Tag Archives: entertainment

Hell is a City (1960) or livewithfilm gets down and dirty in Manchester…

15 Sep

With factory chimneys emerging through an oppressive fog, Hell is a City creates an unashamedly grim vision of existence in the metropolis. Through a post-murder man hunt, Manchester, and by extension 1960s urban life as a whole, is shown to be a corrupting influence that brings misery into the home. With the angry young men of the British New Wave casting the camera onto the kitchen sink in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in the very same year, Val Guest’s film similarly seeks out the banal and ordinary. Yet combined with a dark streak of expressionist noir, Hell is a City remains an intriguing crime flick.

Expecting that recently escaped robber Don Starling (John Crawford) will return for the unclaimed treasure of a forgotten heist, weary police inspector Harry Matineau (Stanley Baker) dedicates his days to hunting him down in the Manchester streets. Once Starling and a gang of thieves steal money from bookmaker Gus Hawkins (Halloween’sDonald Pleasence, here hunting down cash rather than psychopaths) and kill his assistant, Matineau is hot on his heels.

While noir crime films could never be called glamorous, Hell is a City is a remarkably unsentimental vision of life. Surrounding an intriguing but rarely ground-breaking crime caper, the glimpses of life remain a powerful image of a population at odds with itself and, namely, the police establishment. Martineau’s embittered wife laments the lonely existence she faces while her obsessive husband hunts down murderers; depressed divorcees flirt longingly with married men; workers gaze despairingly into the bottom of their pint glasses; police are despised for their corruption and brutality; and criminals viciously assault the public and, in one moment, a disabled youngster. Even though this doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, ultimately this context remains Hell is a City’s most compelling element and is neatly diluted with occasional, if clichéd, thrills from the criminal underworld.

Uniting the themes of the film, the final act is undoubtedly the most successful. Earlier sections at times sag under excessive plot exposition or a slightly bizarre, if necessary, moorland gambling set-piece. The closing sequence remains visually striking and fast paced, combining a rooftop gun battle with a soul searching lament. In a superb move that suits the banal beauty of the preceding 90 minutes, this is enacted as a marital argument in a living room and avoids all possible conceit. Hardly a celebration of the ordinary, the film wallows in this gritty normality. Following Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Hell is a City is the hardworking, fast talking Monday afternoon.


The Raid (2012) or livewithfilm takes his eye off the ball only to receive a fist to the chops…

14 Jun

The Euro’s doesn’t lend itself to off the cuff film reviewing. Nevertheless, with Irelandtaking a good drubbing in the background, livewithfilm feels duty bound to return to the much maligned blog. It is rather fitting that today’s film choice sees an unrelenting assault of breathtaking brutality. Unfortunately for the sake of this strained sporting comparison, none of The Raid’s furious cast were dressed in Spanish red or Irish green. However, quite a few were soaked in crimson by the final credits.

Bidding his heavily pregnant wife farewell, SWAT policeman Rama (Iko Uwais) travels with his team towards the heart ofJakarta. Their mission: to take a thirty story apartment block floor by floor and rid the city of its most violent crime boss. Once their number begins to fall, the team must battle their way out, facing increasingly brutal opponents.

A refreshingly simple plot allows The Raid to remain an unrelentingly exhilarating action film. While simple twists serve to remind the audience that a plot remains somewhere beneath the bruises, martial arts action remains the film’s most arresting element. Testing the brain cells through trauma rather than contemplation, The Raid uses fluid camera work to capture some of the most brutal on-screen violence livewithfilm has witnessed. Surprising choreography and flair demonstrate the musical rhythm Welsh director Gareth Evans lent to The Raid’s combat sequences; the director constructs a superb action film but The Raid truly belongs to choreographers Uwais and Yaya Ruhian. Boasting the first mid-film round of applause from the audience that livewithfilm has witnessed, The Raid is a visceral, groan-inducing stunner.