Filth (2013)

“Disturbingly Dark and Honest” 8/10

Filth is an in-your-face, raucous film about corrupt policeman Bruce (James McAvoy) determined that nothing and no one will stand in his way of a promotion which will help him win back his family. As he falls further into his web of lies and deceit he is drawn deeper into drug addiction which causes his life to spiral out of control.

I actually saw this film a few weeks ago and couldn’t really make up my mind about it until I’d really sat and thought about it. It’s so brutal and twisted and leaves you feeling like you’ve been slapped round the face when it ends. Yet, once you started thinking about it and strip all the punch out of it, it’s just very honest in dealing with some incredibly difficult topics that most films usually gloss up a little. It’s not afraid to hit you where it hurts and I was so impressed with the way it manages to be disturbing without being hugely offensive at the same time. As the story unfolds so does Bruce’s mind and there are some huge plot twists that really take you by surprise. James McAvoy is outstanding as the corrupt policeman – I haven’t seen much of his work and the few films that I have seen haven’t overly impressed me but his performance in this blew me away. The entire supporting cast is pretty strong too with some big names like Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan and Jim Broadbent, as well as some smaller names, but McAvoy really does steal the limelight from start to finish.

Filth is disturbingly dark and honest, almost a little too much, which is why I didn’t rate it higher. It did its job of unsettling me to the point where I had to sleep on it for ages before making up my mind about how I would review it. Definitely worth a watch but prepare to be unsettled right from the very first minute.

The Green Mile (1999)

“Beautifully Acted and Touching” 9/10

 

The Green Mile looks at life on Death Row, told from the perspective of guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) who recounts, as an old man, his encounter with mysterious prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a convicted child murder who has more to his story than meets the eye, including a very curious ability.

 

This film is such a classic and it’s beautifully acted.  Tom Hanks is an incredible actor and he delivers yet another exceptional performance as the sensitive guard willing to treat his prisoners like people, unlike his colleagues such as the harsh and unforgiving Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison).  Michael Clarke Duncan delivers a really touching performance that culminates into an emotional ending that may bring a few tears.  Even the other prisoners, played by Michael Jeter and Sam Rockwell, offer emotive performances with their own descent into madness knowing that they are waiting to die.  The majority of the film is set in either the prison block or the electric chair room, which helps to reinforce the intense feeling of entrapment.

 

The story itself is a little unusual as there is a touch of the supernatural throughout, however it’s surprisingly easy to accept this into the normality of the film.  As you can expect from a film about Death Row it is a little upsetting to watch at times, but it’s mostly a carefully woven story that gently unravels the history of the prisoners and why they are all there, focusing much more on the emotional aspects of such a setting for both the prisoners and the guards, rather than the physicality of it.  I only have one real criticism: it was too long.  At just over three hours long I felt like it was losing its emotional momentum and could have managed without some scenes and been just as, if not more, powerful a film.  Nevertheless don’t be put off by the length, unlike some lengthy films there are no points where you get bored watching it drag on, and even if you feel yourself getting lost towards middle of it, the final third brings you right back into it.

 

The Green Mile is beautifully acted and a really touching classic film.  Despite being a little unnecessarily long it offers a real heartfelt journey and an unusual story that will really evoke some emotion – well worth the three hours of the film!

21 Jump Street (2012)

Brilliantly Funny Comedy” 10/10

 

21 Jump Street is apparently something of a remake of the 1987 TV series starring Johnny Depp and Dustin Nguyen (it’s a couple of years before my time so I haven’t seen it yet to compare the two) which features underachieving policemen Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) who are assigned the task of posing as high school students in an undercover operation to bring down a drugs ring, leading the pair into a whole host of hilarious situations.

 

Despite the juvenile nature that you’d typically expect from this film (not normally something I particularly enjoy) I thought this film was hilarious.  Some of the jokes were very base but these were fairly outnumbered by some genuine good humour.  Of course the whole film borders on the silly and far-fetched throughout but it never pretends to be anything other than just that, and rarely feels like it’s trying too hard for audience laughs.  Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are a dream comedy duo in this: their differences in acting styles and personalities are played up in stereotypes which make for some real fun, especially as the stereotypical American high school is a strong factor.  Dave Franco plays the shifty popular kid and offers an enjoyable performance that occasionally stands up to the humour of Tatum and Hill, although the biggest laughs from a more minor character come from Ice Cube, the exasperated chief at the 21 Jump Street Facility. There’s a nice cameo appearance from the original 21 Jump Street-ers Johhny Depp and Dustin Nguyen too.

 

If you’re looking for a brilliantly funny comedy that’s full of light-hearted silliness then it doesn’t get much funnier than this.  Despite being a little apprehensive I absolutely cracked up at this film and can’t wait to see if the sequel lives up to the laugh out loud humour in this.

RED 2 (2013)

“Entertaining in the Same Way as the First” 7/10

 

RED 2 picks up neatly from where the first one left off – Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is now happily settling down with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) when he finds himself dragged back into his old ways by partner in crime Marvin (John Malkovich) on a mission to find a sought-after nuclear device.

Much like the first film, RED 2 is full of gun fights, car chases and ridiculous scenarios, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously so you can forgive it for that. The plot runs parallel with this theme of un-believability, and some scenes almost feel like an unintentional parody, but it adds to the charm of the film. There are some good laughs throughout, particularly from the ever-quirky John Malkovich, and also from Mary-Louise Parker who again embraces the role of awkward but excitable Sarah with comedic prowess. Bruce Willis is back on standard form, the cool, casual hero who fights his way out of every situation almost effortlessly; but this time his character has mellowed considerably, there are lots of tender moments between Frank and Sarah that are slightly disjointed with his takes-no-prisoners fight scenes. As well as some previous actors making a reappearance such as Dame Helen Mirren, who is on excellent form, there are some new appearances from the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones who brings a larger than life role as a fiery Russian agent, and Anthony Hopkins as the wise creator of the nuclear device.

If you enjoyed the first film then you’ll probably enjoy RED 2 as well. It’s the same comedic mix of good characters and slightly implausible situations, but for me that’s part of the charm: the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, it just looks to entertain.

RED (2010)

“Entertaining, Styled Almost as a Parody” 7/10

 

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired agent who is stuck in a rut – his only joy in life is his phone calls to his pension case worker Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who is as bored with life as he is. When Frank is pulled back into his old line of work, he finds himself responsible for Sarah whilst trying to survive.

This film is surprisingly light-hearted entertainment and full of likeable characters. Bruce Willis plays his trademark cool, collected role, holding his own during gun fights and car chases, a believable veteran of the genre. Mary-Louise Parker brings a bubbly and inquisitive character that clashes wonderfully with Willis’ role which provides an unexpected sweet element to the film. John Malkovich delivers a highly entertaining performance as Willis’ partner in crime, offering plenty of laughs throughout the film. There are some great minor roles from Hollywood royalty such as Dame Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and Brian Cox. The film is all about contrasts, and that doesn’t just stop at the characters: there is a fair bit of action, offset by humorous dialogue-heavy scenes. The styling of it is almost like a parody of itself: it doesn’t try too hard to be one thing or another, it just throws a lot of things into the mix and goes with it.

RED is entertaining and surprisingly comedic, with some great characters portrayed by a good cast. Take it all in with an open mind; it does have a touch of the parody about it, but it cuts it back just enough to be an enjoyable action-fuelled offering.

American Hustle (2013)

“Glamorous With a Top-Class Cast” 10/10

 

I had high hopes for this film having seen the line-up, and I wasn’t disappointed. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner pull together to create a story that is fast paced, smooth and witty. Each character is so strong and brings something totally different to the film, and the quality of acting was some of the best I’ve seen.

The entire film has a beautiful relaxed 70’s atmosphere which complements the pacy dialogue, and hits the ground running with a flashback opening scene. Atmosphere provides a real escapism here: the sets, costumes, music and dialogue are glamorously old-fashioned and authentic. Straight away the audience is drawn into the world of con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his relationship with partner in crime Sydney Prosser (Adams) and the mysterious FBI agent Richard DiMasio (Cooper). The film unfolds slowly and smoothly moves between various hustles and more explosive character interactions. It really is the incredible dimensions that each character has within the story that makes it so enjoyable: the contrasts between Adams and Lawrence, and Bale and Cooper’s roles provides some wonderful moments of comedy, emotion and drama. There’s also a great minor role for Robert De Niro to watch out for.

Slick and glamorous, American Hustle boasts an excellent cast and top-class acting. This pacy and dramatic film is sure to keep you captivated throughout the many plot twists through its engaging characters and beautiful styling.

Bad Lieutenant (2009)

“Cleverly Styled But Really Strange” 5/10

 

As the title suggests, this is an unconventional film about an unconventional police lieutenant, and it’s quite hard to pin down an opinion on it because it is unlike anything I have ever seen in terms of style and story.

Having seen several Nicholas Cage films, I was fully expecting to see him play his typical worldly-wise middle aged man role despite having read the synopsis (think the National Treasure [2004; 2007] and Knowing [2009]). I was surprised to see him play a completely different character and it was oddly refreshing to see him break away from his typecast. Cage is completely believable as an erratic drug addict, his odd behaviour and strange visions of iguanas (when you see the film, you’ll understand) strangely draw you in to his rough, “trippy” world. The film often loses you, at points it is hard to understand how the current scene links to the previous, but that is all part of the effect. Even the supporting characters are fuzzy and it’s hard to work out who is taking drugs and who isn’t. The story makes sense but doesn’t necessarily follow a typical linear structure; it’s slow but you never feel like there’s something that doesn’t matter to the overall storyline. It manages to project Cage’s character’s decline onto every other aspect of the film in such a way that you don’t really notice until the very end. It’s downright bizarre.

It’s difficult to put your finger on whether or not this film is enjoyable, and the reasons why. If nothing else, the story is cleverly presented to perfectly depict the decline caused by addiction, and leaves you feeling fuzzy-headed yourself. A strange viewing that very much keeps you thinking once it has finished.