Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Catch Up

Just a quick catch up with what I have been watching over the holiday break.

Men suddenly in black 2


The sequel to Pang Ho-Cheung's original is good fun in places with some genuinely funny moments, but is ultimately disappointing, lacking the wit, invention and heart of the first film, replacing these with broader and more coarse humour and questionable taste in some scenes. It does however have some nice performances, particularly Josie Ho who was very good and Jordan Chan was very solid again. Extra points too for some nice Election references and Sandra Ng's cameo.

Love in a puff


Pang Ho-Cheung's Cat III rom-com based around the back alleyways of Hong Kong, where after the smoking ban in public buildings came into effect HK workers congregate and share stories with each other while taking their smoke breaks. A very slight but diverting and entertaining story, with really good performances from Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung. While watching Love in a puff I felt as though  I was missing out on some of the funny, feeling that the subtitle translation was not doing the Cantonese swearing justice, can any Cantonese speakers confirm if this is true or not?

Outrage


Takeshi Kitano's latest film is a return to the gangster genre that at least in the west he made his name with. An almost Shakespearean tale of political double crossing and back stabbing between different factions of yakuza, where they use increasingly inventive and nasty ways of maiming and killing each other. The film is very straightforward and is almost a series of set pieces without a narrative, but this works in the films favour, the strength of it being in its execution, it is very lean and very mean with not a single frame wasted. While Outrage is not as good a film as Sonatine or Hana-Bi it is a welcome return for Kitano to the genre. It also has the nastiest use of dental equipment I have seen for a long time.

Lastly, on an unrelated note I have been enjoying the heartwarming victory of the England cricket team, in retaining the Ashes

So long Ricky P

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays


Seasons greetings to everyone which ever holiday you are celebrating. I wanted an HK based seasonal picture and came up with this one, something completely different to Kingwho? @ Bullets over Chinatown, check out his inimitable Cat III greeting http://inthemoodforgwailo.blogspot.com/2010/12/deck-halls-with-boughs-of-cha-lee.html

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai's new film Don't go breaking my heart to be released in 2011, as much of a Milkyway fanboy as I am, I'm not sure about this one, maybe it is the title that makes me think Elton John and Kiki Dee.


Trailer


I like most of the rom-coms and dramas from Milkyway image, although I haven't been able to make myself watch Linger yet. The fact that Wai Ka Fai is involved should mean it will at least be interesting, but we'll see, what does everyone else think?

Credit to Filmsmash for the poster and trailer.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

La Comedie Humaine


La comedie humane was co written and co directed by Chan Hing-Kai who wrote Jiang Hu-The triad zone and was one of my most anticipated HK films of 2010. 


When Chapman To who plays a mainland hitman Spring is separated from his partner Setting sun played by Hiu Siu-Hung (the comic relief in many Milkyway movies) they arrange to meet up on a residential rooftop. While waiting for Setting sun, Spring falls ill and is taken in by Soya (Wong Cho-Lam) who looks after him while he recovers. Soya is an unsuccessful screen writer who is shy and timid by nature and has no idea Spring is a hitman, he is also very annoying and as a result Spring makes many aborted attempts to kill him, Soya annoys even more by telling the story of his girlfriend Tin-Oi (Fiona Sit) and how they split up, it turns out that she becomes violent towards Soya as she is so neurotic about the possibilities of their relationship failing. Other subplots include a pregnant girl wanting Spring to kill the father of her unborn child and another about a film director wanting a script for a new hitman movie, with Soya and Spring being invited to a meeting with two "real" hitmen (played by directors Soi Cheang and Law Wing-Cheong). Will there be resolution to any of this before the detective on the killers trail catches up with them?



A post modern mess of a movie, the writing in La comedie humaine is occasionally clever but structurally poor, lurching from one subplot to another with no thread to sew the film together, instead it hopes that a few funny scenes will make up for a complete lack of focus,it doesn't. 

As a big fan of Beast cops and Jiang Hu-The triad zone I have to wonder where the talent that Chan Hing-Kai showed has gone. The much talked about scene where Spring tells Soya a made up story of his life by using movie titles is inspired but like many things in the movie,it outstays its welcome, really labouring the joke. The best thing about La comedie humaine is Chapman To, he gives a very strong performance which saves the film from being terrible, he is a talented comedic actor and is funny in the film, his impressions of Andy Lau, Tony Leung and Donnie Yen are particularly funny. Fiona Sit also puts in a decent performance making a potentially horrible character likeable, I also thought that Hiu Siu-Hung looked suitably bad ass, well at least while he kept his shades on, kind of like an older Anthony Wong in Exiled. Which brings me to another point with the film, the movie references. Hong Kong cinema has used movie spoofing within films for many years and it is always hit and miss as to if the parodies work. La comedie humaine is no different in this regard, when it works as in the case of spoofs of Johnnie To and John Woo, it is funny and has a point, a scene outside a church looks like a deleted scene from Exiled and the scene in the church being inspired by the Killer, these both work really well but a far too long parody of The Assembly begins to grate and almost takes the film into scary movie territory. 
The end of the film is quite clever and works well with a ridiculous shootout being amusing and the subsequent chase having a surreal finale that fits in nicely with the films love of film. If La comedie humaine had more focus it could have been very good, it has ambition and love of cinema coupled with a strong lead in Chapman To but unfortunately this cannot help the disappointed feeling I am left with from the film, which is that it is mostly pointless, pretentious and unsatisfying.

72 Tenants Of Prosperity



72 tenants of prosperity is a 2010 updating of the old Shaw brothers film The house of 72 tenants and was made for a lucrative Chinese new year slot in cinemas, as a result you should know going in what kind of film to expect. Made by a team of writers, co-directed by three people including Eric Tsang and produced by no fewer than five companies including Shaw brothers, TVB and UFO.

The film opens with a sequence set in 1970's Hong Kong introducing our main characters Ha Kung (Justin Lo and Eric Tsang), Shek Kin (Raymond Lam and Jacky Cheung) and Pinky (Fala Chen and Anita Yuen). We then move to 2010 and Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mongkok where the friends turned enemies Ha Kung and Shek Kin run competing mobile phone shops, they fell out over the love of Pinky when Ha Kung won the hand in marriage of Pinky on a coin toss, something that Shek Kin has never been able to get over. The bitter rivals forbid their families and workers from fraternizing with their opposites and employ ever more crazy schemes and dirty tricks to out do each other, but while fighting each other the tenants receive notice of crippling rent rises, will this force the tenants of Sai Yeung Choi to close up for good leaving the shady mainland property developers to move in?


As this is a new year film while the main storyline is going on it will be no surprise to you that family members from each side fall for each other, things come to a head between Ha Kung,Shek Kin and Pinky and that the traders join forces and work together to try to keep their livelihoods safe. Do all these plot strands have a happy ending? As I said this is a new year film. It is slightly more than that though in that it does work social issues into the plot and even uses the mongkok acid thrower as a plot point.
Jacky Cheung and Anita Yuen are really good, Eric Tsang is Eric Tsang which is a good thing and I particularly enjoyed Justin Lo as the younger Eric Tsang with his impression making me laugh out loud when he speaks. Some of the TVB stars featured seem out of their depth in a film, but this does not really hurt the movie too much. What could be harmful to your enjoyment of 72 tenants is your tolerance for product placement, as I have not seen such blatant examples since the last two James Bond movies, it is so bad in this that they even make a joke of it at the end.

Going into this film I had pretty low expectations, I was expecting fluff and it is really but I found it to be entertaining fluff, the movie pretty much gets by on the cast being fun to watch, so if you don't like the actors you won't like the film. It is great to see Anita Yuen back on screen again in a comedy she really does have natural charm. Lam Suet also has a tiny but very funny cameo. One of the best things about it is that it feels like the team behind it set out to make a film for Hong Kong audiences and not worry about anyone else, which in these days of HK movies trying to be Hollywood like or pandering to mainland Chinese audiences and censors, is a refreshing change. 

I saw the film on Blu ray and the image was surprisingly good, with excellent detail. Sound was fine. The dvd would be sufficient for most people but the shots of Sai Yeung Choi street look fantastic and are worth having the blu for alone for me as I love Mongkok.


Not sure what happened with the font on this one,sorry!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blind Fury



The true definition of a guilty pleasure, Blind fury takes the Japanese concept of Zatoichi and adds an eighties American flavour to it, and when I say eighties this film positively screams eighties. It is a ridiculous concept that has no right to be anything other than worthless, yet somehow it manages to be a really fun and entertaining action movie and one well worth your time.

Rutger Hauer plays vietnam veteran Nick Parker, who was blinded and left for dead in Nam, he is rescued by villagers who nurse him back to health and teach him the ways of the sword. On his return to America he looks up his old war buddy Frank Devereaux played by Terry O'Quinn (Locke from Lost) who is mixed up in making designer drugs with some very nasty people,  Parker ends up getting involved and finds himself having to take Devereaux's son on a road trip, providing protection from a whole host of bad guys who are trying to kidnap the kid. Cue lots of actions sequences with the blindman taking on and beating the bad guys even though they can see and are heavily armed.



The key to the success of Blind fury is that it never takes itself too seriously with lots of funny lines and sight gags that together with an impressive and sympatheric performance from Hauer, who convinces in both his blindness and in the action sequences, and unlike many action films from this period he is a vulnerable and human character rather than being superhuman, making you care much more than you would expect in something like this. It is to director Philip Noyce's credit that this was the path taken with the movie I can only imagine what it would have been like with someone like Steven Seagal in the lead role.

If all that isn't enough to tempt you into trying it, I have two more things, firstly it has a cameo from Sho Kosugi and secondly one of the best taglines ever "He's lucky he can't see what he's up against"

The region 1 dvd I viewed is surprisingly good with a strong anamorphic image for the age and budget of the film, some print damage is evident but detail is very good and this is unlikely to ever get a better release which is a shame as it really is great fun.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Stuff

No weekly update for new stuff due to unusually poor weather in this part of the world. The Royal mail system ground to a stop for nearly two weeks and is still way behind, in the UK everything seems to stop if you have a few centimetres of snow so having 30cm in a day or two has really caused problems, we Brits just cannot seem to cope with the white stuff. So post has finally started arriving again and so far I have had


UK blu ray release of Teddy Chan's imperfect but very entertaining Bodyguards and assassins, I know lots of people had problems with the film but I really enjoyed it and the blu ray itself looks fantastic.


David Fincher's Seven on blu ray, upgrade from the dvd that I never actually watched all the way through (its Seven, you have to be in the mood) but it is time for a rewatch and this blu has an amazing transfer and is a massive improvement over the already impressive dvd.


Season one of the funniest show on tv Community, excellent box set of all the episodes with some nice extras and a cast and crew commentary on every episode, if you haven't given this show a try you need to!


UK blu ray of Daniel Lee's 14 Blades, heard some pretty negative things about this but wanted to see it for the action and picked it up for not too much.


Batman The haunted knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, a collection of short Batman stories that features one of my favourite ever Batman shorts.

Loads more to come including the new limited edition Battle Royale blu ray set which I cannot wait for.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My New Toy Has Arrived!

My new toy was delivered today, so far I have only opened it, need more time to actually try it out.



Its an LG 2TB NAS with Blu ray writer, the two 1TB hard drives are hot swappable and can be configured in multiple ways. My first impressions of the unit are very good, it seems to be very well built and its quite easy on the eye, obviously the actual set up and use of the device will be the real test.

More pics.








Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone


Made in 2000, Dante Lam's Jiang Hu-The triad zone is one of the most ambitious and original gangster films Hong Kong has produced, it takes many of the triad film cliches and reworks them into something fresh and funny. Tony Leung Kar Fai plays a triad leader who finds out that a hit is planned on his life sometime in the next 24 hours, he spends this time trying to find out who has ordered the hit to strike first against his enemy, but finds himself spending more time re-evaluating his life and the people in it. The most prominent of these people is his long suffering wife played by Sandra Ng. I find it incredible that Sandra Ng did not get a nomination at the Hong Kong film awards for this, she is fantastic in the role and while I think Maggie Cheung deserved the award for In the mood for love, Sandra could and should have had two nominations as she was also amazing in Wilson Yip's Juliet in love in the same year, maybe the voting was split between the two films and that went against her. I have singled out Sandra Ng here but all the cast is extremely good with great turns from Tony Leung, Roy Cheung as the bodyguard and Anthony Wong in an hilarious cameo.



The film is very funny,it is quite serious but not completely, it has parody elements but is not a parody and most importantly, unlike many Hong Kong films, where the tone can be all over the place this is pretty consistent throughout mixing the drama with the comedy in a way that feels kind of unique. Unfortunately since Beast cops and this film Dante Lam has been quite disappointing, I was hoping he would kick on and make more interesting and ambitious films and while I liked Beast stalker, everything else I have seen has been disappointing, especially the terribly dull Fire of conscience.

The Mei Ah dvd is very disappointing being released before anamorphic dvds were common, the image is quite washed out with lots of damage and the sound has a lot of hiss, this film deserves much better and is a title crying out for a remaster, a French dvd is available and is 16:9 enhanced but does not have English subtitles.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top Bet


Ever since seeing Chow Yun Fat in God of gamblers I have been a sucker for HK gambling movies, I have seen most of them but I had never got around to Top bet, even though it is a sequel to a favourite of mine All for the winner . I watched the Joy sales dvd yesterday and although fun in places overall it was a disappointment overall, wasting a solid cast with thin characters and far too much mugging to camera (Ng Man Tat I'm looking at you). Stephen Chow who starred as Saint of gamblers in the original All for the winner has a cameo at the start of the film and returns briefly at the end but is missing for most of the running time, he is such a loss the writers decided to replace him with two characters, Anita Mui as his sister and Carol Cheng as a card cheat who becomes the queen of gamblers and although both are fine, neither is fleshed out enough and as a result neither are charismatic enough to carry the film in the way that Stephen Chow did in the original or Chow Yun Fat did in God of gamblers, this is the major problem with the movie as given more screen time, either actress could have pulled it off.
It is obvious that the film was made quickly and on a low budget and taking that into account it is a (barely) passable timewaster with a decent action scene, some fun gambling scenes and a few laughs along the way but it is nowhere near the best of the genre. The dvd looks and sounds about as good as it ever will as I cannot see this ever being remastered, and I don't think anyone will worry too much about that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Video Nasties Moral Panic,Censorship And Videotape



On the Video nasties : The definitive guide dvd set that came out recently in the UK is Jake West's documentary Video nasties Moral panic,censorship and videotape, a seventy minute look at the whole sorry mess. It features many of the main players involved including the MP Sir Graham Bright (responsible for the video recordings act bill) who would have been hilarious if he hadn't had a say in running the country. You really have to see to believe the part where he talks of the research being done that will prove that not only do violent videos harm children but dogs too! I kid you not.

UK filmmakers including Neil Marshall and Chris Smith are featured reminiscing about watching video nasties when they were kids and how the nasties influenced their work and respected critics Kim Newman and Alan Jones are also featured.

On a more serious note the film goes into political territory explaining the state of the country at that time and how the government needed something to deflect the growing unrest, that thing was violent videos and with the help of the right wing media a campaign of misinformation and outright lies were launched which somehow whipped up such a frenzy that all common sense went down the toilet.

If you know the history of the nasties you will probably not learn anything new but it is such a fascinating subject that it is worth watching anyway but if you are new to nasties watch this, enjoy and then seek out the books on the subject Seduction of the gullible and See no evil.

Amer



Amer is told in three segments all focusing on different moments in Ana's life, one as a child, one as a teenager and one as an adult. Told almost without dialogue it is about how psychologically affected we can be by our early experiences and the damage that they can cause in later life, but to talk about the story is really missing the point of the film, it is really not about the story so much as the film making technique used to create it, not so much a case of style over substance but more the style is the substance. A huge buzz has formed around Amer due to suggestions that it was the return of the giallo genre, the stylish murder mystery films of the late sixties and seventies the Italians made so well.
It is not a giallo film, however it is so infused with the iconography of the genre that it is easy to see why it looked like a giallo.  The film steals all the familiar tropes from the gialli of Argento et al, there are great uses of colour gels which bring Mario Bava to mind. Brian De Palma is also referenced and even Sergio Leone is in there, with some incredibly dramatic close ups of eyes he would have been proud of. Camera angles and editing are used to great effect and the soundtrack is completely made up of cues lifted from giallo films and this all reinforces the mood and tone of the film, one Ennio Morricone piece I was unfamiliar with was a particular highlight for me. The sound design is fantastic, with every sound heightened whether it be leather glove creasing or someone flicking a comb , it sounds great and adds unease to almost every scene.

                              

Amer will not be enjoyed by everyone as it is an art film more than the genre piece many were expecting, some may find the style irritating, maybe the story slight and confusing but if you have any interest in seeing the film track it down, it is intelligent, unconventional, visceral, very sensual and ultimately very satisfying.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Men Suddenly In Black



Finally got around to watching this, if you haven't seen it yet don't wait any longer, get it now. Pang Ho Cheung manages to pull off a mixture of intelligence and silliness brilliantly to create one of the funniest Hong Kong movies I have seen. The cast is fantastic, with Eric Tsang, Jordan Chan and Chapman To leading the way but the film is owned by the cameos from Tony Leung Kar Fai and Sandra Ng who are both hilarious in their small roles. The film is full of movie references with scenes lifted wholesale from Infernal affairs and there is an inspired tribute to John Woo and heroic bloodshed movies.



The dvd I watched was the Mei Ah HK disc, the worst aspect of the dvd are the terrible subtitles, some of the scenes were made nonsensical by mistakes in the translation and Eric Tsang's character name kept changing from scene to scene, apart from this the dvd is pretty good with the sound and image being fine. Highly recommended

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Motorway

After what seems like forever since the last Milkyway film comes a poster for the Johnnie To produced, Soi Cheang directed Motorway which stars Anthony Wong and Shawn Yue.


A karate showdown on wheels, sounds like it could be awesome.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Saw The Devil





Min-sik Choi is a serial killer who chooses the wrong victim when he picks up the fiancee of Byung-hun Lee's secret agent. When her body is found the agent uses his connections and skills to hunt the killer to make him suffer a thousand times more than his girl did, but in his grief and rage will he know how far is too far?



Ji-Woon Kim's I saw the devil was one of my most anticipated films for 2010, but as good as it is in many ways I found it disappointing. First Before I get into why I was disappointed the good stuff.The film looks absolutely incredible which will not be a surprise given Ji Woon Kim's other films but this one truly is a technical marvel. It has some excellent set pieces including an amazing sequence in a taxi that really blew me away. The acting is all great with Min-sik Choi being a real stand out as the psychotic killer without an ounce of humanity in him and Byung-hun Lee as the secret agent who loses his fiancee to the killer being totally convincing in his anger and descent into madness. Ji-Woon Kim toys very cleverly with the audience making them complicit in the events of the film as the killer is shown to be so grotesque you want the agent to make him suffer but at some point you begin to not be quite so sure anymore if you still want to be involved in the madness. 
The film is definitely not for the faint hearted and is certainly not for everyone and Ji-Woon Kim should be applauded for not compromising on his violent vision, and although that vision is very serious in tone, a few moments of jet black humour do come through and are very welcome.



When the screening ended and I was thinking about the film, I knew I didn't love it despite all of its qualities but wasn't sure why. After thinking about it for a while the problem with the film is the one element of the story which I have not seen before in  the revenge genre (which I cannot mention without spoilers, although if you have read anything else about the film you will almost certainly know)  once the agent catches up with the killer and they face off (another fantastic set piece) Min-sik Choi is badly beaten and the agent lets him go to hunt down and inflict pain on him again, this repeats throughout the running time.  I just cannot get past the implausibility of a secret agent letting this madman free, he could just as easily have kept him prisoner somewhere and prolonged his suffering without giving him the opportunity to cause more mayhem, of course then we wouldn't have the film as it is but it is such a huge problem if you cannot accept such a pivotal part of the plot. I have left out some elements of this part of the film so as not to spoil too much but even with these parts I just didn't buy it for a second. The agent has planned this from the start and he thinks he is in control of the situation, which is how the film seems to justify the storyline but the madman is clearly just too dangerous to be set free, when the agent then sinks deeper into the madness of his own actions it is too late.

I don't usually worry so much about the plausibility of the plot within a film, for the most part realism is not what I am looking for, but the more I think about this film the more I have a problem with this aspect of it as it wants to be taken seriously and seen as something meaningful, however ultimately it says nothing new on the well worn subject of revenge. In the end it is a beautiful looking, particularly nasty exploitation film with very high production values, the violence is frequent and brutal and it does have plenty of thrills for genre fans, but I feel Ji-Woon Kim was aiming higher than that and while I did enjoy it I don't feel it achieves the heights it should have.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Weeks New Stuff

Its been a pretty busy week for the postman



Men suddenly in black

Not quite sure why it has taken me so long to get this dvd, its reputation is very good and I like all of Pang Ho Cheung's other films that I have seen. It was a recent screening of Dream home (loved it) that pushed me into finally tracking this one down.



A decade of love

A series of nine short films looking at the first ten years after the handover of Hong Kong, I like short films and love HK so hopefully it will be a good combination although I didn't know anything else about this one before buying it.



High noon

Not the Gary Cooper classic but the Hong Kong chapter of Eric Tsang's Winds of September series, I picked this up for two reasons, one it made Kozo from LoveHKfilm.com top 20 films of the 2000's and two it was premiered at the HKIFF 2008 (which was the last one I attended) and I didn't get a ticket to see it.



Here is a pic of Eric Tsang arriving for his big night in 2008.



Night and Fog

Ann Hui's companion film to The way we are looking at life in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong's so called city of sadness. By all accounts this film is a complete opposite to The way we are and is gruelling and harrowing in equal measure and I am still not sure I actually want to watch it, but on the strength of the other film I may do one day.



Vengeance blu ray

Johnnie To's  vastly underrated (even by many To fans) Vengeance on region B blu. I have the HK blu but it is a waxy dnr mess, this disc still looks soft in places but that I think is down to the film stock used rather than the disc itself and is a significant upgrade over the HK version. Terrible artwork though.




Gamera double feature blu ray

I have never seen a Gamera film but I do have a soft spot for Godzilla and this blu is only $5.49 at Amazon.com at the moment, so why not?


Kick ass blu ray region A

Had a blast with this earlier in the year and I have been waiting to get it for a good price since it came to blu, need another watch before the years end to see if it makes my top ten of the year.








Sunday, November 21, 2010

The American


Jack (George Clooney) is an expert gunsmith who has to flee Sweden when an attempt is made on his and his companions life, he is told by his handler (Johan Leysen) to lay low in a remote town in Italy. Posing as Edward a photographer for magazines he makes acquaintance with a local priest who suspects his story but tries to help him,he also visits a prostitute (Violante Placido) who he begins to feel close to.  Jack's handler gives him the (one last) job of making a gun for an assassin (Thelka Reuten). Meanwhile the Swedes are picking up Jack's trail, who can he trust?

The American is Anton Corbijn's second film after the Ian Curtis biopic Control, it is an adaptation of the novel A very private gentleman. I have not read the book but Corbijn has said he changed the lead character from an Englishman and has changed the ending of the book in the film.
If you have seen the trailer for the film you would probably be expecting an action thriller in the Bourne or Bond style but this is far from the film we get. The film is more a slow burn mood piece with only sporadic patches of action dotted through the slim storyline and not the action fest suggested. I don't blame the distributors for trying to sell the film the way they have but this style of deceitful marketing has major problems, it only leads to bad word of mouth especially when a major star like George Clooney is involved.


Clooney plays a professional gunsmith who is a real craftsman when it comes to his work, he is not an assassin although he can be if required. It is all about the making of the gun for him, it is what he is good at and so that is what he does. Corbijn concentrates on this during the film, showing in minute detail Jack's process of making the gun for the assassin, these scenes are some of the most interesting in the film as he seems to lose himself completely in this process suggesting how he has come to be the man he is.

The film has been compared to Jean Pierre Melville's Le Samourai and it is true that the two films do share some characteristics and the Clooney character is similar to Alain Delon's however the actual performances of the actors are nothing like each other. Delon's performance in Le Samourai is pure ice almost all the way through, where as Clooney in The American does not go that far, he does not use his trademark charm and is quite grouchy (he does not even smile until around 70 minutes in) and paranoid but never does he seem to feel absolutely nothing like Delon's character. For me the film has parallels with Clooney's Up in the air, the soulless, empty professional with no ties or interest in meaningful relationships who comes to question that lifestyle when he does allow himself to let someone in. In that film of course he only terminated job contracts in The American the terminations are somewhat more final.

The film is impeccably shot in terms of both the exterior shots of the town and Italian countryside and the interiors of the room where Jack does his work. The use of lighting, composition and focus is incredible and the score which is also excellent give the film a feel unlike anything I have seen before.
The storyline has been criticized as being full of cliches such as Jack falling for the hooker and the one last job elements but this would be missing the point as although I was aware of it, it feels almost irrelevant. As I said earlier this is a mood piece and distractions in the plot did not affect this mood. When thinking about it afterwards the plot does have holes as well as cliches but I still love the film. The acting which is all first rate especially Clooney and Violante Placido (who has a very european attitude to nudity) combines with the technical aspects of the production to create a film that will not be for everyone but will be on my top ten of the year.

The American is released in UK cinemas on November 26th and is on dvd and blu ray on December 28th in the US

Red Hill



A city cop is transferred to a country post after his wife miscarries a baby, on his first day a prison breakout frees Jimmy Conway a convicted murderer put away by the town sheriff. Jimmy heads back towards town looking for payback.

Red Hill written and directed by Patrick Hughes is a solid Australian western with some really tense action sequences. It features excellent use of the Australian landscapes and much of the film is set at night with some great night time photography which and adds to the tension and atmosphere already created within the story. A sub plot including a big cat on the loose adds a slightly off kilter aspect that I liked. A slight problem with the film is that the ending is too predictable and if you have seen any similar films before you will see it coming way before the film ends.

The film is well acted by all the cast, Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) stars as Shane Cooper and gives a good lead performance as the transferred cop, but Tommy Lewis gives a real force of nature performance as Jimmy Conway, despite Conway's character being almost wordless throughout the entire film he still manages to convey everything he needs to brilliantly even with half his face under prosthetics.

Although the ending is a little too obvious the journey to get there is well worth the ride, the main characters are well drawn, the story is lean and the action is mean, well worth a watch.
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