Big Bad Wolves (aka מי מפחד מהזאב הרע, Mi mefakhed mehaze’ev hara): Three men’s lives come to a head when a child is murdered and the hunt for the killer intensifies – Israeli black comedy horror/thriller. Off the bat this is a very odd mix that flips from gruesome child murders straight to bawdy comedy with no hesitation. Centered around the question of “is he / isn’t he guilty” the main chunk of this plays out like a Mystic River / Prisoners dilemma… showing normal men becoming monsters. The torture scenes are very visceral and gnarly, difficult to watch. It also starts becoming darkly comical in the last act, as the multiple – seemingly innocuous – strands are brought nicely together. Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of 2013, this is one of his shout-outs that is actually worth a punt!
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.
Undercover Brother: when it turns out that “The Man” is trying to quash black culture through brainwashing important figures, an all-black spy agency (the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.) send in their best man. The script grabs every stereotype imaginable by the horns and rolls with it: afros, fashion, jive talk, a mind-control drug deployed through fried chicken, Undercover Brother’s weakness is ‘White she devil‘, the agency have to employ a white guy through affirmative action… most of them are hits, but as a honky, there were probably a load that slipped by me. The director needed a better handle on this; doesn’t know if it should be a straight up spoof / blaxploitation / Spy / martial art or political… it covers them all, but in half-hearted, clunky segments. The camerawork is also quite poor: awkward jaunty angles overused and it breaks the 180-degree rule for no reason. A lot of the jokes reference the time where it was filmed (2002), so it feels a little dated now, and at 85 minutes, it does well to not overstay its welcome – but hey, the real James Brown appears at the end. Undercover Brother is both a hit and miss; it’s smart and dumb; has both high and low brow laughs – there’s something for everyone, but just not enough of the good stuff.
Bound: Violet wants to leave her mobster boyfriend after hooking up with ex-con Corky – so they hatch a little ol’ scheme to steal laundered some money. A project to prove that the Wachowski‘s could actually handle a film before studios gave them money for The Matrix, it had to stand out, so the guys made a noir film with a unique twist – LESBIANS!!! The retro vibe mixed with the semi-corny script, cheapy music and lesbian undertones make the first 30 minutes feel a bit like a soft porno. When two beautiful women start fingerblasting each other it feels like an actual porno, but with more passion & realism. After the setup the film picks up the pace; with the story twisting along and the directors quickly proving that they can handle themselves. It’s very, very slick and stylish, well shot, technically proficient and a dramatic rollercoaster towards the end. A couple of really high tension scenes are also handled masterfully, and although the script’s a bit clunky, the story makes up for it. Both females (Tilly & Gershon) do well with their characters, as does Pantoliana but seeing Cypher with hair is a bit weird. The final act in particular has a real Reservoir Dogsy type feel to it in both the bloody violence, and the career kick-startability. As a readiness project, consider this mission accomplished, although the Wachowski‘s would soon realised that all the money in the world couldn’t make a good film *coughMatrixRevolutionscough*
How will we convince people to give us money for our project... LESBIOOOBS!!!!
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: the IMF’s best agent Ethan Hunt is back again; his team go off the grid as they’re blamed for bombing the Kremlin – they must also stop an unfolding global Nuclear War – instigated by a madman! This film sticks to what the franchise does best; action and tension. The tension is wrung out and maximised like a boss; the Kremlin corridor and double-meeting in particular are proper edge-of-your-seat scenes. The action is also well above par, bone-crunching fist-fights and well-handled/edited camera work (other than the sloppy sandstorm chase). This story is typical of the other three films, with more newfangled espionage in various hyper-photogenic locations. Pegg comes out on top of the cast, providing a bit more comic relief than usual, but avoids becoming the clown – everyone else is solid. There’s some awesome gadgets and technical details for your inner-geek, the fastest-booting servers in the world and an onslaught of Apple products. On the downside, it definitely needed more Ving Rhames quips & ass-kicking, and Nyqvist as the ‘main’ bad guy could have done with more screen time and evil development. M:I-4 is another slick instalment of the winning James Bond formula cranked up to 11.
8mm: A private investigator is hired to authenticate or debunk a snuff film found by an eccentric millionaire’s widow. The headline here is a shocking display of anti-acting by Cage – could easily be in his bottom 5 performances (and that’s saying something) – totally woeful – especially when he loses his shit near the end Gandalfini steals the show with his ‘here’s what happened’ scene, and Phoenix plays a stereotype deviant well enough. So you’re thinking ‘Cage is rubbish, but at least the story’s alright…’ then the last hour happens. What the shit is the end of this film about; why does some guy have a crossbow? Why is Cage going vigilante? Why burn a stack of Porn? Rainy Mud fight? DANZIG?… everything is turned up to 11, or 20. It reeks of all the good 90s thrillers, but feels like a TV movie. 8mm is one of those films that everyone remembers being decent, but when replayed, is absolutely terrible. While the subject matter is intriguing, this film’s far too bizarre for most people to enjoy. Would recommend Tesis and Hardcore over this. Shame on Schu-macher!
Amores Perros: three separate stories brought together through a nasty car crash, with love being the common theme. Gritty doesn’t come close to describing this; with dog fighting, robbery, murder, abortion, and crazy hobbos all brought up in the first 20 minutes… definitely not for kids. The three stories of a wayward youth, fashion model and homeless guy are all fantastic, and the acting couldn’t be any better. Even though he’s the hardest to like, the hobbo‘s story is still my favourite as it’s nothing short of a dramatic roller coaster. The filming style further intensifies each story making it even more raw, and visceral. Although dogs play a large role in all three stories this definitely not a film for dog-lovers… particularly in the last act, heartbreaking. What Amores Perros boils down to is simply pure storytelling with no tricks, low blows or grand budget. Inarritu creates an extraordinary set of circumstances woven through a cast of fleshed out, realistic characters. Dramatic, moving, powerhouse.