43 posts categorized "Thriller"

August 16, 2016

CANNES 2015: DISORDER

DisorderBoth of its opaque titles (“Maryland” for its Cannes’ Un Certain Regard premiere) describe the muddy nature of this unsatisfying thriller. Mathias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger elevate its by-committee script, if only by a few degrees.

Co-writer/director Alice Winocour goes for a neo-noir style that falls flat. Visually, this movie is a snooze. It develops an optical-drone effect due to a drab and dark lighting design that saps all energy. The B-movie narrative at play lacks enough substance to counter balance this lopsided movie. 

Vincent (Schoenaerts) is a former French Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard to protect Jessie (Diane Kruger) and her son Ali (Zaid Errougui-Demonsant) while her Lebanese arms-dealing husband Whalid (Percy Kemp) is away on business. File this title under Eurotrash cinema.

The predictably stoic Vincent suffers constantly from symptoms of PTSD. Still, he’s easily able to turn up the heat when sudden danger appears, as it does frequently. There’s no shortage of sexy onscreen chemistry between Kruger and Schoenaerts, but it doesn’t go far enough for a film that a director such as William Friedkin, Paul Verhoeven, or David Fincher would have ramped up considerably. A script re-write would be the first step.

Disorder-Movie

Winocour eventually pulls out all the stops in a stylized knock-down-drag-out-orgy-of- violence that leaves the audience feeling cold. There isn’t much to like about a movie whose raison d’etre is gratuitous violence. "Disorder" flopped in Cannes, and now it will flop at the box office. 

Not Rated. 98 mins. (C-) One star — out of five / no halves.

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August 06, 2015

THE GIFT

Gift Triple-threat (writer, director, and actor) Joel Edgerton delivers a tight no-frills suspense thriller that comes complete with a noteworthy twist ending that will have audiences buzzing. Featuring an exquisite cast that includes Allison Tolman (of television’s “Fargo” fame), the back-loaded narrative finds everyman Simon (Jason Bateman) moving into an architecturally pleasing house with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall).

That their vista-complete home sits mere miles away from where Simon grew up proves to be more a stumbling block for the couple’s plans of having a baby and living a normal life. Gordo (played by Edgerton) went to middle school with Simon, but his memories of their juvenile days together aren’t so fond. A chance meeting in a housewares store puts the socially awkward Gordo in touch with Simon and Robyn. They take down Gordo’s number, but the polite interaction gives “Gordo-the-weirdo” cause to drop off a doorstep gift that leads to a series of unsolicited presents and unannounced visits. Gordo gets in the habit of stopping by to hang out with Robyn during the day when Simon is away at his well-paid day job.

The Gift
Edgerton flips audience expectations as the creepy Gordo’s reasons for being the messed up individual he is become painfully clear. Aside from a few gratuitously heavy-handed shocks, “The Gift” is an original thriller tied up with a thematic bow about how everyone reaps what he or she sows. Karma is everywhere you look.

Rated R. 108 mins. (B+) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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January 08, 2014

SORCERER — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Sorcerer-posterWilliam Friedkin leveraged the influence he accrued with the enormous box office successes of "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist" — both films also won Oscars — to live out his dream of remaking Henri-Georges Clouzot's groundbreaking 1955 thriller "Le Salaire de la Peur" ("Wages of Fear"), albeit with a sharper socio-political-corporate commentary and an even tougher visual style. The director’s decision to use an outré electronic music score by Tangerine Dream adds considerably to creating a volatile vibe that complements screenwriter Walon Green's perceptive adaptation of Georges Arnaud's anti-capitalist 1950 novel.

During its finely crafted first act, Friedkin masterfully sets up the back-stories of four criminals from around the globe who end up in the same backwater town in Venezuela where an oil well fire burns out of control some 200 miles away. The manmade disaster gives the desperate refugees an opportunity to make a sizable sum of money — if they can successfully deliver cases of nitro-sweating dynamite to the site to stanch the out-of-control blaze.

Despite Friedkin's public grousing about Roy Scheider being the “wrong actor” for the film’s leading man role of Jackie Scanlon — the director originally wanted to cast Steve McQueen — the reliably dedicated Scheider delivers a gutsy performance that is every bit as solid as his work on "Jaws," if not better. Indeed, Scheider is the only name actor in the film.

Infamous battles between the then ego-bloated Friedkin and the film’s production companies (Paramount and Universal) — over casting and budgetary concerns — were exacerbated by costly set disasters. One such crisis involved an expensive rope suspension bridge used in one of the film's most gripping sequences. The specially created hydraulic-controlled bridge extended over shallow riverbed in an area that never flooded — at least not until shooting was scheduled to begin. A still image from the nail-biting scene was used in the film’s extraordinary poster. It remains one of the most anxiety-inducing scenes in the history of cinema.

Sorcerer

"Sorcerer" had the misfortune of being released at the same time as "Star Wars," and as such flopped at the box office in the blink of an eye — not that the powers that be didn’t set it up to bomb. After bleeding money during the film’s far over-budget production, Universal and Paramount wrote the picture off as a loss and put no effort into distribution or publicity. For the first time in his career William Friedkin failed as a filmmaker — not because of the superb product he delivered, but rather the way he played the system. His outsized pride caught up with him just when he thought he was above it all.

It's rare that a remake lives up to the original upon which it was based, much less exceeds it, but William Friedkin’s "Sorcerer" is that exceptional movie. It remains one of the most overlooked cinematic masterpieces of all time.

Rated PG. 121 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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