Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from September, 2014

These guys are monsters. They're not human.

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)
(SPOILERS) I have to wonder quite what writer-director Scott Frank saw in Lawrence Block’s pulp novel, such that the project kept returning to him over the course of the last 15 years. Even more, that it attained quasi-mythical status owing to a failed attempt to get it filmed with Harrison Ford during that period. Because there’s absolutely nothing in this material, as translated to screen at least, to justify such veneration and compulsion. A Walk Among the Tombstones is a well-made but generic potboiler, one that harkens back to standard issue ‘90s serial killer fare (making the period in which it is set thus seem appropriate for all the wrong reasons), rather than setting its sights on the best and most creative the genre has to offer.

Block is nothing if not a prolific author; more than 50 novels, of which 17 feature alcoholic unlicensed private detective Matthew Scudder (here played by Liam Neeson). Tombstones was the 10th to be published, back in…

There is a God, and I’m going to meet him.

The Rapture (1991)
(SPOILERS) Michael Tolkin was Hollywood flavour of the month for a brief spell following the acclaim that greeted his script for The Player, which revolved around Hollywood flavours of the month. It bagged him an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay but his subsequent movie career has been patchy, consisting mostly of script doctoring here and there. This may be partly because his name is associated, rightly or wrongly, with that rarefied field (for Tinsteltown) of thoughtful discourses on morality, religion and metaphysics. There isn’t much call for such musings most of the time; fast food versions are much more digestible, and California is renowned for glib but whacky cults and fringe belief systems. Tolkin’s purest distillations of these themes came in two directorial efforts during the early 1990s. The Rapture was the first of these, and betrays many of the shortcomings of a writer taking tentative steps behind the camera. It’s main problem, however, is t…

I have made my decision.

Locke (2013)
There’s always a danger with movies that self-consciously restrict themselves – be it sticking to one location, or a minimal cast – that they become little more than formal exercises. Alternately, they can end up seeming over theatrical (since they adapt or adopt conventions of the stage) or they really should have been a short film and struggle to reach feature length. Phone Booth is one such example; in and of itself entertaining but the high concept keeps hitting you in the face. On the other hand you never question the close-quarter intimacy of My Dinner with Andre, so fascinating is the conversation. Locke comes with the “an exercise in limitations” strapline leading the way; an entire movie set in a car, with its protagonist talking down the phone? That’s asking for trouble. And yet, because writer-director Steven Knight eschews (nearly) anything that would invite disbelief (this is very much not “Die Hard in a BMW”) the 90 minutes play out with remarkable conviction.…