When a Latin professor, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), sees a young Portuguese woman in a red coat about to throw herself from a bridge, he is compelled to save her. She wrestles her way out of the coat and runs off into the rain, leaving the bemused and mystified professor pondering what it all means. When he discovers a small book in the pocket of her coat, he begins to embark on an odyssey to find her, yet very soon he becomes more interested in the novel's author, Amadeu do Prado (Jack Huston). After discovering tickets for a train to Lisbon stuffed inside the book, Gregorius hastily boards the train himself, throwing caution to the wind, along with his normal, boring life.
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This Norwegian revenge thriller may move at a steady, meandering pace, but it has such a sharp sense of pitch-black Scandinavian humour that it's never dull. As events spiral wildly out of control, the vivid characters are thoroughly entertaining in their misguided attempts at vengeance. And the snow-covered rural community offers an offbeat setting that's refreshingly bright and sunny rather than the usual gloomy grit.
At the centre of the story, Nils (Stellan Skarsgard) is a soft-spoken snowplow driver who keeps the country roads in Norway clear and quietly endures abuse over the fact that he's Swedish. When his grown son is found dead, he refuses to believe it was a drug overdose. Abandoned by his grieving wife, he launches his own investigation, following the trail and quietly killing each thug up the chain as he tracks down the swaggering hothead mob boss who calls himself The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen). Along the way, he gets help from his ex-gangster brother (Peter Andersson), inadvertently re-igniting the war between The Count and rival Serbian mobster Papa (Bruno Ganz), whose own son has been caught in the crossfire. And the body count grows exponentially.
The title refers to on-screen captions that offer a brief moment of respect for each person who dies along the way, which intriguingly puts every act of violence in perspective. This is mainly because the film's central theme is fathers and sons. The Count may be a racist/sexist monster who despises his trophy ex-wife (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), but he also has an eerily warm bond with his own son. And as these three fathers - Nils, The Count and Papa - circle each other, this paternal theme adds some unexpected resonance to the comical nastiness. All three actors are terrific, combining tenacity and emotion with riotously incorrect actions and attitudes. But of course it's the superb Skarsgard we are rooting for.
Continue reading: In Order of Disappearance Review
After receiving the news that his son has tragically died from a heroine overdoes, citizen of the year and snow plow driver, Nils (Stellan Skarsgard) sets out to disprove the official report. He steadily uncovers evidence of a turf war between sinister crime boss "The Count" and his rivals from Serbia. It is a turf war which claimed the life of his son, and therefore becomes his problem. Armed with all the tricks of the snow plow trade and a sawn-off hunting rifle, Nils wages his own, bitter war on the criminal underworld, racking up an impressive body count through shear beginner's luck.
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Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer living a simple but idyllic life with his beautiful wife, children and their quaint home. He buys some carefully selected horses to take home from a nearby town but on the way he is stopped by a greedy local baron who removes several of his horses apparently unlawfully. When Kohlhaas protests his rights, he discovers that his beloved wife has been ruthlessly killed and so he decides, with his whole world crashing down around him, to embark on a fearless voyage of vengeance. While attempting to gather an army to destroy the monsters who ruined his life, he is confronted by his own religious beliefs which tell him he must forgive his enemies. However, is seems Kohlhaas is willing to face the fiery depths of hell for what those enemies have taken from him.
This film proves that all the right ingredients don't necessarily make a movie work. Even with top-drawer filmmakers and actors, this dramatic thriller simply never grabs our interest. It looks great, and everyone is giving it their all, but the story and characters remain so badly undefined that we can't identify with either.
The story's set on the US-Mexico border, where a slick lawyer (Fassbender) known as "the Counsellor" has slightly too much going on in his life. He has just proposed to his dream woman Laura (Cruz), while he's planning to open a nightclub with Reiner (Bardem). For extra cash, he's organising a massive cocaine shipment with Westray (Pitt). And it's this drug deal that goes wrong, creating a mess that engulfs Reiner and Laura, as well as Reiner's shrewd girlfriend Malkina (Diaz). As his life collapses around him, the Counsellor scrambles to salvage what he can, even as he realises that it'll be a miracle if anyone survives.
There are problems at every level of this production. McCarthy's first original script is simply too literary, putting verbose dialog into the actors mouths that never sounds like people talking to each other. Fassbender and Bardem are good enough to get away with this, but Pitt and Diaz struggle. Both Fassbender and Cruz bring out some wrenching emotions in their scenes, but their characters are never much more than cardboard cutouts. In fact, no one in this story feels like a fully fleshed-out person. And the little we know about each character makes most of them fairly unlikeable.
Continue reading: The Counselor Review
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