Movie reviews: The Frozen Ground

Life’s A Breeze (12A) might have Pat Shortt on its poster but Lance Daly’s (Kisses, The Halo Effect) film centres on Fionnula Flanagan’s grouchy pensioner and debutant Kelly Thornton’s sullen teenager, using the Tipperary comedian for occasional comic effect.

Flanagan’s Nan is something of a hoarder, which causes live-in son Shortt consternation when he’s trying to find his birth certificate for the dole office. Fed up with the mess, Shortt and his siblings (Eva Birthistle among them) give the house a spring clean, tossing out all the collected rubbish that line the halls and stairs. However, in their enthusiasm they also turf out Nan’s old mattress, which, she maintains, was host to her life savings — almost a million euro. Lance Daly is a writer-director with a knack of finding something beautiful in the ugly; Kisses boasted a pure friendship amongst the grimy Dublin streets and Life’s A Breeze’s best scenes take place in a landfill, where the caustic Flanagan lets her guard down to remember her late husband in a touching monologue, and where Thornton tiptoes around a disused inner city warehouse, which, for a few moments, turns Breeze into an urban Alice In Wonderland fantasy. While Daly doesn’t make all the plot elements click like he did with Kisses, Life’s A Breeze remains likeable and cute. It’ll make your mammy smile.

Since his iconic role in High Fidelity 13 years ago, John Cusack has been somewhat adrift, trying out everything from action hero (2012) to gothic writer (The Raven) to put-upon time traveller (Hot Tub Time Machine) with varying degrees of success. He might have tapped into something here, though — his serial killer in The Frozen Ground (16) is his best performance in a decade. Cusack plays Alaskan baker Robert Hansen who, in 1983, was sentenced to 461 years for the murder of 17 women, but many more are suspected. However, at the opening of this icy, moody thriller, state trooper Jack Halcombe (a strangely restrained Nicolas Cage), has fingered him for only three and he has no case until prostitute Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) turns up dishevelled in a motel, shrieking about escaping some guy who was trying to kill her. Cindy’s unexpected escape forces the methodical Hansen to abandon his measured selection process to kidnap Cindy all over again and silence the one person who could identify him. Making his debut, writer-director Scott Walker can get too comfy with some story clichés — Cage is two weeks away from a new job, this case puts pressure on his marriage (Radha Mitchell plays the ignored wife), and something is made of Hudgens being the same age as Cage’s sister when she died — but when it comes to the visuals, mirroring the recent bleak Scandinavian thrillers, he delivers. A deviation from the true events proves its undoing, however, as the neat and tidy thriller opts for an action chase to lend a Hollywood push. While Hudgens moves further away from her Disney days with a believable turn as the foul-mouthed prostitute, it’s Cusack’s previously untapped levels of creepiness that’s the real surprise.

The greatest night of Gary King’s (Simon Pegg) life was the night he and his pals finished school and attempted his town’s legendary pub crawl. Despite collapsing in a heap before The World’s End (16), the titular last pub of 12, Gary knew that this was a special moment in time and would never be replicated. Or could it? Twenty years later, he rounds up the gang for one more stab at it but something’s different — Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan aren’t the up-for-it teens they were. Not only that, everyone in their hometown has changed too — they don’t recognise these prodigal sons. Could it they have been replaced by mindless alien drones or is it this new beer they’re drinking? The latest from the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz writing/acting/directing team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright replicates what worked in those comedies — familiar male camaraderie, everyday blokeishness, and the movie references (the story is basically a Body Snatchers/Village of the Damned mash-up) — but also elements that are those movies’ undoing — repetition, self- indulgence and an over-long running time. The World’s End takes an age to get going, with only the unusually abrasive Pegg to ‘enjoy’ until it does, but it becomes belatedly engaging.


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