END OF WATCH

Stars 3

The writer of the Oscar winning smash hit Training Day, returns with another gritty police thriller set in South Central LA, but with a Denzel Washington-shaped hole where the charisma should be.

Writer and director David Ayer, shot entirely on location in fidgety, semi-documentary, police-cam video style, creating a loud and tense gun and drug movie where the highest ambition police officers have is to survive their shift and have their timesheet signed off, End Of Watch.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Mike Zavala Michael Pena are patrol car partners who come across a safe house belonging to a Mexican cartel who immediately put a price on their heads for disrupting their lucrative drugs trade.

The cops aren’t the brightest guns on the street but they are mostly honest and unquestioningly brave. Patrolling is a series of verbal abuse, brutal fist fights and vicious gun battles, and even the music is aggressive.

Off duty, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez provide strong acting support as their wives, with America Ferrera and Frank Grillo as their fellow officers.

Watching this film is like being trapped for two hours in a small steel cage with a pair of uniformed, squabbling, slurping, chattering caffeinated kids, before being released on a regular basis to be shot at by angry Uzi abusing gangsters.

Ayer doesn’t wholly commit to his handheld format which reduces its authenticity, and the last two scenes are unnecessary and lessen the films impact.

Despite this the two officers hold your sympathy and attention because although they’re not as interesting or entertaining as the film believes they are, even the most basic police work involves being screamed and shot at.

Their wives are the only lightness in their lives and in the movie and are a sweet and sassy counterpoint to the constant aggravation the men experience on duty.

This is a portrait of a city in a state of siege, and the only advice the script can offer is to wear comfortable shoes and a bulletproof vest.

LIES WE TELL

Cert 15 110mins Stars 2

Despite some big names in the cast, there’s a lack of flair in all departments of this determinedly downbeat and dull urban drama.

And the novelty of seeing the city of Bradford on the big screen isn’t sufficient to recommend it.

Hollywood superstar Harvey Keitel must have been paid by the word for his brief appearance as Greek family man and billionaire businessman, Demi. 

Meanwhile Gabriel Byrne cuts a baleful figure as his loyal driver, drawn into the violent world of Demi’s beautiful British-Asian mistress, Amber.

She’s played by the hard working Australian actress Sibylla Deen who’s best known for her role in soap opera Home And Away. However along with much of the supporting cast, she typifies the TV production standards on show. Scriptwriter Ewen Glass previously worked on Hollyoaks.

Indian born and British-raised director Mitu Misra mixes arranged marriages, sexual abused and compromising videos into the plot, but never manages to generate any heat from his hot-button issues.

WIND RIVER

Cert 15 Stars 4

Taylor Sheridan is a horribly talented scribe responsible for the brilliant thrillers Sicario and Hello Or High Water, but penned and directed this bitingly chilly and hugely engrossing crime drama.

An inexperienced ill-prepared FBI agent and a local hunter team up to investigate the murder of a young woman on an Indian Reservation in frozen Wyoming.

Best known as members of Marvel’s Avengers superhero team, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen seize the opportunity to stretch themselves with the bleak material and harsh winter conditions.

This is thought-provoking, violent, tense, and expertly builds towards a devastating finale.

 

 

 

SHOT CALLER

Cert 15 121mins Stars 2

This off target crime thriller is a monotonous and relentless blur of tough talk, copious tattoos, muscles and handlebar moustaches.

Underneath this is a self pitying white middle class fantasy of life in the wrong lane where the well bred idiot gets to be the hero.

Game Of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau glowers away as Jacob, a stockbroker who’s drink driving causes his life to spin in the wrong direction.

Spending over a decade in a maximum security prison, he reinvents himself as ruthless killer by joining a gang of white supremacists.

Once released he has to protect his family while setting up a major arms deal.

Omari Hardwick plays his sympathetic parole officer who’s offers of compromise are anathema to Jacob’s warrior code.

And poor Lake Bell has the thankless and miserable task of as Jacob’s long suffering ex-wife.

With its plodding pace, dull violence, painful dialogue and melancholy tone, this one is firing blanks.

PADDINGTON 2

Cert PG 95mins Stars 5

The small bear with the huge heart returns with the family film of the year in another fabulous and funny adventure.

Mixing live action with CGI, it’s a wonderfully enjoyable and brightly coloured romp through a picture postcard pretty London and beyond.

Ben Whishaw once again voices our marmalade sandwich-loving hero, breathing a gallant humanity into the superbly animated bear. He’s settled into life with his adopted family in their comfortable corner of London. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins return as the Brown family along with the rest of the original cast.

Our furry friend from darkest Peru is accused of stealing a valuable children’s pop-up book. So his family and friends must rally round to unmask the real thief and prove Paddington’s innocence.

2014’s first film was an unexpected delight and a huge box office hit. This joyous sequel is even better, in large part due to having a more entertaining villain. Hugh Grant demonstrates his genius for light comedy as a devious actor fallen on hard times.

He’s the film’s most valuable addition in a brilliant cast of determined scene stealers such as Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Tom Conti.

The production design delights in analogue technology, with an obvious love of wheels, cogs, gears and locks. An enormous printing press competes for attention with glorious steam locomotives.

With a blissfully absence of smart phones or laptops, this is a film to inspire children of all ages to build, draw, cook and sew. It is a tremendous antidote to the digital demons of the recent Emoji Movie.

There’s an emphasis on good manners, kindness, friendship and sunny optimism. Though it’s careful never to mention Christmas, the script’s message of love and peace to all persons and bears is perfect preparation for the festive season.

 

 

 

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Cert 15 135mins Stars 5

Uncompromising director, Spike Lee, returns to the frontline of cinema with this urgent and extraordinary real life 1970’s crime thriller.

Packed full of tension, humour, great performances and Lee’s trademark political broadsides, it’s dressed in the funkadelic look of the era’s blacksploitation films and follows the first African American recruit of the Colorado police as he infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

He’s played by a terrific John David Washington, who’s inherited much of the charisma, talent and the voice of his father, the Oscar winning-actor, Denzel.

As the eager undercover detective, Ron Stallworth, he begins his investigation by responding to a advert in the local press and asks to join the supposedly secretive society. He’s aided by his Jewish partner, played by Adam Driver, best known as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars films.

Ever alert to hypocrisy and the ridiculous, Lee angrily mocks the current political situation in this gobsmacking, terrifying and heroic examination of US society.

AVENGEMENT

Cert 18 Stars 2

Tattooed and muscular action star Scot Adkins, swaggers through this low budget British gangster thriller with two-fisted menace as an escaped convict out for revenge on his criminal former colleagues.

Reunited with writer and director Jesse V. Johnson with whom he made Adkins made the recent martial arts thriller, Triple Threat.

Nasty, violent and foul-mouthed, it‘s a cut above many of its type due to the efforts of cinematographer Jonathan Hall, and helped by a supporting cast which includes the always watchable Nick Moran, Thomas Turgoose and Kierston Wareing.