Killers (キラーズ, Kirazu): a serial killer who uploads his work to a ‘DeathTube‘ site inspires an everyman to go vigilante. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen directors harness everything down to the distributors & funders logos to add to the film’s aesthetic; and with this level of detail from the get go, the film is technically admirable – sound, editing, camerawork etc. The opening 5 minutes really set the mood, with a shocking and ultra-graphic murder: the violence slowly escalates and darkens as the runtime progresses. Unlike The Raid‘s gritty-but-styalised – and even poetic – gore, this film is just plain gritty. One killer is a savvy psychopath fit for Dexter, the other is an everyman pushed over the edge, Falling Down style. Another unique aspect is that it’s a collaborative effort from two directors (The Mo Brothers – not real brothers), filmed in two locations – Japan and Indonesia – with English spoken parts when the two leads interact; it doesn’t hinder the film’s international appeal, although something feels lost in translation story-wise. At 140 minutes it does lose feel rather long-winded and intricate for what is essentially a serial killer movie with a disjointed story and not much in the way of themes or messages. If you like your gore gory, and your films stylish this ticks both boxes – although not a lot else. The main stars of Killers are the directors, who with more focus (shorter runtime and tighter story) could pose a serious threat to Gareth Evans as the king of contemporary Indonesian action.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil: two standard horror-movie lookin’ rednecks are trying to enjoy some time at their new vacation home when a bunch of hot college kids come along and start killing themselves all over their land! This film turns every dumb & clichéd horror trope on its head and makes them laugh out loud funny – as you see events from the kid’s eyes looking like a dull horror movie, and from the misunderstood Tucker / Dale’s perspective, where it looks like a teenage suicide pact. The script’s funny, cast nail the comedy and there’s plenty of over-the top blood-n-guts to keep horror fans amused. Tucker & Dale is an awesome horror picture, for fans of the genre, that would make an excellent double-bill with Cabin in the Woods. Easily one of the best horror comedies around. Never judge a redneck by his blood-stained overalls! Smart, funny and highly original comedy horror.
Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon): a TV producer and widower stage a fake TV audition in order to find the latter a new wife, but the best candidate seems too good to be true. The opening half hour feels a little too rom-com-y for a ‘horror’ film (upbeat music, cheesy jokes etc). The film trudges on and after 1hr 15m of setup it gradually becomes weirder and more interesting until the payoff semi-ending finally kicks in. Knowing that there’s something not quite right with the ‘perfect girl’ is a tad unsettling, but you couldn’t have predicted an ending as extreme as this – the sound of bone being sawed is vomit-inducing! There’s a small, but obvious social critique about the time in lines like “The whole of japan’s lonely”, and “Japan is Finished” – not-so-subtle! What makes this worthwhile is that it is a unique horror film in that is doesn’t pander to conventions, or give you what you expect. It also beat the wave of late 2000s movies that kick-started ‘torture porn’/’Splatter’ craze again. As original and unique as Audition is, it’s essentially a psychological drama for this most part with 10 minutes of gore capping off a lot of humdrum!
The Tournament: every 7 years in an unsuspecting town 30 of the world’s top special forces, serial killers, athletes and assassins fight to the death for a £10M cash prize. To get it out-of-the-way, yes, this film clearly borrows from the likes of Smokin Aces, Battle Royale, Series 7 etc etc. To ensure there’s some dialogue – in what would otherwise be a speechless film – the silly priest storyline is added, although it could have been just as easily done with two underdog killers teaming up. Given that there’s 30 contestants + others watching, characterisation is obviously very thin. Boring things aside, the action in this film is intense and very frequent – the highlight being a strip-club shootout/massacre with blood, guts and limbs flying everywhere. Nothing within the frame is safe, pedestrians, buildings, animals and vehicles (cars, jeeps and tankers all flipping and exploding at some point). Every five minutes there’s a big action scene, and most of it is of a very high standard. For a £4M movie to have such a decent cast, great action scenes and well-directed action (it’s his first film!!) – it’s nothing short of a miracle. Someone please throw more money at the director, Scott Mann to kick off his next project – it’s absolutely the best in class for mindless action; a bloody schlock romp for the guys, full of explosions, guns, blood and tits.
Unthinkable: a converted muslim, posing a nuclear threat to America is captured – how far will the government go to get the information they need against the clock? Having heard nothing about this before finding it on LoveFilm I was surprised at how topical, dramatic, fast-paced, controversial yet very believable the film was. It’s also very well directed, featuring massive issues like human rights, torture, the ‘greater good’, constitutional rights, threat to America – yet yet it never gets preachy, as all sides to each argument are explored, and you ultimately have to make up your own mind as to what’s the ‘right’ thing. There’s also some pretty graphic and genuinely unbelievable scenes inside the torture chamber – especially when the specialist interrigator (Sam L Jackson) gets going. The acting is great all-round – but with a cast this strong it’s a shame that the SFX are so terrible (explosion LOL). This film ultimately plays far more successfully on the fears, realities and situations of contemporary America than two series of Homeland have, and this is just over the length of two episodes. Unthinkable is an unbelievably smart, neat, tight little film that – for whatever reason – seemed to be a total flop: it’s clever film-making serves up an enjoyable, thrilling, thought-provoking picture. What more could you ask for?
Jack Reacher: an ex-military investigator is called in by a man who claims he’s been framed for the murder for five seemingly random sniper killings. Being based on a book, it’s got a good central story, packed with action and it moves along at a good pace, getting better as a conspiracy begins to unfold – although it’s seems deliberately obvious; the cooked evidence, motives and clues are easy for viewers to pick up. My biggest problem with this is that it reminds me how much of a ‘high-rent’ Jason Statham Tom Cruise is; same look, same voice, same haircut, same righteous quick-fire lines in every film – he never attempts anything new or different. There’s a couple of massive mis-steps that break up the tension – mostly the two bat-wielding goons that feel like they came from a Laurel and Hardy film, and the fingerless mastermind (Herzog!) – all seem unnecessary and out-of-place, given the otherwise serious / straight-up tone. Rosamund Pike‘s top also gets lower and lower as the film progresses. Back to the film, it’s a well-made piece, with some solid moments of tension like the opening scene – and sniper-scope-o-rama. On the other hand, you always know exactly how the film’s going to play out, and because Mr Reacher is ten steps ahead of everyone else, which forfeits a bit of suspense. Overall Jack Reacher is a decent, well-made, entertaining film, despite being a “bit wet” and a “genre picture” if there ever was one. Guns, fighting, cars, cleavage – it hits all the right targets.
Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.