A Week In Film #210: Bidet time

The Bonfire Of The Vanities
Brian De Palma’s misfiring adaptation of the Tom Wolfe novel on Wall Street excess, racial division and other big stuff.

Drunken hack Bruce Willis accidentally happens upon a big story involving a yuppie (Tom Hanks). Stuff happens. There’s some long single take bits. Morgan Freeman does a big speech whilst looking disapproving at everyone. The end.

Wild Bill
Actually rather a pleasant surprise from debut feature director Dexter Fletcher, about a bloke (Charlie Creed Miles) who comes out of prison and tries to stay out of trouble. Just a nicely put-together picture, with excellent performances, that exceeded my expectations. No, it’s not a ground-breaking plot – but so what? It’s exquisitely executed.

Harry Brown
Astonishingly reactionary vigilante pulp (of a similar ilk to Nick Love’s Outlaw) pitting celebrity Tory and lifelong anti-communist Michael Caine against various estate-dwelling ratboys, including Plan B from before he was big.

What could have been a decently paced and enjoyable exploitation genre movie instead becomes a cynical anti-working class rant. A shame, because there are some great performances, if you take them discretely: Caine’s own, but also Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed Miles as cops who are (respectively) assiduous and lazy; Sean Harris and Joseph Gilgun as a pair of local scrotes; and Ben Drew as the main youth-gone-wild.

Together, though, it’s exasperating, not least because the film seems to think it is Making A Point – and a point which it wholeheartedly endorses. Daniel Barber directs. Did Arthur Ranson ever sue over the Button Man design-reefing posters?

Pusher (2012)
Somewhat pointless remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 original Danish crime flick of the same name, this time helmed by Luis Prieto. The premise is the same: mid-level drug dealer Frank (played here by Richard Coyle, finally shedding the baggage of his oddball character Jeff from sitcom Coupling) has several precarious jobs on the go at the same time, which all go tits up, leaving him up shit creek without the proverbial.

Unlike the original, it all feels rather fake, with over-stylised scenes, unrealistically glitzy nightclubs, poor phone security and a ridiculously inept wingman in Tony (Bronson Webb). Okay, so the original Tonny was a bit crap too, but not of this flashing-light-on-the-head “I’m a twat” calibre of crap.

Plus it’s all supposed to be set in Stoke Newington, except it looks pretty much generic international location manager ‘urban London’. The subplot about Frank’s relationship with his escort/stripper girlfriend Flo (Agyness Deyn) is particularly tedious, which is a shame, given how integral to the plot it ultimately is.

Essential Killing
Curiously depoliticised film about extraordinary rendition, from Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski.

A man (Vincent Gallo) kills an American soldier and a couple of private military contractors in what seems to be Afghanistan or possibly Iraq; he is captured, tortured, interrogated, then transferred by plane with there detainees to some kind of military airport in Europe. On arrival one cold, dark, snowy night, they are then transferred into armoured vehicles and driven out in convoy, presumably to a secret detention facility – only an accident on the road facilitates the Gallo character’s escape.

We now have Gallo on the run in Poland, chased by helicopters and ground troops through harsh terrain with no way of knowing where he is or where to go. He does whatever it takes to keep on running.

A raw tale of survival, which offers no explanation of anything, no back story, no context – a refreshing way of telling a tale. Gallo does well, despite having zero lines of dialogue.

Doomsday Gun
Canadian gun designer Gerald Bull (Frank Langella), pissed off at doing gaol time due to breaching an arms embargo
to Apartheid South Africa having been cut loose by the CIA, goes to work for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His ‘Project Babylon’ supergun threatens not only Iran but also Israel and America’s Middle East strategy. Lots of spooks of varying colour try to dissuade him. They fail. He’s assassinated. The end.

Not one of HBO’s finest television movies, full of excruciating exposition and spy film clichés. Some embarrassingly bad accents – I’m looking at you, Clive Owen and Francesca Annis in particular. Kevin Spacey and Alan Arkin at least pretend it’s not just about paying the mortgage.

The Debt
Somewhat overwrought, plodding and thrillless thriller. A Mossad action team is tasked with kidnapping a Nazi war criminal from mid-60s East Berlin, which leads to its members – Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastelain – being feted as heroes on their return.

Cut to thirty years into the future, and we discover that the mission did not go quite as well as was thought, and each agent (Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds and Helen Mirren) is forced to deal with the consequences.

Kick-Ass script team Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman adapt from an original Israeli movie, and Shakespeare In Love‘s John Madden directs.

An Innocent Man
Great melodramatic little crime thriller from Peter Yates, worth honest joe Tom Selleck fitted up by a pair of bent cops (David Rasche and Richard Young). Forced to come to terms with his situation in gaol, the Moustachioed One finds an ally in old lag F Murray Abraham, we waltz through some big house tropes, and then get down to the business of payback on the outside.

Okay, so the final reel is a bit hurried and lacks imagination, but taken as a whole, it’s enjoyable if undemanding stuff. Laila Robins does good stuff with the underwritten part of the wife; there’s also character actors like MC Gainey, Todd Graff and Dennis Burkley to beef things up. Bruce A Young is an appropriately scary prison top dog, Badja Djola an IAD cop.

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