Tuesday, 18 June 2024

‘Silent Night’ revenge thriller; ‘Bye Bye Barry’ on Amazon


“Silent Night” is a well-known Christmas hymn dating back to the early 19th century. The movie of the same title might be considered a Christmas film in the same vein as “Die Hard,” only it is even more violent.

Legendary director John Woo, known for his operatic style of action sequences and rarefied imagery, made his mark on schematized action thrillers with his Hong Kong hits “A Better Tomorrow,” “Hard Boiled,” and “The Killer.”

Imagining John Woo directing a “John Wick” film is not a giant leap, considering his style would seem to have influenced that franchise, and with this film one of the production companies, Thunder Road, is best known for producing the franchise that Keanu Reeves made so thoroughly entertaining.

The holiday season informs the film mainly because on the night before Christmas, a traditional suburban American family is preparing to spend a pleasant day together, unaware of a brewing tension between two rival gangs that will change their lives in a horrifying and desolate manner.

As Brian (Joel Kinnaman) and Saya (Catalina Sandino Moreno) Godlock enjoy playing in the front yard with their young son, local gangs are racing down the street firing automatic weapons at each other, never mindful that a stray bullet would harm someone uninvolved with a turf war.

Struck by a stray bullet, the young boy is collateral damage in a city seemingly rife with out-of-control crime sprees. The child does not survive and the mourning takes an irreversibly harmful toll on the parents.

With the notable exception of empathetic Detective Dennis Vassel (Scott Mescudi), Brian finds the flawed policing system seemingly indifferent to bringing deserved justice for the premature death of a boy. Not surprisingly, Brian vows to take revenge.

The main villain is gang leader Playa (Harold Torres), whose tattooed face and bald head make him look as vicious as any MS-13 gang member that terrorizes rivals and innocent civilians alike.

While Brian immediately hunts down and locates a handful of the culprits, his confrontation with Playa leaves him severely wounded and on the brink of death. Yet, his will for revenge becomes unstoppable.

Spurred to violent action, Brian’s desire to avenge the death of his son recalls what the fathers in “Death Wish” and “Taken” endured to overcome their pain to punish the criminals.

A good deal of the film is focused on Brian’s training regimen, given that he’s just a regular guy until he hones lethal skills. While there is brevity in the dialogue, violent retribution does all the talking and that is enough for action fans of a brutal revenge story.


One thing certain in this year’s season of pro football is that the Carolina Panthers have been eliminated for a spot in the National Football League playoffs.

Usually, the Detroit Lions are also-rans, as they have not won a 1991 season playoff game since they won the division game by beating the Dallas Cowboys in a lopsided victory.

One of the star Lions players at the time was running back Barry Sanders who played for ten seasons with the team and is now the subject of Amazon Prime’s documentary “Bye Bye Barry.”

This feature-length documentary reveals in intimate detail the unprecedented journey of the running back who led the league in rushing yards during four seasons. One of the giants of the sport, Sanders displayed a style and flair that has arguably never been replicated.

His record-breaking career at both Oklahoma State, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1988, and with the Detroit Lions created a standard that will be celebrated forever, and maybe not emulated by others with much success.

Ten years into his Hall of Fame career, it was only a matter of time before he broke Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton’s record for most rushing yards. Sanders gained 15,269 rushing yards, the most ever by any NFL player in a 10-year span.

But in his prime, at the peak of his game, Sanders did the unthinkable. At age 31, in the summer of 1999, he walked away from the game, never to return. Few retirements have ever been so shocking. And none with more intrigue.

Twenty-four years after the surprising decision to depart from the sport, NFL Film joined the 55-year-old Sanders and his four sons on a trip to England to explore his career, revisit his upbringing, and tackle one of the greatest mysteries in sports history. Why did he retire when he did?

The documentary reveals the controversy over Sanders’ retirement, which came abruptly with a faxed statement and a departure for London right before the start of training camp. It would not have been his style to hold a press conference.

Football fans should enjoy “Bye Bye Barry” for the great footage of his amazing speed and agility on the field, and the interviews with teammates, his family and cameos of celebrity fans like Tim Allen and Jeff Daniels, among others.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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06.19.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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06.22.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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06.22.2024 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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Farmers' Market at Library Park
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