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.

LOOKING GLASS

Cert 18 Stars 2

Only die-hard fans of Nicolas Cage need check in to see this murky, nasty and exploitative thriller set in a seedy desert hotel.

Nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, the former A list star plays a grieving father and hotelier who disappears down a mental rabbit hole of his own creation when he discovers a two-way mirror in his newly purchased establishment.

Spying on the behaviour of his clientele threatens his life, sanity and marriage.

The films tagline is ‘You never know who’s watching’. I’d be surprised if many people ‘fess up to seeing this.

 

IN THE FADE

Cert 18 106mins Stars 4

This clinical, tense and harrowing tragedy examines the circular and self-defeating nature of political violence.

If you’ve only seen Diane Kruger as Helen in Brad Pitt’s sword and sandal blockbuster, Troy, then you’ll be amazed at the range and power of performance she offers here as Katja.

She’s a blonde German married to a reformed Kurdish muslim drug dealer, whose life is destroyed when he and their young son are blown up by a nail bomb.

While she’s convinced neo-nazis are the killers, but the police believe the bombing was connected to her husbands dubious past.

A song by US rockers, Queens of the Stone Age, provides the title which refers to the legal, religious, moral and political grey area Katja exists in, as she tries to bring those responsible to justice.

In equal parts a family drama, courtroom drama and revenge thriller which although eventually stretches the finely crafted credibility, it does provide a thought-provoking emotional bang.

 

 

DEATH WISH (2018)

Cert 15 107mins Stars 1

Bruce Willis takes the law into his own hands in this lacklustre and exploitative remake of Charles Bronson’s vigilante thriller.

From 1974 to 1994 the five strong Death Wish series was characterised by ever diminishing quality.

This new one fails to raise the bar, as Willis takes Bronson’s role as Chicago surgeon, Paul Kersey.

His life is destroyed when a home invasion goes fatally wrong, leaving his teenage daughter in a coma and his wife dead.

Tragically this removes Elisabeth Shue from proceedings, a sorely underused actress who in her brief appearance demonstrates she still has the charm she possessed in her break-through role as Ralph Macchio’s love interest in 1984’s The Karate Kid.

Kersey becomes a cold blooded killer as he pursues those responsible, and any other anyone else he feels like shooting.

With his running and punching days long behind him, Willis gives an underpowered performance.

His last decent starring role was 2012’s sci-fi time-travel thriller, Looper, and has since slid down the Hollywood hierarchy to become a supporting character in some very poor movies.

On paper this would seem to offer the possibility of late career comeback, in the manner of Liam Neeson and his Taken trilogy.

But Willis has misplaced his trademark smirk and lacks the Irishman’s physicality and smouldering menace.

Plus the shoot-outs are perfunctorily staged, the body count is surprisingly low, and the cartoonish violence betrays the director’s background in horror films as he fails to create a consistent tone.

A thinly-veiled defence of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, this is insufficiently exciting or provocative enough to be interesting.

And it’s difficult to forgive a film which demonises the Chicago’s black and Hispanic population in order to allow a wealthy white guy to summarily execute them.

My wish is for this supposed new franchise is for it to be dead and buried.

 

ACTS OF VIOLENCE

Cert 15 Stars 2

This perfunctory and vaguely sleazy vigilante thriller sees three brothers tool up with automatic weapons to rescue the fiancee of the youngest after she’s kidnapped by gangsters.

PTSD, human trafficking and GPS technology give it a contemporary gloss but it’s most interesting is in the casting of Bruce Willis as a weary cop investigating the case.

It’s obvious his stuntman take the lumps during his brief action moments, which are crowbarred in to big up the role for the 1990’s action star.

This doesn’t augur well for his remake of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish which hits cinemas next week.

TERRIFIER

Cert 18 Stars 3

A demented homage to trashy early 1980s video nasties, this slasher revenge horror thriller is the sort I’d rent from the local off licence despite being underage, and sneakily watch when my parents had gone to the pub for the night.

Jenna Kanell and Catherine Corcoran are the young women in Halloween fancy dress stalked by the maniacal Art the Clown.

It’s a cackling sadistic blood-fest of fear and gore which doesn’t waste time and tries to extract as much value from its low budget as possible. Not for the squeamish or those afraid of scalpels or hacksaws.

CROWHURST

Cert 12A 103mins Stars 4

This year’s second biopic of doomed British amateur yachtsman, Donald Crowhurst, is a far more compelling kettle of fish than Colin Firth’s washed out turn in The Mercy.

Following in the wake of its big budget competitor and stripped of its Hollywood gloss, this is closer to a horror film and is a dark vision of isolation, weakness and madness.

In 1968 the weekend sailor and amateur inventor took up the challenge to become the first person to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe without stopping.

As Crowhurst, Justin Salinger gives us a less sentimental and more sympathetic interpretation of the man who sails into a hell of his own creation when he resorts to cheating.

Punctuating the many eerie silences with popular song and hymns, a rendition of Jerusalem is demoniacally satirical.

Wholly nightmarish and with a touch of the supernatural, this is impressively real as it doesn’t rely on CGI waves to impress us. This really floated my boat.

 

UNSANE

Cert 15 98mins Stars 3

This diverting thriller is a dramatic change of scene for Claire Foy.

The Brit actress swaps the intense goldfish bowl of royal family life on TV’s The Crown for a stretch as an inmate in a psychiatric asylum. 

Well at least I think there’s considerable difference between the two institutions.

Foy’s tremendous as a victim of stalking who unwittingly commits herself to observation in a secure facility, and is unable to persuade anyone of her sanity.

An early convert to digital photography, director Steven Soderbergh follows the example of 2015’s art house hit, Tangerine, by shooting shot Unsane on an iPhone. 

And this has a juicy opening as Soderbergh mixes in elements of medical corporate conspiracy from his previous films such as 2013’s Side Effects, but he soon back pedals into well executed but predictable slasher territory. 

His use of wide angled lens emphasises Foy’s isolation and anxiety, but this decent stab at claustrophobic paranoia is never sufficiently barking mad.

 

24 HOURS TO LIVE

Cert 15 Stars 2

This desperately silly redemption thriller sees Ethan Hawke stars as a hallucinating hitman with a conscience.

He’s offered a million dollars a day to kill ‘a whistle-blowing do-gooder’, but when the mission turns deadly, a special serum allow him 24 hours to live and finish the job.

Handily a digital clock is implanted in his wrist so he can watch his life wind down along with our interest.

There’s an impressive sweep from China to Africa and the US but even Rutger Hauer’s appearance as a philosophising beach bum can’t raise the script and leaden direction.

 

 

RED SPARROW

Cert 15 139mins Stars 4

Jennifer Lawrence has her wings clipped by spies, seduction and sexual slavery in this hard hitting thriller with a heavy edge of political comment.

As Dominika she’s a former prima ballerina for the Bolshoi ballet who is recruited by the Russian secret service to seduce foreign agents.

Following her role as a persecuted housewife in last years bonkers art-house fantasy, Mother!, this is another punishing role as an abused woman forLawrence.

Reunited with her Hunger Games director, Francis Lawrence, it’s another tale of a young women coerced by a dictatorial state for a nefarious purpose.

Under Charlotte Rampling’s stern tutorship, Dominika is dehumanised, re-educated and programmed to thrill the enemy.

Graduating as a professional seductress, known as Sparrows, she’s sent to Budapest to hook up with a CIA operative in order to identify an American mole in Moscow.

The earnestly dull Joel Edgerton is our man in the CIA, and the always dull Matthias Schoenaerts plays Dominika’s handler. He’s amusingly made up to resemble Vladimir Putin.

Though handsomely staged on location, this dark tale of manipulation, deception and betrayal is an unapologetically arduous experience, smuggled into cinemas disguised as a glossy blockbuster.

Telling the story is told from the Soviet spies’ point of view, this is a highly critical spin on 007’s From Russia With Love. Far from enjoying a swinging satin sheeted romp with Sean Connery, Dominika’s mission involves a more realistic experience of espionage.

She’s humiliated, abused and raped, all at the behest of powerful and much older men, who are her mentors and supposed protectors.

It’s hard not to read this as a damning critique of Hollywood and a metaphor for an actresses life in the sex scandal environment prior to the #metoo campaign.

We’re supposed to find this superbly crafted film an uneasy watch, and it will disappoint anyone looking for a conscience-free fun time.