Reviews – New movies opening February 26th 2016

GRIMSBY (UK/USA/15/83mins)
Directed by Louis Leterrier. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Vegas, Ian McShane.
THE PLOT: Superspy Sebastian Grimsby (Strong) quickly wishes that his long-lost brother Nobby (Cohen) had stayed well and truly lost when the chalky welfare scrounger to his cheesy action man hero effectively become a team. Sebasian has spent his life becoming the perfect MI6 agent, a deadly assassin with an even deadlier girlfriend. Nobby, on the other hand, has been shitting out kids – “10 or 11” – with his equally slobbish wife (the omnipresent Wilson) when he’s not unleashing football chants at the top of his lungs.
When the world is threatened by the fiendish Rhonda George (Cruz – one of the few here seemingly having fun), the two brothers must reunite though, and become, well, just like every other crimefighting buddy-buddy duo riding that thin line between loathe and hate.
THE VERDICT: After the disappointments of ‘Bruno’ (2009) and ‘The Dictator’ (2012), Sacha Baron Cohen plays it purely for laughs with ‘Grimsby’ – and thus avoiding any off-putting socio- or geo-politics. Which might make commercial sense, on paper – pale imitation Denis Leary was always going to sell out bigger venues than his unfiltered, if no less ambitious, blueprint, Bill Hicks – but it leaves you with a film that barely manages to keep the fart jokes going for even 83 minutes.
Not that jokes about bodily functions aren’t hilarious, of course, Cohen managing to deliver quite a few penetration and poo jokes that land straight in the middle of the rectum, but the smudge-smudge, wink-wink quickly wears thin here.
Perhaps it’s all to do with the edit, some of ‘Grimsby’’s sharper, nastier jokes that popped up in the trailers missing in action here.
Review by Paul Byrne

Directed by Felix Thompson. Starring Charlie Plummer, Cory Nichols, Christian Madsen, Danny Flaherty, Erin Davie.
THE PLOT: Teenage delinquent Jack (Charlie Plummer) seemingly has the run of the run down American town in which he lives. Although he is often confronted by bullies, he is not afraid to get his own back, and spends his time drinking, smoking and texting pictures of himself to the popular girls. When his aunt falls ill and his cousin Ben (Cory Nichols) is sent to stay with the family, Jack is put in charge of looking after the younger boy, and although friendship cautiously blooms between the two, the bullies return to get in the way.
THE VERDICT: ‘King Jack’ is a quiet, small kind of film that not only examines the cyclical nature of bullying and abuse, but the toll taken on a young teen when his father is not around and his mother is disinterested. Charlie Plummer seems to inhabit the role of Jack entirely; making him angry and sullen, but with a softer side, one that he has to keep hidden in order to survive. Cory Nichols plays Ben as a quiet pre-teen who is obviously in awe of his older relative, but capable of great anger when things go wrong. The rest of the cast features Christian Madsen, Danny Flaherty and Erin Davie.
Felix Thompson’s screenplay essentially examines the first time in Jack’s life when he has to take care of someone or something other than himself. The dialogue is sparse, with exposition cleverly handled, and enough information given that Jack’s motivations are clear and understandable. As well as this, the screenplay quietly examines that rush of first love, first kisses and the thrill of the illicit.
As director, Felix Thompson allows ‘King Jack’ to ramble slightly, while still making the themes of the film shine through. The cast are well directed and., although there are times when some characters are infuriating, this is all to the benefit of the film. Some sub-plots disappear without warning however, but the film is well paced and mostly engaging.
In all, ‘King Jack’ is a look at the life of a young teen in a small town, as well as the nature of bullying and redemption. Charlie Plummer is strong in the leading role and the breathless feel of first love and false bravado flow through the film as a whole.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Directed by Billy Ray. Starring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly.
THE PLOT: Not long after 9/11, Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his colleagues at the Counter Terrorism Joint Taskforce in LA are tasked with keeping an eye on a mosque in the city. When a woman’s body is found in a dumpster by the mosque and it turns out the be the daughter of one of the team, obsession and the quest for justice take the team over.
THE VERDICT: ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is a remake of a 2009 Argentinean film of the same name. Now, however, with the excellent Denis Villeneuve film ‘Prisoners’ so fresh in our minds, this remake feels a lot less fresh than it could.
Chiwetel Ejifor leads the cast as Ray; a tenacious man who is friends with the mother of the slain girl, and more than a little in love with one of his colleagues. Ejiofor does what he can with the role, and does his best to hold the film together and keep it engaging, but he is fighting against a script that feels familiar and underwritten at times. Nicole Kidman plays Claire – the woman Ray is so infatuated with – and actually has rather little to do, until one climactic scene that she manages fine. Julia Roberts plays jess, the mother of the murdered girl. Roberts’ performance is uneven but mostly relatable as she swings from hysteria to shock to rage over the death of her daughter. Alfred Molina, Dean Morris and Michael Kelly feature also.
Although the screenplay is based on the 2009 Argentinean film, a lot of the details and intrigue of the film has been changed or simply removed. Elements remain, but in moving the setting to the US, much has been lost along the way. The dialogue of the film is unremarkable, and many scenes and scenarios feel drawn out and uneven. As well as this, the tension of the film only rises in the final scene, making the events that went before seem flat and meandering.
Director Billy Ray coaxes solid enough performances from the cast of Secret in Their Eyes, but there are times when motivations seem fuzzy and meandering, which means it is hard to root for any of the characters in the end. The pacing of the film feels sluggish for much of the time, meaning everything feels like it takes an age to happen. That said, there is almost enough in Secret in Their Eyes to keep the audience engaged, although many will be wishing for the film to get a move on, and for an awkward scene involving Kidman’s sexuality to be cut entirely.
In all, ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is a thin remake of an Oscar winning film. The cast do their best with the chances they get, but the film is uneven, badly paced and lacks atmosphere. ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ could have been an engaging thriller, but it lacks substance, strength and an engaging screenplay.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER (Ireland/12A/102mins)
Directed by Declan Recks. Starring Roger Allam, Sean McGinley, Ian McElhinney, Barry Ward, Ian Beattie, Conleth Hill, Madeline Mantock.
THE PLOT: Arriving into Northern Ireland to chair the first-ever Commission For Truth And Reconcilliation, Henry Stanfield (Allam) has other concerns on his mind outside of peace, love and understanding between Protestants and Catholics. There’s the little matter of his adult daughter Emma (Hyde), and the fact that she has refused to talk to him for many years now. Having settled in Northern Ireland partly to get away from the man who she believes abandoned her and her mother, Emma is about to have a baby. It’s news to Henry, and when he finds that the men behind the men behind the wire threatening not only him but his family too should he push a little too hard for the actual truth, the pain and anguish felt by those standing before him in court daily hits home. Right to the heart of home.
THE VERDICT: Playing as both a political thriller and a ‘Lost In Translation’ mid-flight crisis, this earnest adaptation of David Parks’ earnest novel is one of those solid dramas that has all the signs of being designed and executed as primetime quality TV. And that’s because it was, this BBC commission’s jump to the big screen surprising director Declan Recks (‘Eden’, ‘The Clinic’) as much as everyone else involved.
Unsurprisingly, ‘The Truth Commissioner’’s big-screen adventure is a limited release one, being the kind of drama that will probably play better in the living room that the multiplex. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but, until that welcome rush of danger in the closing act arrives, there’s very little here that we haven’t seen before.
To the point that, one suspects Roger Allam actually travels to auditions now with his own attache case full of important political papers.
Review by Paul Byrne