For a re­view of “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon,”

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With a scant in­tro­duc­tion, direc­tor Peter Berg air­lifts the au­di­ence into the chaotic mi­cro-cul­ture of off­shore oil drilling in “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon.”

Our hero, Mike Wil­liams (Mark Wahlberg), barely has time to kiss his wife (Kate Hud­son) and kid (Stella Allen) be­fore we’re awash in the jar­gon and josh­ing of rough­necks, engi­neers and BP com­pany men jostling for the bot­tom line.

Berg’s cam­era jogs be­hind the Hori­zon crew on the job: Mike, the elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian, rig boss Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell) and bridge of­fi­cer An­drea Fley­tas (Gina Ro­driguez). Among the ver­bal melee one phrase is ini­tially re­peated over and over un­til it rises out of the am­bi­ent chat­ter and we re­al­ize just how im­por­tant it is: “ce­ment test,” or the lack thereof. The ce­ment is what pro­tects the oil rig from the pres­sure of the oil and gas drilled out of the well be­low it, and over-bud­get and over-sched­ule, the higher ups de­cided to take their chances with the ce­ment and save a few cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand.

There’s an­other phrase, re­peated by Mike: “Hope ain’t a tac­tic.” In fact, hope fails the crew at ev­ery turn. Hope fails af­ter an in­con­clu­sive neg­a­tive pres­sure test on the drill line; hope fails when mud starts flow­ing up out of the well; and hope is blown to smithereens when ev­ery safety pro­to­col and backup sys­tem fails due to hu­man or me­chan­i­cal er­ror and the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon ex­plodes into a seaborne tow­er­ing in­ferno.

The story of the dis­as­ter is based on a New York Times ar­ti­cle by David Barstow, David Rodhe and Stephanie Saul, and has been mas­saged into Hol­ly­wood-style hero­ics by screen­writ­ers Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand.

While the ar­ti­cle in­di­cates no clear vil­lain other than mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and lack of lead­er­ship and prepa­ra­tion, “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon” gives us pure vil­lainy in the form of com­pany man Don­ald Vidrine. He’s played with a chop-lick­ing, sneer­ing sense of evil by John Malkovich, who spews Bayou-ac­cented charm and threats in equal mea­sure; urg­ing and per­suad­ing the crew to do things his way, the cheap and easy way.

Berg and the writers plunge you into this world with­out much ex­pla­na­tion and many mo­ments feel like a crash course in the pol­i­tics and lo­gis­tics of off­shore oil drilling. But there’s care taken to fore­shadow the im­por­tant mo­ments that are an­chors through­out the story. A Coke can demon­stra­tion for a school project ex­plains the drilling process in the sim­plest of terms; a com­pany man is asked to re­move his ma­genta tie for good luck be­cause ma­genta alerts are the worst on the rig.

The ten­sion never lets up, thanks to the rum­bling, quak­ing well on the sea floor that groans and bub­bles and whooshes omi­nously, in­ter­ject­ing fre­quently. That un­der­sea grum­ble erupts into a hor­rific, roar­ing spec­ta­cle of fire, and Berg cleanly cap­tures that ter­ri­ble chaos and de­struc­tion.

Thanks to ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive char­ac­ter mo­ments — a nick­name, a greet­ing, a tease — we know ev­ery­one is in the dark, smoky rub­ble, slicked with mud and oil, and the hu­man losses are keenly felt, even more so when the film pays trib­ute to the 11 men who died on the rig at the end of the film. “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon” cap­tures this in­com­pre­hen­si­ble dis­as­ter, point­ing a fin­ger at those re­spon­si­ble, but with­out elid­ing the hor­rific ran­dom­ness of it all.

“Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon,” a Sum­mit En­ter­tain­ment re­lease, is rated PG-13 for pro­longed in­tense dis­as­ter se­quences and re­lated dis­turb­ing im­ages, and brief strong lan­guage. Run­ning time: 107 min­utes.


There’s a cer­tain sub­set of the pop­u­la­tion that may find Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis in a ridicu­lous hairdo the height of comedy. If you are in that seg­ment, welcome, join us. You’ll find much mer­ri­ment in the lightweight and very silly comedy “Master­minds,” which is as­ton­ish­ingly based on the true story of one of the largest cash rob­beries in the United States. Also, Gal­i­fi­anakis sports a va­ri­ety of in­sane wigs and ’dos, from a long blonde num­ber, to a kinky black perm, to his own Prince Valiant bob, styled for the heav­ens.

“Master­minds” is a small, very strange film, and def­i­nitely doesn’t en­ter the up­per ech­e­lons of direc­tor Jared Hess’ oeu­vre, which in­cludes the wacky comedy clas­sics “Napoleon Dy­na­mite” and “Na­cho Li­bre,” or even the best work of its stars. Nev­er­the­less, the mar­riage of the in­sane 1997 true crime story and the mur­derer’s row of comic per­form­ers re­sults in co­pi­ous laugh­ter.

Gal­i­fi­anakis plays aw­shucks naif David Ghantt, an em­ployee of ar­mored truck com­pany Loomis Fargo, trapped in a love­less en­gage­ment with Jandice (an un­blink­ing Kate McKin­non), car­ry­ing a torch for his co­worker, sassy Kelly (Kris­ten Wiig). Kelly and her petty thief buddy Stephen (Owen Wil­son) hatch a plan to rob the com­pany vault, and en­snare lovelorn David into their plot as their in­side man.

De­spite a com­plete lack of skill or common sense, David pulls off the rob­bery, although soon he’s stranded on the lam in Mex­ico, while Stephen and his fam­ily are liv­ing high on the hog back in North Carolina, freely spend­ing the mil­lions David stole for them.

Hess’ ap­proach is to give his comedic per­form­ers the time, space and per­mis­sion to push the boundaries of their own bizarre ten­den­cies. From Jack Black’s riffs in “Na­cho Li­bre” to the dead­pan ad libs of Je­maine Cle­ment in “Don Verdean,” Hess cre­ates spa­ces for comic weird­ness to per­co­late, and it’s the per­fect show­case for a co­me­dian like Gal­i­fi­anakis, who can il­licit belly laughs from a well-de­ployed glance or in­to­na­tion from one of his very specif­i­cally ren­dered char­ac­ters.

“Master­minds” of­fers plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for hilarious mo­ments from the in­cred­i­bly funny cast, which also in­cludes two other “Satur­day Night Live” per­form­ers, Leslie Jones and Ja­son Sudeikis. It’s a cast where one can just turn the cam­eras on and watch the mad­ness un­fold — whether it’s Wiig croon­ing a word­less love bal­lad into a walkie-talkie, an in­spired take on an en­gage­ment photo shoot fea­tur­ing David and Jandice, or sim­ply Gal­i­fi­anakis on roller blades.

But there’s some­thing about the slower, dry, Hes­sian tone work­ing in con­cert with this high-oc­tane heist story that doesn’t quite jibe. Per­haps it’s that this is the first film that Hess has di­rected that he hasn’t writ­ten (the script is by Chris Bow­man, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey), but it’s as if there are too many char­ac­ters, too many plot twists, too many ac­tion-based, broad story mo­ments, which ul­ti­mately curb the op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­ally let these weirdos loose.

The film de­volves into a schlocky ’90s un­likely-herosaves-the-day rou­tine, and fails to delve into deeper themes about crimes and pun­ish­ment and pas­sion. There’s also the un­shak­able feel­ing that at times, cast and film­mak­ers might be laugh­ing at their small-town sub­jects rather than with them. Yet “Master­minds” still has its ri­otously funny mo­ments, thanks to the fearless, un­in­hib­ited ac­tors and a direc­tor who lets them play.

“Master­minds,” a Rel­a­tiv­ity Me­dia re­lease, is rated PG-13 for crude and sex­ual hu­mor, some lan­guage and vi­o­lence. Run­ning time: 94 min­utes.


Ja­son Sudekis and Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis star in the film “Master­minds.”

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