ENEMY LINES

Cert 15 Stars 3

Opening titles of real war footage set a chilly and sombre tone to this respectful and effective Second World War action adventure is a by-the-numbers boys’ own adventure lifted by its great locations and a hard working cast.

John Hannah keeps a stiff upper lip as the British Army liaison officer back in Blighty as English actor Ed Westwick stars as a square-jawed US Major leading a team of British commandos to extract an important scientist from the hands of the Germans in Nazi-occupied Poland of 1943.

Of course plans go awry, radios don’t work, they can’t identify which locals are collaborators, and the Russian army who are much more used to fighting in the bleak snow covered landscape, are also the same target.

There’s plenty of courage and sacrifice among the many shoot-outs, and the fierce and the excitingly staged three-way battle of foreign troops on Polish soil to determine ownership of Polish resources, can be read as a scathing view of the war.

THE ASSISTANT

Cert 15 Stars 4

A claustrophobic and chilling exploration of workplace exploitation, this small scale precision-crafted drama moves through a murk of whispers, collusion and paranoia to explain how the sexual abuse which resulted in the #MeToo campaign was able to continue for so long.

Jane is a hard working office admin assistant tasked with organising hotels and flights for a Hollywood mogul, and begins to suspect a new young female employee who is a very attractive but utterly unqualified is being sexually abused.

But Jane soon finds herself caught between the career price to be paid for whistleblowing, and the personal price for keeping quiet.

Julia Garner is best known as the combative and foul mouthed curly haired casino manager in the Netflix series Ozark, but is radically more unassuming, fragile and sweet as Jane.

And fresh from his brilliant performance as the ‘Coughing Major’ on TV’s dramatisation, Quiz, Brit actor Matthew Macfadyen is quietly and horribly manipulative as her complicit office manager.

THE RHYTHM SECTION

Cert 15 Stars 2

When people say they want a female James Bond, presumably this flat and action-light espionage revenge thriller, produced by Bond supremos, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson on a considerably lower budget than 007 enjoys.

Out has gone the gloss, glamour, gadgets and humour, with the globetrotting reduced to Western Europe, New York and Morocco, with buses being the principal form of transport.

As a drug addict prostitute turned assassin, US star Blake Lively is denied the opportunity to play to her strengths, who cleans up to kill the people responsible for the deaths of her family in a terrorist bombing.

She previously demonstrated her authority, charisma and physical prowess in thrillers The Shallows, and, A Simple Favour, but she’s never given the opportunity to be glamorous, and is possibly hampered by having to adopt a pretty decent British accent.

A random choice of classic rock tunes are dropped in by an editor desperate to pep up the somber mood. I suspect the producers don’t expect any great box office, and the film’s delayed release forms part of the marketing strategy for April’s upcoming 007 adventure, No Time To Die.

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.