A short trip through the new releases, the old classics and the horrendous tripe that I subject myself to on a weekly basis.
This week Samuel L. Jackson turns up twice with varying results and Paddy Considine sets off across the British countryside on a rampage.
Before M. Night Shyamalan became one of the worst directors in Hollywood with massive flops The Last Airbender and the Will/Jaden Smith disaster After Earth, but after he revitalised the horror/sci-fi genre with The Sixth Sense he made the sort-of comic book film, Unbreakable.
Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Wright, Unbreakable follows Willis’ character David Dunn, who walks away unscathed from a fatal train crash leading Elijah Price, (Samuel L. Jackson) an art-dealer and comic book collector, to contact Dunn with the notion that he may have survived due to superhuman powers.
Willis and Wright are relatively strong as the married couple coming to terms with an impending break-up in the face of the incredible escape Willis’ makes from the train crash but Jackson is the undoubted star, excellent as the disabled Price (cruelly nicknamed Mr. Glass due to the disease which renders his bones extremely fragile). Elijah Price is the focal point for the entire story – an extremely vulnerable and damaged man who believes comic books are a form of art as opposed to throw-away children’s literature. His persistent approaches to Dunn and his family indicate that Price has found the man who exemplifies everything that Price has looked for in his whole life: a superhuman. Unbreakable manages to balance the darker, almost horror elements with a story which at heart is about Dunn’s family coming together in the face of his incredible new abilities.
However, as the Dunn family plotline nears it’s conclusion at the end of the film, the Dunn/Price superhero plotline becomes slightly muddled, and the now customary Shyamalan end of film plot twist is slightly predictable if not completely expected.
Verdict: Stylish, clever and helmed superbly by Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass. Unbreakable lacks the perfect ending that The Sixth Sense provided, but there’s plenty to enjoy in the rest of the film.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Okay, I was just effusive in my praise for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in 2000’s Unbreakable. Fast forward to 2018 and in that time, he has pushed out some god-awful rubbish. Co-lead Ryan Reynolds also follows into this same category – for every Deadpool, there’s been a Green Lantern. The Hitman‘s Bodyguard falls firmly into the turgid shit category for both of them.
I could have written an entire essay on everything that I didn’t like about this film: for a film starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, it is incredibly unfunny. The scriptwriters, who may be the laziest in Hollywood, piece together lines that sound like they were rejected from the Deadpool script for not being funny enough to give to Reynolds, while Jackson simply shouts shit action lines followed by the word “motherfucker” repeatedly. The film takes extreme liberties with a talented cast, reducing Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman (Oscar winner) to a small group of scenes in which Oldman talks almost exclusively in Russian (with no subtitles or explanation as to what he’s saying) and Hayek talks almost exclusively in Spanish (ditto). I honestly believe that between them, they have around six or seven scenes and one scene involving Hayek features an extended close-up of her cleavage, for no reason whatsoever. The entire second half of the film is like watching a Fast and Furious film but turning the sound off and pressing shuffle on Spotify instead – at one point, there is only a 15 second gap between one full song finishing and the next one starting.
The entire film is thirty minutes too long, the action is incredibly boring and violent only for the sake of violence, and it’s also mindlessly stupid – Reynolds and an anonymous henchman engage in a nail-gun fight, while both carrying real guns.
Verdict – Desperately unfunny, stunningly boring, woefully loud and stupid. Hayek, Oldman, Jackson and Reynolds – I hope the pay cheques were worth it.
I’m glad he found it funny.
Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
I went into this film having never heard of it previously – my only knowledge going into it was that it was directed by Shane Meadows, director of the excellent This is England, and starred Paddy Considine, which was enough to lure me in.
Dead Man’s Shoes follows Considine’s ex-paratrooper character Richard as he returns to his hometown with his younger brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) to confront a group of drug dealers and drug users who have been taking advantage of Anthony due to his mental impairment.
From the opening credits scene until the emotional climax I was completely gripped – Dead Man’s Shoes is unrelenting, thoroughly dark and almost always difficult viewing. Playing out as part drama, part revenge story and part horror it is, much like This is England, not for the faint-hearted. Considine is on superb form as Richard, the man on a personal vendetta to hunt down every person involved in hurting his brother – Kebbell also deserves great credit for his role as Anthony, a young man who in his brother’s absence has been abused in horrific ways. What makes the film so involving is how believable the whole film is – set in the English countryside, it’s much grittier and dirtier than your classic American revenge story.
The film’s only downfall is it’s ending, which after a huge emotional build-up in the final twenty minutes fell disappointingly flat; the exact opposite of This is England, which ends on an emotionally charged gut-wrencher of a scene. If the final scene had ended the way that I thought that it would the whole film would have had a much different outlook though, and although I enjoyed the ambiguity that the ending left behind for the viewer to decipher, a tighter ending would have improved the piece substantially, in my opinion.
Verdict – One of the best British films I’ve seen for ages. Harrowing, sad but compulsory viewing. The ending lets things down slightly, but not enough to diminish the film’s effect. If you haven’t already, seek it out and watch it.
Film of the Week – Dead Man’s Shoes