Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Week In Film #284: Downers

Blue City title screen
Blue City
Man returns to Florida hometown after many years away, and hunts killer of his police boss dad. Corruption is uncovered.

Thoroughly disappointing confluence of Ross Macdonald noir novel with a post-Bratpack Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson. Certainly not the wisecracking thriller it wants to be, and that’s before you realise David Caruso is in it. Bizarre, given that it’s co-written by beefy action specialist Walter Hill, and Lukas Heller, who previously gave us The Dirty Dozen, Too Late The Hero, The Flight Of The Phoenix, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? and The Killing Of Sister George, and is directed by former John Hughes collaborator Michelle Manning.

True Colors title screen
True Colors
Now this is a far stronger post-Bratpack offering: like a darker, more brooding Class, minus its The Graduate plot theft. Here we have WASPy blue blood James Spader and John Cusack as the blue collar kid hungry for a better life becoming best buddies at college and then moving into careers as a Department of Justice investigator and a Congressional staffer.

Compelling drama from Herbert Ross, perhaps better known as a director of comedies, with a strong look well-lit by Dante Spinotti, and muscular performances from the likes of Richard Widmark, Mandy Patinkin and Paul Guilfoyle. Imogen Stubbs is effectively a character transplanted from a Greek tragedy, but still plays it sympathetically.

The Mean Season title screen
The Mean Season
Burned out crime reporter Kurt Russell is trying to leave Miami but is held back to cover one last story – a serial killer who will only communicate through him. Moderately diverting thriller from Philip Borsos, with cast that includes Mariel Hemingway, Andy García, Joe Pantoliano, Richard Masur and Richard Jordan.

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A Week In Film #283: Like a pro

[Le Serpent title screen]
Le Serpent
Get this: a French thriller based on a novel by Ted Lewis, whose ‘Jack’s Return Home’ was the basis for Get Carter. Here we have a poncey fashion photographer (Yvan Attal) finding his marriage on the rocks and now being fitted up by a mysterious man from his past (Clovis Cornillac). Cue 80s yuppie revenge-type fightback.

Up to that point it is all quite Gallicly slow-burning – but then it’s foot on the gas and away we speed to Sillyland.

A Show Of Force title screen
A Show Of Force
In the vein of Missing or Under Siege, here we have an American TV reporter (Amy Irving) investigating the apparent foiling of a terrorist attack in Puerto Rica – only to discover dark forces at work.

Strong cast – including Robert Duvall, Erik Estrada(!), Lou Diamond Phillips, Andy García and a rather scary early appearance from Kevin Spacey – and interesting true life material (the Cerro Maravilla Massacre of 1978) is rather let down by perfunctory direction (Bruno Barreto) and indifferent script (Evan Jones and John Strong). And by trying to have a Scooby Doo-style resolution at the end. Shame.

A Week In Film #282: Driving missus crazy

Blood title screen
Blood
Strong (but by no means perfect) British crime thriller, with Paul Bettaney and Stephen Graham two very different brothers working as detectives in the shadow of their now ailing father (Brian Cox). Apparently a remake of a TV serial, both of which were written by Bill Gallagher, with Nick Murphy directing this feature version.

The closest I can pitch this to is the original Insomnia – in terms of tone, mood, poise, pitch and plot.

Hummingbird title screen
Hummingbird
Another decent Stath picture, and again has a very 70s Burt Reynolds or Lee Marvin kind of a feel to it. Here he is a messed up ex-soldier, alcoholic, AWOL and homeless on the streets of London, who happens upon a chance to become someone else and possibly dig himself out of his hole – though only by doing some very unpleasant things. And along the way, a chance for redemption.

It’s not Great Art, but it is a solid directing debut for scriptwriter Steven Knight.

Alpha Dog title screen
Alpha Dog
Much more engaging than I thought it would be – some unlikeable young middle class Californian drug dealers kidnap and plot to kill the kid brother of someone who owes them money. A proper sense of foreboding, and commendable committed performances from Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Justin Timberlake, Emile Hirsch, Anton Yelchin and others. Kudos, Nick Cassavetes.

Haywire title screen
Haywire
Snappy actioner from Steven Soderbergh tailored to fit former stuntwoman Gina Carano in the lead as a former Special Forces operative now in the private sector and being stitched up. Bill Paxton as her dad, Michael Fassbender as an MI6 officer, Channing Tatum as an ex-colleague, Ewan McGregor her old boss, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Mathieu Kassovitz…