Archive for the ‘Crime Drama’ Category

iLL Manors

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Clearly not content with writing, performing and producing hugely successful multimillion-selling records, and adding acting to his CV when he’s not busy, Ben Drew, or Plan B, has chucked in filmmaking for good measure.

As a huge Tarantino fan (who isn’t?), Drew was always going to give linear, fluid storytelling a miss in favour of something more staggered and challenging. It’s a tricky feat; if it goes well then you feast with Pulp Fiction at the table of tasty treats, but if it goes badly then you eat from the bin with John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Somewhat predictably, Drew has opted to tell an interweaving story based on the streets of London, specifically Forest Gate, where he grew up. iLL Manors examines the mindsets, morality and actions of several different characters, with plenty of grit and intensity, manifesting in both mental and physical form.

This might already sound a little similar to other Brit efforts such as Bullet Boy, Kidulthood and the sequel Adulthood, which featured Drew as a supporting actor, but there are plenty of issues to tackle and stories to tell on the streets and estates of London.
During the course of iLL Manors, we meet Kirby (Keith Coggins), a middle-aged drug dealer fresh from a prison term, and his former protégé Chris (Lee Allen), who now runs things around town, clearly possessing the intimidating physique to do so. The two are no longer allies, which has more than a little to do with Kirby’s treatment of Chris at a younger age.

Meanwhile, Ed (Ed Skrein), a drug dealer with a spiky temperament, and his friend Aaron (Riz Ahmed) are in search of the former’s phone, which seems to have been stolen by prostitute and crack-fanatic Michelle (Anouska Mond). As they hunt her down, it becomes clear that she will have to find another particularly grim and harrowing way to replace the cost of the phone, which she denies ever stealing in the first place.

On top of this we have Katya (Natalie Press), a new mother on the run from Russian mobsters who have been using her in a sickening sex trafficking scheme, whilst early teen Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) finds himself accepted into a violent gang, led by a criminal looking to test his young recruit’s immediate loyalty with a brutal task.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Remake or rehash?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Steig Larssons’s Millennium Trilogy consisted of three novels which focused on Lisbeth Salander, a feisty computer hacker with a troubled past who helps a newspaper editor investigate and uncover some secretive and sinister goings-on in sunny Sweden.

The novels received Swedish-language remakes, and the first was particularly well received. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a fast-paced, thrilling and captivating piece of cinema, driven by Noomi Rapace (seen recently in Prometheus and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), who put in a stonking performance as Lisbeth.

In the first entry, Michael Blomqvist, the editor of Millennium magazine, is hired to find out what happened to a wealthy man’s grandniece some 40 years previous. Blomqvist, in turn, finds the legendary hacker Lisbeth, and convinces her to help him. She is under legal guardianship and has to report back regularly to a man who is basically hideous scum. As she copes with this grotty fellow, she also manages to unearth some fairly horrendous information which will help Michael in his quest for the truth.

Some scenes in the original made for uncomfortable viewing, but it was all there as a key part of Lisbeth’s motivation; the way she acts, with a cold, calculated and distant demeanour, as well as her attitudes towards sex and violence, were justified by story elements which occurred both on and off-screen. It was at times torturous to watch, but at the same time you really rooted for Lisbeth, and Rapace deserved all the acclaim she received and more.

So, with this film being awesome but in Swedish, those marvellous chaps at Colombia Pictures started the process of doing an English-language version. From this point onwards, scepticism shall be rife.

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Drive – Bleed for Speed

Monday, March 12th, 2012

drive-poster1Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was responsible for the offbeat, often surreal and grimy madness that was Bronson, starring an unrecognisable Tom Hardy as the eponymous hard case with a penchant for the savagery of solitary. The film gained well deserved widespread acclaim, and was regularly touted as a modern Clockwork Orange due to its inventive style, harsh violence and über-dry humour.

His follow-up was the abysmal Valhalla Rising; a slog of a mess of a movie, barely glued together by its only positive which was the cinematography. A few guys wander slowly through some scenery, stopping for the occasional grunt or bout of violence. It’s horrible, dull and pointless.

So, not sure what to expect next then, but his adaptation of 2005 James Sallis novel Drive has already developed cult status, earned numerous plaudits and nabbed the Best Director gong at Cannes.

Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver and mechanic who earns extra cash by offering his services as a freelance getaway driver. He has strict rules; his clients have a five minute window beginning from the moment they leave his car for the heist, and during that time he accepts total involvement and shared responsibility, but anything outside of that time frame simply isn’t his problem. He will not carry a gun, and he will not be involved with any clients for a second time.

From the viewer’s perspective, he is known only as The Driver, and comes across as a shy but focused recluse with very little interest in socialising. His world takes a peculiar twist when he meets new neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benicio. They quickly bond, whilst The Driver is also offered the opportunity to race pro, courtesy of local financier Bernie Rose.

As Drive coasts along with glorious fluidity, punctuated by a pounding, wonderfully intense 80s-style synth soundtrack, we all know that things must take a turn. Once we realise that Bernie and his partner Nino are more than a little dangerous, just as Irene’s husband makes a reappearance, the film kicks into top gear and we get an action-packed thrill ride all the way to the end.

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Inception – No rest for the wicked

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

inception3British director Christopher Nolan has been a revelation; he seems to craft innovative, compelling cinema, whilst handling his own side of the publicity with extraordinary skill. He releases tantalising teasers of information, sowing the seeds of intrigue and controlling the world’s awareness of his next movie’s premise and plotline.

His first real success was Memento, a cerebral and original movie that showed the scenes in reverse order, creating a fascinating story and a thrilling ride backwards through the complex mind of Guy Pearce’s Leonard Shelby.

This would be a sign of things to come, and we are all very well aware of Nolan’s pivotal role in relaunching and reshaping the Batman franchise to become an accessible story, grounded in gritty realism. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are astounding, with the latter showing clear signs of influence from big city crime dramas such as Heat; arguably not the kind of movie one would usually associate with a comic book superhero film adaptation.

Once he gained the necessary big budget flick experience, combined with the offer of huge financial backing for anything he fancied doing, Nolan knew it was time to tackle his long-term goal of creating a film about dream thieves; a heist movie set in the mind, where there are no limits, except those imposed by one’s individual creativity. This movie would become Inception, a monster smash-hit that garnered mass critical and public acclaim, technical praise, Oscar wins and a box office return that likely left the film financiers pinching themselves…

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The Town – Ben Affleck burgles Boston banks…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

the_town_poster2Despite appearing in a collection of incredible stinkers, with Daredevil, Gigli, The Sum of all Fears and Surviving Christmas heading the list, it should be remembered that Ben Affleck was one half of the writing team behind the excellent Good Will Hunting screenplay, and turned in a great performance too.

He was given the opportunity to direct, as well as write and star in, an adaptation of Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (a story that has very little to do with Robin Hood), which was retitled as The Town and provided a showcase of Affleck’s raw movie-making talent.

The Town begins by highlighting the severity of bank robberies in the area of Charlestown, located in Boston. This is followed by a heist on a local bank, orchestrated by Affleck’s career criminal Doug MacRay, along with his lifelong friends Jem Coughlin, Gloansy Magloan, and Dez Elden.

The masked thieves encounter a minor hitch, which results in the kidnapping of bank manager Claire Kessey, who gets blindfolded and dropped off at a nearby beach. After the robbery, MacRay decides to follow Kessey, which leads to a relationship between the two, whilst she is blissfully unaware of his involvement in the robbery and her kidnapping.

Whilst MacRay tries to hide his guilt, and keep his friends from knowing his actions, FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley is behind a concentrated effort to get MacRay and his crew behind bars.

For a heist movie, there is very little in terms of bank theft, but this is a conscious decision by Affleck, and allows time for the impressive characterisation and performances to develop fully. This film really is a clever mixture of action and drama, with startling efforts from all the leads.

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The Unforgettables – American History X

Monday, October 18th, 2010

ahx-posterWe have decided to start putting together regular reviews of some of cinema’s most unforgettable gems; movies that raise the bar, leaving us stunned and in awe of a true masterpiece. Today, we look back at 1998’s American History X, a disturbing, harrowing but ultimately brilliant non-linear portrayal of a neo-Nazi and his difficult journey through the complications of his misguided ideology.

Edward Norton is Derek Vinyard, a young man who excelled at school and was part of a contented suburban family until his fire fighting father dies whilst putting out a blaze in a predominantly black neighbourhood. The subtle seeds of racism had already been planted in young Derek’s mind by his late father, and the man’s untimely death served as a catalyst to his son’s simmering radical beliefs.

Derek moves on to become a leader for lost and troubled youths, going so far as to have a swastika tattooed on his chest, inciting race-related violence and vandalism and even making a bet with a group of young rival black youths that results in their `banishment’ from the basketball courts. Vinyard’s antagonistic behaviour results in the attempted armed theft of his car, which is noticed by Derek’s younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong, Terminator 2). Derek flips, kills the men, and receives a three year jail term for voluntary manslaughter.

Upon Derek’s release he is a changed man, having spent hard time in a prison where his racial prejudices and questionable moral values were truly put to the test. His time, though unpleasant, has had the necessary effect, but he comes out to find that Danny has grown older and is being lined up as a fitting replacement for Derek by twisted kingpin Cameron Alexander.

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The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

disappearance-of-alice-creed-posterGorgeous rising starlet Gemma Arterton continues to take the movie-world by storm with her excellent performance in devilishly devious and delightful British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. She has appeared in recent blockbusters Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but is still making time for homeland cinema and we should all be very grateful.

She plays the eponymous Alice Creed, who is taken, stripped, bound, gagged and left in the darkness by twisted thugs Vic and Danny. The two rotters have painstakingly fortified a small flat in an unknown location, and this serves as the set for almost the entire movie. Their grand plan is to force Alice Creed’s rich father to pay up £2million, through the use of some unpleasant photographs and video that effectively display Alice’s harrowing, brutal and potentially fatal situation. Vic is particularly bonkers; he poses a very genuine threat to Alice, as opposed to the younger Danny, who seems a little more confused and reluctant about the plan once he sees the physicality of the torment and stress placed upon the helpless girl.

Perhaps this sounds a little familiar, and the ‘kidnap a rich man’s daughter’ motif is not an original concept. However, this is a film packed with twists, turns and a couple of very genuine shocks. The film takes about 5 seconds to get going, and then bounds forward in a perfectly paced and gripping manner, demonstrating some real potential from writer and director J Blakeson. The script is excellent, with the beats coming at just the right time, and effortlessly executed with aplomb. The film is certainly not without its kinky side, and there is no holding back regarding nudity and violence.

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Cherry Tree Lane – a seriously wrong turn

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

crap-filmThis maddening mess sees three violent and disturbed teenagers break into the home of an unhappily married and extraordinarily unlikeable couple. The pair are beaten and tied up within seconds, and the assailants then proceed to sit on the couch waiting for the couple’s son to come home so they can kill him for being a grass.

This lasts for almost 80 minutes, and it is excruciating; a mind-bendingly dull and lazy waste of time; time that could be spent doing something infinitely better, such as attempting to clean your teeth with a pneumatic drill whilst swallowing a rusty cheese-grater.

The painfully clichéd unhappy couple argue over dinner in a monotonous and badly scripted fashion about an affair that she may have had a while ago (it’s hard to keep track of the conversation due to its poor delivery). They answer the door and are attacked. They are subjected to occasional abuse of a severe nature, whilst the clock ticks down (somewhat erratically) to their son’s arrival, which is due to be met with a fatal response. That is literally it.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – in the garden of Sweden

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

girldragontattooposterPrior to his untimely death in 2004, Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson wrote a trio of novels collectively known as the Millennium Trilogy. Written in his native Swedish tongue, the stories have proved a critical and commercial success, and all three have already been turned into Swedish language movies.

This month sees the DVD rental release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, originally titled Män Som Hatar Kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women. The film, much like its source material, has enjoyed mass acclaim from pretty much everyone, and deservedly so.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo introduces the trilogy’s two main protagonists; firstly Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged investigative journalist writing for the magazine Millennium. His attempts to uncover the corrupt nature of Swedish billionaire and industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström have gone awry and resulted in a libel case against him. He will have to serve three months in prison, but has a few months before he must face his sentence.

The title character and movie heroine is Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-something with prior issues relating to behaviour and mental stability, but a brilliant researcher. She has been hired by ultra-rich Henrik Vanger of the Vanger Group in order to check the legitimacy and authenticity of Mikael Blomkvist’s reputation as a skilled investigator.

Satisfied with Mikael’s credentials, Vanger meets with Blomkvist and requests that he investigate the disappearance of his foster child Harriet, who has been missing for 40 years and presumed dead. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are more than suspicious, and Henrik suspects foul play from none other than a member of his own twisted, money-hungry family.

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Shutter Island – Things are not always what they seem

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

shutterislandposterModern cinematic heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for the fourth time in this eerie and brooding mystery thriller, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane.

Set in the fifties, Shutter Island sees Leo’s U.S. Marshall Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels investigating the apparent disappearance of a mental patient from a totally locked and guarded room. The patient, Rachel Solando, is a resident at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, located on the otherwise desolate Shutter Island.

Daniels is accompanied by his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), as they attempt to solve the unusual case. Their hospital ‘guide’ is head psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley, who makes no bones about coming across as rather sinister and creepy.

It does not take long to establish that there is a lot more going on that a crazy woman with a talent for matter displacement. Daniels believes from the offset that the island and its inhabitants, including Cawley, have some dark and desperate secrets buried within those not-so-solid hospital walls.

Secrets from Teddy’s own past, a few suspect twitches from various characters, a cameo from Max von Sydow, a visit to the ‘off-limits’ prison/hospital on the hill, a secluded and mysterious lighthouse and some weirdness on a cliff all help to create a bizarre, baffling and intriguing mystery shot by a master of cinema.

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