William Wheeler

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist Review


OK

A terrific story is compromised by the demands of commercial filmmaking, adding action-thriller scenes to what should be an introspective drama while distractingly beefing up side-roles for American stars. But at the centre is another superb performance from Riz Ahmed (Four Lions), who again takes a complex, challenging approach to the subject of terrorism.

The narrative is fragmented into flashbacks as Changez (Ahmed) tells his story to an American journalist (Schreiber) in Pakistan while a tense hostage situation swirls all around them. Years earlier, Changez was a high-flying Pakistani student, graduating from Princeton and landing a prestigious job on Wall Street when an executive (Sutherland) recognises his talent. He also has a sexy artist girlfriend (Hudson). But all of this is shaken after the 9/11 attacks, when he is harassed by police and immigration officials. Fundamentally changed, he returns to Lahore to become a lecturer in violent uprisings. But this makes the CIA think that he's become a terrorist himself. Perhaps he has.

The various strands of the story are intriguing, and the actors are all watchable as they add layers to Changez's overall story. But the jumbled structure of the film reduces the narrative to a series of seemingly unrelated scenes. Hudson and Sutherland are solid but add little beyond their characters' stereotypical American reactions to Changez's decisions. The always superb Schreiber is better used as a more shady figure. But other characters vanish just when they get interesting, such as Changez's parents, played by acting legends Puri and Azmi.

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The Hoax Review


Good
Everybody loves a good con artist, a guy who can bluff his way into or out of anything. He's isn't violent, not a gangster, but a smooth-talking charmer whose poker face doesn't flinch no matter how dangerous or delicate the situation gets. Lasse Hallström's latest, The Hoax, offers a portrait of such a con artist, a real-life fabulist who makes James Frey (the disgraced "non-fiction" writer behind 2003's A Million Little Pieces) and his shenanigans look like chump change.

Richard Gere, perfectly cast, plays Clifford Irving, a down-and-out writer who in 1971 wrote (and nearly got published) a fake biography of Howard Hughes. Desperate to jump-start his career, Irving duped his editor Andrea Tate (Hope Davis) and the top dogs at McGraw-Hill into believing he was not only a friend of Hughes, the notorious recluse, but that the billionaire had tapped Irving to write his life story. Smelling a publishing sensation, McGraw-Hill offered Irving a then-record publishing deal, and the writer suddenly found himself the crown prince of the publishing world.

Continue reading: The Hoax Review

The Prime Gig Review


Good
Something's rotten in The Prime Gig, but damned if you can put your finger on it. Director Gregory Mosher and his team have done their homework in crafting a suspenseful con-artist thriller by keeping you guessing about just who's getting conned.

Is it Vince Vaughn's Penny, a distrusting telemarketer with questionable morals? Or is it Ed Harris's Kelly Grant, a kingpin of telephone sales who recruits Penny to help him sell $2.5 million worth of investment shares in a gold mine? Or something else altogether? Penny takes this "prime gig," mainly because it gets him closer to Kelly's girlfriend (Julia Ormand), which, combined with his inability to sell anything on the floor, starts to land him in hotter and hotter water. Is any of this legit? Who's conning who? The Prime Gig takes its sweet time in getting to the answer, but it's definitely a worthwhile trip to take.

Continue reading: The Prime Gig Review

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