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St Vincent

Year: 2014
Production Co: Chernin Entertainment
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Leiberher

Recently Denzel Washington graced our movie screens with The Equalizer, teaching us two things. One, he can do the accomplished-former-killer-who-got-out-of-the-game-but-is-all-but-invincible-when-circumstances-drag-him-back-in standing on his head. Second, it might be time to try something else before it starts to feel a little old.

There's an element of that here. The archetype of a gruff, grumpy protagonist (often elderly) whose heart is gradually melted and who finds a kind of family to belong to thanks to a woman/child/animal is one we've seen a dozen times, and many actors over 60 worth their salt have played it to perfection.

And because the character of Vincent is a dry and sardonic wit, it doesn't seem like anyone else but Bill Murray could have played the role, making it somewhat of an easy ride for the star just like The Equalizer was for Denzel Washington. Just like Denzel, Murray can play this grizzled, funny, unhappy grouch without batting and eyelid.

When movers knock a tree branch loose and send it crashing down on his fence and convertible, Vincent wastes no time on insulting and threatening to sue Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), the single mother moving in next door.

Despite their only contact from then on being prickly and hostile, Maggie is desperate for a babysitter for her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), so when Vincent offers his services – for money – she reluctantly agrees.

In the classic cinematic trope of the younger and older man changing each other's live and opening up new horizons, Vincent gradually finds a friend in Oliver in taking him to strip clubs to pick up his erstwhile girlfriend, a Russian hooker named Daka (Naomi Watts), the race track and everywhere else a kid who isn't even a teenager shouldn't be.

Oliver likewise finds the kind of upbringing a respectable adult would never give him but which he desperately needs. For one thing, he finally learns to defend himself when Vincent teaches him how to fight back against bullies.

The film follows a predictable arc as the proverbial hits the fan and the places Vincent's been taking Oliver emerge and everyone argues and stops talking to each other. From there you're just waiting for the bittersweet, possibly teary reunion.

Murray is the rock in the middle of an ocean, every other performer crashing up against him while he sits, deadpan and immobile, at the centre of both the narrative and the movie. It's not a great or original story, but with a great cast and Murray tailor made for this kind of script, it's fun to watch the familiar play out.

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