How many times have you googled “what to watch on Netflix?” only to find that the suggested films aren’t available in the Malaysian Netflix library. Don’t worry friend, we’re gonna make life easier for you. Every week, we’ll be providing three recommendations for you to watch on Netflix. One originally produced Netflix movie/special. One film that’s not a Netflix original production. And finally, one TV series or foreign language film. That way, you’ll be sure to make full use of your Netflix, without scrolling through bajillion different movies only to end up selecting a crappy Adam Sandler movie.
Here we are folks, back for another round of awesome Netflix recommendations. This week we’re gonna take a break from shunted Oscar nominations and high brow pretensions. Oh yes, this week we’re taking a look at some high octane, action thrill rides that you can to the bank (or home system).
Netflix Original Film- Wheelman (2017)
Taking a page from films like Locke and Collateral, Wheelman is the story of a nameless heist driver aka the Wheelman, trying to make a living to support what little family he has left after spending some years in the slammer. But when a job goes bad and his handlers have other plans for Wheelman beyond the simple robbery, he soon finds himself caught up in a betrayal that may cause him more than a few bucks. Now with his daughter in jeopardy and dangerous men on his tail, Wheelman must cruise through the streets of Boston to find out who double-crossed him and who has to pay for it. For the Wheelman, it’s gonna be a long night. Though relatively minimalistic in set and scope, director Jeremy Rush’s script and trick shots more than make up the film’s lack of scale. It’s a deceptively simple premise that allows for some pretty exhilarating twists and turns that I quite enjoyed. Watch how simple miscommunication and rigged game of telephone can turn one man’s night into a nightmare.
Admittedly, the film at times can feel like a bit of a slow burn as Rush lays down of all the dominos in place before tipping it over. But when it all finally goes down and Wheelman’s pushed into a corner, we get to see him go to work. Rush’s rapid-fire editing ala Edgar Wright coupled with fluid and dynamic camerawork allows for the film to shine its brightest when Wheelman outguns and outmanoeuvres his attackers. This rings especially true when we see Wheelman weave through corners and cars frantically in an attempt to shake off an armed biker. As the biker tries to get the drop on him, Wheelman’s sharp turns leaves his attacker unaware of a car in front of him until it is far too late. Rush also does not shy away from showing us the crash either all in one take, giving the collisions an extra crunch to them. The film will at times utilize POV shots from the passenger seats inside the car while confrontations occur outside of the vehicle. So when things start to go south, we’re itching to see our man rush back to the safety of his car before trying his best to make a clean getaway.
This film is very much Frank Grillo’s and I’m glad it is. It’s always nice to see supporting actors from bigger films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) attempt to take the lead in other projects. Hailing from the Jon Bernthal school of acting, Grillo lays it on thick as the mouthy, blue-collar anti-hero doing his damndest to protect his loved ones. Cliche? Sure but you won’t catch me complaining about it. That being said, the man has improved his delivery since his last role in the Purge: Anarchy. I look forward to seeing how Grillo being typecast in many, many angry roles in the future.
Gritty, simple and straight-to-point. Wheelman much like a warm, sloppy Ramli Burger at 11 pm gives you just the right of comfort as your day winds to an end. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and I’m glad it didn’t.
Non-Netflix Original Film – Mad Max: Fury Road
I have four words for you: blind, insane flaming guitarist. What in the world, you ask? Only in George Miller’s rubber-burning, pedal-to-the-metal, post-apocalyptic world of vehicular warfare! Only in the Australian wasteland of Mad Max: Fury Road. The end of civilization has never looked this cool, stylish and downright metal. Miller takes the savage, makeshift motif from his third instalment of the franchise, Thunderdome, and amps it up to 11. To get down to brass tacks, the film follows the adventure of the eponymous Max Rockatansky (yes, it is such an 80’s name) and badass road warrior, Furiosa as they ride across the perilous Fury Road. On the run with the local warlord’s harem of concubines, or wives, the two must cross deadly biker gangs, gun-wielding psychos and big rig trucks turned war machines to set those women free. I’ll be candid, the story isn’t Shakespeare. In fact, it can pretty much be summed up as our heroes going from point A to B and back to A again. But that’s not the emphasis here. The story is merely a means to show off the many jaw-dropping practical effects and elaborate set pieces Miller tries to cram in two hours.
Boasting over 150 vehicles with a unique gas punk aesthetic with over 2000 visual effect shots, Miller along with his creative team has succeeded in bringing to life a world of equal parts beauty and brutality. Beyond the occasional weather storm and colour grade, the majority of Fury Road is performed via stunts, wires, set pieces and choreographed sequences and it shows. The sense of danger and almost reckless abandon in the way the characters flip, jump and struggle on screen as they speed across the Outback desert is palpable. What does this all mean? It means the guy with the flaming guitar bungees onto one of the war rigs was in real life actually working with very real flames, very real fuel and at times was in very real danger. And it is that level commitment all around that makes the events on screen feel all the more visceral and real. The soundtrack composed by Junkie XL is a grand accompaniment to the thrilling action on screen. Like some sort of rock orchestra rising out of the depths of the abyss, the wild beating drums and electrical guitar riffs nicely reflect the chaotic symphony of crashing cars and mangled bodies on display here.
One thing you may notice in this film is that Max isn’t the actual lead, it’s Furiosa. Which for some, maybe a bit of a bait-and-switch. Personally, I thought Charlize Theron did great in her role. Offsetting Hardy’s more stoic and mum demeanour throughout the film is her strong and commanding voice, crying out for freedom and justice in the wilderness. Many times, she provides the emotional weight and gravity to an otherwise gory romp. While there will definitely be people decrying Fury Road as a “feminist film”, know that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it as long as it’s done right, and the film most certainly does that.
If you’ve ever imagined incinerating lane-cutters with a gas-fueled flamethrower or ramming a slow-moving vehicle off the road, Fury Road is just the thing you need to satiate your road rage. It will definitely make your day A LOVELY DAY!
TV Series- Narcos (2015)
Three seasons in and I have yet to see this historical semi-fictionalized crime drama run out of steam. Like the first two seasons of House of Cards and Stranger Things, Narcos was and still is one of the many great properties that put Netflix on the map. The first two seasons follow the rise and fall of Colombian drug lord turn politician turn fugitive Pablo Escobar as the American DEA do everything in their unholy power to bring the king down. The third season chronicles the fallout and power vacuum that is quickly filled by the Cali Cartel and their reign as the new lords of the Colombian underworld. Don’t let the beautiful tropical face of a 1970’s Colombia fool you, terror and shootouts stalk its streets and jungles. And it is the Colombian law enforcement and the strong right hand of the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that keeps the peace in these lands.
If you love cop shootouts, crime mobsters or just miss The Sopranos, Narcos is for you. The action here is absolutely phenomenal. As the series progresses on, we slowly but surely begin to see the scale in which the conflict at play here. It evolves from inter-cartel wars to domestic terrorism to even an all-out war between drug-funded militias and government soldiers! This escalation is perfectly encapsulated in one of the greatest scenes in the series: The Battle of Tulo. In the sixth episode of the first season “Explosivos”, we see the righteous if not bloodthirsty Colonel Carrillo and his troops lay siege to a local stronghold in an attempt to capture or kill one of Escobar’s right-hand men, Gacha (played by Luis Guzman). Starting off as a stealth op, their mission quickly devolves into a frantic shootout between Uzi armed sicarios as Gacha and his son attempt to flee the premises. However, not before Gacha proceeds to launch a freaking rocket launcher at Carrillo. At that moment, I realized I was in for a treat. Honestly, from here on out it does not slow down.
The entire cast here are on their A-game and is honestly far too numerous to list out, especially with new and interesting players entering the game as each season passes. The unrivalled star of the first two seasons of Narcos would be the Puerto Rican actor, Wagner Moura as the iconic Pablo Escobar. Moura’s magnetic performance from faux compassionate family man to ruthless, temperamental crime boss is a thing of beauty. Every time, just as I think I have Escobar all figured out, Moura vividly exposes another angle to the man. Billy Boyd and the sexy Pedro Pascal as DEA Agent Murphy and Pena are the ever-entertaining foil to the cartels of Colombia. The partnership between these two strong personalities accommodates for likeable buddy cop chemistry as well as tension stemming from their differing backgrounds. As for season 3, all I can say is keep your eye out on Swedish actor Matias Varela as Jorge Salcedo. He has quickly become a fan favourite of this series, and if you decide to stick around long enough, he will be yours as well.
Absolutely addictive and infinitely entertaining, Narcos is shaping up to be a strong contender to its HBO crime contemporaries. Look out Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos, there’s a new gun in town.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out any of these three properties available on Netflix, I strongly suggest you do now. And stay tuned for your weekly dose of Netflix prescriptions!
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