Margot Robbie vs. Steven Seagal 

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The Oscars are over and it's time to start talking about Margot Robbie.

Keen movie fans already know Ms. Robbie as the sizzling Australian actress who stole scenes from Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street and Will Smith in Focus. And as pointed out earlier this week, "the moment she showed up in The Big Short was the moment you fell in love with the movie."

Margot Robbie has screen presence, and she's probably going to explode into superstardom this summer as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, the comic-geek highlight of the upcoming year. Even with Jared Leto playing the Joker, early word is Robbie steals the film.

This week, however, she's opposite Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a fish-out-of-water comedy-drama set during the war in Afghanistan; it's opening Friday at the Whistler Village 8. Fey stars as a kinda-sorta-based-on-real-life reporter who takes a job as a war correspondent in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s because she's single, childless, and searching for more in life. Think Eat Pray Love meets Three Kings, but instead of Ice Cube and Clooney it's Fey and Margot Robbie, who plays a sort of mentor role to Fey's all-American innocence.

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Focus), Whiskey Foxtrot Tango is neither a solid comedy or a telling drama, but Fey's charisma holds it together with more than a little help from her supporting cast of war correspondents, who've spent so long in the "Kha-bubble" the conflict has become something of a party.

Despite solid performances, the script is a bit jarbled and the overall effect is still a bit underwhelming. While there is some commentary to be found about an empowered American woman navigating a repressive society while also dealing with her own sense of being trapped in a mid-life crisis, there aren't really enough standout "WTF" moments considering that's the title of the film. (Except maybe that the role of Fey's Afghan guide went to white actor Christopher Abbot. He's great in the role but after the whitewashed Oscars last weekend, it certainly stands out as a prime example of exactly what everyone was talking about.)

Also opening, London Has Fallen is the sequel to it-made-money-so-of-course-there's-a-sequel Olympus Has Fallen. Aaron Eckhart is back as the president of the U.S. with his trusty Secret Service bodyguard Gerard Butler, and this time the duo is off to London, where all the world's leaders are gathering for the funeral of the British prime minister. With all the eggs in one basket you can guess what happens next.

London Has Fallen is about survival amidst chaos and tough guys being tough. If you don't expect more than that you'll probably be OK, plus it has Morgan Freeman talking a lot of politics and "not negotiating with terrorists" and that never gets old. But, as with too many action movies these days, the big-explosion digital effects look cheap and there isn't enough boots-on-the-ground ass-kicking to keep the action exciting. Sometimes a compound fracture has more effect than a destroyed bridge, and while Butler does an OK job, what this movie really needs is some old-school Steven Seagal.

Younger readers may not remember but from 1988 to 1995 a weirdly intense ponytailed aikido shitkicker named Steven Seagal made seven pretty solid flicks, with titles like Marked for Death, Under Siege, Hard to Kill, Out for Justice and Above the Law. The main draw was the creative and wince-inducing ways Segal would dispatch of the bad guys. You'd never seen a guy break someone's arm backwards at the elbow with the grace of Seagal. That style of hands-on, physical filmmaking is what a lot of these jump-cut, handheld computer explosion movies are missing nowadays.

The general consensus is that 1992's Under Siege is Seagal's best film. It's essentially Die Hard on a boat but it does co-star Gary Busey, Tommy Lee Jones and Baywatch babe Erika Eleniak jumping out of a birthday cake topless. For my money though, 1990's Marked For Death is darker, better, and all-time Seagal. It's about a retired DEA dude coming home to Chicago, only to find it infested with ruthless gangsters called the Jamaican Posse.

Amid all kinds of mean streets ass-kickery, Seagal ends up down in Kingston Town battling the notoriously badass gang leader Screwface, whose power comes from his two heads and four eyes. There's a nice twist at the ending too but mostly this one is just good, clean bone-crunching actioner fun where the hits hurt and the impacts resonate much more than most CGI crap of today.



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