British-born writer and director Eran Creevy broke onto the scene with the BAFTA-nominated crime thriller Shifty. His follow-up Welcome To The Punch, however, provides him with a better canvass to showcase his skills and, despite an overriding sense that style has been favoured over substance, proves to be a decent success, particularly in showing how much can be achieved on a slim budget. Continue reading “Review: Welcome To The Punch (2013)”
Ex-Civil War Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is on the run, looking for a quiet life. Upon being forcibly re-enlisted, he finds himself caught in the crossfire of a skirmish somewhere in the desert of Virginia. Looking for cover, he stumbles upon a strange cave, and before he knows what’s happening he is somehow transported to Mars – known locally as “Barsoom”. Confused, disorientated and struggling to control his strength in such low gravity, Carter makes his escape from the four-armed, insect like “Thark” aboriginal warriors who found and claimed him, only to be set upon by Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins), Princess of Continue reading “Review: John Carter (2012)”
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges’ Martin McDonagh) makes his feature length directorial debut with action-comedy The Guard – a welcome variation on the typical buddy-cop format. The film centres on Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson): a drug-taking, prostitute-loving and socially unorthodox Irish cop who – when an international drug-smuggling gang decides to start using the small town as a hub for their illegal deliveries – is teamed up with FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to investigate.
What ensues follows a fairly typical action-comedy structure, and it doesn’t deviate much throughout the majority of the film. However, rather than focusing heavily on forgettable plot strands, McDonagh admirably shifts the attention to Boyle’s character, and occasionally to his peculiar relationship with Everett. He lets the subplots arise from and fall back into the background in equal measure. At times, the narrative wavers enough for viewers to begin to question the film’s purpose and overall direction, but it mostly remains surprisingly focused. For a debut feature, this is no easy task.
McDonagh’s script, much like his brother’s for In Bruges, is packed full of profane humour, unforgettable one-liners and an array of distinctive characters. He has also instilled it with a subtle, yet acutely aware social commentary that not only impiously takes the piss out of Irish culture, but also makes you very aware of the seriousness of the underlying racism and the lay of the law. It often playfully nudges at the edge of disbelief, but – considering the comical take on the subject matter – it always reins itself in and never pushes the audience too far. The dialogue in particular is extremely enjoyable, breathing life into each individual character, while the welcome self-awareness pays undeniable homage to the likes of Edgar Wright and Diablo Cody.
Gleeson nails Boyle’s unconventional nature perfectly, and he delivers a wonderfully whimsical and forthright performance, adding a feeling of improvisation to the already blistering dialogue. This is also evident in the way he approaches the relationship with Cheadle’s uptight Everett. Despite being almost polar opposites, the pair share a tangible bond.
Big fans of Cheadle may be displeased at how little screen time Everett is allowed, but this is Gleeson’s vehicle through and through. While it’s a shame that his character’s background and ethics are skimmed over, it simply wouldn’t make sense for McDonagh to spend any more time on the supporting cast. Admittedly, they all hold their own in their respective roles, with Mark Strong and Fionnula Flanagan delivering particularly noteworthy performances. Strong inhabits the lead drug-smuggler Clive Cornell with a cool ease, while Flanagan delights as Boyle’s whiskey-swigging mother.
Aside from a comparatively inconclusive and evasive third act and the under-explored dynamic between Boyle and the trio of villains, The Guard is an admirably executed and often hilarious variation on the overdone action-comedy genre, elevated by stand-out performances across the board and an extraordinarily well-executed script from McDonagh.
Adapted from Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel The Eagle Of The Ninth, The Eagle is an historical adventure film directed by Kevin Macdonald.
Set in Roman-ruled Britain, The Eagle tells the story of a young Roman soldier (Channing Tatum) who endeavors to honour his father’s memory by finding his lost legion’s golden emblem.
A simple story, perhaps, and nothing original in terms of narrative elements, but the opening act is intelligent, fast-paced and engaging enough to maintain the audiences attention. At the halfway mark, however, the narrative shifts a gear, its pace changes and it suddenly becomes a chase film, ending in an uninspired way that somewhat ruins the polished opening setup.
Relying massively on standard cinematic methods as opposed to often cheap and fake-looking state-of-the-art CGI effects, the battle sequences are given a commendable sense of visceral realism. This works in Macdonald’s favour.
The aforementioned sequences are occasionally brutal and bloody, but not overly so. Moreover, aside from one or two mild profanities and the obviously simmering homoeroticism between Marcus and Esca, the film is, to its merit, refreshingly devoid of unnecessary sexual content.
One of the films major flaws is that Macdonald, and screenwriter Jeremy Brock, are too afraid to let the material be about what it should be: violence. Instead, they try too hard to make it into a more intimate character piece, which ends up feeling all too superfluous.
While he may seem like an odd fit, Channing Tatum rises to the occasion and fills the role of Marcus Aquila admirably – as does his co-star, Bell, in his. The dynamic and tension between their characters is outstanding. By combining their individualistic personalities and working together, the audience is allowed a better understanding of their motives, no matter how nonsensical they are.
The performances from the supporting cast – including turns from Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong and Tahar Rahim – are competent enough, but they’re all too disposable to make much of an impact on the overall narrative.
As an historical epic, The Eagle falls short. But as minor escapist fare, with fun, engaging and bold ideas, it unexpectedly succeeds.