There’s an old chestnut about a famous actress of a certain age being asked how she likes her men. “The same way I like my coffee: straight,” she replies. Well, for those who prefer their men the same way they like their tea, British, then this is the weekend to hightail it to the multiplex.
Three out of four of the major films opening today (Friday) – Machine Gun Preacher, Killer Elite and Abduction – prominently feature stars who hail from the U.K. Only Moneyball, which boasts Brad Pitt and is about professional baseball, is Britless in its top billed cast.
Here’s a cheat sheet on what to expect from each of the three flicks:
• Scotsman Gerard Butler, he of the impressive physique and macho swagger, makes a bid to be considered a serious dramatic actor in Machine Gun Preacher. The movie, based on a true story, tells how an American ex-con named Sam Childers (Butler) finds religion and decides to build a school in Africa. Once there, he becomes involved in the conflict in Sudan, letting loose with gunfire to keep youngsters from being kidnapped and turned into child soldiers.
For Butler, who showed his sensitive side early on in Dear Frankie (2004) but became a star by flaunting his brawn in 300 (2006), Preacher offers the chance to do both. In the movie, he suffers and tears up, but he also gets to showcase his impressive guns (the muscular kind) while wearing sleeveless vests and firing an automatic weapon. It’s a challenging role and, while competition among male actors is always strong, Butler is being ballyhooed for consideration at awards time.
• British Olympic diver turned action star Jason Statham is the top name in Killer Elite, an international spy thriller, while the always-smoldering Clive Owen plays a supporting role. Both actors portray skilled assassins battling it out in a murky plot involving a covert group of British powerbrokers, who order up clandestine military operations around the world to protect British interests. The powerbrokers are called the Feather Men, which is also the name of the novel by the adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on which the movie was based. Fiennes claims he patterned the book on real life events.
While Killer Elite is a disappointingly routine action thriller, Statham and Owen, as always, prove easy on the eyes.
• Robert Pattinson’s on-screen rival, Taylor Lautner, gets a solo turn to roar on screen – without becoming a wolf. In his first major leading role, Lautner stars in Abduction, playing a young man who discovers he was kidnapped as a child and attempts to find out who was behind the plot. I haven’t seen this one yet, but the early reviews on it are so bad they would seem to have been written by members of Team Edward.
The British angle to Abduction? Englishmen Jason Isaacs and Alfred Molina have supporting roles in the movie. Isaacs is cast as Lautner’s father and Molina as an operative who may or may not be a friend. Lily Collins (The Blind Side), the English-born, 22-year-old daughter of rocker Phil Collins, shows up to add pulchritude to the proceedings.
Which, if any, of these films do you plan to see?