The Damned United - ***1/2
Starring: Michael Sheen
Review: I came across this movie on the internet and it sounded interesting so I decided to give a go and rent it. I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a British sports movie about soccer and an event that happened in England in the 1970's. Now, I am a big soccer fan but I don't know much about it's history, let alone it's British history.
What I got was a very well made very good movie. The plot centers around the English soccer manager Brian Clough and his rise to prominence in the soccer world. In the late 1960's and early 1970's the Leeds United football club was the premiere team in the English Premiere League. That is, until Clough becomes the coach of Derby County.
In their first meeting Leeds United destroys Derby County and it is obvious Derby is overmatched by the much superior Leeds. However, in just a couple short seasons Derby, with the help of Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor, Derby quickly rises to prominence and eventually takes down Leeds to become the supreme club in the EPL. This leads to Clough butting heads with Derby County team management as they start to question the amount of money he spends. This eventually leads to his resignation, eventually leading to him becoming manager of Leeds United, like he always dreamed.
However, in the process of getting ousted from Derby he alienated his assistant and best friend Peter. By this time Brian Clough was so high on himself that he had lost track of things and was under the impression all their success was because of him and that Peter had nothing to do with it. This is why he decided to take the Leeds job without Peter. Things fell apart quickly after that.
The Leeds players were loyal to their previous coach and didn't want to play for Clough. This made for a tough situation and Clough's tenure got off to a rough starting losing their first few games. This lead to a desperation call from Clough to his longtime friend Peter asking him to come help him at Leeds. Peter denies and tells him not to call again. This is a very powerful scene between two friends and a man (Clough) who is too proud to say he's sorry.
This leads into what the movie is really about, Clough. This movie is about how Clough rose to prominence and how all his success went to his head. How Clough went from a humble coach to an arrogant individual who took all the credit for everything but really didn't deserve it. Clough would never admit that his success was as much due to his friend Peter as it was to himself. Seeing Michael Sheen's transition, from humble beginnings to an extraordinarily arrogant coach who alienated all the people he needed because he was blinded by all his success, was quite a sight. Sheen hit all the notes perfectly and you can really feel the transition from humility to arrogance and then finally torn all the way back down after being fired as Leeds' coach with only 44 days under his belt.
This movie was so good not because of the sports aspect but because of how it framed the man Brian Clough. Clough was a proud man but the movie does an excellent job of showing how pride mixed with success can lead to arrogance and as we all know, pride comes before th fall. Definitely worth your time.
Law Abiding Citizen - **
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler
Review: Law Abiding Citizen provides a decent level of entertainment value, but ultimately falls short of being a really good movie.
The movie centers around Gerard Butler's character, who is never given much back story in the beginning, who is forced to watch his wife and child murdered right in front of his eyes.
Jamie Foxx is the prosecutor assigned to the case against the men that killed Butler's family. During the trial process Foxx tells Butler that the best case scenario is to try to plea bargain, giving the death penalty to one of criminals, and a lesser sentence to the other who has agreed to testify against him. Butler is vehemently against this as he wants to go to trial to ensure both criminals get the penalty they deserve. Jamie Foxx explains that if they go to trial there is a possibility they both walk but this way they both at least get punished. Butler is not happy with this but that's the way it ends up going. This gives us a decent premise to start off with, but the movie slowly falls apart after that.
Once the remaining criminal is released he is found disgustingly murdered in a warehouse a short while later. It is later determined that Butler's character murdered him and he is arrested. Following his arrest he begins to play mind games with Foxx about who will wind up dead next. From prison Butler's character is somehow still able to orchestrate the murders of other people involved wit the case on the outside.
This is where the movie just seems to fall off the believability scale. The ability of Butler's character to orchestrate all this just seems to far fetched. I am willing to suspend some disbelief for the sake of a movie but movies can take it too far and this one clearly did. It was entertaining but it was nothing more than a loose plot used to film a bunch of cool scenes with actors furrowing their brow and acting really intense. The movie was entertaining if you can put the flaws aside, and if that sounds like your cup of tea it is probably worth your time.