Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stephen S. Campanelli's knock-your-socks-off MOMENTUM offers exactly that -- in spades

Say hello to a nifty new action director, whose first film -- MOMENTUM -- proves an object lesson in how to make a first-class action film on maybe one-tenth of the budget of one of those Hollywould-be blockbusters that bore us to distraction with their not-so-special effects. The poster, right, may be one of the least interesting, design-wise, to be seen in many a day, but the movie it heralds is a case study is how to do things right. The filmmaker, shown below, is a fellow named Stephen S, Campanelli, whose resume boasts nearly one hundred credits in the camera and electrical department. Momentum is his first film as director, and TrustMovies would like to suggest that this upgrade in position become permanent.

With action films one tends to blame or praise the director for the visuals on view. In retrospect, after watching Momentum, I found myself also wondering how much the smart, tight screenplay by Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan contributed to the film's success. Beginning with a voice telling us its intention to bring America back on course (uh-oh!), the movie returns to this voice and finally visage (yes, it's Morgan Freeman, playing quite against his usual type and taking us back to one of his earlier film roles). Marcus and Sullivan bring this character back briefly at various intervals and then hugely at their denouement -- which can only mean that a sequel is in store. I hope so; I'll be first in line to take a look.

The film's two stars turn out to be perfect choices for their roles. Olga Kurylenko (above) makes a swift and savvy, no-nonsense heroine, and she is matched well by James Purefoy (below) as her nemesis. Kurylenko is lithe and can handle, with some help from her body double, the action quite believably, while Purefoy -- a man whose demeanor and visage, even in repose, are enough to scare the pants off you -- makes his nasty villain a more-than-memorable one.

The movie's initial visual brilliantly combines a drum concert and a jewel heist by robbers in costumes that may make you imagine this to be some sci-fi film. You may also think the opening quite swell but wonder if the film can possibly match this segment down the road. Not to worry. It simply gets better and better.

It does this by giving us as much action -- hand-to-hand combat, foot and car chases -- as we could reasonably want while subverting many of the genre's cliches. You know the one about the auto speeding
toward the parking lot entrance in which those don't-drive-over spikes are protruding lethally? Just wait. And what about the mother and child in imminent danger from the bad guy? Again, there's something new here, too. Even the requisite "torture" scenes offer enough subtlety and difference to stand out from the pack.

Via suspense, action and surprise, Momentum keeps its momentum going full speed ahead. Only at the end does it suddenly seem a bit simple. And yet, that's the set-up for the sequel. Would we want to deny this tale that?

Don't think so. To watch Ms Kurylenko face off against Mr. Freeman and his henchmen ought to be, what? The bees' knees, the cat's pajamas, and the action lover's dream come true.

Momentum -- from Starz Digital and running 95 fast minutes -- opens tomorrow, Friday, October 16, in the dozen theaters/cities listed below, while simultaneously becoming availale for viewing via VOD.
New York, NY: Cinema Village
Los Angeles, CA: Arena Cinema
Atlanta, GA: Plaza Theater
Chicago, IL: Facets Cinematheque
Cleveland, OH: Tower City Cinema
Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center 
Dallas, TX: Texas Theater
Detroit, MI: Cinema Detroit 
Houston, TX: AMC Gulf Point 30 
Miami, FL: AMC Aventura Mall 24 
San Francisco, CA: 4 Star Theatre
and Toronto, Canada at the
Magic Lantern Theatres' Carlton Cinema


john mansell said...

Great review and I agree 100 percent,I was at scoring sessions and one could see from the footage there this was a powerful and dynamic movie

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for posting, John. I have to say that I am quite surprised at this movie's low score on Rotten Tomatoes. Let's hope that action/thriller audiences find a way of discovering MOMENTUM for themselves. Otherwise, and once again, critics will have looked that proverbial gift horse in the mouth and done no favor to their readers.