Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Killing Them Softly: Review

Business is everything no matter what kind of work you're involved in .... Plumber, Doctor, Gangster it all boils down to hard cash or the lack thereof. I'm not sure if I believe this to be completely true but Director Andrew Dominik most certainly seems to. The Australian on his third feature after the original and brutal Chopper and then the somber brilliance of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the director reunites with his Jesse James leading man Brad Pitt for film Killing Them Softly.

Dominik's third feature is set in New Orleans in 2008 during Obama's election. This piece of information is very important because the whole film is basically a metaphor for America's own political system. This is where all the problems with the film lie because Dominik does not just make the point but he hammers it home until it feels so blatantly obvious that it becomes more irritating then insightful. Throughout the film TV's and Radios blast out speeches from Obama and Bush and it all starts to grate your patience.

This all sounds quite negative but don't worry the films positives outweigh its problems. This is most evident in the acting, Dominik has knack for getting terrific performance and this feature is no different. Brad Pitt is on fantastic form here as Jackie, a hitman who prefers to take his targets out from a distance to avoid all the touchy-feelings of murder. Then there's Scoot McNairy and Scott Mendelsohn who play two degenerates looking to make a quick buck by robbing Ray Liotta's underground card game. This is why Jackie gets called to sort out the who and why of the robbery.

The film is gorgeously shot which is in contrast to drab and dreary location its set. Dominik is known for his inventive and often genius use of visuals and Killing Them Softly is no exception. One scene involving McNairy and Mendelsohn having a conversation while both being out of their minds on heroin is superbly directed and written, while another scene that involves a brutal murder taking place between two cars with heavy rain pouring down is one of the most memorable of the year, Dominik's use of slow motion, editing and sound design is masterful stuff.

 Killing Them Softly is a great third feature from Dominik, he compliments his fantastic cast with his own exceptional directing skills to film this slow-burning, engrossing crime drama with a political message that's too on the nose to be truly effective when all the viewer needs is Jackie's final lines to tell us all that needs to be said. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Dead Weight


A car pulls up to a seemingly abandoned beach, surrounded by marshy land. The car comes to a stop and the engine is switched off.

Two men get out of the car, the driver being older and the
passenger being younger.

This better not stink, I forgot my

He’s only been there for three
hours, it takes longer than that to
build up a stink.

Still, if it smells I’m not going
near the thing.

The two men go to the boot. CLIVE pauses before he opens it.
In the boot lies what we assume is a dead body, wrapped in a
bloody white blanket.

Christ! They didn’t just kill him
did they? Blew the poor fucker to

I’m not even sure who it is, Frank
told me nothing.

You must still be in his bad books
after what happened in Dublin if
he’s got you doing a shite job like

Would you shut up and help me get
this fella out.

Alright but you grab his top half,
I’m not getting brains on my

CLIVE puts his hands into the boot and grabs the body around
the shoulder. DARREN grabs him by his legs and they pull him


                                                                                             CONTINUED: 2.
His runners are pretty nice
actually, do ya think Frank would
mind if I took em’?

Don’t touch them, the feet of the
dead are not to be messed with.

Ugh, sure what good are they to
him? Only being wasted on his feet
they are.

I’m serious, leave the fuckin’
things alone.

Alright, have it your way sure.

the two men stand up and look at the blanket covered corpse
on the ground.

What did happen in Dublin anyways?
Heard you made some mess of a job,
pissed off the wrong people is what
I’ve heard.

Yeah, well .... you do this job for
long enough and you make mistakes.

DARREN looks at CLIVE curiously, unsure what to make of what
he said.

Grab the gloves and we’ll get rid
of this poor soul.

DARREN goes to the boot and pulls out two pairs of gloves.
He hands one to CLIVE and they walk over to the body and
begin to drag it along into the woodland.


The two men have dragged the body into an opening in the
trees. CLIVE stands up and pulls out a pair of rosary beads.


                                                                                CONTINUED: 3.
What are you doing?

It’s a prayer for the dead, we
can’t send him off without it.

You have to be the softest hitman
I’ve ever heard of.

Shush now boy!

Clive grips his rosary beads and begins his prayer

God our Father, Your power brings us to birth, Your
providence guides our lives, and by Your command we return
to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence, their lives
change but do not end. I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends, and for all the dead known to You
In company with Christ, Who died
and now lives, may they rejoice in
Your kingdom, where all our tears
are wiped away. Unite us together
again in one family, to sing Your
praise forever and ever.

DARREN watches the entirety of this prayer. He reaches into
the back of his waistband as CLIVE recites the prayer and
subtly pulls out a handgun.

As CLIVE finishes up his prayer, he cocks the gun and keeps
it hidden behind his back.

I suppose you must know that that
was a prayer for two, given you did
drag on a bit.

I know, I figured you wouldn’t be
in much of a hurry. First times
always the hardest. I’m guessing
this was Frank’s idea?


                                                                                       CONTINUED: 4.
You shouldn’t have fucked up in
Dublin man, that was real bloody
mess altogether.

You may as well get this done now.
Prayers are said and all.

Agreed, good luck man.

DARREN points his gun and shoots CLIVE twice in the chest.
CLIVE keels over and falls on the corpse. They both lie
there dead.

DARREN walks over to the two and looks once again at the
corpses shoes. He considers taking them but then makes up
his mind by saying ...

Fuck it!

DARREN walks back to his car, gets in and drives away.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Rover: Film Review

The Rover starts ten years after 'the collapse', a fall which we can only assume started out economically given the situation that we find in the film. The film begins as it means to go on, we first see Eric (Guy Pearce) get out of his car and walk into a bar. While Eric is drinking, a car crash occurs outside and his vehicle is stolen. When Eric realizes whats happened he sets off in pursuit of those that have stolen from him. This all occurs in the first twenty minutes of the film, in almost complete silence.

Director David Michod makes it very clear that The Rover is a very different beast to his 2010 brilliant family crime- drama Animal Kingdom. Whereas that film was multi-layered and filled with questions about morality, The Rover is anything but, It's a stripped back, raw, compelling feature. Michod takes the Australia we've seen in films like Mad Max and has given it a social-realist edge that heightens the drama to magnificent levels.

Where Animal Kingdom was undoubtedly an ensemble picture, The Rover is a two-hander. First we have Pearces' Eric, a virtually silent loner who will stop at nothing to get his car back. Not much later we are introduced to Robert Pattinsons' Rey, a injured, erratic young man who appears to be mentally limited sometimes and shockingly cunning at others. Rey is the younger brother of one of the men who stole Eric's car, so Eric practically takes Rey hostage in order to find the location of his brother and thus they set out on their journey.

The film is shot fantastically by Natasha Braier, who manages to capture the intense beauty and brutally harsh power of the seemingly unending desert which covers the film. The music is also worthy of note, with loud distorted sounds throughout the film, giving a constant sense of impending doom. Michod brings back an element from Animal Kingdom by having an anachronistic pop song play over images of intense weirdness.

The acting in the film cannot go unnoticed, with both Pearce and Pattinson delivering the best performances of their careers. Pearce has always been impressively consistent in his career but Pattinson is the real revelation here. He delivers a performance that can be in just the space of a scene, strangely chilling and yet eerily childlike. Pearces' portrayal of Eric is superb in it's understated quality, with only two scenes in the film giving us any explanation as to why Eric is as quick to violence as he is and why he so desperately wants his car back. 

Michod made the interesting choice of having a simpler, smaller movie as his follow-up. By choosing to make a film that is immediate and uncomplicated he manages to avoid poor second film syndrome and establishes himself as a director with original and worthwhile vision. After this one-two punch, I'll be looking forward to whatever project he chooses next.

Monday, 16 December 2013


Ink drips on lined paper
Whilst eyes flick to times keeper,
Then back down again,
Back to the work which binds them.

This work occupies their Mondays to Fridays,
Rest on the Sat and anxiousness on the Sun

They hate it, but it do it all the same,
For fear of failing the Teach
And disappointing the Guardian
Scares them so.

They hate it all,
But do it all the same.

Saturday, 29 June 2013


'Red Lights' is the latest film from Spanish film-maker Rodrigo Cortes, who in 2010 made his debut, the very effective, claustrophobic thriller 'Buried' starring Ryan Reynold's. Were that film succeeded in it's simplicity, his latest, 'Red Lights' has a much more ambitious story to tell. The plot of 'Red Lights' is as follows:

 Two paranormal investigators played by Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy who work to find every fraud in the business who claims to posses paranormal abilities, which in their experience is every person they've ever investigated. That is until Simon Sliver a world renowned psychic comes back after a thirty year absence and challenges the two investigators in ways they didn't think possible.
'Red Lights' has an intriguing premise, that much is undeniable, unfortunately that's all it has going for it in it's 1hr and 49min running time. In 'Buried' the directors previous film, he was limited by both time and money which led to him crafting a bare-bones story that managed to thrill in unexpected ways. Here, he faces no such budget or time issues but bigger problems manage to arise, the biggest problem of all being while the film sets out to be a thriller with horror elements, it manages to completely fail to either thrill or scare in the entirety of it's running time.

Like 'The Last Exorcism', a surprisingly interesting horror film which came out the year before, the film works best when it's about the two paranormal investigators just doing their job, finding the fraudsters and exposing them for who they are, unfortunately this segment of the film, the most low-key in comparison to the rest only lasts for the first 25 minutes of the film. After that the film just keeps cranking up the craziness until we get to it's absolute mess of a final act. Cortes shows a distinct lack of control in the final third, it feels like he has ran out of ideas by this point so he tries to counter-act this by giving the audience a tacked on feeling ending which at the same time feels over-the-top and anti-climatic.

The performances in the film are fine for the most part, Weaver and Murphy are consistently solid, but it's De Niro who lets down on the acting front. His performance is way to hammy, to ever be successfully intimidated by this "psychic".

Overall 'Red Lights' fails to accomplish what it sets out to achieve, though it does start off strongly the ridiculous final act serves to undo all the good work which came before it.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines: Review

Black screen. The first thing we hear is the roar of a crowd and the flick of the switchblade, then the man holding the knife is revealed, not his face but only his tanned, muscled, tattooed body. This is our hero, he slams his knife into the the wall and leaves. He walks through a semi-busy carnival shirtless until he puts on a Metallica shirt back to front. He lights a cigarette but we still do not see his face. He walks into a tent filled with an expectant audience and his name is revealed to be Luke by the announcer. He gets on his motorbike and along with his other two riders or 'hearthrobs' he engages in one of the most dangerous stunts captured on film.

The camera has not cut once since we first saw Luke's intimidating physique, which makes the opening shot of this movie to be the most impressive use of a long take since the beach scene in "Atonement". Even though  his face has been obscured throughout, we know this is Gosling. His Luke has peroxide blond hair and some of the worst tattoos ever seen on film. He looks sad, distant, his blue eyes shimmer under the carnival lights. Luke sees Romina, a woman from his past who he barely remembers. He learns from her something which changes his entire life, he has a son and he is a father.

With this beginning, director Derek CianFrance has crafted one of the greatest openings ever seen in an American film. Luke feels mythological in his appearance. A cowboy of today's age who rides into town and gets the girl, only this time it is much more complicated then that. Romina has a man of her own. Luke knows he has to prove himself to her so he sets abut trying to get a job, with no skills other than his masterful ability with a bike and a presumed lack of education he goes about robbing banks.

The robbery scenes are stunningly intense in their speed and execution. CianFrance manages to capture the intensity of a getaway without the use of quick-cuts. Luke's plan works and makes money, he starts to spend more time with Romina and it becomes evident what first attracted them together. This is the first act of the movie and it is truly one of the most brilliant pieces of American cinema ever put on film.

Bradley Cooper's character takes over the second act of the film. He plays a cop called Avery who was injured in an accident and becomes a hero at the force. Avery is ambitious and intelligent, he is also racked by a guilt but this only becomes apparent later on. This section of the film is still great but it is quite a by-the- books cop corruption movie that we have seen before. Cooper is fantastic as Avery, playing against type as the most unlikable character of the piece. His performance is all internal and he plays it best with his eyes and not his body language.

The third act of the movie is one i will not discuss. It is better for the viewer to watch it themselves and make up their own minds. All i will say is that the film asks some interesting questions about legacy and forgiveness, it is a film which manages to be both raw and ethereal, Director Of Photography Sean Bobbit has managed to show the viewer the beautiful side of an ugly life. CianFrance has crafted a film of quite power and boiling energy. He is a director unafraid to show people being people and for that i commend him. The Place Beyond The Pines is not perfect, the second act is familiar and the third feels like it could have done with a rewrite but those first 45 minutes are worth the admission price alone. All of this makes Pines a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece all the same.


Monday, 25 March 2013

The Raid: Redemption: Review

To get the boring stuff straight out of the way, we must first explain the plot. We are in Jakarta, Indonesia. A SWAT team consisting of twenty heavily armed are given the job of breaking into a safe house run by one the fearsome gangsters in Jakarta. Getting into the building is not the problem, they do that efficiently and silently. It’s when the SWAT team get discovered on the buildings Seventh floor that all hell breaks loose and The Raid truly begins.
From here-on-out The Raid is a bloodthirsty, hyper-kinetic, thrill-ride of a film. As the residents of the apartment block become aware of the SWAT team it turns into a battle of survival, one which has many casualties. The film’s protagonist, Rama, is young, seemingly inexperienced man who has a wife at home with a baby on the way. These character details feel quite throw-away in the greater scheme of things.
Plot is not integral to what makes The Raid such an entertaining movie. This is a film you watch for the fight-scenes, and boy are they worth watching. When Rama is separated from the rest of his force and without his gun he is forced to use the two weapons he knows he can rely on, his fists.
The fight scenes of The Raid are some of the most memorable in years. The editing is quick but never too quick that it leaves the audience unaware as too who is fighting who. The soundtrack by Mike Shinoda, of Linkin Park fame, is a pounding, energetic thrill by itself. The soundtrack adds to the visceral feel of the whole film leaving the watcher breathless.
The film is well directed by Welsh-man Gareth Evan’s. He manages to keep the quieter moments of the film as tense and thrilling as the louder one’s. The final fight is the only real misstep of the film. It goes on for longer then it needs and could have benefited from a sharper edit.
But nonetheless The Raid is a slick, brutal, thoroughly entertaining film from Evan’s. It is low on both plot and character development but there is time for that on the planned sequel. For now The Raid is exactly what it wants and needs to be.