Monday, 4 January 2010
CHARLIE VALENTINE (2009)
Written & Directed by: Jesse Johnson
Starring: Raymond J. Barry, Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Steven Bauer & Tom Berenger
Good looking but hard hitting gangster flick from Jesse Johnson, Charlie Valentine is a slick, no-nonsense action drama that gives great character actor Raymond J. Barry a meaty lead role where he really shines as the main man. Charlie Valentine also shows Jesse Johnson is becoming a director to watch, as after some hugely enjoyable and full on action flicks (Pit Fighter, The Last Sentinel, Alien Agent) he’s trying new avenues making Charlie Valentine an excellent blend of drama, character and brutal action.
Charlie Valentine (Barry) is a man that has seen and done it all. A relatively big mover in the gangster world, he has lived life to his own rules and done things his own way, taking down anyone that gets in his way. Well into his sixties, he may be a little slower but has no intentions of giving up the life he loves so much (easy money, fine women, taking orders from no one). So much so that he has planned to rip off another local crime boss, Rocco (Russo), with the help of his equally long in the tooth but still hard as nails crew. But as is the nature of not knowing when to stop and knowing when your time is up, things go spectacularly wrong, leaving his crew dead and Valentine on the run. Deciding to get out of town and into hiding, Charlie holes up with his estranged son, Danny (Weatherly), who has also fallen on the wrong side of the law and is trying to now just get by. But with his father back in his life, Danny wants to learn the ropes of being a gangster and have Charlie teach him everything he knows. So as the two begin to form a shaky and unlikely, but ultimately caring, bond, Danny learns what it truly is to become a gangster. Yet, Charlie can’t keep running forever, no matter how much he wants to, as Rocco and his boys come a calling and Valentine realizes it may not be as easy to run away as it used to be.
A one time big shot gangster attempting to find redemption, all the while trying to run away from his violent past (and present in this case) may not be the most original of concepts for a gangster action film but is given some riveting rejuvenation in Charlie Valentine from Johnson’s solid direction and an outstanding performance from Raymond J. Barry. No doubt Charlie Valentine isn’t a nice man but Barry makes him an engaging character despite his flaws. The dialogue and approach may be distinctly hardboiled and pulpy but its part of the charm and doesn’t hinder the viewer from becoming intrigued in the life, character and motivation of Charlie Valentine. Weatherly and Barry share good chemistry and while their strand of the story perhaps goes on just a bit long, the Rocco looking for Valentine strand taking somewhat of a backseat, it’s refreshing to have some character to go along with all the ballistic action. Plus, Johnson refrains from too much posing or over styling of gangster clichés, his tough guy characters having a requisite amount of personality to make them more than just stereotypical movie bad guys.
Yet, a good gangster movie also has to have its fair share of gun blazing action and Charlie Valentine certainly has that. Well paced and delivered with a fair amount of buckshot blast and squib-tastic force, the action scenes hit hard and don’t shy away from showing violent death from a gun shot. Valentine is no super hero gunfighter, just handy with a pistol or a shotgun and the final showdown is particularly explosive. Jesse Johnson knows a thing or two about staging action (having helmed the previously mentioned flicks and been a stunt performer on various big budget Hollywood action flicks: Mission Impossible 3, War of the Worlds) and much like his main character, keeps things old school with the violent action which is never over-the-top or flashy but definitely bloody.
A top notch piece of gangster action with a fine performance from Raymond J. Barry, Charlie Valentine is a great showcase for the director, the star and some pumped up action. Plus, with a supporting cast that includes action pros Steven Bauer, Keith David, Vernon Wells, Jerry Trimble, James Russo, Matthias Hues, Dominique Vandenberg and Tom Berenger, Charlie Valentine lives up to its pedigree and dishes out the action stone cold.