This week's new releases watched, dissected, and reviewed
3/5 Dir Tom Tykwer US (15+) They fund regime change in unstable African nations and sell weapons. Their financial tendrils are everywhere because real global power is about controlling debt. They are the International Bank of Business and Credit. Yes, the money men are the new villains in this timely thriller, which sets the rumpled integrity of Interpol agent Clive Owen and pinched determination of US investigator Naomi Watts on the trail of skullduggery resulting when the IBBC hires a ‘consultant’ (read: hitman) to cover its tracks. The quest for truth and justice involves a familiar parade of shady meetings, car chases, punch-ups and a truly spectacular shoot-out inside New York’s Guggenheim, though the increasingly scrambled plotting doesn’t quite measure up to director Tom Tykwer’s slinky, elegant handling of it.
Eventually, you just let the tangled double-crossing take care of itself and enjoy the way the film defiantly bucks the contemporary thriller trend for shaky-cam coverage and lightning cuts. Instead, there’s a slow-burning pleasure to be had from the clarity of Tykwer’s widescreen framing, the way he sets up scenes with an ominously stately aerial glide over cityscapes and gleaming modern architecture. While Owen does scruffy steeliness as well as any man alive, this is less about the performers than sustained subtle unease, adeptly orchestrated by the electric undertow of Tykwer, Reinhold and Klimek’s suavely insidious score. A shame, really, that the story folds in the final third, but for its sculptural qualities there’s much to savour here. Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados, prepare yourselves. Trevor Johnston Dhs85 in all good stores
2/5 Dir Neil LaBute US (15+) Neil LaBute’s sheer perversity is almost admirable. Many careers would simply have folded after a catastrophe like his ‘remake’ of The Wicker Man, but he’s back again as director-for-hire on… get this… a home-invasion paranoid thriller which whisks us back to the early ’90s yuppies-in-peril scenarios. There is a twist, of course, since the nice couple (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington) moving into a new house are of mixed race, which sure does push the buttons of their neighbour, hard-ass LA cop Samuel L Jackson, who’s clearly no fan of integration – not least when it’s right there in the backyard pool, visible from his kids’ bedrooms.
Bristling umbrage morphs into intimidation and worse, leaving the victims no recourse to the LAPD, while bush fires close in on the suburb where the Rodney King incident unfolded. Understated symbolism or what? Actually, there are hints of a much better movie, since all is not rainbow-nation fulfillment in the couple’s household. Wilson oozes smug WASP-graduate entitlement and the whole set-up gets us questioning our attitudes since one can’t help pondering the effect of making the bullying neighbour white instead. It’s just that Jackson is stuck in a groove of mouthy self-righteousness which makes the character a cartoon long before the script lumbers towards its formulaic showdown. Still, the yawning chasm between the film’s aspirations and its cheese-o-licious straight-to-video construction make it a chucklesome guilty pleasure. Trevor Johnston Dhs85 in all good stores