You wait ages for a good revenge thriller to come along, and then Dead Man Down (15A) packs two revenge scenarios into the same movie.
Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a low-level criminal in a gang run by Alphonse (Terrence Howard). When Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) spies Victor beating a man to death in his apartment, she blackmails him into killing the drunk driver who disfigured her in an automobile accident. It’s a straightforward set-up but Victor has other plans: Alphonse ordered the killing of Victor’s wife and child some years previously, and Victor has infiltrated Alphonse’s gang in order to wipe them all out. Either storyline would have sufficed for the purpose of raising the questions Niels Arden Oplev’s film asks, but in attempting to incorporate both and splice them together, Oplev and screenwriter JH Wyman create a story that is unnecessarily cluttered, confusing and undermined by plot-holes. That’s a pity, because the performances deserved better. Rapace — best known for playing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — offers a nuanced turn, while Dominic Cooper, playing Victor’s best friend, is a bright-eyed bundle of coiled energy as he investigates the murder committed by Victor. Farrell, meanwhile, is superb in the lead role, utterly convincing even as his character vacillates between hardboiled killer and poignantly bereft husband and father. Indeed, it’s one of Farrell’s best roles to date, and his brooding intensity just about compensates for the erratic storytelling.
You may want to take the title of I’m So Excited (16s) with a pinch of salt. Pedro Almodovar’s latest film takes place in the first class section of a plane heading from Spain to Mexico, with the characters thrown into turmoil when it’s discovered that the plane’s landing gear has failed, and there’s a very good chance they’ll all die. This being an Almodovar film, the characters are a colourful bunch: a failed banker, a dominatrix, a 40-something virgin, a hitman, a bisexual pilot and a trio of camp male air stewards. Shenanigans ensue, most of them drenched in all manner of sexual innuendo, in what is essentially a drawing-room farce — although Almodovar, directing his own script, is actually engaged in making a spoof of a drawing-room farce. It’s difficult to successfully mock clichés (in this respect I’m So Excited is bizarrely reminiscent of Airplane!), and Almodovar fails to rise to the challenge he sets himself. While the slapstick is neatly choreographed and the set-piece musical number is deliciously camp, the decision to focus on each character’s personality quirk results in a thin, episodic tale that never quite coalesces into a satisfying whole. All in all, it’s a disappointingly slight offering from the director who has previously given us classics such as Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), All About My Mother (1999) and The Skin I Live In (2011)..
21 & Over (16s) opens with Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), taking him out to celebrate his 21st birthday on the night before a crucial college exam. The rites-of-passage hi-jinks quickly degenerate into full-blown mayhem, however, when Miller and Casey attempt to return the drunk Jeff to his rooms, and realise they have no idea of where he lives. What follows is a night of unbridled hedonism as the trio negotiate the party-crazed college environs, but there’s precious little that’s new or interesting in the frat-boy frolics dreamed up by co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who were previously responsible for writing The Hangover. Apart from an occasionally glimpsed sensitive side to Casey, who is at least given a semblance of depth by Skylar Astin, the main characters are brash, crude, coarse and profane, and give us no reason at all to root for them. The single intriguing proposition in the entire film is raised by Casey, when he asks Miller if they would have become friends had they met in college rather than as kids, but this notion is given short shrift, possibly because it would require a degree of emotional intelligence that the one-dimensional characters simply weren’t built to accommodate. Indeed, it’s something of an irony that the animated movies they make for kids have far more depth and resonance than the cartoonish fare aimed at teenage boys these days.
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