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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sam Worthington

'The Debt': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

September 7, 2011 |  4:30 pm

  Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in The Debt, Betsy Sharkey's critic's pick film

Though “The Debt” has only just landed in theaters, director John Madden’s spine-tingling spy thriller is one of those intelligent dramas likely to be pushed aside all too quickly in the fall crush.

There are many reasons not to miss this bristling tale of Mossad agents then — Nazi hunting in post-World War II East Berlin — and now in Tel Aviv. The story is being sold on the back of Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who plays Rachel, a long-retired agent pulled back into the fray to finish the job that shaped her life.

But the performance to go for is Jessica Chastain, who plays Rachel in her earlier defining moments. She is riveting as a young woman bound by her cause, her values tested, her love torn between other young firebrands played by the excellent Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington. And Jesper Christensen is bone-chilling evil incarnate as the Nazi surgeon being tracked.

Meanwhile, Madden has woven in a series of tightly coiled action sequences that make “The Debt” as breathless and bloody as it is brainy.

— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington star as young Mossad agents on the hunt in East Berlin in the spy thriller "The Debt." Credit: Laurie Sparham/Focus Features.


'Cartel' director Asger Leth, off one ledge and on to another

July 26, 2010 |  3:42 pm

Leth 

EXCLUSIVE: Last spring it was hard not to feel for Asger Leth, the up-and-coming director who saw his big-studio debut “Cartel," an action thriller set amid informants and mafioso in the Mexican drug wars, killed, as it were, just five weeks before production. The drugs wars were still raging in Mexico, so it was, er, not the best time to make a movie about the people fighting those wars right in their backyard.

But Leth won't come away empty-handed. The Danish director has lined up a new gig, and it's almost as high-profile. He's set to come aboard “Man on a Ledge,” a thriller that Sam Worthington will make for Summit and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

“Ledge” has some parallels to “Cartel" -- it’s also an action thriller involving crime fighters -- but it’s a bit more of a two-hander (it centers on a female psychologist and a suicidal New York City cop). And more important, making it won’t run Leth or anyone else in the cast and crew into the personal-safety issues that a Mexican-shot movie about drug cartels would.

Leth caught Hollywood's attention about four years back with a documentary he made called “Ghosts of Cite Soleil," about poverty, crime and kingpins in the Haitian slums. Studios have been eager to see him bring the gritty sensibility to a commercial film for a while now, at points attaching him to direct the ancient-Greece action-romance "Olympia." With Summit looking to shoot "Ledge" as early as this winter, it's good to see him finally get the chance.

-- Steven Zeitchik
http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Ghosts of Cite Soleil." Credit: Sony BMG Pictures

RECENT AND RELATED:

Sam Worthington on 'Clash' and reshoots

'Ghosts of Cite Soleil' review



Hollywood girds for another Clash

June 10, 2010 |  5:46 pm

Clash
EXCLUSIVE: "Clash of the Titans 2" is seemingly turning into a bigger priority by the day.

Producers, along with executives at Warner Bros. and producer Legendary Pictures, have been busily meeting with directors, with an eye to shooting the sequel as early as January.

A number of filmmakers are in contention for the job, but one name that's risen to the top of the list is Jonathan Liebesman. Originally a horror director -- he made "Darkness Falls" and the 2006 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" prequel -- Liebesman has re-fashioned himself as an action director.  The filmmaker has a movie called "Battle: Los Angeles" -- about an alien invasion in this fair city -- coming next year. He's also onboard for another classic action tale (or an action tale set in a classic period) at Warner Bros: a re-imagining of "Odysseus" with the producers of "300," which Liebesman helped conceive and then sold to the studio.

The new director on "Clash 2" would of course replace Louis Leterrier, who opted not to direct the follow-up to his recent film.

Warners and Legendary have reason to move quickly on "Clash 2." The original (that is, the 2010 remake) pocketed a nice chunk of change -- $162 million domestically and a solid $325 million overseas, on a budget of only about $125 million. And this one will be shot in 3-D -- none of the conversion stuff. That means the movie could be more expensive, but at least it won't get hammered for its look.

Early 2011 is also a priority because the studio needs to make sure star Sam Worthington, who is committed to shoot "Avatar 2" (likely later in the year), is free and clear. Look for this one to continue to come together quickly.

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Sam Worthington in "Clash of the Titans." Credit: Warner Bros.



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