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.

WONDER WHEEL

Cert 12A Stars 4

Kate Winslet has been grievously overlooked during awards season for her magnificent turn in Woody Allen’s dark period drama, his 48th film as director.

When even your leading lady distances herself from your movie for personal reasons, one suspects time’s up for Allen’s big screen career.

Allen’s work exists within its own little bubble, and it’s the small differences which separate his films from each other. For the most urban of directors, it’s almost alarming to find this one is set on the beach and filled with bold saturated colour.

In a welcome gender inversion, she plays the ‘Woody Allen’ character, a neurotic and romantically minded waitress having an affair with a younger lover.

Justin Timberlake is the hunky lifeguard on whom she projects a fantasy future together.

As ever in Allen’s films, when someone chooses to pursue a fantasy existence over harsh reality, tragic events occur. This is not one of Allen’s funny ones.

 

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.

BABY DRIVER

Cert 15 113mins Stars 4

This exhilarating crime caper is so achingly cool and confident, I should be in it.

Sadly for me Hollywood has yet to knock on my door. So you’ll have to make do with Ansel Elgort as Baby, driver on bank jobs for Kevin Spacey’s sharp suited mob boss.

The young getaway driver looks like a young Han Solo with shades and earphones permanently attached. This allows for a stream of great tunes of every type, including Egyptian reggae.

Baby plans to do one last job before hitting the road with Lily James’s pretty waitress.

The thin tread of the plot is pimped to the max by the trademark zippy editing and knowing humour by Brit director Edgar Wright. He puts a fast spin for the heist movie the way he did with zombies movies in Shaun of the Dead. 

The dialogue pops, tires squeal and bullets fly as this non stop thrill ride delivers your new favourite soundtrack to the summer.

 

 

THE HATTON GARDEN JOB

Cert 15 92mins Stars 1

A gem of a real life story is wasted in this botched attempt at a crime caper.

In 2015, four retired ex-cons exploit the British publics love of a Bank Holiday Monday, to pull of the UK’s biggest ever bank heist.

Using nothing more complicated than their experience, a blow torch and some wheelie bins, they made off with an estimated at £35 million from a bank vault in London’s Hatton Garden diamond district.

Phil Daniels and Larry Lamb lead the pilfering pensioners, but they’re made supporting characters in their own drama.

Instead Matthew Goode’s middle class master criminal is crowbarred into proceedings, and steals all their thunder. And posh thesp, Joely Richardson, is wildly miscast as a Hungarian mobster.

Desperate editing employs freeze frames, fast cuts and random funk tunes to try to hold our attention, but to now avail.

This is a depressing waste of likeable talent, and not worth disturbing your retirement for.

AMERICAN ANIMALS

Cert 15 117mins Stars 4

Wildly ambitious and superbly crafted, this intriguing, tense and funny real life heist thriller is a light fingered and dexterous modern day morality tale.

In 2004 four misfit college students infamously stole rare books worth millions from a university library, they are astonishingly idiotic and incompetent amateurs.

Actors recreate the theft using typical Hollywood storytelling conventions such as the recruiting of the specialist members of the gang, and meticulous planning scenes.

Plus there are many nods and winks to the films such as Ocean’s 11, which the likeable conspirators watch to discover how to commit the perfect robbery.

However interrupting at regular intervals in confessional documentary style, are the actual gang members.

Now older and somewhat wiser, they question each other’s account of events, turning this extremely entertainingly thriller into a commentary on the glamorisation of on-screen violence and criminal behaviour, with the script emphasising there is no such thing as consequence-free crime.

Catch these American animals if you can.