Archive | July, 2012

The Reverend (2011) or livewithfilm wonders why Rutger Hauer is in pre-release DVD no.2 …

29 Jul

 

Unaware of his significance in a conflict between Heaven and Hell, a reverend (Stuart Brennan) takes up his role in a village parish. Yet after fending off a hungry assailant, the holy man slowly becomes aware of his growing thirst for blood. Using his new found urges to confront evil, the reverend takes it upon himself to rid the sleepy village of the most significant members of the criminal underworld.

While Neil Jones has clearly done his research, the tremendous debt The Reverend owes to its forebears only serves to highlight the ultimate failures of this Dracula-goes-to-Ambridge sub-par horror. This is never more aptly highlighted than when Brennan’s character, fuelled by a burning desire to drink the blood of a local pensioner, laps gore from the worktop of his kitchen. A clear attempt to recreate a near identical scene from Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993), The Reverend repeatedly trades unnerving artistry for home counties tedium. In addition to this, thefilmmanages to condense Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006) into a ten minute epilogue of immediate irrelevance. While the Russian’s films could never be seen as sophisticated, the preliminary act of The Reverend only serves to thieve a number of ‘weighty’ symbols from Bekmambetov’s vision. These are never returned to and thus become startlingly inappropriate.

Even more unsettling, Jones’s film espouses an uncomfortable vision of class. The village is continuously plagued by the problems of a nearby housing estate, which is posed as the source of all the world’s ills. The working class are shown as a thieving and violent bunch. Beyond redemption, The Reverend suggests that murder is the only way that civilised members of society can rid themselves of this ‘menace’. If one is to attempt to maintain the idea’s of the long forgotten introduction, are we to believe that the world’s poor are in fact agents of Hell? Wealth and the possession of a country house are shown to be invitations into paradise, owned only by the brave and kind.

With actors stuttering to deliver awkward phrases, Jones does little to support them with his camera. Often using infuriatingly slapdash or by the numbers direction, The Reverend retains the feel of a weekly soap opera. While Jones occasionally remembers to use a neat voice over that harks back to the film’s comic book roots, The Reverend holds no redeeming features. Times must be tough for Rutger Hauer if he needs to maintain his career with this malicious guff. Recalling his glory days in Blade Runner (1982), my tears were lost in rain.

Killer Joe (2012) or livewithfilm hastily hurls its fried chicken into the bin…

19 Jul

As films to see with your dad go, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe remains an interesting choice. This is in no way suggesting that papa-livewithfilm is in any way a prudish film fan, because, after all, he managed to breed a blogger that recently giggled itself silly in front of the man-eating-entrails of Braindead.  Nevertheless, Killer Joe was an uncomfortable watch, indicative of Friedkin’s talent for the macabre. The livewithfilm heart only began to sink once it dawned on this blogger that the film it had forced its father to watch (endure?) alongside it was, in fact, an unrelenting parade of nudity, violence and torture. Thankfully, while neither of us could exactly describe the film as an enjoyable romp, the noir-esque depravity went down well. Livewithfilm was let off the hook. Perhaps it is still a little early to take him to the next midnight screening of The Evil Dead though…

Embroiled in a potentially fatal level of debt, Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) gets wind of his despised mother’s vast life insurance policy. Convincing his father Ansel (ThomasHadenChurch) that they should achieve the payout through murder, they hire the services of crooked-cop-come-bounty-hunter Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). Yet once Joe claims Chris’ younger sister Dottie (JunoTemple) as a down payment on the job, the family become slowly dominated by the contract killer.

As previously noted, Killer Joe pulls no punches. While Friedkin’s earlier work has remained in the shadowy end of the filmic spectrum (The Exorcist (1973) Bug (2006)), the director’s latest venture finds a different level of darkness to mine. A slowly building sense of dread expertly weaves its way through the latter half of Killer Joe, creating one of the most gruelling final sequences livewithfilm has had to endure. Yet once Friedkin steps into his final, cruel gear at the film’s dénouement, the film falters. Unsure whether the brutality of the scene needs to be diluted through laughter, the director fails to fully realise the horror he has created. McConaughey remains chilling throughout though and effectively plays up his rom-com past to inhabit a truly detestable character. Juno Temple is thrilling for all the opposite reasons, superbly forming Dottie into the complex, naïve woman-child Killer Joe requires. Even with the film’s ultimate misstep, livewithfilm has remained distant to fried chicken, the repulsive finale returning to its mind whenever the moustachioed colonel rears his grinning head.

The Prey (2011) or livewithfilm receives its first pre-release DVD (mon dieu!)…

14 Jul

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The French prison drama has recently seen significant international acclaim, gaining recognition as a source of both visual and thematic innovation. While Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009) set the bar immeasurably high with its weighty exploration of morality, a suitably grimy Vincent Cassel made Jean Francois-Richet’s Mesrine (2008) double-act truly thrilling. Disappointingly, Eric Valette’s The Prey emerges as an occasionally exciting, but more often baffling, contender amongst such sub-genre heavy-weights.

Serving a lengthy prison sentence for bank robbery, Frank Adrien (Albert Dupontel) has maintained the secret behind the whereabouts of his illicit earnings. Unwilling to trust his wife or former partner in crime, Frank ultimately confides in shadowy cellmate Jean-Louis Maurel (Stéphane Debac). Yet once Maurel is released, Frank is made aware of the danger he has unwittingly put his family in, and is forced to escape.

Initially struggling to wade through the quagmire of crime film clichés that it employs, Valette’s film undoubtedly improves once it throws off the trappings of the jail-house setting. Under the shadow of the barred windows, characters do little but conform to ‘gritty’ archetypes. Depicting increasingly detestable individuals assaulting each other, the preliminary scenes of The Prey do little to incite pathos and leave those watching on feeling merely indifferent. Sadly, such an issue confounds Vallete at every turn. As more characters are poured into the maelstrom, very few emerge as rounded, interesting individuals and the ultimate majority merge into a mass of unknowable faces. Whereas a film such as Heat (1995) used prolonged character development to make a half-hour gun battle painfully tense, The Prey omits such detail, creating frequently underwhelming set pieces.

The villainous Debac is clearly the highlight of Valette’s film and creates a deeply unsettling character who dominates the narrative’s latter sections. In contrast, Dupontel, try as he might, can never invest any real vulnerability into Frank, who bounces from mishap to fist fight with growing invincibility. As the pace picks up, Valette’s film improves and the final chase sequences hold interesting flourishes. Once Valette fully embraces the insanity, the film becomes a fairly entertaining action blockbuster. Yet such excitement sits uncomfortably next to the realistic pretentions of The Prey’s opening sections. Alongside this, if you can’t guess the final line once Frank’s mute daughter is introduced into the mix, then you just aren’t trying.