There are, putting it mildly, plenty of people who would like to see Mel Gibson thrown into a hellhole of a Mexican prison and the key thrown away, given his increasingly deranged anti-Semitic rants.
In How I Spent My Summer Vacation (16s), Gibson plays Driver, an American career criminal who is captured on the US-Mexican border with a car-load of cash. The corrupt Mexican cops steal the money and put Driver in prison, presuming that he won’t last the week, but the relentlessly amoral Driver prospers, due in part to a helping hand from a fellow inmate, the 10-year-old Kid (Kevin Hernandez). Can Driver escape his nightmarish existence? And why is the Kid so jealously protected by the prison’s head honcho, Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho)? The challenge here for the audience is to set aside their instinctive dislike of Gibson the tarnished movie star and focus on his performance, which is sufficiently hard-boiled to be both enjoyable and persuasive, although Gibson’s laconic voice-over detracts from the building tension. The most fascinating aspect of the movie is the prison itself, which is in effect a small slum suburb, complete with shops, bars, massage parlours and heroin shooting galleries, and which is run by the inmates as the endlessly biddable prison guards look on, or look elsewhere. Solidly constructed, the movie patiently builds towards an explosive finale of balletic, slow-mo carnage in which director Adrian Grunberg gets to indulge his inner Sam Peckinpah. You may well find yourself wishing that Driver /Gibson suffered a bit more in his Mexican purgatory, but overall it’s a satisfying thriller.
Who better to explore the gothic conventions of the vampire flick than director Tim Burton; and who better to play the classically pale, emaciated but beautiful undead predator than his career muse, Johnny Depp? In Dark Shadows (12A), Barnabas Collins (Depp) sails to the New World in 1752, but his playboy instincts undermine the fortune he makes when he woos a witch, Angelique (Eva Green), and then spurns her. Damned as a vampire, Barnabas is buried alive, only to be resurrected in 1972, to discover that his descendants, led by the matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), are a rather dysfunctional bunch. Dark Shadows depends for its humour on the juxtaposition of Barnabas Collins’ olde world manners and speech and the hippy-friendly milieu of 1972, his genteel, camp mannerisms at odds with his predilection for (literally) bloodthirsty rampages and his seducing of virtually every woman in sight. It all feels like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) crossed with The Witches of Eastwick (1987), a blend that affords plenty of opportunity to wonder why Burton and Depp are wasting their talents in a largely pointless spoof.
Set in contemporary Bolton, and directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls, Made in Dagenham), All in Good Time (15A) is the third offering from screenwriter Ayub Khan-Din, who has previously written East is East (1999) and West is West (2010). Newly married couple Vina (Amara Karan) and Atul (Reece Ritchie) have a very modern, British outlook on life, while their parents, particularly Atul’s father, are still rooted in the old traditions of their Indian homeland. The crux of the matter is Atul’s inability to consummate the marriage whilst living at home with his parents, his angst bound up in his complex relationship with his overbearing father. The tale is charmingly, and endearingly, old-fashioned in its concerns and its eventual resolution.
Written and directed by Terry McMahon, Charlie Casanova (16s) stars Emmett Scanlan as the eponymous anti-hero, a middle-class Irish sociopath bent on provoking his friends into behaving like Nietzschean supermen during a weekend conference, eventually goading them into cold-blooded murder. McMahon’s tale is a bold attempt to hold a mirror up to contemporary Ireland, its hypocrisies and mild-mannered failings, but his potentially subversive call to arms is crudely and clumsily delivered.
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