Cert 15 Stars 4

Approaching his fiftieth year as a film director, Clint Eastwood’s latest real life drama uses a tale of heroism to train his sights on two of his favourite targets, the US government and the media.

As represented here by Jon Hamm’s FBI agent and Olivia Wilde’s ambitious journalist, they’re considered as being so much in bed together, they actually go to bed together, and are portrayed as the real enemy of gun-loving white folk.

Paul Walter Hauser brings quiet dignity and sympathy to the title role, an under-educated, over-weight former cop turned security guard who saves lives during the bomb attack at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

However he finds himself accused of terrorism in the court of public opinion, with only Best Supporting actress Oscar nominee Kathy Bates as his mother, Sam Rockwell’s down-at-heel lawyer, and the US Constitution, at his side.

The latter part of Eastwood’s career has focused exclusively on celebrating ordinary blue collar people in extraordinary circumstances, and Richard Jewell is typically accessible, crowd pleasing and polished.

Bad Santa 2

Director: Mark Waters (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Where the original Bad Santa (2003) was a fresh feast of ferocious bad taste, this smells of stale beer and leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

It’s been 13 long years since Billy Bob’s Thornton’s drunk safe cracker first stumbled across our screens. That’s a year longer gap than the one between the recent Bridget Jones threequel and its predecessor.

Whereas Bridget Jones’ Baby (2016) improved on Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Bad Santa 2 fails to recapture the coarse Christmas magic of its predecessor.

The original cast of Thornton, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly return, with a tattooed Kathy Bates and a rampant Christina Hendricks as added value elements. The cast gamely debase themselves in pursuit of gags and back alley sex. That isn’t and is a euphemism. You can take it either way.

As perma-drunk Willie T. Stokes, Thornton’s dead pan drawl almost makes this worth seeing. But Cox and Kelly are stuck on repeat, Bates enjoys her performance more than we do and poor Hendricks receives the butt of the worst writing. As a bad girl gone good going bad, the star of TV’s Mad Men plays a punchline to a non-joke in search of a character.

Stokes teams up with his mother and his former partner to rob a Chicago charity. There’s no honour among thieves and are soon plotting against each other. Thin jokes are stretched over the lightest of plots and the cynically ageist, sexist, sizeist, racist and foul mouthed dialogue confuses abuse with wit.

Everyone involved should be put on Santa’s naughty list.


The Boss

Director: Ben Falcone (2016)

Melissa McCarthy has carved out a career of variable quality with a distinctive brand of knockabout comedy.

Since a scene stealing supporting role in Bridesmaids (2011) she successfully teamed up with Sandra Bullock in The Heat (2014) before taking centre stage in comedy smash Spy (2015).

However for every hit there has been a misfire such as the poor Identity Thief (2013) and the terrible Tammy (2014). This is one of her lesser films.

Practically a one woman industry, she acts as producer, writer and star of this corporate romp.

Michelle Darnell is a shiny suited and power haired Sharon Osbourne lookalike with the blustering self belief of Donald Trump.

The bullying self made financial guru loses her fortune when she’s punished for insider trading.

Once released Michelle moves in with her former assistant and begins to plot her way back to the big time.

Kristen Bell and Ella Anderson offer a sweet contrast to their abrasive guest as hard working single mum Claire and young teen daughter Rachel.

While Peter Dinklage is an enjoyably demented samurai obsessed former colleague turned bitter business enemy.

McCarthy relies heavily on her screen presence to bulldozer over the lack of decent jokes in a weak script which substitutes slapstick violence and swearing for wit.

Hardcore fans of McCarthy may enjoy The Boss but it’s not a product that raises the value of her stock.