Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Week In Film #307: Law & order

Robocop (1987) title screen
Paul Verhoeven’s Judge Dredd-inspired satire on corporate capitalism, shaped around a tale of a dystopian near future Detroit where a fatally wounded police officer is rebuilt into a cyborg law enforcer. Great stuff, with Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Miguel Ferrer, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Dr Romano from E.R. (Paul McCrane).

Inside Man title screen
Inside Man
It might only have been a work-for-hire gig, but this genre heist movie is one of my favourites of Spike Lee. Clive Owen and crew taken down a Manhattan bank in broad daylight, but then seem to vanish into thin air. Then it’s time for detectives Denzel Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor to figure what the hell happened, what bank boss Christopher Plummer has to hide, and how razor smiled political fixer Jodie Foster has to do with it all. That scripture Russell Gewirtz’s only other big screen work was the De Niro/Pacino stinker Righteous Kill does not bode well for this not having been a fluke, though.

Lawless: Dead Evidence title screen
Lawless: Dead Evidence
The final Lawless adventure (a series sadly cut short by lead actor Kevin Smith’s untimely death in 2002) has our hero hired by the wife of an American (C Thomas Howell) in gaol for a series of gruesome murders to exonerate him. This time Gavin Strawhan’s story is brought to life by Charlie Haskell (Power Rangers, Xena, Hercules).

The General (1998) title screen
The General (1998)
John Boorman’s black-and-white take on the life of Dublin crime Martin Cahill. Very enjoyable, sometimes nuanced, occasionally sentimental, attempt at lionising a thief, with Brendan Gleeson perfectly cast in the lead, Adrian Dunbar as his trusted lieutenant, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Angeline Ball as his wives, and Jon Voight the gard on his trail.

A Week In Film #306: Autumnal

Wolfen title screen
Michael Wadleigh (who did the Woodstock documentary) directs his first and only narrative feature, based on the Whitley Streiber novel, and it’s a corker. Set in the near-bankrupt New York of the 70s/80s, it’s about vicious murders in which the victims are horribly mutilated. Albert Finney stars as an iconoclastic cop, and Diane Venora is the criminal psychologist assisting him in his hunt for the killers.

Great performances from Edward James Olmos as an American Indian militant, Tom Noonan as a zoologist, Gregory Hines as the coroner, and Dick O’Neill as the angry police boss, plus innovative special effects, and with a spectacularly shot south Bronx – all decaying and derelict and burnt out lots, a defining moment in the borough’s history captured on film perhaps definitively – and Battery Park too, all make for an undervalued genre thriller.

Lawless (1999) title screen
Tidy little New Zealand TV movie with Kevin Smith playing an undercover cop who is hounded out of his job by untrustworthy elements, and ends up setting up his own detective agency. By no means groundbreaking, but a fine set up for a series, especially given how likeable Smith makes the rather dickish John Lawless. Angela Marie Dotchin is excellent as the under appreciated police desk jockey who hungers for something more challenging and ends up taking the plunge with Lawless. Directed by Chris Martin-Jones, written by Gavin Strawhan.

Lawless: Beyond Justice title screen
Lawless: Beyond Justice
Kevin Smith and Angela Marie Dotchin return for another adventure as a pair of ex-cops trying to make ends meet at their shoestring detective agency – but things start to look up when the wife of a man who dies after a rooftop fall comes to them for help. Geoffrey Cawthorn directs from a script developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Long.

A Week In Film #305: Fresh meat

Cold In July title screen
Cold In July
Exceptionally strong drama from Jim Mickle, working from a source novel by Joe R Lansdale, with Michael C Hall as an ordinary man who finds himself out of his depth after protecting his family from a burglar. Sam Shepard and Don Johnson round off a musky main cast.

Out Of The Furnace title screen
Out Of The Furnace
Steel worker Christian Bale and his soldier brother Casey Affleck must deal with the travails of modern life in a Pennsylvanian backwater when pressures from local fixer Willem Dafoe and out-of-town gangster Woody Harrelson – not to mention the cop (Forest Whitaker) now dating Bale’s ex (Zoe Saldana). At its heart, a melodrama – but Scott Cooper directs everything with energy and draws edginess out of his cast well.

Wrong Cops title screen
Wrong Cops
Very odd, disjointed, episodic but compelling weirdness about a bunch of idiot cops doing idiotic and odd things. Quentin Dupieux directs a bunch of people including Jon Lajoie, Éric Judor and Marilyn Manson.

All The President’s Men title screen
All The President’s Men
Did I mention dioptric lenses?

A Week In Film #303: Old/new

Only God Forgives title screen
Only God Forgives
Frankly, a disappointment made worse because all the reviews warned of all the things I came out thinking after watching it. Director Nicolas Winding Refn manages to retread Drive’s emotional blankness (right down to getting the exact same performance out of Ryan Gosling) but without adding much, certainly not any relief from the bleakness.

That said, it looks beautiful, and Vithaya Pansringarm as Thai cop Lieutenant Chang is all kinds of amazing. The closing scene is marvellous, and the structure and narrative arc are pleasingly outside the normal Hollywood/Western mainstream cinema frame of reference.

The ODESSA File title screen

Turgid adaptation of Freddie Forsyth’s not exactly thrill-a-minute Nazi-hunting bestseller by journeyman helmer Ronald Neame (previous project: The Poseidon Adventure; next project: Meteor), with Jon Voight in the lead as the West German journalist who accidentally happens upon a secret post-war Nazi rat run that zzzzzz… Basically, a bit boring.