The Card Player (aka Il Cartaio): women in Rome are being kidnapped used as the prize in police Vs ‘serial killer’ online poker matches. For a film made in 2004 about ‘cutting edge technology’ it looks more like something from the early 1990s, especially going by the terminology used. The film boasts such a bizarre portrayal of cyber and counter-culture, with a Luddite’s view of technology, and fumbling awkward police IT techies (who are genuinely credited as “Anti Hackers” WTF R-Gent0!?). It also boasts the standard Euro-pudding bilingual issues: gaps between reactions, re-dubbed lines; back of head shots when people are talking… Every character is also over-worked to the point of becoming surreal: like a drunk Irishman who falls asleep singing Danny Boy (classic) and an inappropriate & unprofessionally touchy-feely flirty cop. It feels like Argento plays this far too broad, as the film awkwardly cuts from wacky things like a tapdancing coroner to a dead body with playing cards stuffed up their innards, and extremely detailed close-ups of rancid corpses. The Card Player offers up a few glimpses of classic Argento but overall, it’s a hammy, pedestrian, and tedious Giallo outing.
The Green Inferno: when she joins a deforestation activism group, a naïve student comes face to face with the cannibal savages she’s trying to protect. I’ll put it straight out there; I’m not a big fan of Eli Roth… that being said, I had a blast with this film. The naive protagonist / final girl is surrounded by thin and/or unlikable characters (angsty alternative goths, far out hippy protesters, etc) so you’re not all that fussed about their fates, and watching them get dispatched is rather entertaining. There’s some outrageous practical effects, showcasing bloody and disgusting gore, but it’s all tongue cut out in cheek – think ultra black horror / borderline stoner comedy – with several laugh out loud moments. There’s a fun Final Destination style plane crash, followed by an intense tribe meeting (the scariest part of the film) – and after that it’s all killer. The only two downsides are that the film takes around halve the running time to get going; it also feels less urgent / more detached than the ‘found footage’ ‘real life’ cannibal exploitation films of the 70s & 80s. It would have been foolish to try to pull off a ‘Mountain of the Cannibal Holocaust Ferox God’ movie in 2015, as it just wouldn’t have the same impact, so Roth has taken the ‘cannibal movie’ template and given it a nice postmodern spin. The Green Inferno got an unfair rep by people mostly focusing solely on the gore; but tonally, it feels more like an out-and-out send up of student, or ‘leftie’ activism to me. Over time I hope it’ll become a cult hit along the likes of Cannibal the Musical and Delicatessen. Disgustingly enjoyable.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Ein! Zwei! Die!
Dead Snow: while staying at a remote cabin in the woods a group of friends are attacked by hordes of Nazi zombies! You immediately warm to this film as it put all the horror movie tropes front and center: horny “teenagers” in the remote wilderness with no phone signal, then they realise that it’s is how horror films start (ay oh!!). There’s also a film geek thrown in for reference-o-rama – we get everything from a braindead t-shirt to Arnie impressions. Once the setup – complete with creepy old local warning them – is out of the way we’re treated to a barrage of old school jumps, dark horror comedy, and loads sensational barnstorming, limb-pulling, head-rolling, splatter-tastic blood and guts – that puts the film somewhere between Raimi and Troma. Everyone involved looks like they’re having fun, and the ‘zombie cast’ are also fantastic – even tougher when they’re not strictly zombies: faster, smarter etc. The last hour romps through so much entertaining gore and dark jokes that when one of the last scenes gets a bit serious it feels like a hefty dramatic gut punch. If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t mind the idea of watching a Nazi Zombie film; and I can’t imagine many being better than this. Dead Snow is an absolutely solid (Nazi) gold, gory-AF horror-comedy.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Line of Duty (Seasons 1 & 2): police drama based on an Anti-Corruption unit and their internal affair investigations on potentially crooked coppers. The show’s biggest strength is that the main focus of each season is a very ambiguous character that looks clean and innocent, but makes some morally dubious choices – some of which are understandable – meaning that every viewer will see them differently depending on their individual moral compass. It also helps that the core characters are well-acted and for the most part, given backstory and more depth. There’s more shocks and violence than you’d expect from a Big British Castle (BBC) program – which helps to ratchet up the drama. It’s also well shot, with strong docu/realistic camerawork and a slightly gritty finish to emphasise urgency and drama. What I don’t understand is that it spends 5-6 hours setting up a complex, engaging, and constantly evolving crime scenario – only to completely fuck up the ending in both seasons: one is barely explained; the other is told only through flashbacks; and both times nothing really changes, the team don’t actually figure anything out, and it’s topped with cheesy follow-up post credit titles showing the fate of each main character (even though it’s fiction, and not true crime). For the most part Line of Duty is a slick, tense, and absorbing police procedural show; and if closure doesn’t bother you, you’ll like it even more.
Season 1 – Score: 7/10
Season 2 – Score: 8/10
Taken 2: Bryan Mills and his ‘very particular set of skills’ are hunted down by the relatives of the bad guys from Paris (Taken). If Mr Megaton had stuck to the surefire winning formula of the first film, he’d have been OK, however, he strays way off topic. Action, drama and no-brain story: 66% – this is far to silly to have any sense of drama or threat. Hard-hitting fight-scenes: 33% – my beloved, worn-down, Taken DVD is 18-rated, this was a 12A, with all of the bloody bone-crunching edges are taken off. Liam Neeson acting well: – 15% – he totally looks like he can not be arsed here, as do most of the cast. A brief list of the memorable moments tell you more about the tone of the film that any sensible review could:
- Maggie Grace gratuitously running around in a Bikini
- Maggie Grace – having not passed her driving test – executing perfect evasive/offensive driving
- Maggie Grace throwing grenades on Istanbul roofs so Neeson can locate her.
- Neeson being left in a room, alone, for a long time
- Neeson having a mini-phone in his pocket
- Neeson walking through Istanbul navigating using only his ears.
Overall, it feels like far more like a “Shit, we accidentally got a worldwide hit from a B-movie – may as well cash-in with a rushed sequel” affair, over a well-thought out, original, nasty, well done action flick. All that being said, Taken 2 is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made it out to be, there’s more than enough mindless action scenes to keep audiences entertained.