top of page
  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Richard Jewell', 'Playing With Fire' | Clint Eastwood's Drama, John Cena

Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser in an office, John Cena and Finley Rose Slater covered in foam
Richard Jewell (L), Playing With Fire (R)


With Richard Jewell, director Clint Eastwood is still making very eastwood-ian films in his late eighties. Telling a story about the wrongly accused hero, Jewell, it’s pretty straightforward and classic filmmaking condensed to two hours. The movie is carried by many great performances from both well-knowns and less-knowns even if there are some dead ends along the way.

Leading the pack, so to speak, is Paul Walter Hauser in the titular role who was a massive surprise to me in his role. He wonderfully portrays Richard’s naive aspirations of protecting and serving in the beginning all the way to the scenes where the character’s beliefs are questioned. In those scenes Hauser devours the role to himself with his shifting body language and tearful stares of disbelief. He and Kathy Bates (Bobi, Richard’s mom) are a perfect match on the screen as their back-and-forth play is a delight to watch. Bates especially gets to shine in one certain scene in which she is the only one doing the talking for the first time. Sam Rockwell (Watson, Richard’s lawyer and friend) though is the scene stealer here as every time he waltzes to the room, he gives a show-stopping performance.

The film in disappointing fashion doesn’t completely comply with its own teaching as it drops the ball with Olivia Wilde’s character, Kathy Scruggs. She is apparently based on a real person and the name hasn’t been changed here, therefore the way that the screenplay handles her comes off unnecessary. Scruggs’ personality has been turned into a fairytale which is in bad taste since she isn’t around to speak for herself (Scruggs died in 2001) and with Jewell, the story stays fairly truthful. This leads to those scenes to be deserving of being trash on the cutting room floor. That time would’ve been better used to look at the law enforcement’s struggles as the script seemingly only gives it just one scene and never touches it again.

Smileys: Sam Rockwell, Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates

Frowneys: Characterisation, tone

Without the exceptional cast this could’ve been real tough to get through.


Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser in an office
Warner Bros. Pictures


”Play with fire and you’ll get burned” is what I felt was an appropriate way of describing the feeling after finishing director Andy Fickman's Playing With Fire. The sort-of-a-family comedy starring recognizable names like John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key and Judy Greer is perhaps the most mark-missing feature of the year. It’s choppy, incomprehensible and lacking from all sides as it never uses the chance to teach kids (or the parents) anything, instead time is wasted on the worst possible slapstick comedy.

Man, it’s disheartening that the first scene is firefighters doing their job and while there are obviously over-the-top, sexy postures coming left and right, there still was a jumping point for a movie somewhere. In that scene, Cena’s character Jake rescues three kids from a house so therefore we have a family drama on our hands. Cena uses all his charm to better the film as much as he can even surrounded by a dumpster fire. Just imagine if the script by Dan Ewen and Matt Lieberman or Fickman's direction had taken the profession of firefighters seriously and had gone on to teach the kids about bravery, responsibility and commitment to save lives even when the heat is on. Too bad that the plot turns them into idiots and cowards. At the very least they could’ve shown some actual heroism and firefighting after the first scene considering the title.

The soundtrack is all filler and no killer as it offers nothing more than a chance for a goofy dance which lasts 20 insufferable seconds. It’s hard to catch anything interesting on the screen as the editing lacks smoothness and things just bounce around in each cut that makes you wonder if there are any takes longer than five seconds. The script’s humour treats everyone like a moron, opting only for poop and falling down jokes and even those aren’t built up to (and those are the easiest kind of jokes to build up to). Greer plays Amy who is a doctor of something to do with environment(?) and as you can tell from that this apparently smart woman is reduced to a one-dimensional plot device that offers zero depth, with no characteristics of her own.

The whole movie is void of any entertainment value, usefulness to kids or parents and technical uniquity. Romantic and family developments are rushed and make no sense considering the time we spend with the people.

Smileys: John Cena understood the assignment

Frowneys: Screenplay, editing, soundtrack, directing, humour

These kinds of scripts should be shredded at the lobby so they never get to the producers or studio heads.


Keegan-Michael Key flinching, John Cena and Finley Rose Slater covered in foam
Paramount Pictures

After Misery's logo with the text ''all things film & television'' underneath it.
bottom of page