In-House Reviews: The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Copshop, Blue Bayou, and More!

Aaron Neuwirth has new reviews for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Copshop, Blue Bayou, The Card Counter, and Mogul Mowgli.

This week has a new Clint Eastwood film, Cry Macho, arriving as the highest-profile release. However, there are a couple of film festival biggies and more arriving on screens and streaming as well. This set of write-ups includes a televangelist biopic, an action-comedy, an immigrant drama, Paul Schrader’s latest introspective drama, and a dramatic look at a musician facing unexpected challenges. The following features reviews for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Copshop, Blue Bayou, The Card Counter, and Mogul Mowgli.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye: 5 out of 10

The Setup: A look at the rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park and were revered for their message of love, acceptance, and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, idiosyncratic singing, and eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

Review: The two main takeaways I have from watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye are what I more or less expected. Yes, as a showcase for a lead performance, Chastain is excellent in her empathetic portrayal of Tammy Faye. Whether or not it needs awards heaped upon it, the work is there to do more than just rely on the elaborate makeup to do the heavy lifting. Similarly, Garfield is terrific, too, pulling off the subtle mannerisms necessary to balance being, essentially, a con artist, as well as a closeted individual (based on what the film is saying, as I have no real connection or knowledge of either of these people).

Naturally, the other thought is that I’d probably have gotten much more out of 2000’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye documentary, which this film is heavily based on. It’s not that director Michael Showalter doesn’t put in the effort. I like how, given the eccentricity of Tammy Faye and her husband, the film otherwise holds back on stylistic choices, aside from the various fonts used to signal what year the film has moved to. The problem is the material still feels fairly surface level as far as exploring these people and their choices.

I can appreciate a film not wanting to hand out the messages and exact motivations. Still, it does feel like after they had a look down for Chastain, the film had nowhere else to go as far as digging into what is driving her. On Chastain’s part, I can certainly see what has drawn her into this portrayal, as Tammy Faye was deeply religious, part of a controversial televangelist scheme, as well as a notable public figure that embraced the LGBTQ community in a time of need (the HIV/AIDS crisis). That’s someone who could be interesting to explore and provide some level of depth to. If only the film had more to say.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters starting September 17, 2021.

Copshop: 7 out of 10

The Setup: On the run from a lethal assassin, a wily con artist (Frank Grillo) devises a scheme to hide out inside a small-town police station. However, when the hitman (Gerard Butler) turns up at the precinct, an unsuspecting rookie cop (Alexis Louder) finds herself caught in the crosshairs.

Review: I really appreciated what director Joe Carnahan wanted to do with Copshop. I’m a fan of the director in general, as he seems like a much glossier Walter Hill in many ways. Simple stories produced with a lot of flare and tough guy (or tough women) performances. Copshop is no different. It would fit right alongside Smoking Aces (and Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, for that matter). The core of this film is about how much posturing some seedy people can do before letting the guns do the talking. Good thing it’s a lot of fun.

Taking pages out of Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13, the film is set mainly in one location. It lets a lot of 70s grit seep into the atmosphere. Is this the perfect environment for another big Gerard Butler performance? You bet it is. Does Frank Grillo’s sleazy anti-hero nature get exploited? Oh yeah, this is the film for that. Both do great work with what they are given, but the film has an ace up its sleeves. That would be Alexis Louder, who delivers what would be considered a breakout performance if this was a higher profile feature. Going toe-to-toe with both of these guys is no easy task, but the script and Louder’s performance make this work well as a trifecta.

With that in mind, no one should shortchange the wonderful Toby Huss. He enters the film a bit later as another assassin, with all kinds of comedic bits to give this already fun film another shot in the arm. With no shortage of entertaining banter or multi-layered action, Copshop is an enjoyable throwback that knows how to lean into its own self-awareness without ever coming off as too cute for its own good. This is a fun flick.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters starting September 17, 2021.

Blue Bayou: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon), a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, is married to the love of his life Kathy (Alicia Vikander), and step-dad to their beloved daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of his past when discovering he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home.

Review: There’s little doubt this film won’t get held back for being what it is – a tear-jerker. Granted, even I know this to be true, and I still mostly like this latest effort from Justin Chon. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from on this. When you hear enough stories about how people raised for nearly all their lives in America are being deported for reasons they had no real chance of correcting to begin with (and these factors can then be linked to high suicide numbers for specific groups), it makes sense to construct a film like this in a certain way.

To its credit, this is a very well-acted movie. Chon and Vikander (both very much not from Louisiana) are great in this film. They breathe life into these characters, with Chon’s Antonio not feeling like a cliché and Vikander’s Kathy not just feeling like “the wife.” There’s a lot of naturalism to go around, with great use of location hammering home the mood of this film while looking stunning in the process. The only performance threatening to upend this whole thing is Emory Cohen as an awful cop, but that’s more the writing than anything.

As a counter, the film also offers up an unusual plotline involving another character, Parker (Linh Dan Pham), who strikes up a platonic relationship with Antonio, because she simply sees something in him worth relating to. Were the film to find a better focus in this area and ideas related more to the inevitability of the system, rather than more familiar dramatic beats, Blue Bayou could have approached being one of the best dramas of the year. As it stands, the film doesn’t quite know how to build its third act and can’t seem to settle on a proper ending.

Where To Watch: Available in theaters starting September 17, 2021.

The Card Counter: 7 out of 10

The Setup: An ex-military interrogator-turned-gambler (Oscar Isaac) is haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions and uses his card-playing skills as a way to divert his attention. However, the presence of a possible love interest (Tiffany Haddish) and a young kid (Tye Sheridan) looking for revenge may upset his process.

Review: The most significant flaw in Paul Schrader’s minimalist and quietly haunting The Card Counter is that the film is arriving after First Reformed, one of the best efforts of his career. The Card Counter, by comparison, is a bit of a comedown. Given the filmmaker, there’s nothing inherently bad here as far as what I saw. It’s an uncompromising picture in terms of the story being told. It chooses what to dig into and what ultimately results from the actions taken by these characters. Yes, that also spells a film that can be a significant turn-off for many. Still, for those who enjoy a patient film with subtle yet riveting performances, it’s all here.

Isaac is as great as he ever is here, and with the film seldom leaving his side, there’s little doubt that he’s never not in control of what he’s choosing to convey. As William Tell, a loaded name he gave himself, there are so many different emotions buried under the quiet cool he presents to everyone on the outside. The fact that Haddish and Sheridan seem somewhat alien next to him feels totally appropriate and not at all a detriment to their talent as performers. We are watching a story about a man who wants to privately punish himself, only to be very slowly drawn out of his shell. It makes sense to have awkward chemistry with others, but I still see chemistry nonetheless.

Is there much else driving this film? Sure. It’s a movie about a gambler who goes on a poker circuit, so expect some competition. That said, Schrader isn’t out to give you thriller hands competing against each other. The whole experience is driven by a man’s desire to find something to either live for or occupy his time as he uses a routine to establish a modest living to keep him active as he ponders. That said, Willem Dafoe (and his terrible mustache) enters the film briefly to give the movie another kind of out. It goes a long way to assure us that William Tell is a challenging soul.

Where To Watch: Now playing in theaters.

Mogul Mowgli: 8 out of 10

The Setup: The story of a British Pakistani rapper (Riz Ahmed) who, on the cusp of his first world tour, is struck down by an illness that forces him to face his past, his family, and the uncertainty of his legacy.

Review: First his hearing, and now this? Kidding aside, while Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli share some similarities, if the common denominator is Riz Ahmed being an incredibly talented performer who is great in both films, that should not really be a concern. As Ahmed was a co-writer on this film, it actually speaks more to his own experiences to some degree, particularly when seeing how Zed (Ahmed) relates to his family. While the dramatic thrust of the narrative revolves around a health issue, the film was just as interesting by placing this man back in his home.

Of course, there is plenty of drama in this film related to what Zed ends up going through. It’s quite interesting to see how director/co-writer Bassam Tariq chooses to incorporate Zed’s skills as an MC. Utilizing his active mind, we see this illness’s effect on a man who is bursting with thoughts that could potentially propel him to a higher level as a rapper. Shot in the Academy ratio and on film to convey a particular style, there’s a decidedly 70s/80s feel about Mogul Mowgli to perhaps reflect Zed’s memories of his younger days. With that approach, the film has a lived-in feel, only adding to the quality of the performances in this feature.

As a movie very much concerned with identity, it’s important to see that level of effort go into making Zed feel like a part of a family who all have stories. That goes a long way in making this an emotional film, whether breaking it down to be the story of a man suffering from a health scare or one about what it means to really know where you came from. The results are strong because Ahmed is in total control, continuing to show what a terrific presence he brings to film.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

***

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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