenely violent sci-fi action flick “Hardcore Henry” (STX) is presented entirely from the point of view of the title character, a man whose scientist wife, Estelle (Haley Bennett), brings him back to life as a cyborg.

Aided by a cagy stranger named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), Henry then spends the duration of the Moscow-set picture battling — that is, slaughtering — assailants led by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a malevolent industrialist with telekinetic powers who kidnaps Estelle.

The fact that no actor is credited with playing the role of Henry is telling. Henry is mute and consequently doesn’t deliver any lines that might help flesh out the character.

Yet the main reason he doesn’t add up to a bona fide protagonist is that very little humanity is discernible in the character. The small helmet-mounted cameras used to shoot the film substitutes for a lead persona; and the three cinematographers can therefore be considered the stars of the movie.

The vision they execute belongs to screenwriter and director Ilya Naishuller, who expands upon a viral music video he made for his punk rock band. The novelty of Naishuller’s decision to shoot the unrelenting onslaught exclusively through the eyes of Henry quickly wears off however. And the frenetic pacing and glibly humorous tone that he strikes aren’t enough to make “Hardcore Henry” seem anything other than tedious and dispiritingly disposable.

Viewers who can tolerate the jittery, potentially nauseating technique will be left to confront its bloody content, which includes close-up depictions of death and dismemberment by multiple methods.

For all the gory chaos and commotion, “Hardcore Henry” is a very dull movie. Even its appeal for those seeking maximum adrenaline is likely to be short-lived.

The film contains a near-constant stream of extremely graphic violence, frequent drug use, strong sexual content, including several perverse situations and much upper female nudity as well as pervasive profane, rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Copyright (c) 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops