We review this week’s new cinema releases, including The Great Gatsby and Fast & Furious 6
THE GREAT GATSBY (Australia/USA/12A/142mins)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Steve Bisley, Amitabh Bachchan, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke.
THE PLOT: Recommended by his doctor to write it all down, Nick Carraway takes us back to the swingin’ ’20s, when New York was enjoying an endless party. And the finest parties of all were being held at the shoreline mansion of the mysterious Gatsby (DiCaprio). Having moved into cheap accomodation next door, Carraway was surprised when, having only glimpsed Gatsby on occasion, he got a written invite to one of the man’s incredibly lavish latenight extravaganzas.
It takes him a little while to realise though that Gatsby is really just a showman, the wizard of Wall Street, and the parties, they’re all just for show. Or, to be more precise, a honeytrap – and the only honey that Gatsby truly wants lives right across the bay. It’s been five years since the love of his life, Daisy (Mulligan), got married to the womanising millionaire Tom Buchanan (Edgerton), and Gatsby – a beast patiently, silently waiting all this time for his beauty to return – has been dreaming and plotting their reunion ever since. It’s clear that the man wants to foxtrot his one true love, his muse, his vision just across the water. He wants to foxtrot her hard. But money can’t buy you love. And it can’t help you repeat the past…
THE VERDICT: I was so ready to bury this film, especially when the first act reveled in all those Luhrmann cliches that I had been dreading – a world set-designed to within an inch of its life, a literary masterpiece reimagined as a Lady Gaga video, and a bunch of drowning-not-waving actors – some barely loveable, some barely likeable – all lost at CGI. This was a story all about the fine art of the facade, and, fittingly enough, this Aussie showman-cum-snake charmer was once again trying to blind us with a strobe light of sexy, sparkly surfaces. But there’s only so far you can go when it comes to 12A decadence.
A Liberace wet dream, Luhrmann’s latest folly initially tries way too hard to be intoxicating. Which means the first hour or so are pretty damn nauseating. Like Moulin Rouge with gold-leaf knobs on. But then, those annoying lights go dim and the shadows creep in, as the Romeo+Juliet story at the heart of Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel kicks in.
Suddenly, the Ripleyesque rumble beneath all the glamour and glitz begins to make sense. Initially, Luhrmann tries to capture fireworks in a bottle, but it’s only when he turns off all the lights and let’s in the darkness – the darkness of longing, of deceit, of living a lie – that his glittering epic begins to truly shine. I was surprised as you are.
Review by Paul Byrne
FAST & FURIOUS 6 (USA/12A/130mins)
Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Jordanna Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Gina Carano.
THE PLOT: In order to catch a criminal, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) need the minds (and cars) of criminals. Obviously, Dom, Brian and their friends are the first place he turns. Not least because he has information on the supposedly deceased Letty.
THE VERDICT: Let’s be honest here, no-one really goes to see Fast and Furious movies for the cerebral filmmaking and belief-challenging storylines. No, we all go to see these movies because we want to see some cool cars and some great chases. Once we admit this to ourselves, we will all be a lot happier… And we will suspend our disbelief suitably high.
The whole crew is back to reprise their roles, and each have a little more at stake this time out. Brian has a kid and Dom is chasing the love of his life, we all know how that goes. Before you go thinking that I have nothing positive to say about the film, know this; I am not a fan of the franchise and the first I saw was Fast 5. That said, there is a ton of fun to be had with this film. The cars are simply beautiful, there are plenty of pretty humans to look at as well, and the set pieces are bonkers and brilliant.
Oh yes, the set pieces. Rarely have their been set pieces been so over the top and played for the sake of action. There is a car chase that ends in a chat at Battersea Power Station, another that ends with some spectacular jumping for the sake of rescue and yet another that involves a plane and a runway that is improbably long.
The acting is patchy; some appear to be having a great time – Dwayne Johnson, I’m looking at you – others that are confused by the idea of acting and still others that are painfully underused – Kim Kold is a lot more than the ‘muscle’, you know. Watch Teddy Bear.
In all, Fast & Furious 6 is big and dumb and a lot of fun. Suspend your disbeliefs, ignore the dialogue as much as possible and you are going to have a great time. Just don’t expect it to make a whole lot of sense.
Review by Brogen Hayes
SIMON KILLER (USA/France/IFI/101mins)
Directed by Antonio Campos. Starring Brady Corbet, Lila Salet, Mati Diop, Michael Abiteboul, Constance Rousseau, Solo.
THE PLOT: With grad school and a relationship both just over, young American Simon (Corbet) decides a trip to the city of love is called for. And soon after arriving at his cousin’s place, Simon takes a trip to one of Paris’ love-for-sale bars, where he hooks up with pretty skin and bones hooker Victoria (Diop), the two hitting it off enough for the latter to take the former home. Simon’s not good boyfriend material though, and something of a habitual liar – he’s soon making Victoria’s life miserable, as they set out to blackmail her clients. As is so often the case, this cunning scheme doesn’t quite go to plan, and when Victoria is badly beaten by one of the clients, Simon does the only decent thing, and finds another woman to sleep with…
THE VERDICT: The two having worked together before on Afterschool and Martha, May, Marcy And Marlene (in which our leading man here played the cult’s pimp), Campos and Corbet also share script credits with female lead Diop here, and you get the impression the trio came up with this sleazy little tale of deceit at about four in the morning. Corbet’s Simon tells his cousin that his graduate work was all about “the relationship between the eye and the brain”, and it’s an early clue as to this killer’s cold-blooded approach to his work. Corbet is well-cast in the lead role, having mastered the art of the menacing presence in both of the aforementioned films as well as the American remake of Haneke’s Funny Games. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing, and you get the impression that Campos and co don’t always understand the darkness they’re trying to convey, but Simon Killer would make a great last date movie.
Review by Paul Byrne
MOVIES.IE’S ONE TO WATCH!
BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Jay Bulger. Starring Ginger Baker, Tony Allen, Carmine Appice, Bob Adcock, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Stewart Copeland, Mickey Harte, Femi Kuti.
THE PLOT: Proving that artists do suffer for their art, we first meet former Cream drummer Ginger Baker in South Africa, 2009, as he hits filmmaker Jay Bulger across the face with his walking stick. Jump back to happier times, and London boy Baker takes us through his childhood – losing his father at the age of four, during WWII, before a love of jazz brought him to British jazz drummer Phil Seamen, who turned him onto rhythms and tried to warn him off heroin. Baker paid great attention to the first and ignored the latter, especially as success in the ’60s alongside Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce as Cream heralded in the very high life. A move to Nigeria in the 1970s brought new musical landscapes, but Baker was, is, and probably forever shall be, a troubled man. Currently on his fourth marriage, and estranged from his children and many of his friends, the red-haired rebel rouser continues to woo crowds. And repel sensible, sensitive people.
THE VERDICT: Like the flipside to the Anvil story, Baker is one of those rock icons who tends to be a god onstage and a dog off. Think Jerry Lee Lewis. Or Van with energy. Not that Baker isn’t aware of his own reputation – just inside the gates of his South African home is a sign that gave Bulger the title for his documentary. The only joy here is to be found in the music, Baker commended again and again by later generations of drummers for bringing the jazz approach of Max Roach to rock. Everyone else – family, one-time friends – have little love for the ornery old goat, it seems, and it makes for one compelling documentary. Like Sweet & Lowdown without any of the sweetness, and plenty of lowdown.
Review by Paul Byrne
A HIJACKING (Denmark /15A /103mins)
Directed by Tobias Lindholm. Starring Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling
THE PLOT: The crew of a Danish cargo ship are taken hostage in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who demand a small fortune for their safe return. As the crisis moves from days to months, the situation becomes ever more desperate for those at sea, and those negotiating their safe return.
THE VERDICT: Writer/director Tobias Lindholm is arguably best known for his screenwriting skills, having penned, among other things, TV show Borgen and Thomas Vinterberg’s heartbreaking film The Hunt. In his debut solo work – but not his first time behind the camera – Lindholm weaves a tale of leadership, teamwork and power in a tense thriller.
The lead that emerges at sea is the ship’s cook, Mikke (Pilou Asbæk) who becomes unofficial go between and de facto negotiator. Asbæk allows the character to swing between fear and bravado has he struggles to negotiate the ever-changing mood upon the ship. Asbæk becomes the emotional heart of the film as he tries to keep everyone alive and safe, and his performance is riveting. Back on dry land, Mikke’s employer, Peter (Søren Malling) tries to handle the situation himself, despite the fact that an expert has been brought in to oversee proceedings. Malling is stoic and professional when dealing with the negotiation, and can often seem cruel, but the toll that the situation is taking on him quickly becomes evident. In fact, Malling and Asbæk’s characters go through a similar arc, albeit for different reasons.
Lindholm, in making the decision to switch between hostages and negotiators has created a rounded and powerful story about a violent incident. Instead of focusing on the violence and the action, Lindholm allows the people to take centre stage, and it is their relationships that become the crux of the story. By focusing on the characters, allowing the tension to ebb and flow and ending the crisis almost anticlimactically, Lindholm has created a feeling of verisimilitude; there are no set pieces here – even the initial hijacking is not shown on screen – just the examination of the psychological impact of a global phenomenon that has rarely been explored on screen.
A Hijacking is a character driven story about the psychological and emotional impact that a violent event can have on those involved. The feeling of surviving without knowing how is evident throughout the film, but never more so in the final, quiet scenes of the film. Lindholm proves that he is a writer with an eye for detail and a director with a talent for examining the emotional, rather than the overly dramatic.
Review by Brogen Hayes