No Blood No tears (피도 눈물도 없이, Pi-do nunmul-do eobsi): Korean mish-mash film centered around a gangster’s wife and some girl power – I think? The DVD box, and most reviews have ‘Guy Ritchie’ plastered all over them – this comparison feels like a massive stretch as No Blood No Tears is very rough and low-budget, with very occasional glimpses of competency and ‘cool’. Most obviously, there’s a few half-decent fight scenes, but these, and anything else people may enjoy in this film are marred by some shambolic storytelling that cuts around time and location for no apparent reason (I guess that’s the Guy Ritchie stuff?). Half an hour in and there were still plenty of new characters popping up, and I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Ultimately, I expected better from the director that went on to do Arahan (batshit crazy) and Crying Fist (Solid boxing film), but I knew from the opening 35 minutes that there was no way on earth I was going to like – or finish – this one. Not the worst film ever, but just majorly confusing. Perhaps it’d be like a Korean watching Lock Stock for the first time and just thinking… WTF?!?!
Alternative Plan: eject this and straight on to the next movie
Take: A parent and a gambling addict are linked by a life-changing event, and years later they each have to face their demons. Depending on how you feel, the film’s fragmented narrative will make or break this for you – it combines two completely different filming styles (indie/arthouse & power-drama) and there’s four different stories playing over two timelines – so it takes a while to properly tune in. When it’s indie/arty, the film gets a little cold and isolating but when the drama kicks in it more than makes up for this – playing the long-game with a slow-burning, dramatic, poignant, gritty story that comes to a head in an intense 15 minutes near the end. This was one of Renner‘s last films before – and undoubtedly a huge factor in his casting for – the Hurt Locker: he does really well with his repenting scumbag character. I’ve never been a big believer of Minnie, but she delivers plenty of clout here – hats off to by both leads. It could do with being a little shorter and punchier – cutting the clunky religious scenes with pastor, and lots of long, heavily-filtered arty shots – but it there’s also some lovely/striking lomo-style ‘Americana’ visuals to be found. If you can handle a non-linear story, and like your drama fairly hefty, Take is well worth the effort.
Wrecked: A man wakens up in a mangled car at the bottom of a cliff, with no memory of what happened and a shattered leg, he has to survive and figure it out. Sounds interesting, but it boils down to Adrien Brody being stuck in a car for 30 minutes then crawling around in the woods for a further 50 minutes. It’s a poorly told story, with nothing significant revealed until the last two minutes, which is pointless as you never connect with the main guy. Brody’s good, but doesn’t have to do much more than grunting, crawling and crying. Would have been a walkout after 60 minutes if it had a longer run time – it’s a shorty. Wrecked is a nice concept, but with crap execution – feels like a rushed, poorly planned project that was shot in a couple of days.
Rock ‘n’ Rolla [Blu Ray]: Guy Ritchie introduces another bunch of dodgy geezers that you would find in ‘everyday Britain’… honestly! There’s a huge section of Basil exposition at the start; although goes with the territory of having 20 storylines and around 400 characters. There’s more narration by a LANDAN GEEZA – and the script’s full of more cockney slang / gangster limericks; I wouldn’t blame non-Brits for requiring subtitles. (Ewe go’ mo’ feet on thu street van coppas on thu beat – etc). There’s more Tarantino-esqué styling with wipes, swipes, fast cut editing, dialogue in boxes. There’s more people acting trivially when surrounded by or cut between senseless violence – which is becoming old hat. There’s also more dark comedy elements, which are quite good: a homosexual sub-plot, S&M, botched robbery, comparing scars, indestructible Russians… Where this succeeds is the stunning Brit cast; Hardy, Strong, Elba, ‘Superhands’, Butler, Kebbell, and Newton. The Blu Ray’s worth the extra pennies, with a slick picture and some tasty HD-audio. If you can’t tell from the above, Rock ‘n’ Rolla is more of the same ol’ Guy Ritchie tricks, although it’s all totally passable, and in the end, quite entertaining & watchable. It was planned to be the first of three films and – surprisingly – I’d like to see the other two.
The Lookout: a brain-damaged guy gets taken advantage of because of his part-time job in a bank. Not just any bank though, the lamest bank in history with huge windows, a remote location and high-risk employees! The natural dialogue made everyone seem quite normal and believable, with the exception of ‘Bone’, who looked like a tardy Agent Smith from the Matrix. Both Levitt and Daniels do a fairly decent job with their difficult characters. The Vigilante memory loss section at the end is when the film really kicks in to gear (like a ‘Diet Memento’) but was too little too late for me, and the action scenes aren’t well-edited. It’s an OK film but with lots of dubious aspects: like how despite causing a fatal car crash, and having brain damage, Chris Pratt is allowed to drive!? The only thing the film really taught me was that money is power… pretty deep stuff.
Intacto: This Spanish gem was much better than I remembered first time round. Based around the idea of luck, and how it can be stolen, it’s kind of like The Cooler – only it doesn’t suck ass. Max Von Snydow puts on a great performance, as do the rest of the crew. Good, original, thriller although I expect that it’ll be butchered by Hollywood in the coming years now that they’ve ran out of ideas.
Note: If you do like intacto (or films about luck / gambling / underground betting) another great film to check out is 13 Tzameti. Check out the original before the US re-make comes out…