Movies Watched, September 2022

Still from “Bullet Train,” directed by David Leitch.

Back in 2014 I was as excited as anyone by the energy, invention and polish of “John Wick,” directed by former stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. It was an unexpectedly transformative action movie that went on to basically redefine, or at least reshape, how we think about the genre. Stahelski went on to direct, by himself, two “Wick” sequels, each sadly more tedious than the previous. Leitch largely repeated the same pattern: as a solo director he turned out “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” “Hobbs & Shaw” and, last summer, “Bullet Train,” which I saw in theaters back in September. All of them tested audiences’ tolerance for an unending procession of violent stunts, comic book gunplay, and poorly articulated revenge fantasies, and the overall trend has been one of diminishing returns.

To be fair, there’s some fun to be had with most of these (except maybe “Hobbs & Shaw”). In “Bullet Train” most of the pleasure comes from the game performances from Brad Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Johnson. But by the end I felt past the point of saturation for this kind of highly polished, minimally thoughtful action fare. The elaborately staged fight choreography, which was a revelation nine(!) years ago, now seems pro forma, and the convoluted script, which focuses more on hipster posing than any real narrative velocity, feels perfunctory at best. What I’m hungry for is the next “John Wick,” a new, left-field action movie that will show us a different way of thinking about the action genre, ideally with an emphasis on thinking as much as on action—and one that will be as surprising and energizing as Stahelski and Leitch’s work once used to be. Things to hope for in 2023.

Here are all sixteen movies I watched in September.

  1. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (2021) ★
    Noxiously unimaginative in virtually every way.
  2. Lightyear” (2022) ★★★
    Rewatched. Still seems not particularly necessary, but I liked its earnestness.
  3. Top Gun: Maverick” (2022) ★★★★
    Rewatched. A dream of death disguised as an action flick.
  4. The Servant” (1963) ★★★★
    Sordid, creepy, remarkably effective hothouse thriller.
  5. Batman: Under the Red Hood” (2010) ★★½
    Impressively not-too-dumb script.
  6. Bullet Train” (2022) ★★½
    Admittedly rather fun for a while, but probably about twenty minutes too long.
  7. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” (2021) ★★½
    Over-the-top bonkers Romanian morality play that’s really just a one-act show stretched out to feature length.
  8. On the Count of Three” (2021) ★★★
    A tidy little indie film made with heart and smarts, but maybe not quite with enough ambition.
  9. Police Academy” (1984) ½
    Vacillates wildly between slapstick farce, horny 80s comedy, bland actioner and limp morality play, with the only consistent throughline being its utter incompetence from start to finish—and its utter lack of laughs.
  10. Do Revenge” (2022) ★½
    Another frustratingly self-aware yet clueless Netflix original that no one will remember in thirty minutes.
  11. Heat” (1995) ★★★★½
    Rewatched. They’ll never make a heist film to top this one.
  12. The Knack… and How to Get It” (1965) ★★½
    Chuck Jones meets Jean-Luc Godard in 60s swinging London.
  13. Petite Maman” (2021) ★★★★
    A wildly simple premise executed with so little fanfare, and yet it’s both mind blowing and heartbreaking in a wholly unique way.
  14. Blue Collar” (1978) ★★★★
    Doesn’t even try to hide its plainly political agenda, but hangs onto its humanity throughout. Richard Pryor is amazing in a straight role.
  15. Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Understated, highly economical, searing noir that feels like it almost stumbles onto its own story. Superb.
  16. Suede: The Insatiable Ones” (2018) ★★★

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched in August, in July in June, in May, in April, in March, in February, in January, in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016. Also, you can always keep up with what I’m watching by following me on Letterboxd—where I’m also writing tons of capsule reviews.