CHI-RAQ

Director: Spike Lee (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Anger is the defining emotion of Spike Lee’s films and there’s no denying the blistering power of his latest brash, sexy, and rap-filled essay on the state of the US.

Having produced, directed and co-written this satirical musical, he has updated a classical Greek comedy with an irresistible raucous energy.

As Lysistrata, Teyonah Parris is dynamite in an afro and high heels. Motivated by the shooting of a bystander, she persuades the women on both sides of the Chicago gang divide to withhold sex from their boyfriends as a means of preventing further violence.

Her charismatic criminal boyfriend Chi-Raq is one of the unhappy men. He shares his name with the gang-ridden south side of Chicago, an area more deadly to locals than Iraq to US soldiers.

Samuel L. Jackson has a ball a as zoot suited Greek chorus rapping straight to camera. Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Wesley Snipes and John Cusack form the backbone of a strong support cast.

@ChrisHunneysett

London Has Fallen

Director: Babak Najafi (2016)

Take cover as this big, dumb action sequel drops into cinema with the subtle grace of a lead balloon.

Gerard Butler is in age denial mode as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, the kick ass star of Olympus Has Fallen (2013). He knows no fear, mercy or decent banter.

It’s a noisy barrage of gun battles and explosions with torture to break the tedium. Cars collide, helicopters crash and the touristy bit of the capital are trashed.

Impressive physical stunts are undermined by some poor CGI, ridiculous dialogue and unintentionally funny moments.

Following the sudden death of British PM, Banning must leave his pregnant wife behind and postpone his resignation plan to accompany the US President to the state funeral in London.

As global leaders gather to pay their last respects and with the streets of London protected by fighter jets, horses, dogs, armed police and snipers, an army of terrorists launch an attack on the steps of St Paul’s cathedral.

With London transport on lockdown and the emergency services incapacitated through terrorist infiltration, it’s up to Banning to drag the President to safety.

Aaron Eckhart sighs, frowns and worries about being tortured on Youtube. This demonstrates his scant faith in Banning’s abilities to save him.

Back in the US, Morgan Freeman’s Vice President chuckles his way through the crisis and talks about his fishing.

Boro girl Charlotte Riley keeps her native accent as an MI6 agent. Her forthright intensity   is in contrast to the joshing efforts of  to shame.

Moments of social realism break out during lulls in the mayhem. The British cabinet is portrayed as posh, smug and stupid and the Italian PM is seen having a tryst with a woman half his age.

No one should expect political discourse from this determinedly violent and witless entertainment which assumes flag waving and drone strikes are the price of a free West.

Banning’s impassioned invocation of a 1,000 year rule is delivered without thought to historical precedent.

The leaden script pays lip service to the qualities of the British, despite London being taken down in a matter of minutes and Banning elbowing aside an SAS squad to do their job for them.

It also makes laughably sure the audience is painfully up to speed with the thin story.

Air raid sirens warn the population to stay at home. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.

 

 

 

Survivor

Director: James McTeigue (2015)

This tedious terrorist thriller is a po-faced celebration of the secret security services trying to masquerade as entertainment.

It has unintentionally ridiculous dialogue, enormous plot-holes, little tension and no humour.

Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich) is the new security chief of the American Embassy in London. She’s in charge of the young team who process visa applications to the US.

She spends a huge amount of time running down corridors and may be having a relationship with her boss Sam (Dylan McDermott).

Following a bomb attack on a restaurant, Abbott follows Embassy safety protocol and immediately goes to a pub toilet to check on her hair. Not being British she doesn’t even stop for a drink.

Abbott realises being the only survivor of the blast makes her a suspect.

When a colleague is murdered Abbott goes to the top of the most wanted list and even her own Ambassador (Angela Bassett) wants her taken out.

No-one in the myriad intelligence services thinks to stake out Abbott’s flash apartment.

As Abbott’s colleague Sally, actress Frances de la Tour does well not to look embarrassed at events. James D’Arcy plays Police Inspector Paul Anderson, a stiff-assed Brit.

The film emphasises the extensive use of CCTV in the the UK’s capital but doesn’t pursue the idea.

Meanwhile an even bigger atrocity being planned by a munitions expert known as ‘The Watchmaker’ (Pierce Brosnan).

He is steely-eyed, silver haired and occasionally sports a moustache. Playing a terrorist at large in London recalls Brosnan’s brief role in The Long Good Friday (1980), back when the Irishman appeared in great films.

Danny Ruhlmann’s cinematography casts rich shadows and is the best feature of the movie. It creates a suitably menacing environment not matched by the plotting, pace or performances.

As Survivor is set in December – there are Christmas trees and everything – the decision by the distribution company to release it in June suggests a fear of finding an audience for it.