Tag: Jeremy Renner

Tag

tagIt’s hard to believe that among the homes and workplaces of ten “ordinary” men, there is a very serious and highly spirited game of tag happening. Director Jeff Tomsic has teamed up with screenwriter Mark Steilen to tell their story. 

Better known for their TV comedies, the duo have adapted for film an article written by Russell Adams in The Wall Street Journal that outlined the aforementioned group of grown men who every February enter into a month-long season of tag. The only taboo? You can’t tag the tagger—other than that, hunting season is open right across the country. 

Wary of overcooking his cast Tomsic has wisely narrowed the film’s focus to five friends; Hoagie (Ed Helms) who is the spiritual hub to the group, Randy (Jake Johnson) the drug-addled goof, Callahan (Jon Hamm) the successful businessman, and Sable (Hannibal Buress) the fragile and intellectually curious one. 

And then there’s Jerry (Jeremy Renner). He has never been tagged, much to the umbrage of the other four.  His “untouchable” status is a comical MacGuffin that provides the film with its narrative direction. However, at its heart Tag is just as concerned with exploring the bonds of their friendship. Any comedy worth its salt does more than just make you laugh and Tag does a wonderful job of hilariously endearing you to their relationships. Not just with each other, but also with Hoagie’s ultra-competitive wife (Isla Fisher) who acts as his support crew and tipping him off against an impending tag.

But the film’s real strength lies in its physical comedy and lets the reigns loose on some downright hilarious hijinks and clever slapstick moments. Yes, it’s very commercial and incredibly silly; but it’s also fun, irreverent, sometimes awkward and often cringe-worthy—the kind that’ll have you watching between your fingers. It’s normally everything I shy away from but here they’ve got the balance bang on … and right now there are not many comedies that can touch it.
 

See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.

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Wind River

windTaylor Sheridan’s proclivity for scripting stories that shrewdly observe troubling American social issues has provided an interesting mix of genres. Wind River is no different, offering a heady blend of modern western, thriller, and neo-noir sensibilities.  Having previously penned Hell or High Water and Sicario, the talented scriptwriter has turned his attentions to the Director’s chair for Wind River—the fledgling Director wisely scaling things back with a simple murder-mystery set among the windswept snowscape of a Wyoming Indian Reserve.

Inspired by true events, the film centres on the rape and murder of a teenage girl found in the snowy wilds by professional game hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner).  The mystery proves too great for local tribal Police with their meagre resources, and the Feds are clearly disinterested, offering a sole FBI agent to help on the case. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is a slight and seemingly inexperienced young agent, who conspicuously doesn’t belong among Lambert and his wind-beaten companions. Unfortunately, her character never conquers this imbalance, much to the detriment of the story’s gender concerns.  Although, as Lambert explains, the landscape is harshly indifferent to all that go before it, reducing everything down to survival. And it appears that Banner cannot survive without the help of her male companion.  Banner represents a missed opportunity that contemporaries such as Silence of the Lambs’ Clarice Starling (to which Wind River owes a great deal) comfortably navigates. Its racial ideals fare no better, with Lambert again being the great white saviour applying the mop to an impotent cultural minority unable to deal with their own problems.

Despite the race and gender misfire, the cinematography and score elevate the film beyond mediocrity, evoking a palpable sense of isolation. Sheridan’s script maintains a robust structure throughout, keeping the plot humming along and offering some genuinely thrilling moments; even occasionally stepping aside to offer some poignant insights on grief and loss.  Sheridan’s Directorial strength clearly lies in ratcheting tension, but he makes a good fist of the more nuanced moments by getting excellent performances out of his cast. 

Read my reviews on the NZ Herald’s website here.