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28 reviews in total 
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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Humdrum Social "Drama". With very little drama., 3 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When this came out, I read the five-star, hyperbolic reviews with interest and hoped to see this in the cinemas, but - like most foreign films - it came and went too swiftly. So, it was with great anticipation that I caught up with this just the other night on DVD.

My lord, I'm glad I didn't pay out cinema prices for this.

Flat, dull, dramatically inert and lacking any cinematic language, this piece does exactly what it says on the tin: no more, no less. In short - in case you didn't know - a worker in a factory has a weekend to sway a vote taking place on the Monday that will give her co-workers a bonus but deprive her of her job. Her task, over "Two Days, One Night" (although technically it's two nights) is to convince her fellow workers to forego their bonuses and let her keep her job. A big ask, ripe with dramatic potential.

Or so you'd think.

Instead, we watch as the character plods from place to place, rings doorbells, recites the same plot précis over and over again, receives one of two answers or some mealy-mouthed in-between, then plods to the next place. If they're not in and she's directed to somewhere they might be, you get to see her walk there, too. It feels, almost as if it's shot in real time. It's irritatingly repetitive and flat. The protagonist has suffered a mental breakdown of some unspecified sort, and is popping Xanax along the way to keep her going, which also results in the actress, Marion Cotillard, approaching the role looking slightly stunned, stressed and unhappy, which adds further to the lack of drama. Despite the fact that she's fighting for her life (or so you're led to believe - the ending belies this) she doesn't seem to really care, and at times appears to be doing the rounds only because her husband and two of her work colleagues are pushing her to do so.

And so it goes. Plod, plod, plod. Recap, answer, recap, answer. It's dreary, dull and drained of any vestige of drama in an effort for some sort of social "realism", as if it's a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It is anti-film, with no trace of imagination, no spark of inspiration and an ending that undermines all that's gone before. Even this might - just MIGHT - have worked with a bit of focus, a bit of cinematic intelligence, but it passes off as the rest of the film has, in monotone.

All in all, this is a deeply enervating experience and a waste of a potentially interesting story.

Taken (2008/I)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Bad, so bad., 6 March 2011

How bad? Holey, moley, where does one start? Well, how about the apparent message: Don't let you kids go to Europe, it's full of sleazy furrner flesh traffickers and corrupt cops. Let's then go on to the characterisation, including the bitchy ex-wife and the stupid and gormless daughter and her even more gormless best friend, not to mention Liam Neeson's uptight, obsessive, one-note performance which, as you are aware of his character's background and skills from the start, offers nothing in the way of growth or surprises, just added violence. And for the violence: I've no problem with violence, I like a bit of action, but the fight scenes reminded me of latter day Steve Siegal, with two protagonists happy-slapping each other, and a car chase in a quarry (a neat idea) which is basically almost identical white cars driving at speed and Neeson inexplicably coming out on top. Oh, and throw in those sleazy (and totally inept) furrners who fire multiple shots at Neeson, completely missing only for him to step out from behind a door frame and take them down with one or two well-placed shots -- I mean, "Police Squad" took the micky out of that one THIRTY YEARS ago. And the less said about the "Escape from Peril" scenario, which adds up to a "and with one bound, he was free" trick that died out in the Republic cliffhanging serials of the 40s, the better. Best of all, though, has to be the scene in which Liam Neeson penetrates the enemy lair in Paris by pretending to be a French(!) detective, and manages to fool them by not speaking any French at all or knowing anything about their set-up. Good points, to be fair: a surprisingly non-clichéd turn by Xander Berkeley as a not-at-all smug and slimy stepfather, and a really refreshing one from Gerard Watkins as one of the many Mr Bigs Neesom meets. After so many swarthy and unshaven villains, the light and civillised touch he brought to his role was a revelation, and to him went the best line of the film: "Kill him quietly, I've got guests".

But otherwise: Lord almighty, what a clichéd bunch of pants. Up next: Kenneth Branagh re-makes "Death Wish"!

Skeletons (2010)
12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
A unique experience, 6 March 2011

This beautifully unique and idiosyncratic film reminded me of a low-budget Brit version of "Inception", dispensing with the grandiose score, the overblown special effects, the derivative gun fights and car chases and the constant exposition to just strip it down to two guys in suits with briefcases walking around the British countryside and dealing with the same themes of dreams, memory, loyalty and loss. Totally original, it makes no concessions, doesn't explain anything (not, for instance, grinding to a halt every 20 minutes to explain/contradict the plot like, you know, some other film I could mention). You just have to go with it, accept its bizarre internal logic and not over-think things. Nonetheless, one of the most memorable and intriguing films I've seen for a while, with a great cast. Standout for me was Paprika Steen who I thought was SENSATIONAL: earthy, mature and downright sexy. It's a damning indictment of the entertainment industry that she's not better know. Mind you, I could say the same of this film. Be brave: give it a go and surrender to its skewed and surreal charms, because it has charm and imagination a-plenty.

Triangle (2009)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Labyrinthine Thriller, 28 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Triangle" is an absolutely fascinating mind-warp of a film that takes you on a hell of a trip, and in the end you still have no idea where you've been or how you got there -- much like Jess, the protagonist.

After a few fractured fragments of Jess and her autistic son, the film seems to settle into fairly recognizable thriller territory: a group of friends go on a boat cruise, get hit by a storm and left adrift, only to be rescued by a mysteriously empty cruise ship. Well, so far so "Death Ship", but even by then the viewer will have noticed that this is no ordinary thriller: the director has ambition and talent to spare, and stokes up a palpable sense of menace that tugs at the nerve ends, even when you're expecting a standard slasher plot. But it doesn't work out that way: the film goes into utterly loopy, "Twilight Zone" territory but never becomes an exercise in style over substance. No matter what tricks are played on the viewer, or how many twists and turns are thrown out, the film never loses its heart and its intelligence, and the result is a unique and infinitely rewarding little thriller that will haunt you for a long time.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Kids do the darnedest things...., 15 October 2009

"The Children" is an enjoyably taut, low-budget chiller, in which two couples and their respective children get together to celebrate New Years' at an isolated house in the snowbound countryside. One of the children, however, falls to a mysterious virus and subsequently becomes quite murderous, but not before passing it onto the other kids. A simple enough plot, powered by more than decent performances (although the adult characters are, on the whole, insufferable) and some fine, simple direction that cranks up the tension and the mounting horror as the kids discover their inner psychopath. "The Children" is also genuinely creepy and: there are a few scenes in there that will stay with me for many years to come, as well as a finale that is downright disturbing. Highly recommended for those after a superior fright, as opposed to the usual slasher fare that passes for horror these days. You'll never look at children in quite the same way again.

The Hide (2008)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Acting Masterclass, 16 September 2009

Roy, a somewhat retentive middle-aged loser, hunkers down in the eponymous hide --a birdwatching shed on the marshes -- apparently hoping to spot the one rare bird that has eluded him so far. Into his little haven comes lurching Dave, a towering, laconic figure with a secret. The two men warily circle each other as their respective pasts slowly unspool.

This is a wonderfully low-key little film with a wonderfully simple set-up that slowly but surely ratchets up the suspense as it goes along. What powers it so beautifully is the acting, which is just stunning. Phil Campbell, new to me, at first exudes weary menace which gradually gives way to a greater sadness, and Alex MacQueen, as Roy, deserves awards to be showered upon him for the performance he pulls off here. Better known for playing stuffy and/or supercilious characters on TV, here he plays Roy with a dweebishness and deadpan humour but keeps a deeper vein of underlying tension bubbling under before it erupts entirely. He manages to be both irritating, vulnerable, clueless, tragic and frightening all at the same time, and delivers some real laugh-out-loud moments amid the suspense.

Unfortunately, when the truth comes to the surface, the film begins to lose its power: The motives, once revealed, are outlandish and unconvincing and the film subsequently slips into the melodramatic. But, even then, the acting from both of them is never less than top-notch, the chemistry between them lights up the screen, and the finale, deftly delivered, stops the heart.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Sam Spade, Lounge Lizard., 26 June 2009

I recently sat down and watched the more-renowned 1941 version of this and then, by way of comparison, watched this earlier take on the same story. It's an approach I'd recommend, as the two versions complement each other wonderfully. While the 1941 is proto-noir with all its labyrinthine motivations and machinations, this lesser-known version creaks a fair bit and, although the performances are generally awkward and the direction stilted, everyone has their moments. Bebe Daniels, for instance, shines as the "heroine", exhibiting far more bubble and downright sexiness than Mary Astor did. Which segues neatly into this version's most startling asset: sex. Quite a bit of it, by Hollywood 30s standards. coming pre-Hays Code, there's a fair amount of flesh on view and an abundance left to the imagination. The scene with Daniels taking a bath was astonishing for its sexiness and the homosexual frisson between Gutman and Gunsel was quite marked.

The script is very much the same, and it's fascinating seeing such familiar lines coming out of unfamiliar mouths. This film, however, fills in some holes that the '41 version skated over (Spade's affair with Mrs Archer, for instance) so, seen together, they can be seen as two pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. As I said, the performances are a little stiff, there are some delightful moments (watch as they wait for the arrival of the falcon: Daniels cheating at Solitaire and watching to see if anyone sees her; Cortez as Spade playing with a kid's game, chewing gum and idly looking around). It could use a little jazz-age looseness in its staging, but I think this is a worthy predecessor to the '41 version, and fans of that should definitely take a looks at this one.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Genuinely creepy, 26 January 2009

The spirit of a malevolent ventriloquist reaches out to wreak bloody revenge on the town that crossed her many years before.

I took a bit of a punt on this: although I thought the first two Saw films were brilliant if a little gruesome, the third one just looked like the proverbial torture porn to me. Contrived and gratuitously violent, it seemed to put everything -- logic, characterisation - to one side for yet another elaborate slaying. Which is why Dead Silence was such a pleasant surprise.

There's gore, but not an excess: just enough to disturb and unnerve. What really counts, here, is the sheer style and imagination and the fact that this film is genuinely, genuinely spooky. I like my horror films, but have become weary over the substitution of shocks for scares, as if grotesque violence is enough. It's not, and this film knows that. It's nerve-shreddingly suspenseful, knows when to hold back and when to let go, and builds up to a stomach-clenching climax and final twist. The plot tends to get a bit incoherent, but this weaves itself into a highly original, highly entertaining and thoroughly scary little film that does the business in a refreshingly old-fashioned way.

"The Wire" (2002)
69 out of 235 people found the following review useful:
I dissent -- it's average, 18 November 2008

I got given the first season of this on DVD after expressing disbelief at the incredible hype going on about it in a certain UK newspaper. I was told that, once I'd watched it, I'd see what all the fuss was about. Well, I finally finished season 1. I won't be bothering with season 2.

This is an average procedural, nothing more or less, stuffed with an array of interchangeable and forgettable characters (I couldn't for the life of me remember who was who, and soon began not to care) and clichés galore. You want the the maverick cop who plays by his own rules, speaks his mind, pisses of his stuffed-shirt, officious superiors but gets results? Whose dedication to his job has cost him his marriage and left him with a drink habit (signalled by occasional swigs at a bottle)? Well, one can never get enough of THIS sort of character, obviously, so bring him on, have him played woodenly and be done with it. You get the usual weary battery of petty, lazy, fat and/or balding officials who get in the way, just for contrast, and they all but ask for his badge and his gun and/or give him 48 hours.

And so it dragged on, the self-conscious dialogue dribbling forth. You want the beautiful and ballsy lesbian cop expounding non-sensically on her reasons for being a cop to her (fortuitously gorgeous) lesbian friends? Want to see a fat cop enter his superior's office and start, for some reason, to talk about how he was masturbating in the bath? And, no, his superior does not, as in any real world, ask him to get out or get to the point, but merely smiles and nods indulgently ('cos he's an a-hole, too, geddit?). The cringe moments come thick and fast, one of my favourites being the moment that the cop I came to call Morgan Freeman interviewed the Tart-with-a-Heart (another cliché) at his desk, conveniently littered with the miniature furniture he makes (contrived plot point, there)and for some reason didn't see fit to clear away. He tells her to choose one that she likes and, yes, she chooses the cradle with the baby in it and coos, ickily.

Lovers of clichés will also be able to spot who's about to get wasted in advance. If you can't....well, hand in your gun and badge.

Keane (2004)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Patience really IS a virtue, 29 July 2008

This is just a stunning film: brave and bold certainly not afraid to take its time. In today's cinematic world of fast edits, it's a rare thing to see a film which doesn't resort to flashy gimmicks, but allows the atmosphere, the sheer grimness of it all to take its hold in its own time.

When I first started watching this, I wasn't sure if i'd be able to stick the slow pace, but then -- gradually, of course -- it all came together and I couldn't tear myself away. No intrusive score (no score at all, in fact) so no dramatic chords telling you what to feel and when, and cinematography that is unyielding and unforgiving, and there is no escape, for either the viewer or the characters. It exerts a powerful, breathtaking power as the tension ratchets up imperceptibly until you think your heart might burst.

Full kudos to the actors, but especially to Damien Lewis, who is absolutely fantastic.

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