Inherent Vice: intrinsic instability

This gloriously shambolic, rambling psychedelic mess of a movie brilliantly captures a slice of 1970’s beach-bum life, mixing it with all the black paranoia of hard-boiled noir. Only an extremely ambitious auteur (or an idiot) would attempt to translate Thomas Pynchon’s loosely lucid perspectives in film form. Paul Thomas Anderson deserves credit for even having…

Sleepless Night: a chaotic cocaine chase

Instantly intense, Sleepless Night immediately plunges into the action before the (cleverly reversed) title credits have left the screen. Within two minutes, tyres are squealing and there’s automatic weapons fire on the Parisian backstreets as a drugs heist gets messy. Then things get really complicated when we discover that the robbers are actually cops… This…

Dark Tourist: small story, big impact

For a film obviously produced with few resources and on a tight budget, DT convincingly delivers a menacing, occasionally savage depiction of the corruption of the human psyche. However, it starts so slowly that you’ll be tempted to put the kettle on in the first twenty minutes, and as it’s only a short film –…

El Nino: an intelligent narcotic caper

Despite its title, El Nino has nothing to do with global weather systems. It’s a stylish slice of Spanish movie-making and, like a lot of Eurocrime, this drug-smuggling drama leans heavily towards art-house cinema and a long way from outright action-adventure. The two-hour subtitled film explores themes and situations which Hollywood moved on from 20…

Horns: murder-mystery with a devilish twist

It’s never easy adapting a quirky book into an interesting film. ‘Horns’ turned out to be much better than you might expect. It’s an engaging, entertaining murder-mystery with a preposterous but perfectly accomplished supernatural spin. Take away the horns and you have a genre standard, wrongly-accused, coming of age investigation which centres on the brutal…

The Equalizer: equal and almost opposite

For more than two hours, this intelligent, taut, low-key thriller kept us entertained and engaged. It far exceeds expectation, and delivers a typically thoughtful and powerful performance from Denzel Washington. It also perfectly sets up a sequel or TV series, but it’s now hard to imagine someone other than Denzel taking centrestage in the role…

Closed Circuit: a quiet kind of conspiracy thriller

A clever, low-key thriller, Closed Circuit has more in common with Tinker Tailor than Jason Bourne. It’s a typically English conspiracy, exploring similar issues of modern political morality as Bill Nighy’s Page Eight, and harking back to the days of Sandbaggers and beyond. This is most definitely not a running / shooting / shouting action-adventure…

Pioneer: art-house underwater intrigue

  More art-house than action-adventure, Pioneer nonetheless kept us utterly gripped with intriguing plot developments, stunning underwater photography and a powerful central performance. There is, inevitably, an American re-make on the way but this multilingual Scandinavian film (with subtitles, no need to learn Norwegian) perfectly captures the feel of the times. In common with many…

God’s Pocket: a fitting farewell to Philip Seymour Hoffman

God’s Pocket is the kind of low-key high-brow crime drama typical of Continental cinema which Hollywood rarely produces. That probably explains why the American audience didn’t quite know how to take it. It mixes bitterly bleak, stiletto-sharp social observation with slapstick snapshots of comedy, played to perfection by a sweatily lumbering but utterly understated Hoffman.…