We review this week’s new cinema releases, including COLD COMES THE NIGHT and A BELFAST STORY
COLD COMES THE NIGHT
Directed by Tze Chun. Starring Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston.
THE PLOT: Chloe (Alice Eve), a motel owner, and her young daughter are taken hostage by a career criminal (Bryan Cranston) after his partner is killed.
The normally strong Bryan Cranston does not have a lot to do here, other than shout and have a terrible Russian accent. The actor, as with all actors in the film, are not given a chance to delineate or create something believable, as everything hangs on audience sympathies created by arbitrary choices and associations. Alice Eve plays a single mother whose daughter is used as ransom so she will help the nearly blind Cranston to retrieve his ill-gotten gains and Logan Marshall-Green plays an adulterous cop with few scruples.
THE VERDICT: The story unfolds as you may expect; woman dragged into a criminal association through her love for her daughter, finds herself trying to reason with her captor. Nothing that happens in Tze Chun, Oz Perkins and Nick Simon’s screenplay feels remotely original, and the characters are not fleshed out enough that the audience cares about them. The only redeeming features about the film are the relatively short running time, and the pacing, which is actually rather good and keeps the film moving steadily.
Tse Chun’s direction does not allow the characters to surprise the audience at any turn, and even though this is a steady enough thriller, it feels so familiar as to be almost instantly forgettable. Plot holes abound, as do dubious decisions by the filmmakers, such as making traits the only facet of these characters’ personalities.
In all, Cold Comes the Night is a by the books thriller that is let down by predictable plotting and familiar scenarios. The actors are not given a chance to do anything remotely new or interesting, but the pacing allows the film to zip along at a good speed. It’s a good job really, otherwise Cold Comes the Night could be pure cinematic torture.
Review by Brogen Hayes
Directed by Robert Schwentke. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, Robert Knepper, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Mike O’Malley.
THE PLOT: All hell is breaking loose down here on earth – as it so very often does in the comicbook world – but Detective Nick Walker (Reynolds) has other things on his mind right now. Such as all that lovely gold he and his partner, Bobby Hayes (Bacon), have pocketed after a drug bust. When Nick informs Bobby that he’s going to return the gold, the latter decides a dead partner is better than an empty chest, and so Detective Walker is soon on that stairway to heaven. Where he is pulled aside and given the opportunity to join the Rest In Peace Department, a celestial police station for deceased cops who patrol the afterlife and hunt down Deados, nasty ghosts who didn’t quite make it into heaven. Teaming up with former U.S. Marshal Roy Pulsipher (Bridges, of course), Nick heads back to earth, where he’s somewhat keen to catch up with his old partner. And his wife, Julia (Szostak).
THE VERDICT: At this point, Ryan Reynolds might as well work in R.I.P. to each new would-be blockbuster he puts his name on, given his recent disastrous run, but the bastard son of Chevy Chase can hardly be expected to take the blame for this particular turkey. There’s just so much else to ridicule.
Naturally, Bridges offers some very welcome relief here, having the gravitas and the mischief to ride above even the most ludicrous production, but not even The Dude can guarantee much of a dopey smile here. This wants to be Men In Black, but it’s Men In Black 2. This is one busy movie. Busy going nowhere. Go check out the original Dark Horse comicbook instead.
Review by Paul Byrne
THE CALL (USA/16/94mins)
Directed by Brad Anderson. Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Evie Thompson, Michael Imperioli, David Otunga, Morris Chestnut.
THE PLOT: Along with dozens of others, cubicle cutie Jordan (Berry) works the phones at the LAPD’s 911 emergency call unit, handling everything from microwave explosions to a murder in progress. When a young woman calls in as she’s being assaulted, Jordan gets the would-be killer on the line, and calmly informs him, “You don’t have to do this”. To which he calmly replies, “It”s already done”. All part of the job, unfortunately, and Jordan knows that she must move on from such failures, turning to the training of new operators – advising them, “Stay emotionally controlled” and “Don’t make promises”. The killer hasn’t quite moved on though, and his latest victim, Casey (Breslin), phones in from the trunk of a moving car. She’s soon being talked through the ordeal by Jordan, as cops desperately try to trace the call, and the killer. It’s during this drive to the killer’s remote shack that Jordan proves her worth, guiding Casey through such attention-grabbing tricks as kicking out a brake light or dripping paint onto the road…
THE VERDICT: It’s got to be pretty crushing for Halle Berry – here in full Unflattering Serious Actress wig – to find herself leading such an extremely non-event movie such as The Call. This is product. Dull product. Filling a hole in a studio’s and a faded star’s schedule, a film that could have been made during any decade of the last 50 years or so, and it still would have been considered old hat.
Just why Brad Anderson should choose this as his leap onto the big-screen after such TV gems as The Wire, Treme and Boardwalk Empire is hard to fathom, other than there was nothing commercially stronger on the table. Or maybe he saw something in Richard D’Ovidio’s script that has somehow gotten lost in the mix. Either way, this is pure home entertainment schlock horror, starting off with a modicum of promise and ending with all the boogeyman-in-the-basement blandness of your very average B-movie horror.
Review by Paul Byrne
BLACK ICE (Ireland/15A/100mins)
Directed by Johnny Gogan. Starring Jane McGrath, Killian Scott, Dermot Murphy, Marian Quinn, Conor McDermottroe, Jason Matthewson, Roison Scully, Amy Molloy, Donal O’Kelly.
THE PLOT: McGrath plays prodigal daughter Alice, returning to her small Irish border town for a funeral that forces her to revisit her latenight wild spins and sins with local bad boy Jimmy (Scott), their clandestine plans to escape these dull, dead-end badlands cruising over the line between daring and dumb. Naturally, it all ended in tears, and one or two corpses, leaving Alice to try and pick up the pieces. Jimmy – who’s trouble, just like his single father, of course – isn’t so keen on digging up the past though, his role as outcast merely cemented by the tragedy. But there are others in the town who plainly shoulder some of the blame too, corruption and cheap petrol seemingly a big part of the town’s economy.
THE VERDICT: A low-budget Irish drama made by that spunky young collective up north, Black Ice plays out like a boy racer public service TV ad that just got out of hand. This film is a Ford Fiesta with tinted windows, writing cheques it can’t cash. Drive, it ain’t. It’s closer to Vinny Murphy’s Accelerator. Or the ridiculous Cage-led Gone In 60 Seconds. There’s a distinct lack of logic here, and that tends to make it pretty difficult to give a shit about the pained protagonists. The presence of Love/Hate’s Killian Scott as the moody, broody Jimmy only reminds you of the fact that Ireland is actually capable of producing truly thrilling mean street dramas.
This latest offering from Johnny Gogan (The Last Bus Home, The Mapmaker) might as well have been called The Slow & The Spurious. And, for some strange reason, the whole thing appears to have been shot through a net curtain. Which may be a nod to how the Irish view the outside world. Then again, it could be just poor filmmaking.
Review by Paul Byrne
A BELFAST STORY (Ireland/15A/99mins)
Directed by Nathan Todd. Starring Colm Meaney, Malcolm Sinclair, Damien Hasson, Tommy O’Neill, Paddy Rocks, Susan Davey, Gordon Mahon, Patrick Buchanan, Maggie Cronin.
THE PLOT: Former R.U.C. Officer James (Meaney) is convinced to take on one last job when a veteran IRA member is murdered in his Belfast home. “This place has history,” murmurs James as he enters the crime scene. It’s a sentiment that repeats itself again and again, as the list of veteran IRA members-turned-corpses starts growing, each crime scene stage-managed so as to leave a message. But what that message is our sultry, philosophical detective is having a hard time figuring out. And it doesn’t help that he’s got a young rookie (Hasson) by his side – a rookie who’s secretly reporting back to the Chief Constable (Sinclair).
THE VERDICT: The lovable, huggable Colm Meaney here turns in an unintentionally hilarious wizened old cop performance that wouldn’t look out of place in a Gunna Naked outing. It’s noir in the north, and that takes some subtlety, not to mention class, mystery, and moody lighting. A Belfast Story boasts none of these qualities. RATING: 1/5
Review by Paul Byrne
METRO MANILA (UK/Philippines/Light House/115mins)
Directed by Sean Ellis. Starring Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, JM Rodriguez, Althea Vega, Moises Magisa, Miles Canapi, Ana Abad-Santos, Erin Panlilio.
THE PLOT: With the price of rice hitting an all-time low, Philippines farmer Oscar Ramirez (Macapagal) brings his family to the big city, in the hope of making a better living there. But these country folk are no match for Manila’s crooks, and they’re soon struggling to survive. Ending up in the slum district, Oscar’s wife has to work in a hostess bar to help makes ends meet, the family’s fortunes taking a hopeful upturn when the man of the house lands work as a security guard. His partner, Ong (Arcilla), is soon showing Oscar the ropes, but his suggestion of stealing on the job puts the honest but dangerously broke farmer in a difficult situation…
THE VERDICT: Yet another Brit director – after Gareth Evans’ The Raid and Gareth Edwards’ Monsters – finding a story to tell abroad, Londoner Sean Ellis (Cashback, The Broken) writes and directs this subtle twister of a tale. And it twists beautifully, the expected Ken-Loach-goes-East family drama morphing into a gripping crime thriller somewhere around the halfway mark. And it’s all the more gripping because of the small, smart drama that has gone before. There are no big martial arts freakouts, or scary monsters and super creeps, so, this won’t exactly be an easy sell, but it’s got thrills and spills all of its own.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Kieran Evans. Starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Julian Morris, Willian Ruane, Stephen Walters, Claire Keelan, Mark Womack, Michael Ryan.
THE PLOT: Looking for love in the darker recesses of Liverpool’s nightlife, 20-something slacker Victor (Morris, best known for regular roles on ER and 24) finds what he’s looking for in the emotionally-scarred Kelly (Campbell-Hughes, who has a penchant for this kind of role). Victor may have dodgy mates, but he dreams of a better life, out in the country, far away from all the drug-dealing and backstabbing. For her part, Kelly’s still recovering, from not only a violent ex-boyfriend but also an unloving family. It makes the sex that little bit wilder, as Kelly substitutes S&M for TLC, which just makes the future for this fine romance that little bit bleaker…
THE VERDICT: Think 9 Songs, only with a lot more music, and bonking, and swearing, as Kieran Evans (making the leap from rock docs) adapts Niall Griffiths’ 2002 cult novel, about two lost souls swimming in a messed-up relationship. Given Evans’ background, it’s a fitting choice, Kelly + Victor largely a mood piece set to a throbbing soundtrack. Indeed, this twisted love story often playing more like an art installation than a feature film. Which is all very admirable, of course, and thrilling, if you’re in an art installation mood.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Beeban Kidron. Starring Jimmy Wales, Julian Assange, Sherry Turkle, Maggie Jackson, Clay Shirky.
THE PLOT: Opening with the simple and stark question, ‘Have we outsourced our children to the Internet?”, filmmaker Beeban Kidron charts some personal stories from teenagers who have found their lives being sucked into a virtual hell of one sort or another whilst also talking to the likes of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, MIT professor Sherry Turkle and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The latter calls the Internet “the greatest spying machine that has ever been developed” – which may explain why the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple declined to take part in this documentary. Not that there is much evidence of clandestine wrongdoing unearthed here. Just a lot of shattered electric dreams…
THE VERDICT: Brit director Beeban Kidron takes a step back from feature films (including To Wong Foo and Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason) and TV dramas to revisit her socio-political roots with InRealLife, a hard-hitting if a little too wide-reaching documentary examining the black hole that the internet can become for some teenagers. The suggestion that the Internet is basically a deep blue sea, with many hidden wonders and dangers, is presented well, although evidence of actual sea monsters is absent here. Leaving you with a series of troubling statistics and tragic stories, as opposed to a rallying cry.
Review by Paul Byrne