Early into “Sicario,” director Denis Villeneuve’s grisly thriller about the American government’s response to Mexican drug cartels, a convoy of black SUVs cross the U.S.-Mexico border into the city of Juárez. It is unclear at first, to the audience and to FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who’s been recruited by another agency for seemingly extrajudicial operations, whether this one is a rescue mission or a kidnapping. What is certain, though, is the sense of dread. The sequence, paying special attention to the synchronized movements of the vehicles, evokes a funeral procession, and soon the bodies begin piling up. All that is missing is the hearse.
Some movies, good and bad, conveniently provide the vocabulary with which to criticize them. When reviewing a bad one, like the action-comedy “American Ultra,” a small amount of generosity is required because my job has been made a little easier. So while I didn’t hate the film, about a hapless stoner who turns out, to his surprise, to have once been a lethal government operative, I found it to be half-baked. Despite a few potent hits of the good stuff — solid performances, a tender romance — what “Ultra” offers is mostly synthetic. My advice: pass this blunt.
Each of the main characters in “Straight Outta Compton,” a ferocious new biopic about the beginning and the end of the seminal rap group N.W.A, is introduced, needlessly, with his real name and stage name superimposed on the frame. These people required no introduction. For as long as I can remember, they’ve been household names: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, MC Ren (Okay, maybe not him so much). Yet the conceit is still appropriate, and kind of awesome. Self-affirmation has long been a trope of hip-hop (“I’m Slim Shady, yes I’m the real Shady”), a reactionary genre of music born out of black people being denied personhood by oppressors. That was certainly the case for the 1988 hip-hop album after which this movie is named. Like that album, this film directed by F. Gary Gray is a booming, thunderous celebration of free speech and creative identity.
So it was the set photographer, Lenny Osterman, who killed Caspere! He had popped up only once earlier this season, and was revealed in the finale to be one of the orphans whose parents were killed in the 1992 diamond heist for which Caspere was partly responsible. I greeted this news in the same perfunctory way that Ray and Ani solved the case: cool. This season of “True Detective” never really was about its plot.
Detractors of this season of “True Detective,” those who’ve claimed it’s too slow, too self-serious, too obsessed with its own uninteresting characters — their bad dialogue, their daddy issues — should find much to love in episode seven, a tightly-plotted, murderous and downright cinematic entry in an otherwise stagnant show.