Even if the premise is tired, this grim thriller holds the attention by focussing on the raw intensity of the characters' personal lives. It's also grisly enough to work as a bone-dry black comedy about a hapless guy who will do whatever it takes to protect his loved ones. But just a little more complexity in the story and characters would have helped a lot.
The film opens as nice guy Elliot (Mark Webber) is sacked from his New Orleans job at exactly the wrong time. Not only is he planning his wedding with his pregnant fiancee Shelby (Rutina Wesley), but he also helps support his retirement-age dad (Tom Bower) and mentally disabled brother (Graye). So when a stranger phones to offer him a place in a cash-bonanza game, he doesn't mind that the 13 tasks are increasingly deranged. It starts with killing a fly, but soon escalates to making a child cry, starting a fire in a church and desecrating a dead body. But if he wins, his worries will be over. Then he realises that he's not the only contestant.
Without a hint of subtlety in the script, we never have any questions about what is happening, what the moral implications are and where the story's going next. So there's no way to join in with Elliot's disorienting dilemma. Instead, there's nothing to do but sit back and watch. In another actor's hands, Elliot might have come across as an idiot who deserves whatever's coming, but Webber has a vulnerability that makes us care what happens, even as he does one stupid thing after another. His family seem eerily oblivious, but Ron Perlman adds some deadpan humour as a detective following Elliot's trail. And Pruitt Taylor Vince is on hand as his usual bug-eyed, shifty nerd who knows more than anyone else.
Continue reading: 13 Sins Review
Coarse and not exactly subtle, this dark drama might disappoint viewers expecting a more traditional revenge thriller, but there's something more interesting going on here. And even though it starts at full volume and only gets more intense, the film is actually remarkably thoughtful and measured in its approach.
It's set in the Rust Belt, industrial Pennsylvania, where Russell (Bale) works in a steel mill and worries about his little brother Rodney (Affleck), who's deep in debt to a local bookie (Dafoe). Then a late-night car crash lands Russell in prison, and when he's released everything has changed. He has no job, his girlfriend (Saldana) is now dating the local sheriff (Whitaker), and Rodney is paying off his debts by fighting in bare-knuckle boxing matches. Even more perilous is the fact that all of this puts the brothers on a collision course with vicious local redneck Harlan (Harrelson), who has no intention of making their lives easier.
The film opens with a particularly brutal display of Harlan's menace, so we know what's coming. And as everything goes from bad to worse for our two heroes, the film feels almost aggressively harsh. Of course, Bale and Affleck are terrific as these damaged men whose fierce bond both helps and puts them into danger. And both actors let us see beneath the surface as their lives fall apart. In what could be the thankless ex-girlfriend role, Saldana has some surprisingly powerful moments. And Harrelson is a deeply terrifying force to reckon with.
Continue reading: Out of the Furnace Review
One Direction may still be teenagers but they are worth a fortune, after less than two years in existence. One Direction shot to fame after appearing on the UK version of X Factor in 2010; the irony of their subsequent fortune, of course, is that they didn’t even win the contest: they came third behind Rebecca Ferguson and Matt Cardle. The revelations about the band’s fortune have come from Tom Bower’s new book about Simon Cowell, The Mirror have reported.
According to today’s report (September 20, 2012), the five young lads known as One Direction are now officially one of the UK’s most successful music groups ever. And it’s thought that the band have raked in around £200 million for Simon Cowell and Sony, on top of the vast sum of money that they have earned for themselves, too. It’s a pretty impressive story for a band that are barely out of their teens. Their eldest member, Louis Tomlinson is 21 and Harry Styles, the youngest member of the band, is still only 18. In his book, Bowen writes “One Direction were Cowell’s new Westlife – a revival of his mastery of the music business. Nothing had been left to chance by Sony Music, with the band’s hit album Up All Night selling over five million copies.”
In addition to sales of One Direction’s songs, Simon Cowell and his colleagues have managed to strike up some lucrative endorsements for the band. These include partnerships with Nokia, Hasbro toys and Pokemon games. Apparently, the boys like to splash their cash, now that they have plenty of it. Louis splashed out £2.5 million on a five bedroom pad in London and Harry’s got his own bachelor pad, as well as a number of pricey sports cars. Nice work if you can get it, eh lads?
Indeed, Winterbottom keeps Thompson's bleakness intact, leaving us little to engage with. But the film has an earth beauty and is a haunting look at the dark side of being human.
Lou Ford (Affleck) is a small-town deputy in 1950s West Texas, where he's still struggling with childhood demons and feelings of inadequacy. Even though he has an adoring girlfriend (Hudson), he starts a torrid fling with a prostitute (Alba) who lives on the edge of town. And as he sets in motion an elaborate revenge plot, we discover that underneath his nice guy exterior Lou is a sadistic murderer. And he's only barely staying one step ahead of the investigators (including Bower, Koteas and Baker).
Continue reading: The Killer Inside Me Review
Detective Terence McDonagh (Cage) has been promoted to lieutenant in the wake of his heroic actions during Hurricane Katrina. Even though he's a coke-snorting, evidence-tampering, gambling-addict rapist with a hooker (Mendes) for a girlfriend. Now he's investigating the grisly murder of a family. He knows that local gangster Big Fate (Joiner) is to blame, but he has no proof beyond a nervous 15-year-old witness (Whitaker). As his entire world squeezes in on him, he merely turns to more drugs, violence and sex to worm his way out.
Continue reading: The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans Review
Bad Blake (Bridges) is a successful 57-year-old musician whose career and personal life have been derailed by alcoholism. Playing to bowling alleys and bars across New Mexico, he's interviewed by a journalist Jean (Gyllenhaal) and is surprised when a spark of attraction develops between them. His next stop is Phoenix, where he plays a gig with former band member Tommy Sweet (Farrell), who's now a mega-star but hasn't forgotten the debt he owes to Bad. The question is whether Bad can get himself together long enough to make either relationship work.
Continue reading: Crazy Heart Review
Sam should have stayed in Singapore, where he fled after accompanying his best friend Joon (Leonardo Nam) on a drug deal that went very bad and left Joon bleeding to death in Sam's getaway car. Rather than go to the cops, Sam hid the car and the body, taking his secret with him.
Continue reading: Undoing Review
An idea man, you see.
Continue reading: The Amateurs Review
Fulton and Pepe thrust us into the lives of the Howe brothers (Luke and Harry Treadway), conjoined by a small extension of flesh at the middle of their ribs. At the age of 18, they are picked up by music promoter Zak Bedderwick and coupled with manager Nick Sydney (Sean Harris, pure sleaze with the moustache to match) and bassist Paul Day (Bryan Dick) to start a rock band. The sessions bring out the differences in the brothers: Tom's quiet sensitivity and genius at guitar and Barry's outlandish and audacious singing. The band's sound emulates punk icons The Sonics and shreds out on stage as Barry taunts the audience to touch the flesh that connects him to Tom. Things go haywire when a woman, medical journalist Laura (Tania Emery), falls for Tom and rouses feelings of wanting freedom from the eccentric, often dangerous Barry.
Continue reading: Brothers Of The Head Review
Wes Craven's brutal 1977 micro-budgeted The Hills Have Eyes was a post-hippie scream of horror, both at the collapse of the youth-led revolution and the dreadfulness of the Vietnam War. Craven turned his eye to home, to the desolate stretches of vast American desert where he could posit a family of bloodthirsty mutants preying on those who stumble onto their fallout abode, and it could almost (almost) seem plausible. With a world of misery at large, how strange would it be to find murderous maniacs in our own backyard? Sure, the original film suffers from some notably outré moments and jagged pacing, but Craven succeeded in bringing a grimly gleeful sense of humor to what was essentially a Texas Chainsaw Massacre riff.
Continue reading: The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Review