Fresh on Blu-ray: Dylan O’Brien leads a refreshing creature feature, Liam Neeson’s still churning out bland action

0

James Clay//Film Critic

LOVE & MONSTERS

Rated PG, 108 minutes
Director: Michael Matthews
Cast: Dylan O’ Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker

LOVE & MONSTERS is one of those pandemic movies that seemingly appeared out of  nowhere on PVOD (that’s premium VOD and is typically reserved for major studio films that were going to receive a wide theatrical release), but even though it’s utilizing a new way for audiences to consume premiere titles the Michael Matthews directed romp is a bit of a throwback. 

Starring Dylan O’Brien (THE MAZE RUNNER Series) and an Australian Kelpie (played by a good boy named Hero), the coming of age survival flick has so many classic ingredients of mid-budget, low stakes fun. LOVE & MONSTERS is rare, and it could signal a return to more original films that aren’t ashamed of their familiarity, yet lean into originality. 

Joel Dawson (O’ Brien) and his high school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) are ripped apart when an asteroid hits Earth and toxic fallout causes animals to mutate into bloody-thirsty hybrids. Seven years have passed, millions have died, humans have colonized underground and freak shows like sand gobblers rule the flatlands. The script by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson breezes through all this typically lengthy world building exposition with an irreverent voice over that throws you right in the middle of Joel’s love quest. The filmmakers assume you’ve seen this story before so let’s get what you paid to see…some love and some monsters. 

O’ Brien takes up a charming turn navigating this world and finding his own self-worth that exists beyond having a crush on a young woman. Along the way Joel is saved by Boy, the aforementioned “good boy” and the two develop a classic boy and his dog relationship. They encounter a world that’s nasty, yet has a foundation of human kindness which is so refreshing for a post apocalyptic tale.

RENT OR BUY: The 4K transfer of this release looks incredible and is filled with lots of colors and creature designs to satisfy any monster loving aficionado. Basically, if you gravitate towards coming of age tales, or creature features you can’t really go wrong here. Take the plunge and make the purchase. However, the special features are kind of weak and consist of on-set interviews with the cast and crew. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bottom Of The Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters
  • It’s a Monster’s World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape. 

Grade: B

HONEST THIEF

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes
Director: Mark Williams
Cast: Liam Neeson, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney, Kate Walsh, Anthony Ramon

Liam Neeson’s action man renaissance has been going on for well over a decade sense TAKEN supplied general audiences with a decent amount of safe thrills and an easy to swallow plot that gets you out in just over 90 minutes. 

These are the kind of films we hope to be gifted every so often, and I’m certainly not going to stick my nose up at simple cinematic pleasures. Sure we’ve seen it before, but at times works. When you try to repeat this template over and over and still have some credibility just a couple steps away from Bruce Willis or dare I say Nicolas Cage level of accepting a role in  bad film for a fat paycheck. Some are so bad they could be tax write-offs. Suffice to say if you’ve seen this late period action from Liam Neeson, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from his latest to hit blu ray HONEST THIEF. This benign, yet surprisingly watchable movie is lean and plays with the action template enough to be serviceable. Just know what you’re getting into and put this into somewhat of a perspective. 

The story is quick, in fact there isn’t much of that, or character development. What you see if what you get. Tom Carter (Neeson) is a retired marine turned bank robber who has amassed a fortune of $9 million and is getting out of the business because he’s fallen in love a woman (Kate Walsh). He turns himself in to a small dog loving senior law enforcement officer (Jeffrey Donovan), but when two crooked FBI officers (Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramons) want a piece of the cash they double cross Carter, kidnap his partner  and that more or less really pisses off the retired sleuth. 

HONEST THIEF is simple, and offers elementary action thrills on a very basic level. This is for film watchers who want their stories spoon-fed to them. Not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just true. And while director Mark Williams gets the best out of Jai Courtney (an actor I’ve always thought received more criticism than he deserves), Jeffrey Donovan and Neeson he like many other action films have zero idea how to utilize the women in their cast. That right there is the real crime. 

RENT OR BUY: This is a rental through and through, but if you want to put HONEST THEIF in your heavy rotation fine by me. You’d honestly be fine to even skip this Liam Neeson vehicle and swap it for one of his more heartfelt roles in ORDINARY LOVE. 

Grade: C+

LOVE AND MONSTERS/ HONEST THIEF are now available at any major in-store, or online retailer.