Drive / Red State

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsTwo grisly action-ish films this weekend, both quite different from each other.


“There are no good sharks?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: quiet guy gets involved in a crime to help out a friend and it all goes pear shaped

See it if you like: shocking, grisly violence with a dash of pathos

If you’ve seen Shoot ‘Em Up, this isn’t a million miles away as far as the basic plot goes. However, the out and out bullet-fest of Clive Owen‘s effort is instead drawn out and played in a much quieter – though no less lethal style – by Ryan Gosling.

The plot is fairly simple. Gosling plays a part-time stunt driver, part-time mechanic (and part-time getaway driver) who says very little. He gets to know his pretty next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and offers to help her husband out when he’s released from prison with a ton of “we stopped you getting knifed inside” debt. Unfortunately, the job goes belly-up and our lead is left trying to figure out what went wrong and why.

Cue bad guys hunting him down, and a sudden surge of protectiveness welling from our quiet yet violent hero.

The pace of the film may be too slow for some – certainly this was Gillian’s main complaint and I can see what she means. However, I personally thought it was well done. There are periods where little happens, but it’s a reflection of the character himself. He’s not impetuous. He’s careful, patient and plans well. Even the opening sequence is a mixture of short adrenaline bursts and stomach-clenching tension during long moments where nothing happens. It’s a bit of a gamble by director Nicolas Winding Refn, but it pays off.

As the film goes on, Gosling’s character reveals more of the bastard he really is – both verbally and in his actions. From virtually mute, his spoken scenes get longer but almost always when he’s threatening someone. And when those threats are followed through… yow.

The splatter scenes aren’t for the faint of heart. One scene was – according to the director – cut quite drastically as it was too much for the MPAA. What remains is predominantly off-camera, but still grisly. The guy sat next to me was a giggle. Every time something violent occurred 0n-screen, he sat with his hand clamped over his mouth and his eyes bugging out! I hate to think what he’d be like in a screening of a Final Destination movie.

A bit slow going, as I said, but worth the effort. Nothing hugely original, but very well acted and filmed.

Red State

“Simple just shit itself”

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a mad-as-a-box-of-badgers religious sect kidnaps three teenagers. Coincidentally, the ATF turn up at their doorstep to check on a few alleged firearms irregularities. Comedy does not ensue.

See it if you like – seeing an established director take a fresh direction

Funnily enough, I’m enjoying this film more on reflection than I did at the time. Part of this is down to the fact that I’ve just found out that the special effects budget was only $5000 and the entire thing was shot in 25 days, in order and with a cast partly including family members of the crew to keep the costs down.

If you’re expecting a gross-out comedy along the lines of Chasing Amy or a film full of Clerks-esque monologues then you’ll be disappointed. The longest monologue in the film goes to Michael Parks who plays Abin Cooper, insane leader of a small cult which may or may not be based on the real-life Westboro Baptist Church ( sadder, more pathetic bunch of fuck-rags you’ll be hard pressed to find in the western world). Sadly, this monologue is just a load of Christian claptrap and drags on far too long. Yes, we gathered he’s a nut-job. Yes, we know he’s using the Bible to justify his hatred of gays. We don’t need ten minutes of bonkers preacher man to prove it.

Other than that one segment, the film moves along at quite a pace. However, at times it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. Or what is it. Or where it was when they finished filming the day before. A case in point is just after the introduction of John Goodman‘s ATF agent. The screen goes black with a caption: “4:27am”. Yes, fine, but why tell us the time at that point in the film at at absolutely no other? Unless it’s one of the ten “Easter eggs” that director Kevin Smith says are hidden in the film.

Given the amateur status of so many of the cast, their performances are pretty damn good and the story is an interesting one – disjointed though it may be. There are some laughs, mainly of the darker variety, and don’t get too attached to any of the characters…

The ending is also rather sudden and does smack of “we’re running out of cash… how can we wrap this up?” syndrome.

At the time, we both came out of the cinema thinking “Well… that was OK”. Looking back, though, there are some good moments and it’s worth considering.

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Wall Street 2 / Made in Dagenham

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Two-film Saturday again. I popped over to the Cineworld in Edinburgh to chill out and forget the world for a few hours. First up on today’s list:

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

“Why don’t you start calling me Gordon?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young upstart financier finds himself engaged in corporate corruption, and engaged to Gordon Gekko’s daughter.

Oliver Stone returns, bringing the iconic character of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) back for a second airing some 23 years after the original. Wall Street was, and still is, an iconic piece of film-making, exposing all that was wrong with the financial world at that time. This sequel attempts to do the same, focussing on events of the last couple of years.

The films kicks off with Gekko being released from prison while his estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) is shacked up with a fledgling financier, Jake Moore (charisma vacuum Shia LaBeouf). The bank Jake works for starts to crumble, his mentor and boss Louis (superbly played by Frank Langella) tops himself and Jake finds himself “teaming up” with Gekko in a bid to find out what happened to start the whole mess.

LaBeouf is the odd one out in this film as he’s capable, but just not that great. Given his past roster has included being eye candy for girls in the awful fourth Indiana Jones film, and the teen-kid from both Transformers movies it does surprise me to see him in a “serious” role. He’s OK as far as it goes, but just doesn’t really carry it off that well.

Douglas is, of course, excellent. Slimey, sleezy… and you never quite know if he’s being genuine which does lend itself well to the plot. Langella, as I mentioned, was superb – probably the best actor in the film.

It’s a tad under two hours long, but manages not to flag right the way through and the story carries on right until the very end with little “fluff” hanging off the plot. Having said that, there are few major surprises as we go through other than the very end which is – in honesty – a little weak.

Perhaps not as powerful a film a the original, and mainly as we are now as a public somewhat more informed of what happens in the financial world. After the revelation that was Gekko’s first appearance we have discovered that sharks like that aren’t just movie characters and villains in books. On the flip side, it makes things all the more believable.

The reviews I heard on the radio yesterday weren’t all that favourable, but I enjoyed it. In fact, I think I’m going to try and find a copy of the original to watch. It’s been a long time and I’d like to compare them.

Made in Dagenham

“Unskilled, my arse!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Company pays peanuts to women, they go on strike, shit hits fan, world is changed.

Based on the real events of 1968, Made in Dagenham follows the story of a couple of hundred female workers who downed tools and forced first the world’s largest motor manufacturer, and then the British government to change the law relating to sexual equality.

The film begins with the gears already in motion, the women threatening to turn off their sewing machines unless they are given a better pay grade. On their side is foreman Albert (Bob Hoskins) and he drafts Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) in as a right-hand-woman. They also allegedly have the support of the union, characterised by the slothful Monty Taylor (Kenneth Cranham).

Meetings go from bad to worse, and the women walk out causing problems further down the production line as the new “Escort” has no seats to fit into it. As the situation blows out of proportion, men are laid off, factories close and Ford execs are shipped to the UK to try and deal with both the workers and our government.

Top two cast members for me have to be Richard Schiff (Toby from TV’s The West Wing, looking surprisingly young without a beard) as one of the execs, and Miranda Richardson as then First Secretary of State  Barbara Castle. She really does bossy and shouty very well, and I confess I can’t see her without thinking of her as the Queen in Blackadder II.

The story twists and turns with both high and low moments. The women’s demands increase from “a bit more cash” to “equal pay” back in the day when women were routinely paid a fraction of the amount that men were for the same work. Council estate hardship is compared to posh house luxury as Rita befriends the wife of one of the factory bosses (played by a damn hot Rosamund Pike), giving another facet to the story as women’s domestic suffering is also highlighted.

There’s a fair bit going on here and on the whole it’s played in a lighthearted way, but it’s a fantastic story boiled down to a little over ninety minutes. How close it is to the actual events is down to the historians to tell me, but it’s a very entertaining dramatisation and I’d highly recommend it. Another victory for British cinema.

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