Shadow Dancer ***
The Watch **
The Three Stooges **
The Imposter ****
A fertile setting for the classic paranoid thriller, Troubles-era Northern Ireland provides a claustrophobic backdrop to Shadow Dancer(15A) , in which IRA operative Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is ‘turned’ by MI6 agent Mac (Clive Owen) during the 1990s and forced to spy on her former comrades, including her brothers, Gerry (Aiden Gillen) and Conor (Domhnall Gleeson).
Adapted by Tom Bradby from his own novel, and directed by James Marsh, it’s a taut tale of double-cross and betrayal.
An excellent performance from Riseborough invests the intrigue and politicking with a quality of vulnerability and emotional intelligence rare in contemporary thrillers, but otherwise this is standard fare.
Gillen and Gleeson are bystanders for much of the proceedings, while the very fine actor David Wilmot, as an IRA intelligence officer, is given very little to do beyond conveying a stereotypical menace.
It’s also true that the twists and turns are variations on a theme that has long been worn threadbare. Shadow Dancer is a solidly made movie, but it’s neither energetic enough to truly thrill, nor insightful enough to offer a fresh take on its subject matter.
Appalled when a security guard in the idyllic town of Glenview is horribly murdered, Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) assembles The Watch (15A) to patrol the streets.
Evan, the feckless Bob (Vince Vaughn), wannabe vigilante Franklin (Jonah Hill) and mild-mannered Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) aren’t exactly a crack team, but they do manage to stumble across the truth behind the murder — there’s an alien invasion on the way.
Akiva Schaffer’s movie offers broad, puerile comedy that’s big on slapstick and ad-libbed crudity but lacks any kind of unifying plot. The story is essentially a series of set-pieces designed to showcase the quartet’s comedy chops, and while there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, the film suffers badly from a lack of comic originality.
This is not the worst film you’ll see this year, but it’s certainly one of the laziest. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.
Directed by those veterans of the gross-out comedy, the Farrelly Brothers’ The Three Stooges (PG) is actually sweet and innocent in tone. Commissioned to commit a murder in order to earn the money to save their orphanage home from being sold, Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso) and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) pretty much ignore any kind of narrative imperative and get on with what the audience wants to see, which is grown men behaving like unruly children, slapping faces, poking eyes and banging heads.
There’s plenty of slapstick comedy here too, and the Farrellys have opted for a exaggeratedly cartoonish feel to proceedings in order to appeal to a very young audience (the presence of Colombian femme fatale Sofia Vergara in tight skirts and sweaters should keep the fathers happy too).
It’s difficult to shake off the nagging feeling that Stooges fans might be better served by digging out the classic movies and watching those instead. That said, the trio make for very likeable if dim-witted heroes, and their Stooges impressions are spot-on.
The Imposter(15A) may well be one of the best documentaries of the year. Certainly it’s the latest proof that truth is always stranger than fiction. Directed by Bart Layton, it centres on Frenchman Frederic Bourdin, who managed to convince a Texas family that he was their son, Nicholas, who had been missing for three years by the time Bourdin decided to impersonate him.
Part of the fascination lies in how Layton gets Bourdin to open up and speak about his motives for pretending to be Nicholas, while the audience struggles to comprehend how Bourdin thought he’d ever get away with his deception.
Equally intriguing is the alacrity with which the Barclay family accept Bourdin as Nicholas, despite the fact that Bourdin was in his midtwenties rather than his teens when they are finally ‘reunited’, was dark where Nicholas was fair, and spoke halting English with a strong French accent.
A thriller, a psychological study and a poignant tale of loss and — according to the film — possible murder, the film unfolds like a perversely Hitchcockian take on The Talented Mr Ripley.
It’s all very unsettling, but it does make for a unique experience.
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