Unlike any actor working today, Paul Giamatti has developed his own type, and that’s not intended to be negative. It’s in the way that he takes the familiar (characters or even a slice out of your own life) and makes it brand new, that has put him in the top tier of working actors.
Plus he also has an eye for promising projects.
In “Win Win,” the latest film from Thomas McCarthy (“The Visitor”), Giamatti is Mike Flaherty, a struggling New Jersey lawyer who volunteers as the local high school wrestling coach, which as chance would have it, is also struggling.
Mike finds some easy money in scamming one of his aging clients, Leo (Burt Young), who is entering the early stages of dementia. He places Leo in an assisted-living home, claims guardianship and pockets $1,500 a month.
Things become complicated when Leo’s 16-year-old grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), enters the picture, having run away from his deadbeat mom looking to stay with his grandfather. Finding out that Leo is in a nursing home, Kyle takes up temporary residence with the Flahertys.
However, Kyle has a hidden talent: He’s a wrestling prodigy who can save Mike’s team.
Contrary to what you might think, “Win Win” is a comedy (sort of), even though the humor is often as gray its New Jersey setting, and usually coupled with high amounts of anxiety.
Kyle, who’s funny in that awkward indie sort of way, is the movie’s comedic backbone. As Mike bonds with Kyle, the film’s focus shifts from that quirkiness to Mike’s guilt over his con.
Like McCarthy’s “The Visitor,” “Win Win” accepts the challenge of blending joy with heartache, and succeeds without falling into a melodramatic trap. Considering it’s a movie about a sport and a family taking in a loner teen, audiences should be grateful that the story has been handled in such a manner.
As for Giamatti’s “type”? Watch how his face evolves as the material gets heavier. As similar as Mike may be to some of Giamatti’s previous characters, he also is wholly original.
“Blitz,” a British import starring Jason Statham, takes every cop cliche or plot-point imaginable and crams it into one 97-minute movie that is hardly cohesive.
Based on the novel by Ken Bruen (unread by me), Statham is the hard-boiled Detective Sgt. Tom Brant, a loose cannon who’s not afraid to bash some heads when necessary – or even when it’s not necessary. Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), is Brant’s more formal partner on the case of a cop killer (Aidan Gillen).
Around every turn there’s a one-liner or piece of dialogue borrowed from some of the best police movies of the 1980s. Even the film’s cop-killer story, characters and anticlimactic ending are so unoriginal that at times you think “Blitz” might actually be mocking the genre. Unfortunately, it’s not.
After Michael Mann’s “Heat” set the new standard in 1995, crime movies have been pushed to transcend the genre, moving away from those cliches that audiences had grown accustomed to. Filmmakers such as David Ayer or even Ben Affleck have done well upholding that tradition. Here, director Elliot Lester does not.
Lester, who’s most known for his work on music videos, has a flare for style that shows he hasn’t strayed far from those roots. He’s got the look, sure, but the screenplay is so wrought with recycled material that you have to wonder why he even chose this project.
To all Jason Statham fans: Go back and rewatch “Crank” or “The Expendables,” or get psyched for the Sept. 23 release of “Killer Elite.” But please, feel free to skip this one.
Visit my Facebook page.