“Michael Clayton” is a slow burn, with an ending that delivers quite a punch. It’s the type of film that many love but doesn’t fit neatly into the modern economics of Hollywood. Studios rarely make dramas like this for broad theatrical release anymore.
George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a middle-aged lawyer who works for a large law firm as its fixer. He cleans up messes for clients who get into trouble – stuff like accidents, domestic issues, etc. He’s also having his own problems as he tries to dig out of debt from a restaurant venture gone bad due to his alcoholic brother.
Clayton gets pulled into a crisis when the firm’s top litigator Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), threatens to blow up the firm’s largest case by exposing how the client chemical company (fictional U-North) knew its product was killing people. Arthur is a brilliant but troubled lawyer with mental health issues, He strips naked during a deposition while declaring his love for the lead plaintiff, a young, pretty woman from a farm in the Midwest.
The cast in this legal thriller is excellent. Clooney delivers one of his best performances as Michael, playing it straight and leaving aside the playful attitude we see in so many of his popular performances. He’s right out of central casting as the middle aged, big firm lawyer who is doing his best to remain calm as he deals with Arthur and his own issues.
Wilkinson, on the other hand, is brilliant as the manic Arthur who feels liberated by his decision to finally come clean about his client’s misconduct after grinding on the class-action lawsuit for years. He gives us some of the most memorable scenes of the film.
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It’s been over 35 years since the release of “Blood Simple,” a film noir classic where we were introduced to the brilliance of the Coen Brothers as a director/producer team. It’s now streaming on HBO and is definitely worth your time. If you’ve seen it before, you’ll know this film is always worth a re-watch. And for newcomers you’ll get to see many of the techniques the Coen brothers used throughout their amazing career.
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Hong Kong has one of the most prolific movie industries in the world, but while they have no problem cranking out films by the hundreds, a vast majority of them are rarely ever good. Consider “Protégé” an exception to the rule, because even though it’s just another undercover cop thriller, stars Daniel Wu and Andy Lau help elevate the material beyond the typical fare. Wu stars as Nick, a young cop who, after spending seven years undercover as part of a drug ring, is finally seeing results. When his boss (Lau) names him as the next in line to take over the business, however, Nick is forced to choose between bringing down the empire and running it. A subplot involving a drug-addicted neighbor (Jingchu Zhang) and her deadbeat husband (an underused Louis Koo) would usually feel like dead weight in a movie like this, but director Tung-Shing Yee does a great job of making it feel relevant to the bigger picture. And though there’s not as much action as you’d expect (save for a particularly memorable sequence involving a drug bust), “Protégé” is still one of the best titles that Dragon Dynasty has released. Then again, that’s to be expected from any movie featuring a star like Andy Lau. The veteran actor’s award-winning performance is the best part about “Protégé,” and though it doesn’t hold a candle to some of his other films, it’s worth seeing for that alone.
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