Sabotage: a D.E.A. legend and his off-the-rails team of undercover NARCs are being hunted down by a cartel for skimming off $10M of the gang’s money in a recent raid. I know, I know, this one’s never going to win any awards – but in a world where studios are pussying out of 18-rated movies right, left, and center this is like a breath of fresh (or rotten) air. A dark, violent, dingy film that harks back to the 70s–90s cop films that had plenty of grit and edge. From the writer of Training Day, Street Kings and End of Watch you know you’re in good hands here. Machismo’d to the rafters, there’s a whole lot of big-dick swinging, heavy swearing, ‘cop banter’ – and the women in here are strippers, ‘sluts’ or a general nuisances to the lads. The story’s not as black-and-white as it first seems, and neither are the characters – as the film balances both intense action scenes with a well-crafted thriller storyline. You either love these sort of films, or you hate ‘em; and for me, Sabotage is a decent, violent cop film with a rock-solid ensemble cast and an interesting enough story to keep you tuned in.
Hanna: Raised as an assassin, Hannah is cut loose in the real world and soon becomes a fugitive. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that this is nothing short of meticulously filmed – there’s some fantastic single takes, stunning framing / mise en scéne and the action is put together with enviable ease. Said action’s also heightened by a great soundtrack; not dissimilar to Lola. Being set, filmed and funded by Europeans – it has a great anti-blockbuster quality and feel that’s pretty difficult to describe. Distracting everyone from the all of the awesomeness mentioned so far is a cast jammed with as many ridiculous characters as the story could hold: a washed-up clown Grimm, two Neo Nazis, comedy homosexual hitman, ke-razy traveling family (with the worst daughter ever). Because of these characters, the tone bounces around frenetically – serious chase, followed by fish-out-of-water, followed by some action, then a Volver-esque ‘genuine’ Spanish street performance, then some serious plot development… Cast-wise, you can always rely on Eric Bana to pull through and Blanchett nails her portrayal of a determined, cold villain. Ronan was good, considering her part kept flipping between comedy and thriller. Hanna proves to be an above average, and well-directed cat-and-mouse movie with a nice backstory that’s drip-fed throughout the duration.
The Ghost (Writer): A Ghostwriter replaces his predecessor who died under mysterious circumstances, as he researches and re-writes the memoirs of Britain’s ex-Prime Minister all is not what it seems on the surface. It’s a pretty generic conspiracy story, and just when it’s starting to drag everything happens in the last ten minutes, which feels a bit rushed: the ending’s quite disappointing / obvious but the final scene more than makes up for it. It’s very contemporary, political, and unashamedly based around Tony Blair; portraying him in the worst possible light! For a political movie the script’s quite warm and funny in parts, and other than some dodgy accents the cast are pretty solid – Cattrall’s just a more educated version Samantha, Olivia Williams is all over the place but you can’t go wrong with the Broz or Ewan McGregor. The main star for me though was Polanski, whose direction is outstanding (especially given he was under house arrest!). He lets this thriller tell itself, with no fancy trickery and just plain old-fashioned brilliant directing. Definitely worth a watch if you like this type of movie.
Note: As mentioned on Have I Got News For You: the film’s been given a 15 certificate in the UK, Polanski swears it’s 18!
Rushmore: follows the ‘love triangle’ between a teacher, pupil and local businessman. While this put Anderson and Schwartzman on the map – and re-ignited Murray’s career – they’re three guys that haven’t really drifted far from their comfort zone since: still, this is probably the best example of all three on form. The main problem I have with Anderson’s films is that they make weird things like stalking someone or a middle-aged man befriending a teenager seem normal, even cool. Like the rest of his films Rushmore is laden with mixed messages about father figures, retro music, humor, and quirky scenes / shots / dialogue (it’s impossible to describe any of his films without using ‘leftfield’, ‘offbeat’, ‘quirky’ et al). More so than his other features, Rushmore has been embraced by the indie crowd and pop culture – and enjoys a hardcore cult following. Personally, I think it’s good but not great. Pretty much the Napoleon Dynamite of the 90’s; you’ll either love, loathe or just not plain old not get it – I’m still in the later camp after several viewings. If you’re wanting to see any Anderson, Schwartzman or (modern) Murray film, best stick with this.