Much more involving than the usual hitman thriller, this film takes a deliberately personal approach to its characters that makes it unusually involving. Of course, since it's a film about mafia assassins, none of the characters are hugely likeable. But we're able to identify with them because the cast and crew help us see their souls. And of course, this kind of character brings out the best in Michael Shannon.
He plays Richie, who in the early 1960s has settled down with his new wife Deborah (Ryder) in New Jersey. She thinks his job involves dubbing Disney cartoons, but his projects are actually part of an illicit mob-run porn network. And when local boss Roy (Liotta) asks Richie to work as his henchman, Richie proves to be surprisingly adept at murder. This is mainly because he's so good at compartmentalising his life: keeping his family and work completely separate. But when things with Roy start turning sour, and Richie turns to a rival killer (Evans) for more work, Richie's two worlds begin to collide.
Based on a true story, the film is chilling in its matter-of-fact depiction of a family man who ruthlessly bumps off anyone who falls afoul of the mob. And as the clashes in Richie's life begin to escalate into something personal, the film cranks up the tension to unbearable levels. Shannon is mesmerising in the role, letting us see cracks in Richie's dispassionate surface as he's required to kill friends and colleagues (including Franco in a memorable cameo). So when his wife and daughters are threatened, he's like a tamed wild animal pushed into the corner. We know what he's capable of doing to protect them.
Continue reading: The Iceman Review
The film is adapted from Yoram Kaniuk's controversial 1968 novel, which was one of the first works of literature to deal in a serious manner with the repercussions of the Holocaust. The controversy is not that surprising, given that it's about a German Jewish performer, Adam Stein (Goldblum), interred at a concentration camp where he entertains other prisoners to keep them docile on their way to the extermination chamber, where his family is sent while he fiddles away; not much noble uplift or moral condemnation to be seen. Stein, a clownish old cabaret emcee whose dizzying intellect matches his taste for mayhem, later ends up a madman in a fanciful high-tech asylum for survivors in the Israeli desert where he plays court jester to the other inmates and indulgent therapists. He also likes reenacting some of the worst aspects of his treatment in the camps, whether on his dusky-eyed nurse-lover or the newest patient, a young boy raised to believe he's a dog.
Continue reading: Adam Resurrected Review
Ironically, mediocrity is exactly the thing Lieutenant Colonel Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) is trying to avoid as he makes his way to Israel with the Alexandria Ceremonial Orchestra, a small policemen's orchestra from Egypt. Khaled (Saleh Bakri), his violinist, can't stop asking girls if they've heard of Chet Baker, a nuisance which Tawfiq blames for his band getting on a bus to Bet Hatikva instead of Petah Tikva. The minute they step off the bus in Hatikva it becomes crushingly apparent that they are on the sunny side of nowhere. A local café owner, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), feeds the band and arranges for sleeping arrangements until the bus arrives the day after.
Continue reading: The Band's Visit Review
Tucker's Matthew embarks on a quest to scour the college dorm in which they met in order to track the mystery woman down. His M.O.: Posing as a maintenance man so he can sneak into the girls' rooms and try to match up a pair of panties she left behind in the elevator. And somehow this is meant to be charming.
Continue reading: 100 Girls Review
The story starts out with our mildly pathetic hero Sam (Chad Donella), who after a string of bad romances, finds his soulmate in the slap-happy Hope (Erinn Bartlett). But he loses her number, and when he finds her again she's inexplicably sad. So Sam goes on a quest to find out why, along the way falling in love with another girl, Annie (Jennifer Morrison, the chick from Urban Legends).
Continue reading: 100 Women Review
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The BBC drama starring Aidan Turner returns to BBC One on September 4th.
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