I Saw the Devil: when his fiancé falls prey to a deadly serial killer a secret service agent will stop at absolutely nothing to get even with the perpetrator. Make no mistake, this is revenge, Korean Style, and some parts of this picture make Oldboy look like a kids film – masochistic, nasty, graphic moments of extremely inhumane behavior. These would normally put you off, but this is so well crafted, and masterfully/beautifully shot (by – arguably – Korea’s best director) that it absolutely captivates. There are so many outstanding & memorable scenes: the riverside one is heartbreaking, agriculture one shocking, and many more jaw-dropping moments. Acting across the board is great, but the two (arguably Korea’s best actors) leads are absolutely mesmerising: Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-Sik doing it
gangnam world-class style. There’s a lot of ‘blood on your hands’ / ‘becoming a monster’ themes, which get a little tedious and feel over-emphasised. I Saw the Devil has everything: tension, drama, black-comedy, gore, shock, thriller, nasty, nice and everything in between – it’s all in there, and it’s all handled spectacularly by the director and his leading men. It may be too dark, graphic or gristly for some, but if you’ve got a strong stomach this is a fantastic film.
City of God: documents around a decade of life in a Rio De Janeiro favela (slum). It starts with 30 minutes of back story then dips in and out of flashback for the rest of the movie. To emphasise the violence in the hood the film’s pretty brutal in parts – ‘hand or foot’ and Knockout Ned scenes are particularly rough. Unfortunately, what’s supposed to be the film’s most crucial scene (in the nightclub) was ruined by strobing lights. For me, the main guy Rocket is a too easy-going: he never really seems to care much about losing his girl, then his job, then some family – and doesn’t want revenge. It’s probably about 20 minutes too long too. The overall message is that everyone, from respectable citizens through to the tiny children, ends up being pulled into the self-destructive criminal / gang lifestyle – and it’s hammered home through pretty much every character’s story progression. The critics said that Slumdog was better than this… and they must have been high. City of God is a well-told, pretty slick, cinematic epic that’s often called ‘the Brazilian Goodfellas‘ (bold statement). It’s definitely a must-see for fans of crime and world cinema.
Also, if you liked this the same director went on to do Blindness – well worth checking out.
Coffy: her eleven year old sister is a drug addict and her best friend has just been beaten into a coma by crooked cops; the real police aren’t making any progress so the ‘one chick hit-squad’ Coffy goes vigilante! This is the ultimate blaxploitation flick – to the point of parody, with characters like King George, ‘white devil’ speeches and very bad Jamacan accents. Coffy just wouldn’t work without a strong and sexy character like Pam Grier, (who may well be the hottest woman ever captured on film!?) dominating every scene in the film. Even today, it’s refreshing to watch an empowered heroin run around kicking ass. Despite this, every woman in the film – including Coffy – is also there for her legs, chest, ass, or all three. The film starts as it means to continue, with a potent mix of violence and nudity, epitomised by the campy but gritty chick-fight where all the ladies’ tops mysteriously get ripped off – fantastic! One of the only downers of this film is the absolutely terrible, gaudy, descriptive 70s soul music. Coffy is s cool, camp, kitsch and entertaining classic – and way better than Foxy Brown.
Knowing: [unavoidable spoilers]: an astrophysicist receives a bit of paper that holds the key to every major disaster on earth. The number connection at the start feels like a high-brow Number 23, especially the drunken math-ster montage. The film’s surprisingly atmospheric and way more spooky than it looks. Ironically, and eerily, the movie also predicts a Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster, weird. Disaster-wise we have an epic plane crash and destruction sequences on a supreme scale. Cage is rather good in this. Everything’s going really well then from out of nowhere: ALIENS AND FLAMING WOODLAND ANIMALS!!WTF?!?! Just when the film’s almost bounced back from that the final 15 minutes is another gigantic slap in the face. Knowing is a great premise that worked surprisingly well and was heading towards a 7-8 score. Unfortunately, it was absolutely mauled by the ending.
Grosse Pointe Blank: Follows a hitman going through a midlife crisis as he heads back home for a big job and school reunion. This was supposed to be a dark comedy but the only black part was Martin Blank’s clothes; the tone was more mawkish than anything else. Minnie Driver was pretty terrible, Cusack is just plain old Cusack and none of the others are particularly noteworthy. There’s a massive (but predictable) soundtrack that they must have spent a lot of the budget on. It pokes a lot of fun at the technology that appeared in 1980’s films although the final message is that too much TV is bad for you. Not a whole lot more to say really. This is probably the finest example of an entire film being drawn out around a single pun – what’s worse is that it adds absolutely nothing to the film! Despite everything that happens it just ends up feeling bland and absurd.