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 there’s missing testicles, a Batmobile in a hurricane and reluctant panda bears.
Written, directed and starring Alice Lowe whilst heavily pregnant, Prevenge is a British horror film which follows Lowe’s character Ruth as she embarks on a revenge fuelled killing spree after the death of her partner in a climbing accident. If this sounds somewhat familiar or formulaic then don’t worry, there’s a twist: the killing spree is spearheaded by the foetus growing inside of Ruth, who is convincing Ruth to commit the murders.
It’s a somewhat bizarre premise which actually works surprisingly well – Lowe is hilarious as Ruth in a film which veers between comedy-horror and full on horror for the duration. It’s a film laden with imagery and clever writing, with lines that constantly allude to the fate of certain characters and explain the ongoing battle for power going on instead the mind and body of Ruth. The script is reminiscent of the work of one of Lowe’s previous collaborators, Edgar Wright, in that no line can be classed as a throwaway line. In many ways Prevenge reminded me of American Psycho, especially in that the protagonist is a serial killer on a killing spree that you always feel will have to come to an end at some point, but you never want it to. That’s one of the biggest compliments that I can pay this film – Lowe’s Ruth is such enjoyable company that I was never hoping that she would be caught, as you might with other slasher/serial killer films.
There’s a couple of gruesome death scenes (one involving a lost testicle) interspersed with genuine heartfelt moments, which manage somehow not to clash or jar with each other. It’s testament to Lowe’s superb writing and directing that these moments play out together so effectively. If there’s one criticism that I had of the film, it was that Ruth evaded police detection throughout, with seemingly no chase on for her capture – despite her killing people occasionally in broad daylight. But in a film in which a woman is being forced to murder by her unborn child, perhaps that’s a minor concession.
Verdict – A British horror/comedy with a razor sharp wit. Not all of it’s ideas work, but it’s brilliant for the most part.
The Hurricane Heist (2018)
This is exactly the kind of film which I would usually find to be unsufferable – B-movie action crappery with lots of cars. The trailer was somewhat more interesting than I thought that it would be, so I took the plunge and decided to watch it. Directed by Rob Cohen, director of the first Fast and Furious film, The Hurricane Heist follows a loose plot which involves a group of hackers infiltrating a high-security government facility for a high-risk robbery in the midst of a hurricane. Added to Sky Cinema on the same day that it was released in cinemas, it is the second Sky Cinema Original film.
There’s two sides to this film: the B-movie action crappery side, replete with high-octane, at times entertaining set-pieces, and plenty of shots of cars and people battling against hurricane conditions. On the other hand, are the soap-opera esque character dramas and lines that are so bad it’s hard no to cringe whenever one character decides to interact with another. If you’re looking for an action film The Hurricane Heist is undoubtedly quite exciting at times; if you’re looking for a film with a bit more nuance and just any believable characters or lines then you’re going to have a bad time.
Toby Kebbell, who I praised very highly for his superb performance in Dead Man’s Shoes last week, is completely unrecognisable in the lead role of this film, delivering lines like “they’re underestimating you” to a cloud in the sky and inexplicably riding around in a Batmobile style tank, for his job as a meteorologist. His character becomes a meteorologist who tracks hurricanes, because he horrifically witnessed his dad being crushed to death during a hurricane as a child, which seemed to me to be the last job you would think he would want to do. Things like this are so bizarre and unnecessary that they completely pull you out of the film and cause unintentional laughter. At least Sharknado had it’s tongue in it’s cheek when it was delivering crap like this.
Verdict: If you fast-forward through the talking to the action you’ll have a great time. Think Sharknado without the wit, or the sharks.
Free Fire (2017)
In the opening sequence to this film, a character sporting a black eye takes a look at himself in the mirror and utters the statement “I look like I tried to fuck a reluctant panda bear”. At this point in the film you’re either in or you’re out: if extended gun-fights and swearing ain’t your thing, you might as well turn off at this point. If you stick with it however, you’ll be heavily rewarded – Free Fire is absolutely hilarious, and a really good film as well.
Free Fire is set in 1970’s Boston, and focuses on an arms deal between two different groups, set entirely in an abandoned warehouse. As you can guess, especially from the title of the film, things blow up in everyone’s faces almost instantly, and what you’re left with is an extended shoot-out.
Something totally original that I loved about this film is that when the bullets start flying, it actually looks and feels like you would expect a shoot-out between two groups not prepared for one would look like; not a choreographed Hollywood dance act but a really gritty and dirty battle where everyone who leaves cover manages invariably to get themselves shot.
One of the most endearing things about this film is that there is an excellent cast, and they are clearly having the time of their lives, quipping throughout the on-going chaos and mayhem. Picking any of them out for particular praise is difficult as none are out of place at all, but credit must go to Sharlto Copley as South African Vernon, Sam Riley as Stevo (the panda bear botherer) and Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E) as Ord, the smooth American leader of the gun deal. Star power is provided by Cillian Murphy (the one girls drool over in Peaky Blinders) and Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island) who are both perfectly enjoyable in their roles: Larson in particular I’m sure has never had to crawl through as much dirt and broken glass in her career. The real star is the script however; it fizzles throughout, with superbly funny one-liners and sharp put-downs delivered constantly from both sides. It says a lot that a film set entirely in an abandoned warehouse with two rival groups shooting at each other never drags or feels sluggish, which is mainly down to the sharp writing.
I wasn’t just bowled over by the ending but I felt it was probably one of the best outcomes that could have come from the situation that was left. Without going into specifics, which would constitute as spoilers, I thought the ending verged almost on being cheesy, which was a bit disappointing given the gritty, raw blowout that the previous 85 minutes had been.
Verdict: It’s no masterpiece, but it’s immensely entertaining and funny as hell.
Film of the Week – Prevenge