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Posts Tagged ‘David Morrissey’

Courtesy of a minor coincidence, two action movies set in modern London have got a release in consecutive weekends – but while Attack the Block perturbed some critics (including your correspondent) with its ambivalence towards young criminals, Elliot Lester’s Blitz takes a slightly more straightforward approach: three of them get a damn good hiding with a hockey stick before the opening credits even roll.

Then again, this is no more than one would expect from a movie which is essentially a vehicle for the underappreciated British action star Jason Statham, who wields the sporting implement in question. In this outing Statham gives us his portrayal of wild-man South London copper Brant, who in real life would be a figure of urban nightmare: a brutal, uncontrollable thug, only partially redeemed by the fact his heart seems to be in roughly the right place. He prefers beating up juvenile offenders to arresting them. He conducts his interviews down the local boozer. He bullies the service psychiatrist into certifying him fit for duty, even when he is self-evidently a violent sociopath. (It says something for Statham’s considerable charisma that Brant – just! – remains a likable anti-hero for most of the movie.)

However, Brant is in for a shock as a previous recipient of one of his exercises in community policing has emerged from hospital with something of a chip on his shoulder, and sets out on a cop-killing spree. Shocked by the deaths of their own, the top brass of the police install thoughtful by-the-book-ish detective – implausible name alert! – Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) to handle the case and stop the murderer, who’s taken to calling himself ‘the Blitz’, and to this end Brant and Nash forge an uneasy alliance…

Well, if you’re anything like me, the news that Jason Statham and Paddy Considine are in the same film will have provoked bemusement and confusion – I was sitting there during the trailer for Blitz thinking ‘Statham? Considine? Together?!?? Isn’t there a law against things like that…?’ Still, the pairing promised something a bit different from the usual fare either of them turn up in, and the presence elsewhere in the cast of people like David Morrissey and Aiden Gillen suggested this could be an intelligent and gripping movie.

Sadly, I must warn you not to be fooled, as this is very much a Jason Statham movie – and a particularly savage one at that – in which Considine and the others occasionally make an appearance. Normally, I am an enormous fan of Jason Statham’s body of work, whether it be when he’s in steely martial-artist mode in the Transporter franchise, or doing his berserk psycho turn in the Cranks, but Blitz is not, to be perfectly honest, one of his better outings.

It’s a much darker and more realistic movie than most, with considerably less action: it’s over an hour into the movie before Statham gets to chase anyone around, he never takes his shirt off, and he doesn’t end up fighting a dozen people simultaneously in a garage either. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, as it does focus your attention on Jason Statham’s performance – which, as usual, is perfectly fit-for-purpose – but it does mean the film has to rely on things like script and direction in order to succeed.

This is really where Blitz’s problems lie. The ‘rogue cop vs psycho killer’ plot inevitably recalls Dirty Harry, but Blitz isn’t remotely in the same class. Much of the dialogue is very perfunctory and clichéd, and the story itself is flabby, with a lengthy subplot about a female copper (Zawe Ashton) with a drug problem. Ashton’s performance is great, but it has virtually nothing to do with the main plot and drains tension from it as a result. Sensational details are dropped in, purely for effect (Considine’s character is gay, but other than allowing Statham to crack some bracingly non-PC jokes this has no bearing on anything that happens). Worst of all, the story is riddled with improbable coincidences and glaring holes – there were numerous moments where I found myself thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, why don’t they just…?’ The film didn’t do enough to earn the right to make those sorts of demands on my credibility.

And, in the end, the climax – such as it is – is unsatisfying on all sorts of levels. Earlier on, two main characters have a conversation which appears to reveal which way the story is going to go. It doesn’t go this way. It goes exactly the way the conversation indicated it wouldn’t, and this is supposed to constitute a clever narrative twist. The film-makers may call this playing with expectations, but I call it cheating.

In retrospect, the substance of the final scenes – obviously the need to avoid spoilers prevents me from going into too much detail – is very much in keeping with the whole tone of the movie, but they still left me feeling somewhat uneasy. Blitz sets out to depict a world with a bleak and ambiguous morality – and a horribly grimy world it is too – but the climax seems to show Statham and Considine yielding to this, and accepting that they can’t hope to impose anything better upon it. We could probably argue at length about whether or not this is realistic, but I don’t go to the cinema to see that kind of defeatist realism, I’m afraid, and as a result the whole film left a bad taste in my mouth.

Blitz is a fairly competent film with some significant talent involved, and an attempt at exactly the kind of commercial entertainment that should be the lifeblood of any domestic movie industry, and I would really have liked it to be a commercial and creative success (quite why it’s been released when Norse thunder-gods and OTT pirates are hoovering up the bulk of audiences is a mystery – I suspect a real-life cop-killing spree in the UK may have forced a delay in the release date). But, performances aside, it’s just not quite good enough in any department to really be anything memorable.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 30th November 2006:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column you can safely ignore. When I came out to Japan, I was assured that the time difference was only eight or nine hours — and this is mostly true. However, cinematically speaking it’s a different matter. Compared to the United Kingdom, Japan is usually a little bit behind — although this can stretch to anything up to a year. On the other hand, sometimes we’re ahead.

Reaching the Pacific several months after its UK release is Michael Caton-Jones’ Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (Japanese title: Smile of Ice 2), an ‘honestly, you shouldn’t have bothered’ sequel to the notorious 1992 original. As Sharon Stone apparently negotiated herself a very juicy deal where she got paid a huge wodge of cash whether the movie got made or not, one can perhaps view the finished product as an exercise in amortising expenses rather than a proper movie. As a proper movie, it isn’t very good.

Rumpy-obsessed author and maybe-psycho serial killer Catherine Tramell (Stone) pitches up in London and finds herself banged up (not a new experience for her) on suspicion of killing a famous soccer player (Stan Collymore — no, really). Shabbily relentless cop Roy Washburn (David Thewlis) retains brilliant psychoanalyst Michael Glass (David Morrissey) to assess her mental state with a view to stopping her bail, which he does. For various reasons her bail comes through anyway, and before long Glass finds himself the unwilling subject of Trammell’s attentions…

Well, I haven’t really seen the original movie and this sequel doesn’t really make me want to. When the list of great spectator pastimes is written, watching people getting up to it will be somewhere near the bottom, just above watching people talk about getting up to it, and Basic Instinct 2 contains lengthy sequences of both. These are dull or embarrassing rather than actually erotic.

Somewhat more interesting is the thriller plotline, wherein Glass finds himself in the frame (this may even be a deliberate pun on the part of the screenwriters, which suggests they should reassess their priorities) for various murders of people from his past. This is actually quite engaging, although the script doesn’t offer an alternative suspect to Trammell until rather late in the day. This plotline thankfully features a lot less of Stone, who gives an atrocious performance throughout, and rather more of Morrissey and Thewlis, both of whom battle heroically with the rather thin material they’re given.

The London setting and British cast give this movie a certain novelty value, mostly based on the ‘ooh, it’s whatsisface off thingummy’ factor?But it’s not nearly as clever or interesting as it thinks it is and at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, the film’s morality is deeply unsound. Are we supposed to empathise with or root for a character who is straightforwardly presented as a manipulative, amoral psychotic? That seems to be the intention, but a dodgy script and Stone’s performance make that almost as unlikely as most of the rest of the events in the movie. It’s just about watchable when Stone’s not on screen, but never quite tops the unintentionally hilarious opening sequence.

Arriving from the UK late-summer timezone is Jared Hess’ Nacho Libre, another star vehicle, this time for Jack Black. Really loosely based on fact, this is the tale of a Mexican friar who moonlights as a masked wrestling star.

Regular readers will know I like to include a mini-synopsis for every movie; well, that was it. Okay there’s a bit more to it, involving Black acquiring a very thin tag partner, having rather unmonastic feelings about a nun (Ana de la Reguera, appropriately hot yet pure-looking) and… oh, you get the idea. But not a lot more.

It bowls along fairly amicably, powered by Jack Black doing all his usual schtick: silly voices, singing, falling over for comic effect, and there are quite a few laughs. But not as many as you might think, and for a rather peculiar reason — this movie is not formulaic enough.

You can’t fault Jared Hess for wanting to avoid the clichés which usually beset this kind of tale (underdogs rise to sporting greatness), but without them the story seems disjointed and episodic. This is a very mainstream, knockabout comedy, or it should be, but Hess strives for an atmospheric quirkiness that seems rather out of place.

Jack Black is good value and I did enjoy the movie, but it’s not a comedy classic. It seemed to deeply confuse all the Japanese people at the showing I went to, but that’s probably not a good thing.

From early autumn UK time arrives Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (Japanese title: Tomorrow World 2027). This movie is supposedly based on PD James’ rather literary SF novel of the same name — but friends, I’ve read that book, and other than a couple of events and a few characters, the movie has only the loosest resemblance to the original story.

Clive Owen plays Theo, a London office worker in the near future. Life in 2027 is rather grim, partly due to draconian laws intended to keep the illegal immigrant situation under control and the activities of terrorists intent on overturning these laws, but mainly because everyone in the world has been entirely infertile since about 2009. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Theo’s ex Julian (Julianne Moore) turns up, needing his help: Theo has high-up contacts which he can use to get transit papers for a refugee girl (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who Julian and her (ahem) activist pals desperately need to get out of the country. Or so it initially appears…

The James book was written at least 15 years ago and is, as I said, rather literary. Cuaron’s version is relentlessly gloomy, frequently kinetic and concludes with an enormous gun battle featuring a couple of tanks. To say that there is a bit of political commentary in this movie is understating things — there are explicit parallels with Iraq and Abu Ghraib, not to mention some domestic British issues.

If you don’t mind that kind of thing you may well enjoy the movie. Cuaron creates a convincingly dismal and dismally plausible dystopia, with just enough of today in it, although Owen’s London Olympics sweatshirt may be a gag too far. His direction favours lots of flashy very long takes, but this doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is thoroughly well-acted by people like Pam Ferris, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, and Sir Michael Caine. If the ending is a bit inconclusive, well, so’s the one in the book. This is a good and thought-provoking movie, even if it is a bit crashingly unsubtle in places.

Arriving from the near future (late December, to be precise) comes the war movie Flags Of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood (so it’s a thoughtful sort of war movie). When I say this movie is concerned with the battle of Iwo Jima, a bloody clash near the end of the Pacific War, you will understand why I suspect it hasn’t done very well over here, well-made though it undoubtedly is. The Japanese are not actually demonised as such, but it remains unavoidably the case that a major plot point concerns them horribly killing a likeable character played by Jamie Bell. I was uncomfortably aware I was the only European in the theatre when I saw this movie — I nearly shouted ‘now you know how it feels when we watch Mel Gibson movies in England!’ but I thought better of it.

Anyway, the movie goes back and forth between the battle (lavishly recreated) — specifically the famous raising of the American flag atop the island — and the fates of the flag raisers when they are flown home to participate in a drive to raise money for the war effort.

This is a rather slow and worthy movie, but hey — it could have been another drum-beating embarassment like Pearl Harbor, so let’s not complain. The cast features a mixture of established young stars like Ryan Phillipe and Paul Hunter and relative unknowns like Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach (who’s particularly good), together with older performers like Robert Patrick and Neal McDonough. Without being too specific, the movie makes various wise points about the difference between the myths and realities of war and the effect this can have on the participants when they return home. I suspect you actually have to be American to fully get this film, in the same way you have to be Catholic to really get The Exorcist, but I found it to be thoroughly engrossing and as well-made as one would expect from a Clint Eastwood project. I predict nominations and maybe even the odd actual Oscar.

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