Apatow’s ‘Engagement’; Norwegian Thriller; Murder: Movies

Alison Brie and Chris Pratt in "The Five-Year Engagement." The film is directed by Nicholas Stoller. Photographer: Glen Wilson/Universal via Bloomberg

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) love living in San Francisco, where he’s an up-and-coming chef at an important restaurant.

But when she wins a fellowship to the University of Michigan -- she’s an academic psychologist -- they put off their wedding and he tags along.

Violet flourishes. Tom can’t find the kind of work that suits his talent, and goes slowly off the rails.

“The Five-Year Engagement” has the gross-outs -- a sliced finger, a severed toe -- that you’d expect of a Judd Apatow movie, though only a few. (It was made by Apatow Productions; Nicholas Stoller directed; and Segel and Stoller wrote the screenplay.)

Some of it is fall-down funny. Sometimes the laughter sticks in your throat.

A man who subordinates his ambitions to his wife’s is already a tricky subject, but the bleakness under the surface of this picture feels even more urgent.

A lot of people may recognize Tom’s bored, hollow look -- his whiskers grow like weeds, and his eyes sink into in their sockets -- as the frustration of a man who’s been out of work for too long.

Deli Job

He isn’t truly unemployed (he gets a job at a deli), and so the movie isn’t technically about the downturn. You can sense it, though, in the comic desperation of the losers Tom and Violet meet in Michigan.

After the filmmakers have gone down this road, there’s nothing they can do but make a frantic U-turn.

The climax is a sappy, over-the-top crowd pleaser. But I don’t think anyone would want the movie to go deeper. That’s not what they came for; it may be what they came to get away from.

The jokes snap like mousetraps. The cast -- which includes Chris Pratt as Tom’s moronic best friend, Alex, and Alison Brie as Alex’s unlikely wife -- is irresistible.

Even though Tom and Violet live together, “The Five-Year Engagement” views marriage as momentous. At the preview screening I attended, audience members were happily shouting “Marry her! Marry her!” at Tom. I wonder how many of them were still feeling that gleeful when they got home.

“The Five-Year Engagement,” from Universal, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *** (Seligman)


“Safe” is a decent-enough throwback action thriller that yearns for the bad old days when Gotham needed a Shaft.

Jason Statham mumbles and kick-boxes his way through the city’s mean streets as Luke Wright, a down-and-out ex-cop (and one-time cage fighter) haunted by the gangland murder of his wife.

Coming to the rescue of an 11-year-old Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) running from thugs on a Brooklyn subway, Wright lands smack in the middle of a three-way battle between Chinese gangsters, the Russian mob and dirty New York cops.

Writer-director Boaz Yakin is clearly smitten with the city of “Super Fly,” and “Safe” -- as oddly quaint as it is violent -- is his love letter.

Grindhouse nostalgia can’t rescue his convoluted script, though. The plot is so full of double-crosses and backstories that Yakin summons a character -- a crooked mayor, no less -- late in the film to explain what’s going on.

Nice touch, though, that the mayor is played by Chris Sarandon, bringing fond memories -- and a knowing character twist -- from “Dog Day Afternoon.”

“Safe,” from Lionsgate, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Evans)


Corporate recruiters and high-stakes art thieves make deadly bedfellows in “Headhunters,” a terrific, ice-cold thriller from Norway.

Leaner -- and a lot more fun -- than any version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Headhunters” is delightful Scandinavian mayhem.

Directed by Morten Tyldum (and based on crime novelist Jo Nesbo’s bestseller), the film stars open-faced actor Aksel Hennie as Roger Brown, an Oslo headhunter who moonlights as an art thief to keep his upscale lifestyle afloat and gorgeous wife happy.

When Brown learns that one of his recruitment targets is also the secret owner of a long-missing Rubens masterpiece, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot.

But Brown’s easy mark proves anything but: The suave, handsome target (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) is a trained terrorist-hunter and bloodthirsty sociopath.

The cat-and-mouse scheming escalates well after the artwork becomes an afterthought. Adultery, corporate takeovers, even Brown’s short-man insecurities drive “Headhunters” to nerve-wracking extremes.

“Headhunters,” from Magnolia Pictures, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *** (Evans)

What the Stars Mean:

**** Excellent
*** Good
** Average
* Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are their own.)

Today’s Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on Broadway and New York Weekend.

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