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Very underrated British art-house film, 1 February 2011

This, Gadyukin's second British film, had a troubled genesis. Originally supposed to be a fairly straight adaptation of "Waiting for Godot", Gadyukin ran into problems with Beckett and had to abandon his original conception.

Working in a semi-improvised way with the actors, Gadyukin created this impressionistic, bleak, cold war vision of industrial Britain on a minuscule budget. The resulting film concerns two unemployed labourers waiting for their foreman to show up and assign them work. As they wait (shades of Beckett) they speak an inexplicable language (Esperanto?) and only one word in English: "nothing".

The film is far from accessible in story terms but does contain much startling imagery, beautiful cinematography (apparently Andrei Tarkovsky was a fan) and even some slapstick humour (echoing Beckett's own inspiration in the dynamics of Laurel and Hardy).

Sweet with a bitter tang, 14 September 2007

This is one of the most accomplished shorts I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot). Great ensemble performances, well-edited and compulsive in a "what if" sort of way. The way the bystanders react in different ways to the lunatic "hero" is well-observed. I loved the fact that there's no explanation given as to his motivations for this bizarre act.

I programmed this in a short film event some years ago and the audience reaction was immense. It's a good example or the kind of subject that works particularly well in the format of a short - a concise, self-contained and unexpected story well-told.

One for anyone who's ever wondered how far you can push that "free unlimited refill" offer!

Miami Vice (2006)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A fair balance between style and substance, 10 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Never having been a fan of the TV series (but I confess to never having seen an entire episode), I had no expectations going in, except to be entertained with Mann's customary flair for terse dialogue and stunning visuals. And on that level, I wasn't disappointed. I'd also read that the film wastes no time establishing any backstory for the uninitiated, and so it proves. In Zen-like fashion Crockett and Tubbs simply ARE, which allows the film to kick off in the thick of the action.

The best way to watch this film is as a police procedural, with a side order of oddly yearning romanticism. No concessions are made to the audience in terms of explaining the cops terminology and the limited exposition is justified as one group of criminals explaining how their operation works to their new collaborators. Once you realise that you don't have to register every nuance and detail to appreciate the plot, you can sit back and enjoy some eerily beautiful Hi-Def cinematography. Petrol-heads and fans of unfeasibly fast motorboats will also find much to enjoy. The "mojitos in Havana" romantic interlude was a pleasant surprise, with Farrell having to flex more than just his eyebrows to convince us that this probably is the ultimate first date.

The jury's still out for me on Mann's use of music. The blaring MOR rock fits stylistically but can cheapen some scenes. And it would be nice to more scenes soundtracked by near-silence, as is achieved very effectively in a stake-out/rescue scenario later in the film.

Farrell and Foxx do work well together, indeed its refreshing to have a cop pairing without all the cutesy buddy stuff. Nevertheless, when one tells the other "I will never doubt you" it's almost a statement of love, coming as it does out of a void of professionalism.

The parallel-plotting is a little overdone, with not one but two "lover in jeopardy" scenes and the dialogue could have been better layered/mixed for clarity, given the obscure nature of some of the procedural references. However, much of the dialogue was laugh-aloud funny in its Mamet-like moments (did he perform a polish?) and Mann's action direction is of course superb. Great sound design too in the final shootout scene.

Engrossing and enjoyable but not as emotionally involving as Heat or as kinetic as Collateral.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Beautifully Shot Hoax, 16 April 2006

It's a mockumentary! No, really. Think about it. He wakes up on the subway without either a wallet or a mobile phone and the filmmakers don't comment on this. Him and his buddies shoot some Super-8 home movie footage INSIDE a bar (you'd need lights for this). Everyone's so damned gorgeous. He takes a video camera to an airport to meet his dad. He hugs complete the friends who have become strangers as if they're still his best pals. The acting's mostly good but there are hammy moments too. Watch it again... (you see, now they've got me doing their PR too). It is wonderfully shot though and does contain some genuinely thought-provoking material about the nature of identity and the importance of memories in cementing personality. So when will the filmmakers come clean?