A treatise on masculinity masquerading as a fairytale love story, The Lucky One (12A) stars Zac Efron as Logan, who finds a picture of a beautiful blonde woman while serving as a Marine in Iraq.
The act of finding the picture saves his life, which may well be fate — either way, Logan serves out his tour, rotates back home, and sets out to find his lucky charm. It’s not giving away too much to say that he finds her, given that he ambles up to Beth’s (Taylor Schilling) ‘dog motel’ even before the opening credits stop rolling, but then the whole point of The Lucky One, which is directed by Scott Hicks and adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, is to compare and contrast various kinds of manliness: the surly, possessive aggression of Beth’s ex-husband and town sheriff, Keith (Jay R Ferguson) is entirely opposed to the Zen-like calm of Logan, who not only plays chess, but likes to read philosophy and play piano too. Which of the two men is likely to woo Beth as a father-figure for her son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart)? It’s a foregone conclusion, of course, but Efron deftly sidesteps the clichés that litter the narrative with a minimalist take on the strong, silent hero, his soulful eyes and brooding presence investing this movie a touch more heft that its predictable script deserves.
Safe (16s) is a standard Jason Statham vehicle: loud, fast and roaring a sound and fury that signifies nothing. Reduced to suicidal tendencies when Russian mobsters kill his pregnant wife, ex-cop Luke Wright (Statham) has one last shot at redemption him when he rescues a young girl, Mei (Catherine Chan), from the clutches of a Triad. The trouble is, Mei is a maths genius, and has various Triad safe codes worth millions memorised — codes the Russians want. And so the Russians and the Chinese go after Luke and Mei, with a host of corrupt cops thrown in for good measure. That, essentially, is the plot, but writer-director Boaz Yakin pares every excess pound of flesh off this already thin material to create an adrenaline-fuelled thriller that makes a virtue of Statham’s deadpan persona. The villains are cardboard cut-outs, the body-count is preposterously high and the twists and turns are rarely surprising, but given that the story takes place over one night, and that the movie is almost entirely comprised of one bravura set-piece action sequence after another, a marked lack of character development isn’t really an issue. Safe is an expertly crafted stripped-down shoot-’em-up.
Silent House (16s) is a remake of La casa muda, an inventive Uruguayan horror flick from 2010. This version starts out with a young woman, Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), helping her father (Adam Treese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) pack up some belongings in an old house that’s under renovation, their work interrupted by some ominous noises from upstairs. All of which sounds like a bog-standard haunted-house opening: the twist here is that the house lacks electricity, so virtually all of the lighting comes courtesy of lanterns and hand-held torches, a neat little conceit that adds hugely to the unsettling scenario, especially as the story unfolds in real time. In a nutshell, it’s akin to that famous scene from The Blair Witch Project in which the terrorised woman babbles into the camera, but given that Olsen (who was tremendous in her debut, Martha, Marcy Marlene) is on camera for the duration of the movie, it’s a tremendous performance.
Finally, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 3D (G) is re-released in 3D this week, and even if the updated technology doesn’t hugely enhance the viewing experience, it really didn’t need to: originally released in 1991, it’s still a wonderful piece of cinema. Famously the only animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, the story of how Beauty (Paige O’Hara) escapes the clutches of the boorish Gaston (Richard White) and soothes the savage Beast (Robby Benson) works as an escapist fantasy-musical for princess-obsessed little girls, or — for the adults — a treatise on domestic violence, and male masculinity, masquerading as a fairytale love story.
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