Rekjavik-Rotterdam: a struggling ex-con must secure his family’s safety by doing one final smuggling run. The film plays out like a stripped down heist/crime movie – but keeps its feet firmly on the ground, and whilst none of the story elements are particularly original, the execution is great. Equally impressive are the cream of Iceland‘s current talent – Kormákur creates a believable, desperate man, and everyone down to the stock muscle/thug guys feel like real characters. The story unfolds with excitement, tension, action and some comedy moments, so it’s well-balanced remains very watchable. The final 15 minutes wrap up the film cleverly, and there’s a cheeky passing use of a Jackson Pollock painting. Unsurprisingly, a film this good has already been remade and released in the ‘States as ‘Contraband’, starring Mark Wahlberg (interestingly, directed by the lead actor of this version). Rekjavik Rotterdam is a rock-solid, European thriller/drama that will hopefully open up a wave of new talent and movies from a country that’s relatively unknown for it’s cinema. I think Hollywood will struggle to match the heart and execution this version, but conceal that by turning everything up to eleven – absolutely check this version out.
The Tourist: an American tourist has a bad case of mistaken identity when the police and Russian gangsters believe he’s a wanted criminal. Step back for a second and consider the following: biggest actress in Hollywood; biggest actor in Hollywood; Oscar-winning director; writer of Usual Suspects; re-make of an interesting French film; and Timothy Dalton! On paper this is cinematic gold, however, on celluloid, it’s so far off the mark. To call the casting of the mains ‘stale’ would be an insult to the word – Jolie plays a seductive siren (good English accent though!) and Depp is an eyebrow-wagging bumbling idiot. Both appear to turn up, force themselves through the motions, then laugh to the bank. What’s worse is that the stronger supporting cast all share a handful of short scenes. The slow-paced story uncomfortably meanders towards an unsurprising finale – that doesn’t make any sense in hindsight. Not unlike The American, this is more of a throwback to the classic thriller films (than their trailers would suggest), but where Clooney actually acts the part, a vacant Jolie just stares on as the lens slowly zooms in on high-fashion clad arse, legs and neck – a big indicator of how weak everything else about the film is. On the plus side it’s efficiently shot, classically lit and what you see of Venice looks nice. The final product is OK, and just watchable but if you want to see Jolie frolic with some Russians and a few plot twists, Salt was far better.
The Isle: captures a deviant romance developing between a very strange couple of pseudo-mutes. It starts off quite dry – difficult to ‘get in to’ – introducing the characters and strange setting. As the drama ramps up it starts to drag you in, mostly through the eerie atmosphere because there’s almost no dialogue. One of the characters slowly turns into a terrifying psychopath, and a couple of scenes near the Antichrist level of fucked up appear out of nowhere. The acting, particularly the main woman, is really good: such a shame she didn’t do another movie. There’s some frog, fish and worm mutilation thrown in for good measure. The lakeside setting and scenery are haunting & atmospheric and the no-frills direction really just lets the story do the talking. Director Kim Ki-Duk has a decent track record, including Bad Guy and 3-Iron, which is one of the most memorable Asian flicks I’ve seen. This is a good film; not for everyone but worth checking out if you can handle your cinema ‘out there’.
Shooter: ex-sniper with a vanishing pony-tail (stupidly) gets caught up on the wrong end of a presidential assassination attempt. The politics and explanations in this were so clichéd and had so many twists / conspiracies that Michael Moore could have written it. Wahlberg’s not exactly on form, and pretty much mumbles his way through the majority of the script, which is heavy on the sniper talk – giving the film (and Swagger) authenticity. The best thing about this film was the action, and although there’s not loads, it’s was about quality over quantity – especially the cottage shoot-out and counter-sniping scenes. The ending feels totally rushed, with everything being cleared up in about two minutes flat. It’s an OK flick, but ends up way off target.