What happens when one of America’s finest living writers teams up with one of its most laughable? James Ellroy’s mastery of the crime genre is by now indisputable. Kurt Wimmer is the creative force behind sci-fi underachiever Equilibrium. When they met it was… mediocre.
Numerous well-worn Ellroy themes crop up as Keanu Reeves’ morally ambiguous cop investigates the murder of his treacherous former partner, presided over by Forest Whitaker’s paternalistic but shadowy captain. Director Ayer’s stated aim was a police procedural free of the usual stereotypes, but every aspect of this production is riddled with the worst kinds of cliché. For British viewers, the sight of Hugh Laurie cursing a blue streak still has a certain undeniable charm. And as the plot contrivances pile up and the bodycount spirals, the film threatens to tip into outright pastiche, transforming a commonplace thriller into a low-rent camp classic. But sadly this never happens – Ayer’s grip on his abysmal material is too sure, and what could have been endearingly daft remains merely forgettable. Tom Huddleston
The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Like the second instalments of Peter Jackson’s Rings cycle and the Potter films, the latest Narnia adventure goes ‘dark’. But don’t be too worried. Admittedly, the cosy wardrobe is gone, the witch is put on ice and the lion has gone walkabout. Also, while the four Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – have spent a boring year back at school in World War II London, Narnia has undergone a repressive 1,300-year dark age, dispensing the likes of sweet faun Mr Tumnus to history. But as soon as you see the tunnel of Strand tube station open before the four gas-mask-carrying siblings and plonk them straight onto a Swiss Family Robinson-style island, you know all’s well.
Director Andrew Adamson has decided to vamp up the battle scenes, including ranks of CGI-copied soldiers that frankly look second rate against Jackson’s set pieces. Likewise, his new scratch army of characters – from grumpy dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), to sword-fighting mouse Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) and a stable of red-faced centaurs – seem derivative. And, further, there’s arguably too much distracting ‘business’ with the weirdly Iberian-accented new ‘enemy’, the Telmarines. But, all that said, Prince Caspian retains a winning, albeit old-fashioned charm of its own. Much of that is down to the performances of the siblings – notably Georgie Henley’s Lucy – who balance the film’s fantastic excursions with a sweetly domestic sense of scale. Wally Hammond
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