Tag Archive | thriller

Silent House on a slippery slope

Hot on the heels of wrapping on her first film Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen dove straight into her second role, an intense week-long shoot for Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s “one continuous shot” feature Silent House.  Not only is Silent House a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film La casa muda (supposedly based on a true story from a Uruguayan village in the 1940s) but it also lifts the same gimmicks the original utilised and, for all intents and purposes, contains a bare minimum of originality.

The premise is simple and the idea is a novel one (or at least in the original film it was).  A single hand-held camera follows the central character, Sarah, as she revisits the old family home with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) in order to tidy it up before putting it on the market.  It would appear that the first act, up to the point where the action spills briefly to outside the house, is one long take.  However, the truth is that the film is composed of a series of takes spliced together to mimic the effect of the original.  In and of itself, that’s not a major issue and the editing is virtually seamless until the third act.  In the final 20 minutes it becomes easier to see the cuts, though Silent House would be lucky if this was the sole problem the climax presents.  As with many films of its horror/psychological thriller ilk, all the tension and suspense built up in the first two acts rely on a strong payoff to in order to have any import.  Even the greatest of set-ups is rendered meaningless when the rug is subsequently pulled from beneath the viewer.  So when Silent House unleashes its reveal, the wheels come flying off.  Amidst the wait-a-minutes and the whats is the very simple fact that the film has been lying to its audience all along.
Read More…

Masterfully clever Headhunters hits the spot

Cinephiles take note: there’s a new hot import in town.  Scandinavian film-making strikes again as Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters invades UK cinemas and it’s a must see for any film buff worth their salt.  Intelligently fashioned and brilliantly mad, this tale of an insecure art thief stakes an early claim for 2012’s most enjoyable foreign film.

Aksel Hennie discusses Headhunters, in UK cinemas 6 April

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), a high-profile head-hunter, targets wealthy, art loving recruits in order to maintain a high living standard for himself and broody wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund).  So it may come as some surprise to learn that Roger is Headhunters’ protagonist.  Immensely flawed and self-serving, Roger would be incredibly loathsome were he not so utterly clever and Hennie injects the role with understated charm and charisma that keeps Roger on the right side of a bad guy.  When he bites off more than he can chew by setting his sights on big-shot security chief Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), it goes a long way in shining a sympathetic light on the increasingly desperate Roger as matters go from worse to horrible.  Yet none of this occurs without a certain level of black humour attached.  In fact, Headhunters is unexpectedly light in its approach to a rather dark story that includes voyeuristic security guards, a naked gunfight, an identical pair of ginger policemen and an unforgettable tractor escape scene.  It often feels dead wrong to laugh at some of what unfolds, but the material is too wickedly delicious not to.
Read More…

Contraband delivers a mild high

Contraband is Hollywood’s latest European-based remake, as Iceland’s 2008 film Reykjavik – Rotterdam has been America-fied for English-speaking audiences.  Directed by the original version’s star, Baltasar Kormákur, Contraband stars Mark Walhberg as a reformed smuggler forced to rejoin his funky bunch of accomplices to pull off an emergency job in order to save his family from the repercussions of a deal gone wrong.

See if crime pays when Contraband opens in UK cinemas 16 March

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) runs his own security systems company in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and their two sons.  Now maybe some criminals would make a clean start of things once they go legitimate, but not Farraday.  He still has his old friends who are up to no good and his young brother-in-law lands the entire family in hot-water after being forced to ditch the goods of a drug run.  It’s left to Chris to find a way to come up with the money to pay off the now cocaine-less thugs, lead by Giovanni Ribisi’s croaky-voiced Briggs.  Chris’ imprisoned father, somewhat confusingly, gets him and his crew onto a container ship headed for Panama, where palettes of counterfeit money await him.  Unfortunately for Chris, a string of incredibly bad luck and a cantankerous ship captain (JK Simmons) stands in his way. As a result, Wahlberg finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a foul-mouthed, accidental Oceans Eleven-type adventure.
Read More…

Review: Safe House

Denzel Washington dons an evil goatee while low-rung CIA operative Ryan Reynolds attempts to keep him in secure custody and out of the hands of a mysterious third-party in Safe House.  Directed by Daniel Espinosa, the film written by the inexperience David Guggenheim bears some striking resemblances to the Bourne series, but presents as a dim-witted cousin in comparison.

See Denzel's evil goatee steal a car in Safe House in UK cinemas from 24 February

Reynolds is Matt Weston, who unbeknownst to his French girlfriend is a CIA “housekeeper” in Johannesburg, South Africa.  His job consists not of changing the agents bedding or cleaning their toilets, but rather manning the department’s safe house in the city.  Weston is desperate to prove himself and be transferred to Paris but has seen no action in his year looking after the house.  Fortunately for Weston (and the audience- how boring a film would it be watching this guy sit around doing nothing for two hours?), his dry streak is about to end as Washington’s rogue ex-agent Tobin Frost is extracted from Cape Town after he surrenders to the US consulate in order to evade a gang of thugs literally gunning for him.  Upon Frost’s arrival, a heavily armed assault on the supposedly secure safe house prompts Weston to escape with his manipulative “guest”.  Shootouts and car chases follow shootouts and car chases as the theme of betrayal becomes increasingly evident.  Meanwhile, the CIA heads look to contain the unfolding mess on their hands with Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga bearing the roles of responsibility.
Read More…

Review: Man on a Ledge

Sam Worthington stars as an escaped convict on a ledge of a New York hotel in the aptly titled Man on a Ledge.  This thriller/heist flick has been largely panned by critics, but it’s no worse than any other average, brainless vehicle for escapism out there.  With an eclectic cast including Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell and Ed Harris, there’s enough juice to keep Man on a Ledge chugging along until (spoiler alert!) the man is no longer on the ledge.

Man on a Ledge steps out onto his ledge on 3 February in the UK

Worthington is first seen checking into the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Soon after checking in, he opens the window and eases himself onto the ledge, as onlookers below begin to gather. Here the film pauses to explain what has led ex-cop Nick Cassidy to take such measures.  A month prior, Nick, serving a 25 year sentence in Sing Sing prison, is notified of his father’s death.  In the company of his brother, Joey (Bell) and his girl-friend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) and two-armed prison guards, Nick attends the burial before staging a daring escape in which he is nearly killed.  Taking refuge at a well-prepared storage unit, he prepares an attempt to clear his name.  If any of what occurs at this point seems improbable, what is to follow is full-blown far-fetched.  While Nick creates a distraction with his ledge-top antics, a plot to recover the diamond he was falsely convicted of stealing plays out in an adjacent building.  As detective Mercer, Banks is tasked with talking down the would-be jumper and becomes immersed in the unravelling conspiracy.
Read More…

Review: The Grey

Those looking for a high-charged dose of intensity (!) need look no further than Liam Neeson’s new survival thriller The Grey.  The Alaskan set showdown between man and animal is a grim display of the forces of nature, whilst questioning the nature of faith.  Plus, it sees Neeson punching a wolf in the face.

The Grey is at cinemas now. Go. Now.

The Grey’s protagonist is Ottway (Neeson) offers a voice over in the film’s early minutes as he composes a remorseful letter explaining himself.  A hired-gun for a large petroleum company, he hunts wolves in order to protect his co-workers, fellow men “unfit for mankind”.  He is a man who has lost the will to live, but that very will is about to be put to the test.  A company flight, caught in the midst of a severe snow storm meets a horrific fate in a spectacularly unnerving sequence.  It may not be the most realistic plane crash ever committed to celluloid, but it damn well feels like it.  Once the smoke clears, seven survivors find themselves stranded in the vast Alaskan wilderness with little hope of rescue.  Things go from incredibly bad to extremely worse when wolf expert Ottway realises they’ve landed within a wolf pack’s kill zone, the 30 mile radius surrounding their den.  As men struggle to fend off certain death, which is seen to take many gruesome forms as their numbers dwindle.
Read More…

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Only two years after the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s international best-seller, David Fincher has brought his take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the silver screen.  With little-known Rooney Mara cast in the role that made Noomi Rapace a break-out sensation and Daniel Craig starring opposite, Fincher has a sizable task in tackling a story loved in both its written and prior celluloid form.  While the film is, on a whole, more faithful to Larsson’s vision, it never reaches the point that truly justifies this too-soon remake.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: experience the gift of anal rape 26 December in the UK

Craig is Mikael Blomkvist, the shamed journalist who hands over the reins of his Millennium magazine to his editor and lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright).  In financial ruin, Blomkvist is hired by retired industrial magnate Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, again excelling as a frail patriarch) to investigate the murder of his niece.  Sequestered in a charmless cottage on the family’s island, 4 hours outside of Stockholm, Blomkvist studies the family members, the case files and eventually requires the expertise of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Mara), who had herself investigated Blomkvist for Vanger.  Though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s main thrust is a classic whodunit, the character development of Salander is essential in not only establishing her moral code, but in setting up the other 2/3 of the Millennium trilogy.  Fincher balances this well, though Dragon Tattoo newcomers may be somewhat baffled by references to her past which portray her in a less than favourable light.  While the mystery is Blomkvist’s to solve, the film is Mara’s to steal and she does so with vigour and a contempt that bubbles beneath the surface throughout,  rising fiercely at all the right times.
Read More…

Review: Justice

If anything can be said with certainty about Roger Donaldson’s new film Justice, it’s that it is definitely a Nic Cage kind of movie.  It’s ludicrous, melodramatic, brimming with bad acting and is gloriously, unintentionally hilarious.  Throw January Jones and Guy Pearce onto that sinking ship and Justice is served.

This man has had a lucrative acting career... Justice? I think not.

Cage stars as Will Gerard, an English teacher at a dangerous, urban New Orleans high school.  Will is first introduced celebrating an anniversary with Laura (Jones), who he is inexplicably married to.  Presented as easy-going and good-hearted, Cage, in full-on nerd mode, awkwardly dances the night away, unaware that a vile assault is soon in store for his wife. Following a night at the chess club with his best mate, Jimmy (Harold Perrineau), Will rushes to hospital, where Laura is being treated. In his time of agony (you can tell Will is really upset because Cage rubs his face a lot), Will is approached by Simon, just a regular guy who is tired of seeing the city being overrun by crime.  He is part of an organisation made up of local citizens seeking justice. Simon tells Will that they know who attacked his wife and offer to “take care of it” at no financial cost, adding that they may need a favour of him in return.  An uncertain Will is instructed to think it over and if he’s interested to buy two candy bars from the lobby vending machine.  Of course, this leads to the most suspenseful, nerve-wracking vending machine scene ever committed to film.  Will inserts his first dollar and eyes the chocolate bar. He selects it. The bar drops to the bottom of the machine. He inserts the second dollar. A moment’s hesitation. He selects… a second chocolate bar.  The next scene sees John Q Rapist returning home, looking bushed after a hard day’s rape, but little does he know that Justice is about to kill him off. A simple phone call tells the tale:  the hungry rabbit jumps.
Read More…

Review: The Ides of March

George Clooney’s latest effort behind the camera sees Ryan Gosling’s idealistic campaign consultant discover the dark side of politics in The Ides of March.  Engaged in a fictional presidential campaign, Clooney (pulling triple duty) co-stars as governor Mike Morris alongside the excellent Gosling and brings Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti in as opposing campaign managers. With such top-notch talent, The Ides of March guarantees strong performances throughout.  Despite being surrounded by these heavy-hitters, Gosling, as he has done throughout 2011, steals the show here and adds yet another remarkable role to his increasingly impressive CV.

The Ides of March: And the award for best poster goes to...

The stage is set (literally) in Ohio, as Morris faces a crucial primary election to gain the nomination for the Democratic party in the upcoming Presidential election.  His campaign strategy team lead by Paul (Hoffman) and Stephen (Gosling) meticulously plan every move the governor makes in order to gain the political upper-hand in a tight race that is down to two final men.  With a far-left (for the US, at least) platform and boasting integrity and dignity, Morrison appears to be a sure thing.  However, trouble looms when Stephen is courted by his opposition and discovers that the race is about to take a crushing swing against them.  Mixing business with pleasure, in the shapely form of campaign intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), Stephen is faced with the harsh realities of a life in politics and is forced to make some painful decisions.
Read More…

Review: The Debt

The Debt, director John Madden’s remake of 2007’s Israeli thriller Hahov hits UK cinemas this Friday, featuring another superb performance from Jessica Chastain as she continues to take 2011 by storm.  Set in 1997, The Debt focuses primarily on events taking place in 1966 when three Mossad agents set out to bring Nazi war criminal, Dieter Vogel aka the surgeon of Birkenau (a character based on the infamous Josef Mengele), to justice in Israel.

Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain in The Debt

The film begins quietly enough in 1997 as now-retired Mossad agent Rachel (here played by Helen Mirren) attends a booking reading of her author daughter who has penned Rachel’s life story. A mysterious road-side death later, the action moves to East Berlin in 1966 where Chastain (as the younger Rachel), along with Sam Worthington (David) and Marton Csokas (Stephan) take over the reins of the narrative.  What follows is a suspenseful operation to capture the man they believe to be Vogel.  It is once their enemy has been detained that The Debt truly excels. Jesper Christensen provides fantastic support as the smarmy, manipulative Vogel.  As good as Chastain, Worthington and Csokas are it is Christensen’s performance that provides the foundation.
Read More…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 783 other followers