Movie reviews

IT’S entirely apt that the buccaneers in the latest of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise are in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth, given that this, the fourth, is being touted as something of a reboot.

Almost an hour shorter than the previous two Pirates movies, and based on Tim Powers’ novel On Stranger Tides, you’d expect Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (12A) to be a more focused and streamlined tale, and that’s precisely what director Rob Marshall (Chicago) provides.

In essence, the film is a series of loosely connected action sequences, as Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) recovers from his latest setback to join forces with Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz). In their haste to strip the story back to its core, however, the makers eschew any pretence at character development. Jack remains the same mincing, camp presence that has far more in common with Adam Ant than Keith Richards.

McShane is suitably intense and gravel-throated as the fearsome Blackbeard, but Cruz, who does lend some badly needed glamour to her rather scuzzy co-stars, is far less convincing. The various swordfights and mermaid attacks (!) are well choreographed, but the relentless nature of the action sequences, when added to an implausible storyline that binds the fates of Sparrow, Blackbeard and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), ultimately results in pirate fatigue.

Derring-do, certainly, but don’t expect to have your swash buckled.

BLITZ (18s) opens with a very Irish swagger, as rogue London copper DI Brant (Jason Statham) confronts three young car-jackers while wielding a hurley. A hurley, he tells them, is used in an Irish sport called hurling, which is halfway between hockey and murder.

His off-beat credentials established, along with his role as vigilante cop, Brant proceeds to investigate the serial killing of London cops by a killer calling himself the Blitz (Aidan Gillen), aided by his new superior, Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), who is himself an outsider within the force, due to the fact that he’s gay. A satisfyingly meaty tale, Blitz is directed with no little verve by Elliott Lester (Love is the Drug), who blends idiosyncratic characters, a blistering pace and an intriguing whiff of right-wing polemic to create a fascinating thriller.

There’s more than a touch of Dirty Harry about DI Brant, but Statham’s understated take on the role, and some very neat comic timing give the character a fresh feel. Considine provides strong support, while Gillen visibly relishes the opportunity to go full-tilt bonkers as the sociopathic killer.

Blitz is a powerful thriller that delivers a scabrous social commentary.

ANOTHER police procedural, this time from the other side of the world, Red Hill (18s) is a western-styled tale of young cop Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), and his desperate bid to stay alive during his first day on the job in a rural Australian town.

Writer-director Patrick Hughes piles on the western references too thickly, but as a contemporary riff on High Noon or High Plains Drifter, Red Hill succeeds as a compelling revenge thriller. Distrusted by his superior and his new colleagues, Cooper finds himself working alone as escaped convict Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis, reprising a role he played in The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) cuts a bloody swathe through the adult males of Red Hill.

The reasons for Jimmy’s revenge mission will be apparent to any fan of the genre long before the climax arrives, but otherwise Hughes’s feature-length debut is an impressively assured affair.

JULIA’S EYES (16s) is a Spanish horror-thriller in which Julia (Belén Rueda) finds herself losing her sight as she tries to investigate what she believes to be the murder of her blind sister, Sara. Written and directed by Guillem Morales, the film offers a scintillating set-up, a creepy atmosphere and a beguilingly sympathetic heroine in Julia, as she struggles to convince her husband Isaac (Lluis Homar) and Inspector Dimas (Francesc Orella) that her fading sight isn’t contributing to her paranoia. It is currently showing at the IFI.

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