Monday, 30 May 2011



It is easy for people to dismiss heroin addicts as idiots. Indeed, it's easy for people to dismiss drug addicts in general, or even drug users, as varying levels of idiots. What else but utter, utter stupidity could account for someone willingly putting themselves in thrall to something with so much downside and so little upside? Why would anyone with an IQ higher than 12 do that to themselves: endanger their physical and mental health, their jobs, their families, their lives? Of course I'm wondering this from the perspective of someone who's never touched drugs and never will, who thinks it looks like an incredibly irrational thing to do. It's not necessarily a criminality thing: alcohol is legal and I don't get the appeal of that either. Maybe it's simply easier for people to adopt a comcortable position of intellectual superiority than it is to try and understand what drove them to it in the first place, and what drives them back to it.

The trick that Uli Edel's Christiane F manages to pull off is presenting you with a perfectly normal, pretty and intelligent 14-year-old girl who becomes addicted to heroin, without you writing her off as an idiot. She may be from a broken home, living in an unattractive tower block with her mother and her new boyfriend, but she's not mistreated or abused. Yet she joins up with a bad crowd at the local disco, gets herself a boyfriend, and dabbles in drugs, swiftly becoming an addict. And the deeper the addiction the worse she has to do to get the money for more drugs - burglary, begging, prostitution (giving manual relief to middle-aged men in cars - remember, she's 14). Even when her friends start dying as a result of their addiction, she and her boyfriend continue. And when they manage to go through agonising withdrawal, they go straight back on....

It's a bleak, highly naturalistic film - no effects, almost no music (what music there is consists mostly of David Bowie, who appears in the movie in concert) and an overwhelming sense of believability. Yet you never write Christiane off. Even when she's finally, painfully clean, she starts shooting up again immediately because she knows she can come off it whenever she wants - an act that genuinely makes you want to throttle some sense into her but somehow you still can't hate her, you do want her to survive. That's down to the utterly convincing acting and the unsensational, almost documentary tone of the film.

Christiane F is absolutely no fun but it's a tough, riveting and frequently painful watch. It's a film that doesn't glamourise drug taking in the slightest, but presents it as a dirty, sordid, squalid business that provides no joy and wrecks and ultimately destroys lives. It's now a week since I saw the film and it's stayed with me: it's hardly got a false step in it (perhaps right at the end, the very final bit seems too abrupt) and while it's not a film I want to see again, at least for a while, it's certainly a film I admire and respect. Recommended.


Buy it here:



I'm not a gamer: I've never played Tekken. Or any computer games, really, except for the occasional rampage round GTA3 shooting people in the back. But I imagine it goes something like this: you are a bloke called Jin and you have to fight your way through a succession of ugly pixelated fighters who drain your health and stamina points, unless you press the buttons and toggle the joystick in the right order and decapitate him/her, in which case you become champion and get to put your initials on the high score board. If you don't, and your health points go to zero, You Lose. There's nothing else in there as regards a plot or a narrative. And now they've made a film of it which is pretty much exactly the same: a succession of fight scenes against increasingly tough bastards, though there's is an implausible soap opera subplot dribbled through to pad the thing out to 91 minutes.

After the apocalypse, the world is run by eight insanely rich megacorporations in giant walled cities while the peasantry scrabble around in the slums outside payign hundreds of dollars for coffee and fruit on the black market. North America is ruled by the brutal and despotic Tekken corporation, who happen to be hosting this year's annual inter-company tournament of Almost-No-Rules Fighting. Following the death of his martial arts expert mother at the hands of Tekken's fascist police, street kid Jin (Jon Foo) signs up to take part, defeats the current People's Choice and wins a place in the finals. Can he claim his revenge? As Tekken's CEO Mishima (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, complete with the game character's frightwig) faces a coup by his homicidal maniac of a son (Ian Anthony Dale), Jin discovers the truth about his own father....

It's like the Mortal Kombat movies but without the intellectual meat. If you want to watch weird-looking people in absurd costumes bashing seven bells out of each other, along with some character development stuff that would have been thought ridiculous on Crossroads (complete with a Vader-Skywalker revelation that's blindingly obvious), then go for it: it's crunchily violent in the numerous combat scenes, the girls are hot and don't wear a whole lot. There are some interesting names in the cast: Luke Goss, Gary Daniels, Tamlyn Tomita, and it's well enough directed by Dwight H Little, auteur of Marked For Death, Halloween 4 and the Robert Englund version of The Phantom Of The Opera. It's colourful and it isn't actually boring, but it is knuckle-draggingly stupid even by the already low standards of videogame adaptations.


Buy Here:

Sunday, 29 May 2011



Yup, also contains enormous dullness. Difficult to know how a movie can be so cataclysmically tedious at under 70 minutes, but it is. It's also intriguing to ponder how anyone thought it worth releasing onto the national cinema circuits, but it genuinely played my local Granada's Screen Two the week of December 14, 1980, as the bottom half of a double bill with the Mary Millington film Playbirds. Merry Christmas. Presumably they reasoned that the likely audience were all Sun readers wearing shabby raincoats and thus uninterested in the psychological subtleties of the characters or the mise-en-scene of Spanish cinema, so long as there was plenty of norkage and thrusting bums.

Well, if boobs and pubes are your thing, then Violation Of The Bitch is undeniably for you on the skin front. A young, illiterate gypsy girl is left in the charge of an older female artist in a cottage in the middle of nowhere; the gypsy girl is haunted by nightmares of a man on a horse, and then goes mad when she sees a naked bloke on a horse. Some kind of menage-a-trois unfolds: they all get drunk, there's rape and bondage (although the BBFC have reduced this) and it doesn't end well, although it does end quickly.

It's directed by Jose Larraz, who also did the British horror Vampyres (another dull threesome movie full of nudity). There is a substantially longer version available under the title The Coming Of Sin but I've absolutely no desire to check it out and inflict another twenty minutes or so on myself. The short version they sent me is just tiresome and pointless, however much casual nudity and humping there might be. Absolutely not worth seeing.




Beware of films where the director has been credited with a wacky abbreviation or nickname. Into this category we can obviously put McG, real name Joesph McGinty Nichol. Obviously it doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle has the name Joseph Nichol or McG on the front of it: it's still going to be rubbish, but at least the warning flags are up in advance. (In McG's defence, I'll confess I rather enjoyed Terminator Salvation.) Then there's Jean-Christophe Comar, who for years has worked under his childhood nickname of Pitof and it again sets the alarm bells clanging when you see it on the poster for Catwoman. You never get this kind of thing with proper directors: Saving Private Ryan isn't billed "Directed by Uncle Morty" (apparently Gwyneth Paltrow's nickname for him). Ingmar Bergman never reached into a Scrabble bag and decided he was going to be credited as Yompo for his entire career.

In the case of Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever, we have the mysterious and mystical sounding Kaos. The name of a rock band or a minor deity, perhaps, but it's actually short for the Thai director Wych Kaosayananda. "Kaos" obviously gives the sense that there's going to be havoc, anarchy and mass destruction on the screen, and there certainly is, but that's all except for a braindead plot in which Lucy Liu kidnaps the son of evil Gregg Henry who's planning to use robotic nanotechnology to usher in the New World Order, and unshaven former agent Antonio Banderas is sent to stop first her and then him. It is absolute drivel and basically consists of various combinations and orders of fight, chase and explosion for 87 minutes, mostly backed by thumpy techno music (incidentally spawning soundtrack albums for both the songs and the score).

Despite the knuckle-headed stupidity, I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally find it to be fun, if utterly mindless fun. It's always good to see Gregg Henry, who used to be a regular in vintage Brian de Palma films and doesn't appear on our screens anywhere near enough, and in a decent sized role. Ray Park shows up as his henchman, and is frankly pretty bad; Talisa Soto is at least better than she was in her big break appearance in Licence To Kill, although the Dalton years of Bond were not good for actresses in general (the replacement Moneypenny literally sends me running to the next room).

Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever is entirely empty and hollow: there's nothing in it at all, just things blowing up and people firing guns and karateing each other. I know the movie wasn't conceived as a cerebral exercise but there no law that says you can't have a little bit of intellectual meat in amongst the crash bang wallop: what emotional content there is is even more absurd than the constant explosions and running gun battles. And I'm not asking for the dramatic weight of Ibsen or Chekhov, but it would be nice to have something other than the flashing lights and pretty colours: you might as well sit in front of a strobe. Still, as imbecilic action movies go, it's fairly short and has a far better cast than it deserves. That's pretty much all it has going for it.


Friday, 27 May 2011



I don't mind movies being a bit implausible. Raiders Of The Lost Ark is implausible. Carry On Don't Lose Your Head is implausible. But there's a world of difference between implausible and actually ignoring scientific realities. Ye cannae change the laws of physics, as Scotty was wont to say every week (before doing precisely that), and you can't rewrite the universe's basic scientific principles unless you're making a Road Runner cartoon. So I don't expect to see people being able to hold their breath in outer space, because even in the future that's not possible. Not a question of plausibility - it's a question of possibility. Like defying gravity or walking through walls, you can't have your characters holding their breath in outer space and surviving. Granted there's a measure of dramatic licence available - in space no-one can hear anything, even Star Wars' huge rumbling spacecraft - but there are limits.

Fortress 2: Re-Entry is, like the original Fortress, a prison escape movie in which Christopher Lambert is once again incarcerated at the behest of an evil megacorporation for vague reasons - he'd already been sentenced to death and has nothing he can offer them - but this time the prison is on board a space station, and the only chance to escape would appear to be to get onto the occasional delivery shuttles. But all the inmates have had neural implants that trigger agonising pain if they transgress, or indeed at the whim of Warden Patrick Malahide. However, Lambert's not going to be separated from his family again and comes up with an escape plan that hinges crucially on a cockroach.

This is rubbish and nowhere near as much fun as the original. Even ignoring the blatant ignorance of third-form science, the cardboard characters and the general air of silliness, it's cheap (some of the effects work is terrible) and, despite a decent cast which also includes Pam Grier, and enjoyable if - here's that word again - implausible banter between Malahide and his Australian-voiced computer, it's not very exciting. I generally like movies set in spaceships and space stations (I even think Moonraker is underrated) but I really couldn't get behind this one. Best stick with the perfectly acceptable original.


Thursday, 26 May 2011



This isn't really how I like to watch films - in instalments. But sadly it took three goes for me to get to the end of this particular movie. Not because it's monumentally long, not because it was so soul-witheringly tedious, but because the first two discs that an unnamed rentals company (hereafter referred to as LikeMovie) didn't work. The first one didn't even play: it just whizzed around inside my machine making an unpleasant juddering noise, like I'd put a spoon in there or something. LikeMovie replaced it a couple of days later with another copy, which played perfectly well up to about 51 minutes in, when it froze solid and refused to proceed any further. And it's not my player - it wouldn't work on my PC either (I don't like watching movies on my PC screen anyway but that's another matter). So LikeMovie sent me another replacement copy and that played well - at least from the 45 minute mark. If it was damaged earlier than that I wouldn't know because I skipped near to where it had frozen the other day. In AdmireCinema's defence: they got me that third copy within a week of the first one fritzing up, and I've got an extra rental as a bonus. And it really doesn't happen very often. But if it grinds to a halt at 51 minutes in, and it's actually a decent little film, it IS annoying.

And Don't Look Up IS a decent little film. It's certainly nothing special, but it's well enough put together to pass muster. A paranormally-sensitive film director has an urge to remake a Romanian silent horror movie which was abandoned after spooky stuff happened on set, mirroring the true-life folk-tale curse of the story, and the director (played by Eli Roth!) died. When he and his crew start restaging the movie in the same Eastern European studios, it's no great surprise when the same spooky happenings begin again: members of the crew are bumped off one by one and the real evil spirit of the story returns, accompanied by swarms of unconvincing CGI flies.

Sadly, after about an hour it gives up trying to be pleasantly creepy and opts for turning into a typically unfathomable Japanese-style horror, complete with the familiar figure of the lank-haired girl ghost, which is hardly surprising when Don't Look Up turns out to be a remake of a Hideo Nakata film! It's nicely done much of the time, with some occasional spurts of gore and some effectively creepy moments, although the CG flyswarms are very ropey. Plotwise, it's open to question as to whether a film crew would stick around an obviously collapsing project with a rising body count and a director who's patently unhinged, and it's odd to see this low-budget horror film crew apparently working with Panaflex film cameras rather than digital (although the plot does call for odd things to show up on the processed dailies) when this film was actually shot on HD, according to the IMDb's technical specs page. But it's effective enough, particularly in its first half, with an interesting cast (it's got Henry Thomas, Kevin Corrigan and Lothaire Bluteau), and certainly worth a rental. Though probably not three.



Wednesday, 25 May 2011



Every so often a movie comes out and, by some unspoken communion, everyone - critics, audiences, pundits, journalists - put on their special titanium-plated boots and kick the hell out of it in one uplifting, cathartic chorus of "It's The Worst Movie Ever Made!!!!!!" Which, of course, it never is. For two reasons: one, the worst movie ever made is The Summer Of The Massacre, and secondly, unless you've seen at least twenty of the so-called movies from the likes of Al Adamson, Ted V Mikels and Jess Franco, your petulant kickings of this season's decreed turkey are completely unfounded. Go and watch Vampire Killer Barbys or Dracula Vs Frankenstein, then come back and try and tell me with a straight face that Howard The Duck is still the worst film ever made. You can't, because it isn't. It's not very good, but there are so many worse out there.

Sometimes the targets are justified, sometimes they're simply not. 2004's whipping boy was, Catwoman, in which dowdy (!) and put-upon art designer Halle Berry overhears deadly corporate secrets at Sharon Stone's cosmetics factory, and comes back from the dead after a murder attempt when she's gifted with cat-powers. She promptly expresses her new cat-self by dressing up in black leather and sorting out the villains who are planning to launch an addictive and toxic anti-wrinkle cream, while trying to maintain a tentative romantic entanglement with the cop on the case of the recent spate of cat-like murders.

Yes, it's rubbish. It's flashy, overedited in the annoying modern manner, the dialogue is very ropey and the plot is silly. You could argue that Halle Berry is the wrong actress to play the lead, but who the hell is? Jessica Alba? Megan Fox? Roseanne Barr? It's Catwoman, for goodness' sake - we're not talking about casting Eugene Onegin. No actress in the world is going to make this kind of stuff believable. But I don't think any actor in the world can make Spiderman or Batman believable either. Given the essential silliness of all these superhero premises, it seems unfair to knock this one while Batman Begins or the Raimi Spidermans somehow get a free ride.

Catwoman is no worse than any of these movies. In fact, it's more entertaining than some, such as the overlong and frankly humourless Nolan Batman movies: at least Catwoman has something approaching a sense of fun, and the lead character isn't a bore. And it doesn't have the tedious romantic soap-opera teen angst of the Spiderman series where I consistently failed to give a toss whether he got off with Mary-Jane or not. In fact it's more along the lines of the equally silly, equally implausible, and equally disposable Fantastic Four movies. It's empty, it's flashy, it's stupid, but let's not pretend that it's raspberry material. There are so many films out there worse than this. I didn't particularly like it, and I'm not defending it, but I'm not joining in the kicking.


Don't believe me?

Monday, 23 May 2011



Much as I enjoy a good 90s cyborg movie, SF is one area where you really do have to spend some money on your special effects sequences. If you really can't afford to make even a semi-decent looking science-fiction movie, don't make it. Make an affordable drama about three ugly people in an apartment or something instead. Don't stint on your dreams by living them badly. In this instance many of the superimposition effects would be considered below par on the later episodes of Blake's Seven or the McCoy years of Doctor Who (the benchmark for sub-standard effects work). Not that this would have been transformed into some kind of lost classic had they spent a few thousand dollars on the mattes, miniatures and animation - it's still a stiff - but at least they'd have tried.

Digital Man is the result of a top-secret new project to create the ultimate cybernetic soldier (yes, again): beamed into action to take out a bunch of extortionists who've hijacked the launch codes for 250 nuclear missiles, but then apparently goes rogue so a team of tough-talking badass Marine types go into the desert town of Badwater to take the cyborg out. Trouble comes not just from the local civilians - all of them hillbilly imbeciles - but the gradual discovery that some of the troops are cyborgs as well, even though they don't actually know it, as well as a traitor back at the base. Can they stop the Digital Man from transmitting the launch codes from the comms room of a giant underground nuclear plant?

It's rubbish, fairly evidently. All the Marines, cyborg or human, are constantly firing hilariously oversized guns approximately four feet long (yet all too often not actually managing to hit anything), the post-production effects look to have been drawn on the print with a couple of felt-tip pens, and it's frankly impossible to care which are humans and which are not, even when they're going into "am I human" angst every time one of their trusted comrades is revealed as a mere machine. But it's got an interesting trash cast: Matthias Hues as the cyborg, Ed Lauter and Paul Gleason back at HQ, Don Swayze as the most annoying of the idiot townsfolk. That, and the occasionally nifty prosthetic work, isn't anything like enough. Directed by Phillip (A*P*E*X) Roth, not to be confused with the Philip Roth who's just won the Booker Prize or something for writing dirty books. Though that would probably have been more interesting.


Saturday, 21 May 2011



Who doesn't remember Bryan Genesse? Who wasn't there for the lamest of the sub-sub-Revenge Of The Nerds, sub-sub-Porky's high school smutarama of the 1980s, Screwballs II: Loose Screws? I caught this in late 1985 at the Star Centa in the now-demolished Swiss Centre off Leicester Square on a double bill with Gary Sherman's Vice Squad and even now, more than a quarter of a century later, I still shudder at the thought of it. Bryan Genesse was the star of this thoroughly unedifying experience, and has occasionally cropped up subsequently in extraordinarily low-rent wallopfests such as Cyborg Cop 3, Project Shadowchaser: Night Siege and Cold Harvest. And this, which makes the mistake of asking him to actually act.

Traitor's Heart is a generally dull and nonsensical conspiracy thriller in which Genesse is an amnesiac Army veteran who is suddenly approached by people who claim to know him - and then they're mysteriously bumped off. Could he be next? He and his colleagues (who he doesn't remember) are apparently being hunted for information they might have concerning shady activities in their past (which he can't remember). Curiously, they're also concerned that he might have arranged for top secret files to be leaked to the press in the event of his death, which makes you wonder why they seem so intent on killing him. Who can he trust? His doctor, his father - everyone seems to think he's suffering from paranoid delusions and just needs more treatment, but what's it really all about?

The film starts off with a long slow-motion sequence of War Is Hell action with picturesque explosions and low flying helicopters dwarfing the fleeing soldiers while grand opera plays on the soundtrack - yes, we saw Platoon and Apocalypse Now, we know how classical music can be used against footage of things blowing up. But the rest of it is flat, nonsensical and has too much talk and not enough action (despite a car chase); even clocking in at a slim 90 minutes it's slow and frankly dull, ending in an extended courtroom scene that's less of a grandstanding showdown than a string of technicalities and an unconvincing about-face from a major character. It wants to be Robocop, it wants to be The Terminator, but it isn't even Cyborg. Of very, very little interest.


Friday, 20 May 2011



We've not had a straightforward British cop movie for years. Apart from Hot Fuzz (which was a comedy), there's been Shoot On Sight (Jag Mundhra's contribution to the War On Terror genre) and there's nothing else that springs to mind since the two Sweeney movies and Cannon and Ball's The Boys In Blue (also a comedy, at least nominally, though I haven't actually seen it and am frankly wary of adding it to my rentals queue). But this is a tough, cheerfully aggressive action flick centred around London coppers with enough swearing and bloody violence to get it an 18 even with almost no sexual context. Sadly, it's far too pumped-up and strident and frankly just plain noisy.

Blitz is the self-bestowed nickname ("as in Blitzkrieg") of a particularly despicable piece of work played by Aidan Gillen who sets out to kill London police officers. Initially it's seen as a random spree, but is there a pattern in Blitz's selections? On the case are ultraviolent burnout Frank (Jason Statham doing the patented Jason Statham performance) and methodical but much-disliked Porter (Paddy Considine) - can they find Blitz and lock him up before he kills the eight cops he's promised to tabloid journalist Dunlop (David Morrissey)?

Blitz is rubbish: with Statham basically playing Dirty Harry in South East London, it's way down the list of Statham movies, never once coming close to the definitive Statham outing, the first Transporter. It feels like it was conceived by someone watching episodes of The Bill and The Sweeney while higher than the Mir space station on a cocktail of drugs and triple-strength caffeine: it's incredibly loud and thumpingly noisy in its violent action scenes. But despite the occasional cheerfully politically incorrect humour in the partnership between hardnut Statham and softie Considine, it's unlikeable and it's no fun. Moreover, the pacing's all over the place (after an initial flurry, there doesn't seem to be a lot of urgency in the hunt for the cop-killer) and there are detours into the sordid private life of one of Blitz's identified targets (who is left alone and unguarded after an initial attempt).

It's got a neat, if rushed, resolution, and one impressive action sequence, a foot chase across the rooftops and through the streets to Paddington Station, but Blitz is generally pretty mediocre: along the lines and on the level of the increasing numbers of DTV vehicles for Snipes, Seagal, Van Damme and Lundgren. It's tempting to ask why it's even in cinemas in the first place. Best left until DVD, if you really must.




Confession: I've never read DH Lawrence's original novel about humping across the class divide in the Nottingham area. Nor have I seen any other screen adaptations - I did start with the BBC's version directed by Ken Russell but gave up after the first episode on the grounds of stupefying dullness - and, I suspect like most people, I know of it more from its reputation when prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act (which puts it in the same bracket as Nightmares In A Damaged Brain) than from actually having sat and read, or watched, the thing. This big screen incarnation is one of several, but probably the biggest and most ambitious, and equally probably the most explicit. But then it's directed by Emmanuelle's Just Jaeckin and stars that film's Sylvia Kristel, so a PG rating was frankly unlikely.

It's the familiar Lady Chatterley's Lover story: posh bird can't get no satisfaction from her beloved but crippled husband so takes up with the gruff and sweaty gamekeeper in a serious of increasingly graphic but mistily shot shaggings; things don't end well. Set against the eternal class barriers and snobbery between the landed (though not genuinely aristocratic) gentry and the mere peasantry who actually do all the work, it's really not interested in all that and really wants to get down to all the rutting: it's all shot through gauze or something so it looks very pretty but - and this is really the problem with all pornography - it's actually incredibly boring.

It's a stifling film: not just the social oppression of rich and poor, man and woman, noble and pleb, but the suffocating gloom of the massive (and clearly massively underused) Wragby Hall. And the sex scenes are frankly hideously dull. Not necessarily a case of "when you've seen one you've seen them all", more a case of "when you've looked at this one long enough you really do want to look at something else". Nicholas (Excalibur) Clay is Mellors, a role originally earmarked for Oliver Reed or Ian McShane, but it's Sylvia "Emmanuelle" Kristel at the centre of it and she's not really doing anything she wasn't doing in Emmanuelle - taking her clothes off and having sex. It's just not enough: it's not interesting and at 100 minutes it's far too long for what is basically a softcore porn movie - a well-mounted porn movie, yes, with some recognisable actors in it (Anthony Head shows up as a German at the opening party sequence) and decent production values - but still cripplingly dull.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011



Arrrrr! Drink up, ye scurvy knaves! Here be.... Sorry, but just because the new Pirates movie boasts dialogue with a heroic disregard for the basics of English as bellowed by spectacularly bearded eccentrics, doesn't mean I'm going to continue in some kind of piratical parley. Especially when bringing the news that the new Pirates movie is, for all its faults, mercifully better than the second and third ones, harking back more to the original as a spectacular adventure romp and refreshingly free of insipid romantic sludge from Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. If there's one thing to place Part 4 above the last two films, it's that they're not in it. They're not even mentioned. Maybe the makers are trying to convince the world, Stalin-like, that it never actually happened.

In fact, only three characters from the original trilogy make it to Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - four if you count a one-scene cameo from Keith Richards. Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and of course Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), all get involved in a race across the Atlantic, not just against each other but the fiendish Spaniards as well, to locate the Fountain Of Youth before the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his frankly untrustworthy daughter, the non-angelic Angelica (Penelope Cruz) can take it for themselves. Much double-crossing and triple-crossing ensue (whose side are any of these people on?) on the quest to find the two chalices of Ponce De Leon and the tears of a mermaid which are needed to perform the Profane Ritual and grant more life - though (moral lesson alert!) at someone else's expense.

Shorn of the tedious Bloom-Knightley love story, and putting the more interesting Jack Sparrow towards the centre of things, it's much more fun (Depp gets most of the funny lines) and overall it is a distinct improvement on Part 2 (which had all the boring Flying Dutchman stuff in it) and Part 3 (which was better but went on for an insanely long time). Though it takes a while to get going with some London-set stuff that could be trimmed substantially, much of the movie rattles along fairly speedily against an enjoyable Hans Zimmer score (which does admittedly sound very similar to the earlier scores from him and Klaus Badelt), and the cast are obviously having fun. The effects are generally up to par, but so they damn should be for the kind of money Disney spend on these things (reportedly $200,000,000 - think about that kind of money next time you're walking past Barnardos or the Heart Foundation shops).

If you found Depp's characterisation annoying in the first three, you'll probably find him even more annoying this time round because he's in it more and has more to do (he doesn't show up in POTC3 for about half an hour). POTC4:OST is certainly too long, and there's the inevitable post-credits bonus bit which is clearly setting up Part 5 (apparently there'll also be a Part 6, according to the IMDb). It's being shown in 2D and a 3D conversion: frankly the 2D print is more than adequate as there appear to be only a few moments where there's obviously something pointing or leaping out of the screen. Save your doubloons and see the flat version which is how it was shot in the first place. And make sure kids understand that the appalling standards of grammar are not acceptable in the real world.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011


5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... SPOILERS!

Violence in movies is such a monumentally knotty subject. It demands knowledge of the context of the film, the intentions of the film-makers, the viewer's personal experience of real-life violence (you're probably less likely to respond well to a comedy about knife crime if you've been the victim of it), the style of the film, the potential audience for the film - and all these things are different for each production and for each viewer, making it very difficult to lay down any kind of rules as to what and what isn't acceptable. You can try and make the cold act of murder repulsive in a popcorn grossout way (a thousand slasher movies) or repulsive in a repulsive way (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer); you can turn it into a parlour game (Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders), you can fetishise and stylise it (a thousand gialli), you can pornographise and orgasmify it (gloriously senseless killfests of the vintage John Woo era).

Operation: Endgame starts out as a fairly uninteresting office-based comedy concerning two bickering teams of crack government agents in a secret underground facility which goes into lockdown when the boss (Jeffrey Tambor) is murdered. Worse, a countdown has been initiated that will flood the building with napalm (for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever) and the staff find themselves having to kill each other (again - why?) in order to get out alive. And not only do they have to kill each other, but they have to do it as violently as possible.

There are some big-name stars in this: Tambor, Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Ellen Barkin, Zach Galifianakis, Odette Yustman (now Odette Annable), and the all-star killfest spectre of the Smokin' Aces movies, or films like Lucky Number Slevin, does hang over this film: snarky, sweary dialogue that feels like there should be a studio audience to laugh at it, callous but jokey violence with whatever's to hand in the way of office supplies (staplers, watercoolers, guillotines), and a growing sense that it's just not as funny as it's supposed to be. It's a hard film to like, with a gallery of characters it's hard to like or care about once their friends and colleagues start trying to kill them (particularly when it's completely unnecessary). Yes, there are a couple of amusing moments, and Ving Rhames is always watchable, but your life will be in no way lacking if you leave it on Blockbuster's shelves.


You be the judge:

Sunday, 15 May 2011



Remember Die Hard? When it came out, it was followed by a succession of breathtakingly similar films whose sole concessions to originality and innovation were setting the action somewhere else. Not counting the Die Hard sequels themselves, which diluted the formula by widening the arena every time, from office block to international airport to New York City to the whole of the Eastern Seaboard (presumably in Die Hard 5, Bruce Willis will be saving the entire solar system): we had Die Hard on a battleship (Under Siege), Die Hard on a train (Under Siege 2), Die Hard in a shopping mall (Irresistible Force), Die Hard halfway up a mountain (Cliffhanger), Die Hard in a water processing plant (Lethal Tender), Die Hard on a cruise liner (Speed 2: Cruise Control), Die Hard in an aeroplane (Passenger 57) and Die Hard in an ice-hockey stadium (Sudden Death). Etcetera. So prevalent were Die Hard clones that one producer allegedly tried to pitch his new project as Die Hard In A Skyscraper.

Sudden Death was a perfectly decent Van Damme action movie, but it must have left some kind of impression on Dolph Lundgren because Command Performance, which Dolph co-wrote AND directed as well as bagging the Willis/Van Damme role, is basically Die Hard In A Moscow Concert Arena. A charity rock event aimed at eradicating poverty is taken over by heavily armed villains, the Russian premier and his daughters, the American Ambassador and sundry music types are held hostage unless a billion sterling is transferred into blah blah blah, although the leader of the terrorists has a separate, more personal agenda. But they've reckoned without Jean Claude Dolph as the open-shirted drummer of the support band who just happened to be having a dodgy cigarette in the gents when the mayhem started - and just happens to be mighty handy with firearms. Can he save the hostages and defeat the bad guys?

This is nonsense even by the standards of the modern-day DTV action picture, although there are a couple of amusing touches, including a great moment when Bruce Dolph disorients a couple of goons by chocking out a heroically overamplified power chord. And it looks like Dolph is actually doing his own drumming (although I probably wouldn't swear to it). But the film basically comes down to the level of too many recent low-budget shoot-em-ups: ugly people emptying machine guns at each other in drably photographed corridors and basements. It's very slightly better than The Killing Machine, but not much, and too similar to too many other films - why watch Command Performance when you can watch Sudden Death, or indeed Die Hard? Rubbish, but tolerable.



Saturday, 14 May 2011



Good grief, old chum. Here's a film to rekindle the age-old dilemma of who to side with in a film: the alien invaders or the human victims. And while I don't entirely fit the profile of the average Daily Mail-reading retired Colonel from Cheltenham forever fulminating about young people today, I must confess I found it next to impossible to sympathise much with the muggers, drug dealers and knife-wielding wannabe gangstas: the nominal heroes of Joe Cornish's British SF/horror/yoof film. Partly that's because of what they are - muggers, drug dealers etc - and partly that's because everything they said was incomprehensible with the exception of the swearing.

Essentially Attack The Block is Skyline, except shot on even less money and set in Lambeth in a council tower block: after a gang of hoodie teenagers discover and then kill some kind of alien monster whose arrival had interrupted a knifepoint mugging, the area is quickly invaded by swathes of larger and more vicious monsters, congregating on the council estate and the block of flats where the teens live. What do they want? While the gang hole up in various people's apartments, eventually taking refuge in a marijuana factory run by Nick Frost (the only widely recognisable face in the film), the aliens swarm up the walls and bloodily despatch everyone who encountered the first creature. Could the explanation be their ultimate salvation?

Well, possibly, although it is hard to care. Much of the dialogue is gibberish, to the extent that I wished there were subtitles. Then I gradually started to understand the words but still had no idea what the hell they were talking about as it's all in street patois which will no doubt sound hideously dated in six months' time. And the film's cheerful tolerance and acceptance of drug culture leaves me a little uncomfortable. Obviously I don't get modern youth culture: I'm 47.  I also didn't entirely buy one major character's conversion.

Granted, the alien design is superb in its simplicity: gorilla-shaped silhouettes with no features whatsoever except for luminous rows of teeth. The film's action sequences are put together well enough, and it's nice to see a film that doesn't rely on CGI for all its thrills. But that's really all the movie has going for it: it wasn't any fun, it wasn't scary or more than fitfully exciting, and ultimately I simply didn't enjoy it; it's a disappointment. Still, what can you do? Young people today. Tch.




I rather like Luc Besson. Not just for the apparently infinite stream of screenplays and storylines for boneheadly dumb but entertaining Euro-set action movies that included what is probably the definitive Jason Statham movie - The Transporter - and thud-bang-wallop vehicles for everyone from Jet Li to Liam Neeson, but some offbeat French art/cult movies including Subway and The Big Blue, and of course the massively bonkers but strangely wonderful The Fifth Element, which he supposedly wrote while in high school if you believe the IMDb trivia page.

I'm guessing The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec was actually written while Besson was in secondary school because it's incredibly childish: it's actually two stories rolled into one, but not terribly well. It's Paris in 1911, and the Adèle Blanc-Sec of the title is an adventurer, explorer and novelist seeking to use a Parisian doctor's psychic powers to revive an Egyptian mummy who she believes can cure her twin sister who was paralysed after a freak accident involving a hatpin and a tennis ball. Sadly, the doctor concerned has used his powers to set a pterodactyl loose on Parisian society, which proceeds to attack the Prefect of Police and ultimately the President. Can Adèle and her lovestruck assistant save the doctor from imminent execution, find the pterodactyl and control it - and then sort out this business with the mummy and her sister?

Mysteriously (although perhaps not, given that it's a French language film) it's only had a patchy and brief UK theatrical release. The two stories don't really mesh together terribly well, and Adèle is off-screen a lot of the time while the beast is rampaging around Paris. But it's a generally good-natured, amusing if hopelessly nonsensical bit of French fantasy whimsy with an orchestral score from Besson's regular composer Eric Serra, a fearsome collection of stick-on beards and moustaches, decent CG effects, an array of eccentric support characters including buffoonish cops and big game hunters, and a silly sense of fun. It's no Fifth Element, but it's kind of engaging in its own way.


Friday, 13 May 2011



Much as I'd love to, I struggle to feel the love many others apparently have for this film. I suppose my reservations are the same ones I had for Kick-Ass, which I was similarly lukewarm about when everyone else was raving about it - a young girl raised as an emotionless killer. But while Kick-Ass played the character and concept for obscene laughs, Joe Wright's film comes across more as a cold European arthouse take on the rogue agent thriller genre. At least in Kick-Ass, Hit Girl does finally have the chance of a "normal" life, but what hope is there for Hanna?

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) lives deep in the forest with only her father Eric Bana for company, home-schooled in killing, weapons training and survivalism, and educated solely by Bana reading to her from an encyclopedia. But he's a former CIA agent who disappeared sixteen years ago with baby Hanna. And when the day inevitably comes that Hanna wants to leave, the long-cold trail is reignited and very soon the faceless legions of the CIA are right behind them.

There are vague allusions to fairy tales here - some of the action takes place in a rundown Brothers Grimm theme park (which I gather actually does exist), and Cate Blanchett is obviously the Evil Queen/Wicked Stepmother figure. But the film doesn't really give us much chance to empathise with Hanna. There's some thawing as she hides out with a slightly bohemian English family on a pan-European camping holiday, and there's a terrific scene in which Hanna first encounters the modern world - TV, kettles, telephones - after a lifetime without music or electricity (or presumably plumbing) - and flees in terror and confusion.

There's also a lot of punchy action scenes, which are perfectly well done, and quick-cut sudden death violence, which is perhaps inappropriate for the 12A certificate. Not that it's particularly graphic, but there's no moral consequence to the numerous killings, rather in the manner of a Rambo shoot-em-up albeit without the cartoonish gore. The ladling on of a supposedly cool but dramatically inappropriate Chemical Brothers score doesn't help either.

Ultimately I found it hard to embrace the film wholeheartedly: it's cold not just with the constant snow but with the lack of emotional connection that I think we are supposed to feel. Moments appeal (such as a supposedly one-take scene of Bana cornered by CIA goons in a subway) but overall I don't think it entirely works. A disappointment.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011



Sometimes you're in the video shop reading the back of the box and they essentially give the whole game away in the blurb. But occasionally you'll pick one up and they know they've got an absolute corker of a plot twist that they don't include it. They don't even allude cryptically to that sudden gear change: they leave it entirely to you to stumble upon. Personally I'm in favour of that: there's a thrill of discovery rather than trying to second-guess the carefully worded synopsis. If it's a good twist, that is. But when it's an utterly absurd twist which suddenly veers the film into outright silliness, you may find yourself pausing the DVD and shouting "No!" at the screen, the way I did when Brian De Palma's massively flawed Femme Fatale lobbed a metaphorical spanner into the narrative engine. "You can't do that!"

In Ticking Clock there's a serial killer on the loose: he appears out of nowhere, bloodily kills for no immediately apparent reason and vanishes afterwards. By chance - or is it? - his victim is the girlfriend of crime journalist and all-round idiot Cuba Gooding Jr: in the struggle the killer drops his diary, which crucially includes names and dates of his next victims. Does Cuba Gooding Jr take the book to the police? Of course not, though that's the smart thing to do. What he does is try and track down the killer himself, presumably because he might get a book out of it, and because he's an idiot he repeatedly allows circumstance to frame him as the killer. Gradually it emerges the killer, and the victims, have some connection with a young boy currently in a Catholic orphanage...

Almost exactly one hour in, the film reveals that connection, turning a bog-standard DTV serial killer thriller into something else entirely, and it's a clunking gear change that the film can't recover from. I don't want to reveal the specifics of the twist, because it's really all the film has going for it: the lead is an idiot, the photography is dark and glum and it's not even exciting in its kill sequences. The film's labelled with the Fight Factory logo, which aligns it with Wesley Snipes' or Steven Seagal's more recent exercises in bargain-bucket asskicking, which is strange as there's not that much fighting in it. And it's so strange to see a movie of this nature headlined by an Oscar-winning actor as well - exactly what happened to Cuba Gooding Jr's career?


You won't believe it:



In a heavily customised and supposedly cool black car, which is kitted out with enough gizmos and gadgets and laser-targeted missiles to start a medium-sized war, sits our fearless Masked Avenger: a multi-billionaire with father issues who adopts a secret mystical identity to fight crime alongside his similarly masked associate. But it's not Batman. Nor is he Superman or Spiderman: he has no superpowers and no armour. In fact as superheroes go, he's a bit rubbish and leaves most of the actual fighting to his martial-artist sidekick, and when he's not being the awesome vigilante he's a monumental tosser. Maybe that's the point: he is played by Seth Rogen.

Daddy didn't pay him enough attention when he was a child: he'd got a newspaper empire to run and corruption to expose, so Britt Reid (Rogen) grows up as an unloved wastrel, partying and boozing the nights away. But when the old man (Tom Wilkinson, the film's only note of dignity) dies, Britt inherits the newspaper and more by accident than design, becomes The Green Hornet. With his trusty companion Cato (Jay Chou - in the role played in the original TV series by Bruce Lee, who gets an injoke nod) he excitedly adopts the role, though he hasn't got a clue what he's doing or how to go about it. Ranged against him are the smarmy District Attorney and the most unspeakably (deliberately so) rubbish crime lord imaginable (Christoph Waltz). Can The Green Hornet clear up the city's crime problem, unmask the villains and cop off with his new secretary (Cameron Diaz)?

Not really. Oh, sure, these particular villains get their just desserts, although they aren't unmasked: rather, they unmask themselves in a final 20-minute orgy of senseless chasing and shooting and fighting and wholesale destruction. And Cameron Diaz quite rightly looks at Rogen and sees only a spoiled, immature, charmless oaf. Frankly The Green Hornet is nobody's champion - yes, I know he's supposed to be a masked vigilante pretending to be a masked villain, but whatever guise he's adopting, he's fundamentally unlikeable. I've never heard the original radio serial or seen the original TV series (incidentally the Billy May theme to the TV show gets a brief airing) but I can't believe that the concept has lasted this long if the hero was such a knob.

And if it's some kind of a spoof it's not remotely amusing, and far too long at nearly two hours, with action and fight scenes that appear to go on forever. There are some nice stylistic touches from time to time - it's directed by Michel Gondry - but at an estimated budget of $120 million it's bloated and overblown, it's no fun, and CGI'd up the wazoo (the IMDb lists no less than 570 people in the visual effects department alone). While originally shot flat, it was only released in cinemas in a converted 3D version, which I refused to see (if it's filmed in 2D I want to watch it in 2D) but suspect would have added nothing to the project except bringing on the headaches a little earlier. But overall it's a pretty comprehensive failure and doesn't work at all.



Saturday, 7 May 2011



It doesn't look right on the screen, but that IS precisely how the title appears at the start of the film, with quotation marks around the word Human: probably because the film deals in part with the difference between a cold, analytical computer and the instinctive actions of a man, in the guise of a violent revenge thriller. This is a moderately interesting but ultimately restrained Euro-based action movie with some good solid names on both sides of the camera, but sadly it doesn't really work when it's all put together.

Electronics boffin George Kennedy returns home from his NATO War Games Computer Simulation duties one night to discover that his wife and children have been mercilessly slaughtered. Naturally perhaps, he wants revenge and would rather execute the perpetrators himself than see them carted off to jail, so suborns his NATO computer system's intelligence capabilities, along with his colleagues John Mills and Rita Tushingham, to track the killers down. But Kennedy's own profile has also been put into the computer, which predicts that his attempts to personally despatch the villains only has an eight per cent chance of success - though the computer reckons without The "Human" Factor of the man's overwhelming desire for avenging justice.

Perhaps it's unfortunate that the computer is codenamed 9-11, given that this is a film dealing with terrorists. And say what you like about George Kennedy - and I like him - but the man cannot run, and unfortunately there's a lot of running for him to do in this film. He's a terrific character actor (Kennedy speaks about character acting in the DVD interview featurette) and he's always good value in everything he does, but he's just not leading man material, especially in an action film with fighting and car stunts and rooftop chases - you can tell when it's the stuntman because he can run. Other familiar names and faces pop up - Raf Vallone, Barry Sullivan, Shane Rimmer; there's an Ennio Morricone score and it's directed by Hollywood veteran Edward Dmytryck.

It's always nice to see 70s action movies exhumed from the vaults after all these years: even if, as in this instance, it's not very good overall, there are incidental pleasures such as an unfamiliar Morricone soundtrack. While The "Human" Factor isn't terrible, it's not essential viewing either: it's a bit limp, a bit underwhelming, despite the occasional bursts of Death Wish violence that still make it an 18-rated film.


"Available" here:

Friday, 6 May 2011



I am not a fan of Takashi Miike, or Miike Takashi as he's apparently sometimes known. While he's done some undeniably good films and at least one very good one (Audition), he's done a lot of censor-baiting twaddle that's not just borderline offensive but tedious as well. Some years ago at FrightFest they screened Gozu, the highlights of which were a man inserting a spoon up his bum (all the better to achieve sexual pleasure, from what I remember) and a dog being slammed repeatedly against a plate glass window. Oh, the hilarity. But I eventually deleted most of TM's titles from my rental queue after sitting through through the absolute garbage that was Visitor Q: a dull plod through the Daily Mail Checklist of Horrible in which incest, rape, necrophilia, prostitution and, erm, lactation are cheerfully ticked off in under 90 minutes. And Ichi The Killer, from which the BBFC felt compelled to chop more than three minutes of sexual violence and mutilation before it was deemed suitable for adults.

But when he wants to, or probably more accurately when he's told to, he reins it in and we get something like Audition, in which the horrors aren't interrupted by surrealism or stupidity. Or his original version of One Missed Call which is a perfectly decent J-Horror. And now here, his first UK theatrical release for some years (most of his stuff goes straight to DVD) and it's one of his restrained ones. 13 Assassins is a 19th century tale of feudal Japan under the Shogun system, where samurai would give their own lives for their lords without a second or even a first thought. When the sadistic, murderous and all-round insane Lord Naritsugu is named as his Shogun brother's political advisor, a disparate group of samurai conspire to assassinate him on his journey home, as they foresee the chaos and carnage he would unleash. But Naritsugu has his own army: it's our thirteen against more than two hundred.

The first half of the film sets up the heroes and villains, the second half details the ambush, which basically consists of taking an entire village and turning it into one gigantic arena of death where the two hundred can be slaughtered, leaving the vile Naritsugu undefended. It's this breathless extended combat sequence where the film scores on a visceral level, with lots of bloody death and violence (not enough for an 18 certificate, though), but the real pleasures are in the first section, with its depiction of the ancient samurai traditions and code of honour, and the political and personal machinations. And the widescreen photography, though drained of colour in many places, is beautiful. For Takashi Miike, it's the best thing I've seen of his (disclaimer: as noted above, I have deliberately missed quite a few): the historical setting means he can't fill it with graphic sex and random nonsense and has to just tell the story. Which he does very well. Recommended.




In the way that a meal shouldn't, Insidious has stayed with me for a whole week. The effects of most movies, except the very, very best ones, tend to fade: obviously you still remember them, but the immediate feelings dissipate as life continues and other things demand your attention. You might see a terrific hour of standup comedy but you won't still be laughing a week later at the gags.

But it's been a week and Insidious won't go away. More impressively, it's actually gained in power, the power to unsettle not just while it's running through the projector at Cineworld, but late at night when you're alone in the flat and you've got to walk through to the bathroom then to the bedroom. You can't even put Classic FM on as an aural distraction because suddenly there's that nagging fear that halfway through brushing your teeth the radio will start playing Tiptoe Through The Tulips instead of that nice calming bit of Grieg. Of course it's ridiculous: in broad daylight the idea that a clawed red-skinned demon or a spectral hag is lurking just beyond my peripheral vision. But daylight shows everything that's there; darkness hides everything that could be there. And when the lights go out, anything could be there.

So why does the movie work so well? Well, it's working on our most primal fears: you're not alone in your house, there's something wrong with your child, the world is not as you thought it was. The idea that there's "someone" invading your home who means you unspeakable harm, and it doesn't matter how many locks, bolts and alarms you put on the front door. The idea that a loved one is suffering and there's nothing either you or the doctors (or priests) can do to help them and you have to trust the word of people who could at best be described as eccentric. And the idea that your nice, safe preconceptions of the universe, a universe that doesn't include demons, spirits and monsters, are wrong: the idea that there might be things out there we can't see or comprehend. What's surprising is how many horror movies fail at these relatively simple and well-known ideas.

And it's working on common fears. None of us have experienced vampires or zombies, none but a very, very few have encountered an axe murderer on the rampage, or have been chained by the ankle to a U-Bend and given a hacksaw. But we've all jumped in shock as someone or something has made us jump. We have all heard an odd noise late at night and it's never turned out to be anything but harmless. For all the fascinating and repulsive imagery in Clive Barker's Hellraiser, for all the hammer murders and corpses under the floorboards and weirdly beautiful demons, the most painful moment is when Andy Robinson gashes his hand on a nail, because we've all done that or something like it.

The other big surprise about Insidious is that it comes from the makers of Saw and Paranormal Activity. But it's as if they've taken the found footage of the PA movies and then made a horror film in the same vein. The PAs were generally pretty dull: long build ups, brief jumps, long build-ups, brief jumps. But while you were constantly scanning the blurry video images looking for the slight movement and being rewarded with the tiniest frisson as the door might have opened a fraction of an inch or the saucepans might have gently knocked against each other, Insidious has its demons up front and centre from the start, and they're not coming all the way back from beyond the grave just to switch your lights on and knock things over, they've far more malevolent intentions on their minds.

The result is that you're trapped in that delicious and all too rarely explored no-man's-land of horror: caught between Must Look and Can't Look. You have to look all round the screen at the same time as trying to look away from the next scary thing. When Tucker starts looking through his coloured filters, we know that the next one is going to show something the previous one didn't - we want to tear our eyes away but we can't: we're peeking through our fingers, looking while not looking.

I've had no such trouble with other horror movies. Unless it's spiders or sexual violence I'm always okay with whatever they put on screen. No matter how sadistic the Saw movies got, or the Hostels, or the Friday The Thirteenths, they never unsettled me for a second: I enjoyed them (or not, in the case of some of the later Fridays) but I never looked away and I never felt that special chill once I turned the lights out a week later. I'm feeling that chill a week after Insidious: the darkness is hiding more than it did before I saw the film. That's its triumph. So I'm not that bothered when it drops the ball in the third act: when the demonic forces are invading our world it's far more powerful than when we invade theirs. Frankly I can live with the slackening grip and forgive the slight anticlimactic feeling in the final stretch. When I'm still wary to turn the lights out a whole week later, it's done something right.

Or maybe I'm just a wuss.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011



Another big screen outing for the Flying Squad, which despite coming after an underwhelming original (the excitingly exclamatory Sweeney!) manages to still be a bit of a duffer. How difficult can it have been to make a cracking 90-minute cop action movie in London in the 70s? Sadly, this doesn't make the grade either: it's padded out with irrelevant bits and makes the big mistake that so many TV shows make when seeking to expand their horizons: they take the characters out of their familiar surroundings and send them on a package trip abroad. It didn't work for Only Fools And Horses (Miami), it didn't work for Are You Being Served (the Costa Plonka) and it doesn't work for Regan and Carter (scooting over to Malta for no good reason).

Sweeney 2 has a bunch of blaggers (bank robbers) flying into Heathrow, pulling bank heists and jetting back to Malta immediately afterwards, before the police can track them down. It's up to Regan and Carter, the iconic John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, and the rest of the plain-clothed boys to nab them, particularly when a hostage is killed in the getaway car's collision with the police roadblock. The best lead would appear to be some kind of neo-Nazi slut whose husband was one of the gang before they shot him. After a tip from their former guvnor (now in the Scrubs on corruption charges), maybe a trip to Malta to question some suspects might help?

It doesn't, and it's largely a waste of time. In addition, there's a long segment involving a bomb in a London hotel which is pure padding and a distraction from the main plot, and more damagingly it's dull. It's quite violent in places, with shotgun blasts and car smashes, and there are a few F-words sprinkled about as well as entirely gratuitous nudity, most notably and most shamelessly shoehorned in with a screening of the neo-Nazi's softcore porn film in which she writhes around on top of a luxury car. Elsewhere there are the always welcome sightings of familiar faces like Nigel Hawthorne, Georgina Hale and Denholm Elliott, a fine array of 1978s finest cars, and a funky music score by Tony Hatch, composer of the Crossroads theme. Sweeney 2 is rubbish, and no better or worse than Sweeney 1: mildly interesting as a bit of nostalgia but badly paced, charmless and not much fun.



Sunday, 1 May 2011



Special Forces team leader Malcolm Grey (Idris Elba) gets back to America after a mission goes disastrously wrong, determined to purge his conscience of the crimes committed as a Black Ops operative. He contacts a liberal press journalist to give her classified details of morally questionable missions carried out at the behest of his own brother Eamonn Walker, now a Senator with eyes on the Presidency. He meets up with his ex-girlfriend, now the Senator's partner, as well as his old Special Forces comrades. He films himself with a camcorder justifying his actions and explaining the conspiracies behind them. But what really happened on that last mission? It gradually becomes clear that we're watching a man having a complete mental collapse.

For much of the time in Legacy: Black Ops, the screen is held by Elba alone: ranting, shouting, shooting, increasingly erratic and paranoid. To what extent is it all real? The final shots hold the clue to exactly what's been going on throughout the whole film. But the psychological breakdown of one man, obviously seriously damaged by the horrors of war, is more theatrical than cinematic - surprisingly, given the fact that all but a few scenes take place in the same shabby Brooklyn apartment, the film doesn't have its origins as a stage play, where it would probably work quite well: even the climactic act is only seen indirectly via the flat's TV set.

Thomas Ikimi's film is a British-Nigerian co-production, set mainly in New York but bizarrely shot entirely in Dumfries and Galloway, including the early sequences set in Eastern Europe where Elba's final mission degenerates into torture and death. It's an interesting film if not entirely successful, looking at the rights and wrongs of aggressive military actions; Elba's terrific, but the reality of what's going on is apparent quite early on and that doesnt make it very exciting as a drama if you know pretty well what's really going on. Certainly it's worth watching but it's not a great film.