Posts Tagged ‘John Leguizamo’

The Kings of Miami

Critical Thinking

Director: John Leguizamo

Cast: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Corwin C. Tuggles, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Angel Bismark Curiel, Jeffry Batista, Will Hochman

Colombian born actor John Leguizamo has made a name for himself as a character actor in many American films including Regarding Henry and playing Toulouse Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic Moulin Rouge in 2001. American bred, Leguizamo has followed many of his fellow actors into the director’s chair.

In his second directorial attempt, Leguizamo acts and directs in the true story Critical Thinking about a group of impoverished Miami high school boys who manage to win the American National Chess Championships.

Critical Thinking had a positive debut at the following international film festivals in 2020: South by SouthWest, Deauville and Taormina before being released in cinemas.

Critical Thinking’s cinematic release is well timed in the wake of the hugely successful Golden Globe winning Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and while the film is nowhere near as glamourous it is worth watching. Both this film and The Queen’s Gambit has placed chess back into the cinematic spotlight.

Set mainly in Miami, Gainesville and Fort Myers, Critical Thinking focuses on a group of high school boys: Sedrick Roundtree played by Corwin C. Tuggles; Oelemy Paniagua played by Jorge Lenderberg Jr (Spiderman: Homecoming); Rodelay Medina played by Angel Bismarck Curiel; Marcel Martinez played by Jeffry Batista and Gil Luna played by Will Hochman (Let Him Go) who encouraged by their passionate chess coach Mr Martinez played by John Leguizamo become committed to the game of chess, a game of strategy and manoeuvre with the aim of outwitting your opponent.

In this case all the opponents in these boy’s cases are drugs, violence and poverty. Mr Martinez is keen for these boys to rise above becoming a statistic on the streets of Miami and turns them into becoming chess championships and proving that high school kids from impoverished backgrounds can also achieve distinctions and become the figurative Kings of Miami.

With a screenplay by Dito Montiel (Man Down, The Son of No One), Critical Thinking is an independent film about social development and encouragement focusing on a group of high school boys who could have slipped effortlessly into a life of crime, but overcame that temptation and become chess championships through the encouragement of a mentor and teacher who was passionate about teaching the youngsters some critical and strategic thinking.

Critical Thinking is an enjoyable film about chess, social improvement and taking responsibility, but unfortunately the sound editing is not very good.

As director John Leguizamo’s second attempt at directing it is not bad and there are some expansive exterior shots of Miami, a gritty and humid city in Florida, a far cry from the flashy Miami of the Bad Boys films.

If viewers enjoy low budget independent cinema, then Critical Thinking is worth seeing and gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10. Critical Thinking is showing in cinemas.

The Man, the Myth, the Mayhem

John Wick Chapter Two

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick

The image of the lone survivor battling against a gritty and unrepentant underworld pervades director Chad Stahelski’s operatic sequel to John Wick, simply titled John Wick Chapter Two set in New York and Rome.

Starring action front man Keanu Reeves as John Wick, the second film obviously has a bigger budget and definitely has revitalized Reeves’s career after his millennial peak in The Matrix Trilogy.

Keanu Reeves has a fascinating filmography first spotted as Glenn Close’s young lover in Stephen Frears’s sumptuous film Dangerous Liaisons and then as a King Henry VI type character in Gus van Sant’s landmark film My Own Private Idaho. Reeves then gained studio attention with the success of the action film Speed opposite Sandra Bullock. Keanu Reeves strengthened his position as bankable star in the Wachowski’s global post-apocalyptic phenomenon The Matrix Trilogy.

John Wick Chapter Two follows John Wick’s attempts to retire after he extricates his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 from a creepy Russian mob boss, a brief appearance by Peter Stormare. The film’s opening sequence features a violent car chase sequence in New York which forcefully grabs audience’s attention immediately and never let’s go.

The plot point of the film comes when John Wick is visited by an Italian mob boss Santino D’Antonio played with psychopathic relish by Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) who requests Wick, a professional assassin to kill his rival, Santino’s sister Gianna played by Claudia Gerini who has inadvertently inherited the title of becoming the head of an influential Italian crime family much to her brother’s horror. Gianna is protected by another loyal hitman Cassian lethally played by Common as she hosts a decadent party in Rome celebrating her new title.

As John Wick arrives in Rome, the film takes on a hyper-realized style and the consequent shootout in the catacombs below the Italian capital are brilliant in their execution and expedient its violent body count. The action in the Roman sequence is frenzied leaving audiences bloodthirsty like spectators at the Coliseum breathlessly wanting more spectacle.

The third act of the film swiftly moves back to New York where John Wick has to not only battle Santino but also seeks counsel from Winston, an enigmatic performance by Ian McShane, who is head of a covert league of assassins who are all governed by an intricate set of rules which is meant to keep killing down to a sort of stylized etiquette. No one is to be killed inside the Continental, an elegant establishment where assassins can check in and rest in between their lethal assignments. Perhaps even grab a cocktail together at the hotel bar.

With a welcome appearance by Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King who has a network of homeless people protecting him and assisting John Wick, the third act gets propelled into a vicious cycle of retribution.

John Wick Chapter Two delivers on all fronts, from complex fight sequences, to exotic and memorable locations including the elaborate final shootout at the Lincoln Centre amidst an exhibition entitled Reflections of the Soul, which director Stahelski is surely paying homage to the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Certainly the mayhem is overkill, yet the man and myth of John Wick Chapter Two lives up to expectations definitely pointing to another bloodthirsty sequel. This film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

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