Soulless retread of the ‘contest of killers’ trope, by ambitious debutante director Scott Mann, who somehow roped together a cast including Robert Carlyle, Ving Rhames, Liam Cunningham and Sébastien Foucan.
Every seven years a cabal of rich dudes organise a last man standing competition for professional killers. This time round the action is in, err, Middlesbrough – though it was largely filmed in Bulgaria. This means we get to see familiar provincial English sights such as massive rail yards in the city centre, titty bars and truck stops, and commuter buses on the motorway.
A nice idea but just not very proficiently executed, with long stretches where a bunch of contestants we’ve not seen before, don’t know about and care less are killed in quick succession by the odds-on favourites, like Kelly Hu and Ian Somerhalder (who was excellent as the differently sociopathic Paul Denton in Rules Of Attraction). Carlyle’s whisky priest was a strand that could have been much better embroidered into the fabric of the story; as it is, nothing much comes together. Cunningham’s American accent is awful.
Next Day Air
Silly stoner/gangbanger flick, with a lazy delivery man (Donald Faison) causing grief for Mexican drugs kingpin Emilio Rivera and Puerto Rican small fry Cisco Reyes and Yasmin Deliz, but a golden opportunity for knuckle headed stand over men Wood Harris and Mike Epps, with more successful yayo-mongers Omari Hardwick and Darius McCrary also getting in on the action.
By turns flashy and pedestrian direction from video man Benny Boom is not enough to raise a cliched script out of the crowd, though the performances are enjoyable enough.
Nick Of Time
Not great but functional real-time conspiracy thriller with Johnny Depp the father blackmailed into assassinating a politician by psycho killer Christopher Walken and his associate Roma Maffia.
Fairly perfunctory stuff, though director John Badham throws in some nice flourishes to break up the monotony of a film in a single location, an upscale LA hotel. Charles S Dutton has a memorable turn as a reluctant shoe shiner dragged into the affair, whilst GD Spradlin swims in similar waters as his crooked senator from The Godfather Part II as a shady lobbyist. Would make an interesting double bill with the similar Vantage Point.
Modest little picture about a glum young New York Hasidic Jew, Sam (Jesse Eisenberg), who feels increasingly alienated, and ends up in a novel drug smuggling operation. Justin Bartha as Yosef, the wayward older brother of his friend Leon, is compelling. Kevin Asch directs everything to satisfaction, and doesn’t undermine things with a Hollywood happy ending.
Texas Killing Fields
Dark, depressing, downbeat, unpleasant, yet excellent crime thriller, with Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan two cops looking for a killer of young women in the bayous of Texas’ Gulf coast. Ami Canaan Mann directs without sentimentality. Jessica Chastain as a cop from a neighbouring county gives strong support. Chloë Grace Moretz is astonishingly good as a vulnerable young girl with deep reserves of inner strength.