The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: a useless U.S. office temp is mistakenly sent to the UK to shift thousands of cans of potentially toxic Thunder Muscle energy drink. The entire show hangs on the idea of cross-atlantic confusion, and will probably play marginally better to Brits, although not wholly inaccessible to yanks! The humour is ultra black, dry, witty, often-tasteless, cringe-inducing… which I love; and some of the jokes are so ‘wrong’ that if you didn’t laugh it off you’d be writing a letter of complaint to the TV station. There’s some fantastic running gags like Todd pissing himself at the end of each episode, terrorists using him, and the recurring lies about Leeds & The Who – more generally, there’s a lot of well-written, catchy ideas such as Thunder Muscle, £30 note, Bad Sanitation, and Steve Davis (polar opposite of energy, well played by him though). David Cross writes the central character to all of his strengths, and the supporting cast all deliver more laughs, again tailored to their brand of humour; coarse Arnett, Laddish Harrison… All in, something this edgy and crass won’t be for everyone, but if you like the idea of an ignorant American with no business acumen setting up shop in a foreign country, it’s comedy dynamite!
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance: A deaf guy must secure a kidney transplant for his dying sister, two tales of vengeance on a grand scale follow. While this is hardly the most uplifting story in the world the way it’s presented, and the way in which it develops, elevates this far beyond your average drama. It’s very well-shot with smart, striking visuals that intensify the story. The editing and lighting are very also slick – one scene with Song Kang-ho stands over an autopsy table and his skin goes from natural to red as a rib cage gets cracked open is is more unsettling than full-on gore. There’s some absolutely riveting, unforgettable scenes throughout, particularly towards the end when the story spirals into poetic tragedy. It’s also very smart, with some black humour and witty lines – one punchline about a crash is delivered about 40 minutes after the set up, unfortunately it would be lost on some. It’s raw, powerful, and there are a few scenes of no-holds-barred violence, but don’t let that put you off. The biggest selling point is the powerful story and how it’s told, piece by piece – very little is explained at the time but all key plot points are be added to later in the film. As part of the Vengeance trilogy (alongside Oldboy and Mrs Vengeance) it kicks off the set in style. Great film with great performances all round.
Note: In January 2010 news of a Warner Bros re-make was in the works, I just hope it folds like the Oldboy project.