Directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Starring Vincent Cassel, Gerard Depardieu, Cecile De France, Gilles Lellouche, Roy Dupuis.
THE PLOT: Kicking off in 1959 with a glimpse of his grim time serving in the French Army during the Algerian War, once back in Paris, Jacques Mesrine (Cassel) quickly bores of his mundane job and his polite, cowardly father, looking instead to gangster Guido (Depardieu, in Brando mode) for guidance, guns and girls. The hits and the high life suit Jacques, but he still finds time to fall in love with and marry a Spanish girl, Sofia (the stunning Elena Anaya), and father three children. With the latter in mind, Mesrine’s first stint in prison puts him back on the straight and narrow. For a while.
THE VERDICT: The first of two films charting the life and crimes of one of France’s most notorious modern-day criminals (the second, Public Enemy No.1, hitting cinemas August 28th), Mesrine: Killer Instinct is a stunning piece of work. Think Goodfellas, only with Liotta’s Henry Hill slowly morphing into Pesci’s Tommy DeVito – but never losing his sense of humour. Or style.
Already a major hit in France – where leading man Cassel deservedly picked up a Cesar – Mesrine himself is a much-romanticised criminal, in the vein of John Dillinger or Jesse James. Indeed, Michael Mann’s recent Dillinger biopic, Public Enemies, makes for an interesting comparison here – in that, it pales significantly when put up against director Jean-Francois Richet’s stunning double-bill. At the cinema, crime does indeed pay. RATING: *****
Directed by Stephen Sommers. Starring Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller.
THE PLOT: The plot is just plain silly, with Tatum’s Duke and his trusty, jive-talkin’ sidekick Ripcord (Wayans) finding themselves joining forces with the eponymous elite squad headed up by the well-named General Hawk (Quaid, looking like he craps cigars) to find out just who naughty minx The Baroness (Miller) is stealing nuclear warheads for. Turns out to be megalomaniac McCullen (Eccleston, in full cackle mode), and his mysterious, wish-I-was-Gary-Oldman mad scientist assistant (the actor’s identity a crucial plot twist). Throw in a failed romance between Duke and The Baroness, and a long-lost brother for the latter, and you’ve got the makings of a decent afternoon cartoon. Or a four-part comic book. Not a big summer blockbuster.
THE VERDICT: With a hail of internet chatroom disapproval forcing some 11th hour re-shoots, it’s hardly surprising to find that G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra is something of a mess. A big, fat, action-packed, $170m mess. Like Transformers, this summer blockbuster is based on a Hasbro toy, G.I. Joe having the distinction of being the world’s first action figure when it was introduced into American homes back in 1964 – but, are there really that many kids out there who want to celebrate an old all-American soldier right now? Besides George W., that is?
This makes The Watchmen look like The Godfather. It’s The League Of Extraordinary Stereotypes, full of hi-tech hardware (at one point, we’re treated to the Keystone Robocops running amok in Paris), silly accents and some really, really bad acting. Eccleston lets his shiny waistcoat do most of the work, whilst, on the strength of this performance, Miller is shaping up to be the new Liz Hurley. RATING: **
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett.
THE PLOT: Kate Coleman (Farmiga) getting over the stillbirth of her third child by adopting a young Russian girl, Esther (Fuhrman) – who slowly wreaks havoc on this well-to-do family. The fact that Kate’s passion for a drink or two has left her little girl, Max (Aryana Engineer), deaf after an accident means that mum is never be exactly sure what her new little girl is doing.
THE VERDICT: One of the year’s most heavily marketed films (Spielberg’s line about Hollywood learning “how to sell it before you can smell it” springs to mind), Orphan promises much in the scare stakes, but delivers more laughs than screams with its sweetly bonkers conclusion. It’s enough to make Stephen King weep. Like a little girl. Who’s really a…
What starts out as The Omen goes wildly National Lampoon shaped by the end, leaving you with the sense that the filmmakers just abandoned all hope of this being a superior horror flick. Don’t look now. Or when it comes out on DVD either. RATING: **
Directed by Max Meyer. Starring Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison.
THE PLOT: Having just lost his father, native New Yorker Adam Raki (Dancy) divides his time between his job as an electronic engineer and eating macaroni-and-cheese TV dinners. When he bumps into new neighbour Beth Buchwald (Byrne), his awkwardness, lack of communication skills and deep shyness naturally intrigue her. Unsurprisingly, her parents (Gallagher, Irving) aren’t too crazy about this blossoming romance.
THE VERDICT: Having proven that he’s not quite box-office material just yet with the so-so Confessions Of A Shopaholic, Colin Firth’s mini-me, Hugh Dancy, turns in a impressive performance here as a lonely man with Asperger syndrome.
Director Max Meyer (1998’s Better Living) handles this delicate story well, missing a beat, or a golden opportunity, only occasionally, whilst Dancy manages to convince in a role that could have easily dissolved into Oscar-baiting affectations. Still, this played like a nice night in rather than a fine night out. RATING: ***
IRISH FILM ARCHIVE HITS THE ROAD
Those nice people at the Irish Film Archive are going out on tour for the month of August, taking their impressive wares to such far-flung corners of the country as the Knock Museum, the Jackie Clark Libraries and Archives in Ballina, the Kilkenny Arts Festival and, to save a little petrol, the Dublin City Council Libraries.
Proceeds get underway in Kilkenny on August 8th, with William Trevor On Screen, whilst two days later, the Kilkenny Arts Festival will play host to Blood And Thunder: Hurling And Life In 1930s Ireland. Heritage Week runs from August 22nd to the 30th, and will be marked this year by the Dublin In The Rare ‘Oul Times series touring various Dublin libraries, with screenings also taking place in Ballina. On the 29th and 30th the Knock Museum will play host to Glimpses Of Knock, a programme of amateur and professional documentary films from the Shrine, dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. Full details on www.irishfilm.ie.