The Heist (aka The Maiden Heist): three security guards plan to steal artworks that they’ve become too attached to over the years, before they’re shipped to a new museum in Denmark. The three lead actors are all great: Walken does his Walken thing in all of its Walken-glory, William H Macy does an ex-para caricature, and Freeman leads the pack as a flamboyant eccentric. The wife unfortunately feels like she’s in the wrong movie – played far too slapstick / old-timey, and really emphasising the play/theater direction and campy vibe of the movie. Famous and respected actors serving up some good acting, which is unfortunately counter balanced with weak script and pale direction. The story also feels quite familiar, and plays out exactly how you think it will. Although it’s a straight-to-DVD film, it’s still better than much of the mush that gets properly released, and with a cast like this, I’m surprised it never hit the big screens. The Heist is a perfectly fine, inoffensive, light-hearted, upbeat movie – but with Walken and Freeman on the box, the bar’s perhaps set a little higher than what the film delivers.
Sweet Karma: when a mute christian girl loses her sister to a generic Eastern European prostitution ring in Toronto there’s only one thing for her to do… find and kill ’em all! So this one’s a Human Trafficking film, but with proper (s)exploitation and revenge elements – a weird, but quite original combo. The low-res, grainy, cheap-looking film don’t help the watchability much, and there’s a couple of grim ‘Baise Moi’ type scenes in there, which are anything but pleasant. The story’s solid enough, and the finale is surprisingly good and tense. I was going to have a slight dig at the acting, but considering the lead is a Playboy Playmate (WTF), and everyone else is unknowns, I’ll give ’em a pass today. When a film’s trailer boasts the line “One of the hottest strip scenes on film”, it tells you all you need to know! Sweet Karma ticks all of the boxes of an old-school revenge film, but with Human Trafficking in there, it pales in comparison to the benchmark that is Lilja-4-Ever.
Sex and Lucia (Lucía y el sexo): when she gets a call from the police about her partner being in a fatal accident, Lucia flees to an island and tries to find herself. If you’ve ever scoured a ‘World Cinema’ section, you’ve probably seen the picture below of a windswept Paz Vega + red dress + bike + penis-shaped lighthouse? Guess what? That iconic image isn’t even in the film! FAIL! Back to the movie though: unsurprisingly, there’s random nudity and sexual acts throughout, which feel there for no other reason that to ‘kink’ up the film, and make the “tortured writer and other young, attractive people in personal crises” storyline a bit more interesting. It peaks in a bizarre porno side-story in the middle act. The visuals are striking (unique, bold, washed-out, faded etc) and often beautiful, but continual emphasis on sun, moon and sea feel a smidgen on the ridiculous and end up blurring the boundaries between which scenes is dreams/fantasies, flashbacks, or scenes from the writer’s story. Paz Vega (Lucia) is great – and lets face it, who WOULDN’T want a stalker like her!?!? The cast in general are all good, and pull off some (melo)dramatic scenes when required. All of the artsy-rich visuals, vague symbolism and explicit scenes means that the film overstays its welcome by the end, and when you cut them all out, you’re left with a half-decent melodramatic story and some dramatic suckerpunches – it’s definitely destined to stay out in the ‘arthouse’. Sex and Lucia is unsurprisingly less of a cinematic classic, and more of a piece of smutty art.
4 Months, 3 weeks and 2 days: didn’t even read the synopsis for this one (wish I had so it didn’t rock my face off!) but watched it because of the critical acclaim it’s generated. Pretty brutal – subtly and graphically in parts – and realistic drama that hits home pretty hard. The acting’s extraordinary and there’s a lot of long single-take shots that heighten the drama drama – similar to Michael Haneke films. More than anything, the film’s about the extremes of friendship. A must-see if you like your world cinema, but for others it’d be very much love/hate.