Director: Denzel Washington (2017) BBFC cert: 12A

Hollywood heavy hitter Denzel Washington steps up to the plate to try for an Oscar home run in this compelling family drama.

Given this powerhouse performance as a baseball loving binman, a record equalling third Oscar win is well within Washington’s striking distance.

Nominated for best actor, Washington stars as a middle-aged illiterate with a prison record. Troy is restless with frustration at his life and has an authoritarian streak when dealing with his wife and children.

Despite preaching responsibility, Troy is revealed as a hypocrite capable of monstrous behaviour towards those closest to him.

Though Washington also produces and directs, this is far from a one-man show. He is merely the leader of an exceptional yet small cast. Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo are terrific as Troy’s sons.

Lyons is a broke musician, the result of a youthful relationship. Teenage Cory is an aspiring sportsman and the product of Troy’s marriage to Rose. Clinging to her hard earned dignity as Troy’s wife, the magnificently moving Viola Davis is deservedly favourite for the best supporting actress Oscar.

Young Saniyya Sidney appears briefly as Troy’s daughter Raynell. She raises a smile with her every word.

Washington directs with sensitive economy, barely moving from the main location of the backyard where Troy is erecting a fence. A lack of visual flair is more than compensated for by the actors’ ability and the virtuosity of the writing.

The script has been Oscar nominated for best Adapted Screenplay, and is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play of the same name.

The setting is very specific to the African-American experience of 1950s Pittsburgh. However the story explores universal ideas of masculinity, marriage and fatherhood. This means it reaches across the fences of time, location and race to speak to the widest possible audience.

To paraphrase the famous baseball commentary, it’s a story that can be heard round the world.



Director: Michael Mann (2015)

Twenty years after Angelina Jolie starred in Hackers, Michael Mann discovers the interweb in this dull, dated and disappointing cyber-terrorist thriller.

With its nineties action licks, wide-eyed wonder at the web, redundant explanatory visuals, evocation of 911 and stockmarket manipulation plot, it misses the zeitgeist by at least a dozen years.

When a computer virus causes a malfunction at a Chinese nuclear power plant, it results in eight fatalities and threatens a reactor meltdown.

Military computer expert Captain Chen (Leehom Wang) is ordered to find the ‘blackhat’ cyber-terrorist responsible. With the US also at risk of attack he travels to the US to link up with the FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis).

Despite not trusting each other, they start putting a team together with Chen persuading his sister, network expert Lien (Tang Wei) to help.

Chen recognises the code virus as one he co-wrote at university with Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) – but he’s currently in jail for assault.

Hemsworth has an impressive physique, leading man looks, charm and talent – but it’s a stretch for him to convince as a mega-intelligent programmer.

The FBI agree to commute his sentence if he can solve the case and Hathaway is released in golden sunlight to the sound of soaring strings. Hallelujah.

But until the terrorist is caught he has to wear an electronic ankle tag and be accompanied everywhere by Jessup, a US Marshall  (Holt McCallany).

It’s an unusual investigation with glamorous nerds confronting suspects while FBI agents blackmail banker’s into giving up private information.

With the nuclear incident is contained and the hacker not making demands, there’s a tremendous lack of tension. This downtime allows time for Lien and Hathaway to become intimately acquainted.

There’s an awful lot of tapping at keyboards and staring at screens. Failing to illustrate the web in any inventive way the camera whizzes into computer hardware to follow miles of wires and acres of microchips before popping up on the other side of the world. Ho hum.

Anyway the script wanders off to China to retrieve some data from inside the highly radioactive but now stable nuclear facility. It’s a sequence devoid of drama but does give the team a chance to mess about in yellow radiation suits.

There’s helicopters, speedboats, private jets and shootouts in the street with automatic weapons. When the team takes casualties the mission turns personal.

The bizarre finale takes place in a huge open air parade in Jakarta. White guys wave guns about and happy-slap random members of the local populace – but not one person reacts in anger until shots are fired.

Ultimately the blackhat terrorist is revealed as a shabby bearded bloke called ‘The Boss’ (Yorick van Wageningen). His life would have been a lot simpler if he’d just joined Lloyd’s or gone to work with George Soros.



dir. Denis Villeneuve

Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard are vigilante fathers fighting for justice in this damp, dull and silly thriller.

In this rain-drenched small town that seems to have a deranged individual twitching behind every curtain, there are a seemingly endless number of torture chambers.

Riddled with stupidity, inconsistency, alarming coincidence and a gun-toting granny, it corkscrews a path through plot-holes into a pit of preposterousness.

Survivalist carpenter Keller Dover (Jackman) and his neighbour Franklin Birch (Howard) are relaxing after sharing Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Jackman pairs a ragged beard with a knitted frown and acts with a fist waving intensity while Howard gawps along with the audience.

As Dover’s wife Maria Bello has little to do but stagger in a pill-popping daze and Viola Davis as Mrs Birch is given less than that.

Their two young daughters fail to return home from playing outside and a desperate search begins for them.

As every cop in the state are brought in to hunt for the girls, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to lead the investigation and is known for never failing to solve a case.

Gyllenhaal is impressive as the tattooed and slick-haired cop, offering with wry humour the merest specks of light in the gathering gloom.

Keller tracks down the suspected killer himself, beating up the suspectAlex Jones (Paul Dano) and pleading with Franklin to interrogate him.

Brilliant British cinematographer Roger Deakins creates an air of bitter chill that emphasises the bleakness of tone but his talent is squandered on this material.