Flag Day

Written by Taylor Baker

34/100

The melodramatic and forced Flag Day is Sean Penn’s first foray picking up the camera since his critically panned follow up to Into the Wild, The Last Face. It is notably also the first time he’s directed himself in a film. Flag Day itself is an adaptation of Jennifer Vogel’s story (the character Sean’s daughter Dylan Penn plays.) written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. It pins Sean’s John Vogel as an everyman who’s committing crime to take care of his daughter.

Penn frequently utilizes tight half frame close ups during dialogue scenes. Daniel Moder’s camera has a complimentary fuzzy grain, imagining things a bit more warmly than they actually were. That same grain adorns the natural light with a physical texturous quality that causes the film oftentimes to glow.

It foolishly relies on narration from Dylan’s Rebecca(one recalls the disastrous Blade Runner theatrical cut to mind, with Harrison as a lamenting noir-esque investigator), to instruct us on the experience of her youth and the man her father was. Rather than committing to show us it’s narrative, it tells the viewer unceasingly who these characters are and their experiences. Hopper Penn, Sean’s son briefly appears in the film, and though the Penn children are still young enough to develop, there’s very little put into the film here that seems indicative of a bright future. For either of the Penn siblings.

Flag Day is over edited. With collage sequences, and constant cutting when a weighty moment isn’t occurring. It’s plotted events are too cute, too tightly knit, nothing is afforded a chance to breathe. It forces perspective that doesn’t translate sincerity so much as severity. The well documented severity of by all accounts of a disillusioned Sean Penn who’s tried his hand writing a novel, won the lead actor Oscar Award twice(once for Mystic River in 2004 & once for Milk in 2009.), and now simultaneously has nothing and everything left to prove. A master performer who finds performing close to hollow and is now looking to other avenues of storytelling and unconventional stories to find meaning, purpose, or something of worth.

Despite all these faults Flag Day showcases that Sean does indeed still have it in front of the camera, despite the melodramatic absurdity that accompanies what it is that he is bringing to the table. No lines work as well as his, aside from the brief turns from respective powerhouses Josh Brolin and Eddie Marsan. This paired with Cinematographer Daniel Moder’s rustic American fabric like images demonstrate Flag Day does have some merit. Though it’s themes and narrative ring with as much resonance as a lone drumstick tearing thru a single sheet of paper.

Flag Day Trailer

Flag Day is currently playing in limited theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Wrath of Man

Written by Alexander Reams

87/100

Guy Ritchie has always been one of my favorite filmmakers since the 2009 Sherlock Holmes. Even the highly polarizing and generally panned King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film I will champion whenever I can. He is back with frequent collaborator Jason Statham. Their last collaboration was the highly unsuccessful Revolver back in 2005. Before that they had worked on Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Their newest film Wrath of Man follows Jason Statham’s “H” as he begins to work for a cash truck company under mysterious circumstances.

Wrath of Man continues Guy Ritchie’s resurgence in pop culture after The Gentlemen. His resurgence is accredited to him mixing his iconic style with more fleshed out characters and interesting witty dialogue. Wrath of Man also brings out a new, dramatic side of Statham. His role here is much more subdued than the roles we are used to seeing him in. Statham has never been better and you can see that he is having a great time in the film even in the most somber moments. 

The action sequences are not as frequent as you might think, but when they hit, they hit hard. One particularly violent and impactful scene takes place as Statham is walking out of an interrogation. The primary issue I have with the film and it’s execution is the underuse of Jeffery Donovan. He is undercut constantly and consistently by Scott Eastwood. Eastwood is a notably weaker performer than Donovan, which hamfists moments that should crescendo and instead just thud. Otherwise Wrath of Man is an enjoyable film and I am thrilled Guy Ritchie has continued to deliver films that entertain while still bringing his signature style to his work. 

Wrath of Man Trailer

Wrath of Man is currently playing in Theaters.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.

Episode 95: RoboCop / Starship Troopers / Miami Vice

“I don’t underestimate audiences’ intelligence. Audiences are much brighter than media gives them credit for. When people went to a movie once a week in the 1930s and that was their only exposure to media, you were required to do a different grammar.”

Michael Mann

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This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of Project Power & She Dies Tomorrow and the Feature Films: RoboCop, Starship Troopers, and Miami Vice.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

RoboCop is currently available on Prime Video

Starship Troopers is currently available on Tubi TV

Miami Vice is currently available to rent or purchase