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1 item from 1998

Film review:'Mojo'

27 April 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Playwright Jez Butterworth's "Mojo" was a theatrical hit in London and New York, and now he makes his directorial debut with a movie version that opens up the work considerably.

Featuring playwright Harold Pinter in a small role, "Mojo" is one of the few screen adaptations to improve on its predecessor. The film was screened recently at the New Directors/New Films Festival.

Set in summer 1958, the film concerns infighting and scheming among several employees of Ezra's, a London nightclub. The club is on the rise, thanks to the sex appeal of its up-and-coming singer, Silver Johnny (Hans Matheson). Unfortunately, Silver Johnny has also attracted the attention of Sam Ross (Pinter, displaying a surprisingly powerful screen presence), a local mob figure heavily into the music business.

When Silver Johnny disappears and Ezra (Ricky Tomlinson) turns up dead, things spiral out of control. Mickey (Ian Hart), Ezra's right hand man, tries to prevent disaster, with little success. Among other characters who figure prominently are Ezra's son Baby (Aidan Gillen), a powder keg ready to go off, and the ironically named Skinny (Ewen Bremner), who ultimately becomes the victim of Baby's wrath.

Butterworth's story line still seems artificial and pumped up, mainly an excuse for a series of warmed-over Tarantino and Mametian riffs. But the material works better cinematically than it did onstage, thanks in part to atmospheric settings and locations, excellent performances by the cast (ironically, their heavy accents are more understandable than those put on by American actors) and superb cinematography and editing. The film has drive and tension that help one overlook the plot contrivances and serves as an impressive debut for its writer-director.


Mojo Films/Portobello Pictures

Director: Jez Butterworth

Screenplay: Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth

Producer: Eric Abraham

Executive producer: George Faber

Co-executive producers: Steve Butterworth,

Nick Marston

Director of photography: Bruno de Keyzer

Editor: Richard Milward

Music: Murray Gold



Mickey: Ian Hart

Skinny: Ewen Bremner

Baby: Aidan Gillen

Sweets: Martin Gwynn Jones

Silver Johnny: Hans Matheson

Potts: Andy Serkis

Ezra: Ricky Tomlinson

Sam Ross: Harold Pinter

Running time -- 90 minutes

No MPAA rating


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