The Raid – A Review

May 22, 2012

Any action becomes monotonous when it’s repeated too often.  Even fist-fighting with drug dealers gets boring, after the hundredth brawl.  Yeah, yeah… another bone-crunching blow to the jaw.  Blah, blah, blah… another psychotic kick to the ribs.  You can’t muster enthusiasm for ass-kicking indefinitely; beyond a certain point, you’re being hectored more than you’re being thrilled.  The new action movie, The Raid, suffers from inertia because it doesn’t know when to stop.  Like the continual motion of a washing machine, the film’s constant velocity lulls you to sleep.  “Oh, they’re fighting again,” is all you can think, as the pummelling goes on.  Turns out, it’s a thin line between a bravura fight sequence and flogging a dead horse.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Artist – A Review

January 8, 2012

It’s hard to be dapper in the age of rappers.  The whole idea of wealthy chic went out with the top hat, and the art of deference.  Perhaps we had to see the rich like jewels – something rare and precious – in order for them to shine.  In Michel Hazanavicius’ movie, The Artist, we’re tastefully transported back to a time when film stars were treated like aristocrats.  The movie is an air kiss to silent cinema.  In execution, it’s as impeccable as a Cartier watch.  I’m not sure it’s about anything, other than giving pleasure, but I felt about a thousand times more suave for having seen it.  Perhaps it’s enough, to be like a movie-lover of the 1920s: to swoon over trompe l’oeil, and to feel the romance of life in lustrous black and white.

Read the rest of this entry »

Troll Hunter – A Review

October 9, 2011

At some point, in any good fake documentary, there must come a moment where the people shout “Run!”  This is followed, in time-honoured tradition, by tightly edited footage of people running away, which no-one who was actually running would even have bothered to shoot, let alone shoot from different angles.  We accept this ruse as part of the game.  It’s a wonder anyone has the gall to play this stuff straight.  Lucky for us, the makers of Troll Hunter understand the inherent ridiculousness of leaving the camera on when you’re fleeing for your life, and their movie is plays more like Spinal Tap than The Blair Witch Project.  I don’t know if it was part of the joke to make a droll troll movie, but the tone seems to fit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Melancholia – A Review

October 3, 2011

Despair engulfs you as you watch this film. You can feel it rising in every scene; a sense of dread, and powerlessness; something primordial, and filled with awe. But it isn’t depressing in the way you might expect. There’s nothing small or dreary on show here. Depression isn’t represented in real world terms. It’s another world; literally, a planet called Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth. It’s been “hiding behind the sun” (we’re informed, in a very droll piece of exposition). Now it comes to swallow us. All the love in the world might as well be dirt. All our achievements will come to nothing. Melancholia (the film) is a high tragedy, like half of all operas. When we see into the void, we’re meant to be swept away.

Read the rest of this entry »

I Saw the Devil – A Review

July 17, 2011

All South Korean revenge flicks are basically Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie, but this one is even more so.  It has a shameless desire to shock.  It has fevered bouts of ultra-violence.  It has a cat-and-mouse plot freak out.  And it feels like it’s stuck on a loop.  As I watched I Saw the Devil, I couldn’t help but think of Bart Simpson’s favourite cartoon, with its psychotic mouse and demented tomcat.  Here, they’re re-cast as a sneering villain and a sadistic cop.  But the entertainment value is the same: you’re meant to salivate over the beatings and the bloody mayhem.  The idea that this movie is made by and for intelligent adults is retarded.  You’d discover more about the nature of evil by reading the ingredients on a cereal box.

Read the rest of this entry »

Enter the Void – A Review

May 6, 2011

Stanley Kubrick once said The Shining was an optimistic story because “anything that says there’s anything after death is ultimately an optimistic story.” Although Gaspar Noe wants you to feel mind-raped by Enter the Void, I’d say his movie has a sentimental heart. For all the sex, and the drug-taking, this story – of a doting soul circling ’round Tokyo – is pretty mushy when you peer through the sleaze. To quote from St Paul, “Where, O death, is your sting?”…once you admit that there’s an afterlife? All the obscenity in the world can’t match the horror of oblivion. So, if you’re thinking you’re too wussy to Enter the Void: rest easy. Your deepest fears aren’t realized here (unless you have a fear of gratuitous nudity).

Read the rest of this entry »

Confessions (Kokuhaku) – A Review

April 30, 2011

This is a movie of startling cruelty. It’s about the jackal-instinct in humanity. There isn’t anyone in Confessions you can like. Revenge mutilates everything in the film. The lust for vengeance is like a howling wound. No amount of blood is as shocking as the feelings on display. Either you’re meant to respond with shock, or else, you’re about to have your darkest suspicions about people confirmed. The Japanese school kids depicted here are the descendants of Kenzaburō Ōe’s vision of youth (from his novel, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids – Japan’s answer to Lord of the Flies): they are monsters without conscience. The worst in them is unrelenting. Most have eyes like shards of black ice. Their spite is a voracious wave.

Read the rest of this entry »

Valhalla Rising – A Review

July 30, 2010

Is it fury that makes a man? It would explain why boys’ video games are all about killing, and girls’ video games are all about being kind to horses. Pre-video game, men took violent inspiration from nature. Now it’s obvious why men have such fury. The unpaved world, the one lacking in concrete, is a savage place. Big spaces aren’t peaceful; they howl for blood. Hills and fields are, by nature, indifferent to suffering. Timelessness does it. A hill stays a hill for eons, grass grows and grows. Why should the earth care for us? We only expect it to be humane because we’ve humanised it. Old peoples, like the Vikings, knew not to expect much. You’re born, you fight. Valhalla Rising is about a man who fights well.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Kindly Ones – A Review

May 24, 2010

In movies, there are certain things you can’t do. You can’t let dogs die. You can’t show a man’s penis. You can’t sleep. And you definitely can’t sympathise with a Nazi. In fiction, however, you can do whatever you want. Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones proves this axiom, repeatedly. Here is one book that will never be a movie. This is not just because its hero is a Nazi, but also because he’s an incestuous, matricidal, tree-shagging Nazi…who often quotes poetry. Since the novel was originally written in French, I suppose there is a chance that The Kindly Ones could be a French movie. But even Gaspar (Irreversible) Noe would find some of it worthy of a “Sacrebleu!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Thirst – A Review

February 28, 2010

“Together in hell, then,” as the vampire priest says. He could be summarising Chan-wook Park’s movies; where protagonists are tortured thoroughly by someone who knows how. Sex, violence, deviance, and a roving camera: that’s Park. Only, there’s nothing cynical about his approach. He’s allergic to cliché. He’d make blood look white if he could. His vampire story contains no fangs, no bats, no crosses…no first bite (the curse is transfused). The Thirst of the title is as much a thirst for death as a thirst for blood. Where others look to vampires for night life, Park sees them the way he sees all blood-letters: as people steeped in their own demise.

Read the rest of this entry »