Edge of Darkness: when his sick daughter is gunned down, detective Tom Craven starts looking for people with a grudge against him, but maybe he wasn’t the target. This is a good-old corporation/government conspiracy film that feels like a throwback to the blunt movies of the 80s. There’s a few totally unexpected, and fairy graphic deaths that have genuine shock value, and get properly etched in your brain. The plot starts to feel like a runaway train, where the crazy and unbelievable things start piling up. We also get treated to a variety of terrible Boston accents, which make some of the dialogue difficult to catch. Gibson pulls out a decent performance, given his characters complex mental state – but everyone else can be filed under ‘hammy’ or ‘generic’. One final note, to Ray Winstone, please stop being Ray Winstone! Despite sitting on the Edge of Realism, Edge of Darkness is a decent, albeit depressingly nihilistic, action / thriller / revenge / conspiracy picture from the director that had the stones and talent to save the James Bond franchise twice.
The Sweeney: a hardboiled copper that plays by his own rules has internal affairs crawling over his operation, just as a jewelry heist bears all of the hallmarks of an old nemesis. First off, I’ve never seen the original TV show, so have nothing to compare it against. The story arc is as ‘cop drama’ cliché as they come, but the characters, primarily Winstone, are what pulls the film through. The few action scenes that pop up (Trafalgar Square, caravan car chase, house raid…) are well-handled & ambitious and they’re balanced off with some great comedy moments – particularly the restaurant/date scene. With the budget limitations (a meager £3M) it sometimes feels televisual, but there’s usually enough flare to notice the slick direction. Ray, Ben and Hayley do well with their characters, but nobody else has much to do. While it’s not the most original story, and not the biggest-budget affair, The Sweeney is a rock-solid cop thriller that punches way above its weight. Do you like it when Ray Winstone calls people ‘slegs‘? Do you like gritty cop thrillers? Do you understand thick LANDAN accents? If so, then this is a film for you.
Here’s the science bit: Sweeney = Sweeney Todd = Flying Squad
44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.
London Boulevard: the story of an ex-con fresh out of a stretch in the joint, determined to go straight, and avoid the trap of falling back into London’s underbelly. This has two too many stories playing out, in separate dedicated chunks, that never really come together: we’ve got Farrell and Knightley’s relationship, the gangster aspect, beggar’s retribution and sister saviour – any of which could be the main plot of a normal film and would have made a solid story – rather than being side-stories all competing for prominence. As the locations flip between the streets of London and a country manor you realise that this is an outsider’s rose-tinted view. On the upside, it’s rather well shot and the acting’s pretty good: David Thewlis is indisputably the most watchable (and has the best lines, including “if it weren’t for Monica Bellucci she’d be the most raped actress in European cinema” quote of 2010 for me). Farrell‘s also pretty decent – despite regressing into a South African accent now and again. Ray Winsone‘s growing a bit tiresome, and needs to branch out or give it up – he plays the same character, with the same lines (just changing the names) in pretty much every film – the likability factor isn’t helped when these characters are outrageously racist. The final product is a Guy Ritchie imitation, but with less flare, less interesting characters and too many strands. Other than the memorable ending, the rest of London Boulevard is passable at best.
The Proposition: would have been far more watchable if there wasn’t so much violence and gore in your face throughout the entire film. Don’t get me wrong, I like my action, but this is a bit much. The story’s simple and had potential to be powerful, but was drawn out and poorly executed. There were no lasting rivalries, little suspense, no shoot-em-up scenes and no deep characters… basically, no staple Western ingredients! Definitely failed to make the most of the superstar cast, Ray Winstone in particular seemed to think he was playing a gangster. Gets a lot of hype because of the hardcore Nick Cave following, but surely such an acclaimed musician should have nailed a better soundtrack! It looks good, and is atmospheric, but if you like westerns you’ll have seen the story before, just never told this poorly, and with so many boring soliloquies.