A Week In Film #434: Zombied out

Vigilante Force title screenVigilante Force

Batshit mid-seventies grind house type fare, with director George Armitage (later of Grosse Pointe Blank fame) liberally borrowing elements from Westerns, Seven Samurai, thirties gangster movies and blaxploitation cinema for this barely concealed Vietnam War allegory.

A Californian boom town’s elders, faced with boisterous oil workers smashing up their community, hire a local bad boy (Kris Kristofferson) and his buddies (all Nam vets, should the allegory be too subtle for you) as police auxiliaries to shake things up. It isn’t long before they are causing more mayhem than they are stopping; a Good Brother (Jan-Michael Vincent) must then step up and make things right again.

Bernadette Peters is great as a kooky bar room singer, Paul Gleason (from The Breakfast Club) has an early turn as a sleazy hood, and Brad Dexter is wheeled out as the town’s push-over mayor, and possibly to MAKE EVERYONE REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Sheer lunacy.

A Week In Film #433: State terror

[Bloody Sunday title screen]
Bloody Sunday
Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam recreation of the 1972 Derry civil rights march and subsequent massacre of unarmed civilians at the hands of the Paras. James Nesbitt at his jittery best as march organiser Ivan Cooper, with the likes of Tim Piggott-Smith and Nicholas Farrell as serpentine upper crust British officers, and noted mercenary Simon Mann as the Paras’ battleground commander. Interesting contrast with Jimmy McGovern’s own, more ground-level oriented take on events, Sunday.

[Bombshell title screen]
Bombshell
Thoroughly pedestrian attempt to dramatise the sinking of the Greenpeace vessel the Rainbow Warrior in a New Zealand harbour by French intelligence agents. Narratively confusing as director Riccardo Pellizzeri can’t decide whether to stick with the activists, the state terrorists, their bureaucratic overseers, or the Kiwi cops investigating it all.

[(T)ERROR title screen]
(T)ERROR
Terrifying documentary by Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe looking at Saeed ‘Shariff’ Torres, an ageing former Black Panther with more than a hint of the Walter Mitty about him, who claims to be something of a freelance undercover agent for the FBI. In time we come to realise that he is indeed a paid informer on a long leash, as the documentary’s second subject, Muslim convert Khalifah al Akili, is scooped up by the Fed’s shortly before he is scheduled to appear at a press conference decrying Torres’ bumbling attempts at getting him to confess to non-existent terrorist plots.

The scariest thing of all? Torres is not alone – he is one of an estimated fifteen thousand such provocateurs and snitches.

A Week In Film #431: Minor

[London Boulevard title screen]
London Boulevard
Low key, noirish character-based crime drama/thriller, based on a book I haven’t read by an author I hadn’t heard of.

Colin Farrell is exemplary in the lead as a recently released con drawn back into a life he wanted to leave, Anna Friel his loopy sister, Keira Knightley the movie star he builds a doomed relationship with. Directed with conviction and style by William Monahan, who scripted the similarly hazy The Departed. Strong hints of Mike Hodges’ work – Get Carter, Croupier and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.

Nice if underwritten turns from Stephen Graham, David Thewlis and Ben Chaplin, with Ray Winstone as an horrific gang boss.

[Interview With A Serial Killer title screen]
Interview With A Serial Killer
Straight forward talking head type documentary by Christopher Martin with multiple murderer Arthur Shawcross, who died not long after.

A Week In Film #429: Mainly deadness

[The Thin Blue Line title screen]
The Thin Blue Line
Groundbreaking is probably too strong a word, but this film by Errol Morris certainly helped shape the form and direction of documentaries that came after it – here he presents a compelling (if sometimes arguably disingenuous) case that a man convicted of a cop killing was railroaded.

[The NSU-Complex title screen]
The NSU-Complex
Persuasive documentary dealing with the German neo-nazi movement from which sprang the National Socialist Underground, from Stefan Must (of RAF fame) and Dirk Laabs. Lots of material, particularly on the relationship between security agencies (at both Bundes- and Land- level) and the far right violent activists whom they were supposed to be monitoring, which silly has not been covered much in the English language media.

[Hail, Caesar! title screen]
Hail, Caesar!
Lesser Coen Bros business, with Clooney mugging up as a thirties movie heartthrob kidnapped by secret Hollywood Reds. Considerably less fun than it seems to think.

[Sarajevo title screen]
Sarajevo
Stodgy but compelling historical drama about the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, seen from the perspective of a dogged outsider investigator, Cabrinovic (Mateusz Dopieralski) – a Jew amongst gentiles, with a habit of looking too closely at matters his superiors would wish him forget. Interesting nods towards the Second World War, Kennedy, and the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq from director Andreas Prochaska and writer Martin Ambrosch. The Dr Sattler (Heino Ferch) strand is, however, a little too well semaphored, and melodramatic to boot.

[Aces High title screen]
Aces High
Jack Gold’s mid-seventies curiosity stages JC Sherriff’s Great War-set trench tragedy Journey’s End in the skies above the Western Front; Malcolm McDowell is our battle weary unit commander ever more reliant on the bottle, Simon Ward his combat fatigued junior, Christopher Plummer the kindly father figure, Peter Firth the wide eyed ingenue.

[Network title screen]
Network
Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s satire on the direction of news entertainment – mad as hell, etc. NEWSFLASH: things got even worse. Great performances from William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty, Arthur Burghardt and all.

A Week In Film #428: SRSLY

The Last Man On The Moon title screenThe Last Man On The Moon
Nice little documentary about astronaut Eugene Cernan, the ‘last man to walk on the moon’ during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Well assembled by filmmaker Mark Craig.

London Has Fallen title screen
London Has Fallen
Astonishingly overblown gung ho franchise nonsense, relocated from the Washington D.C. of the original Olympus Has Fallen to the British capital. Presidential bodyguard Gerard Butler is now a full-blown sadistic fascist bully boy, his Commander-in-Chief Aaron Eckhart reduced to little more than a fleshy package to be delivered. The odd moderately interesting action sequence, but mostly a leaden melange of iffy digital effects and unimaginative staging, directed by the bloke who helmed the first Snabba Cash sequel, written by four people with the sorts of names that should you receive an email from them you’d immediately consign it to the spam folder.