Review – Welcome To The Punch. The Strong arm of the law…

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punch poster

Mark Strong has made quite the career out of playing nasty, villainous hard-man types, almost becoming like a Gary Oldman of the 2000’s. The Guard, Green Lantern (I swore I’d never speak of this film again but for some reason it keeps coming back to haunt my memories) and Kick-Ass to name but a few where Strong shows off his nastier side. Who knows, in 10 years time when the Batman films get rebooted yet again, Strong can further replicate Oldman and become Commissioner Gordon. We can but hope.

True to type, Strong is back on bad guy form in Welcome To The Punch, playing obsessive and determined detective James McAvoy’s long time foe, back in Blighty after a 3 year absence after his son becomes entangled in a bit of a pickle with the police. Nothing like keeping criminal habits within the family I guess.

The film begins with a throwback to events 3 years prior, setting the scene and the tone for the film. A high octane bike chase followed by a brief meeting with McAvoy and Strong really highlights the reasons for the beef between the two and ensures that McAvoy’s obsession with getting his man is justified.

McAvoy
What starts off as your basic “cat and mouse, catch the bad guy” caper slowly morphs into more than that and we’re left with a half decent conspiracy thriller which turns relationships on heads and sends the film into a different direction whilst still trying to stay true to its origin. There’s a few twists and turns along the way to keep your brain thinking but it’s nothing that your noggin won’t be able to handle and hasn’t seen before. There is a certain degree of ambiguity regarding the ending which you should enjoy if you get a kick out of that sort of thing. Me, I felt the ending was slightly rushed somewhat and probably deserved another few minutes adding on to its relatively short run time.

There was one piece of foreboding imagery which really impressed me, quite a nice touch for those of us who try and look past the main happenings on screen. I won’t say too much, but it involves a photo frame somewhere, very crafty and intelligent piece of filming and thinking from those responsible. I must also add that it was good to see David Morrissey (or the eye patch wearing, zombie brain pickling Governor for you Walking Dead fans) back in his native tongue putting in a decent performance as McAvoy’s superior, a career detective with the best interests of his force at heart, whatever the cost…

Welcome To The Punch is a welcome addition to the crime thriller genre, but isn’t without its flaws. It may be a well crafted Brit crime caper perfect for a bit of Saturday afternoon viewing, but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before and nothing to really elevate it into a genre defining classic.

7/10

Review – Zero Dark Thirty

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The 10 year man hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

A few years ago, a film called The Hurt Locker really grabbed my attention. I’d seen trailers, got caught up in all the awards season buzz and really wanted to watch it. When I finally got round to watching it a few months later, I was incredibly disappointed. Much lauded by critics, hated by me. I hated the pacing, felt it lacked tension, was badly acted and the chauvinist in me decided that it was only Oscar nominated because a woman directed it (ahem)

And so we get to Zero Dark Thirty. Another war film, another film by Kathryn Bigelow (A WOMAN?! They’ll be wanting the right to vote next, pfft) The action buff in me couldn’t wait to watch it, the eternal pessimist in me said to calm down as it’ll just disappoint like The Hurt Locker did.

Thankfully this time the disappointment wasn’t forthcoming. I was a bit skeptical during the first half hour of the film (torture scene aside) as the pacing is very slow, much like The Hurt Locker. Once you get used to the pacing, allow the situation to develop organically and let yourself become immersed in it, it becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Action purists looking for a thrill ride of bombs, guns and explosions should probably give this a miss. This is more of a cerebral (not in the sense that it’ll hurt your brain watching it… I’d be worried if you’d read the synopsis of this film and were still lost) film as it deals more with intelligence gathering and wading through the political and analytical minefield that is the CIA.

Much has been made of Jessica Chastain’s performance as Maya, the CIA operative who makes it her lifes mission to capture The Bearded One. Her character is pretty one dimensional, we never really see (or need to, for that matter) an emotional range that goes beyond that of “focused to the point of obsession.” But she’s good enough value and deserves her plaudits. The big finale is well worthy of its 2 hour wait, there’s a lot of tension in the build up right beforehand, and during the raid the use of switching between night vision and “normal” vision is very inventive and really makes you feel a part of an incredibly tense, world changing situation.

Bigelow has managed to do something that I thought would be nigh on impossible: Created a film about the man hunt for Osama Bin Laden and not turned it into a 2 and a half hour piece of US propaganda. A sterling effort that manages to be dialogue heavy and entertaining in equal measures.

9/10

 

Rick

Life After Death: Who’s going to look after artistic integrity?

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The big news this week in the movie world is the news that Universal are going to press ahead with the latest Fast And Furious film in spite of the death of lead actor Paul Walker. I first read this story on April Fools Day so my first thought was that it was quite possibly a pretty tactless joke, such is my cynical and world weary outlook on life. But lo and behold, it’s happening and there’ll soon be an influx of Vauxhall Corsa driving “LADZ” descending on cinemas worldwide for yet another dose of car chases, ridiculously sized exhausts and good looking girls with giant tits.

But this doesn’t concern me. The Fast and Furious series has never been something that has excited me, content wise or cinematically. My main concern is what role, if any, Paul Walker will play in this. According to sources, Walker was halfway through filming when his tragic death occured. Which asks the questions; Will the film have a major plot discrepancy when Walker suddenly disappears halfway through the film? Will Fast 7 subsequently storm the Oscars in light of his death? (Expect to see a few new categories next year: Best exhaust in a motoring film, Best occurence of a man in a white vest) Will his appearance in the series be completely glossed over as if he never existed in order to avoid some awkward questions? Or will we see a holographic / CGI Paul Walker completing his role in the film?

I know what you’re thinking; I’ve probably seen too many sci-fi films in my time and I’d probably be more at home on a conspiracy theorists site. But no, I think my fear and trepidation is almost justified this time. In the not too distant past we’ve had 3D music concerts from long since departed musicians such as Tupac, we’ve had Bob Monkhouse come back from the dead for a prostate cancer advert and all sorts of other worldly, poltergeisty nonsense.

Yes, the Bob Monkhouse advert was for a great cause, and yes, the Tupac show was probably a giant cash cow, as the latest Fast and Furious film will be (nothing get punters flocking into a cinema like a bit of pseudo-grief) but who’s protecting the artistic integrity? Who’s to say that Paul Walker had such sway over the crew of F&F that he would’ve persuaded them the series needed a climax and that the whole thing was just a Lost inspired style purgatory? No-one’s to know what choices our beloved thespians would’ve made had they not shuffled off this mortal coil earlier than planned. This is the most worrying thing. What’s stopping a few advertising execs with no shame or common decency in a few years time creating a CGI Heath Ledger all Joker-ed up and giving us a nice rendition of “Why so serious… When you can buy one get one free on Cilit Bang.”

A tad overdramatic I know, but not everyone thinks that common decency and respect prevails over the almighty Sterling / Dollar. With the unbelievable technological riches that are at our disposal these days, pretty much anything is possible. And this includes exploiting someones death / lack of ability to say no in order to push a different agenda or make a few pennies. A disgraceful example, but what’s stopping John Wayne becoming the poster boy for white supremacy because he spent most of his cinematic life shooting Native Americans..?

Maybe Avatar wasn’t such far fetched nonsense after all…

 

Rick

A brief introduction

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So after a couple of years of posting my reviews on Letterboxd I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and start my own blog on here. Not content with just film reviews, I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on the world of cinema and for those of you unlucky (or is that lucky?) enough to have not worked in a cinema before, I’ll also be introducing you to the majestic, wonderful, and now dead, world of 35mm film projection. For the record, in my eight years in the projection booth I never spliced a single frame of erm… Adult material into a film and then screened it Tyler Duerden style (where would I get a single frame from anyway?)

New content will be added whenever I’ve watched a film or have any other coherent thoughts in my head. For the first couple of entries I’ll be putting up some of my old reviews and giving them a bit of a polish and a spit shine for your reading pleasure. Cheers for looking, and hopefully you’ll find this a bit more interesting than Vines of dancing cats or whatever it is that’s popular online these days…

Rick