THE HUNT

Stars 4

Fans of Scandinavian drama will enjoy this absorbing and darkly disturbing tale of mass paranoia set in a small Danish village.

It centres on the members of a close knit hunting party when Mads Mikkelsen’s primary school teacher, Lucas, is accused of indecent behaviour towards the child of another.

Investigation is followed by arrest and the loss of his job but as Lucas awaits formal charges, the village turns against him and a campaign of violence begins.

Lucas’s sense of isolation is heightened by the haunting winter landscapes and the semi-rural environment where everyone regularly carries knives and rifles.

Mikkelsen is on award winning form leading a uniformly excellent cast that includes Alexandra Rapaport and Thomas Bo Larsen.

The taut and paranoid atmosphere is punctuated only by the black humour of Lucas’s brother in law, who is not afraid making callous jokes in the face of extreme adversity at Lucas’s expense.

Slow and quietly gripping tension is firmly built and when violence erupts it’s with a powerful and shocking fury.

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.

THOROUGHBREDS

Cert 15 Stars 4

Take a punt on this immaculately poised and nihilistic black comedy thriller which carries its chilly premise across the finish line with tremendous composure and style.

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy give deliciously dead-pan performances as a pair of teenagers born to a world of wealth and privilege and bred to be social show ponies.

With the former saddled with a creepy and controlling stepfather, a plot is hatched to dispatch him. The film is dedicated to the late Anton Yeltsin who plays the local drug dealer whom they rope in to help.

WELCOME TO CURIOSITY

Cert 15 94mins Stars 1

There’s nothing inviting in this drab, tawdry and all round rubbish low budget British thriller.

Set in the fictional Cornish town of Curiosity, an escaped psychiatric patient and the heist of £6million draws various unconnected characters together with grim violence.

Cardboard characters wander through scenes devoid of visual interest, in a landscape dotted with vague bits of Americana, nods to the original intention to set the film in the US.

Former rapper and now Eastenders regular, Richard Blackwood is wholly unconvincing as a gangster. The rest of the cast such as Jack Ashton and Amrita Acharia will be familiar from Call The Midwife and games of Thrones.

They all deserve better than the lumpen and flavourless dialogue they’re asked to chew on.

The director has swallowed the ideas of far more talented people such as Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers and regurgitated them in a messy puddle, sadly with none of the colour or violent surprise this implies.

 

ALLURE

Cert 18 104mins Stars 2

Obsession and abuse leave a lot to be desired in this anguished, unconvincing and unsatisfactory low key thriller.

Intended as a character portrait, this is a kidnap story with more sympathy for the perpetrator than its victim.

Laura is a troubled house-cleaner who pursues a transgressive relationship with the under-age teen daughter of a client.

Most recently seen in TV’s Westworld, Evan Rachel Wood is impressively raw in the central role as the thirtysomething who struggles to control her manipulative and self-destructive impulses, the consequence of a traumatic early life.

However this also has repercussion for the impressionable object of her desires, the waif-like and angst ridden teenager, Eva, played with a tremulous efficiency by Julia Sarah Stone.

For debutant directors Carlos and Jason Sanchez this is an extension of their supposedly subversive and provocative career in fine art. Instead we have overwrought underpowered drama which lacks a moral or political position and I struggled to find anything to love about it.

BREAKING IN

Cert 15 88mins Stars 3

There’s one bad mother on the loose in this brisk and effective home invasion thriller.

When her kids are taken hostage in her own luxurious, remote and hi-tech fortified mansion, an ordinary mum has to break in to try and rescue them.

There aren’t many black female fortysomethings given the opportunity to reinvent themselves as an action star.

Gabrielle Union seizes the moment with two fists, carrying the movie as the resourceful, brave and desperate parent.

Meanwhile the four armed and ruthless criminals inside are seeking the millions in cash they believe is locked in a secret safe.

Intent on squeezing out as much action as possible from the limited location, the script doesn’t dwell on the social commentary inherent in having a black family terrorised by white guys in pursuit of cash.

And although it feels as if some gory elements have been edited out of the more brutal moments, Breaking In will smash and grab your attention.

 

REVENGE

Cert 18 108mins Stars 5

Guns, drugs and sex are a gut wrenching  mix in this visceral rape revenge thriller.

From the blistering opening to the blood drenched finale, it bakes us in the glare of its searing confidence.

Marrakesh landscape is unforgivingly harsh as the action, which is fuelled by the gutsy performance of Matilda Lutz as Jennifer.

As the mistress of a married family man, she experiences the full spectrum of toxic entitlement and misogyny when his two armed assistants unexpectedly turn up at their remote luxury hunting lodge.

Wealthy and handsome, Kevin Janssens is full of physical premier league arrogance as her prime tormentor as Jennifer faces a desperate fight for survival.

With the symbolic  bite of an apple we’re metaphorically moved into the realm of fable. This allows us to forgive the more outlandish plotting and outrageous physical punishment, to embrace its core message of female emancipation. 

This delirious experience is probably the film Quentin Tarantino dreams of making next.