Resident Evil: Retribution
Female action heroes are in pretty short supply, and if you except megastar Angelina Jolie, then the queen of this small category is indubitably Milla Jovovich, who seems to have been genetically engineered for the express purpose of killing people in exotic ways while wearing a spandex bodysuit. Retribution is the 5th in the Resident Evil franchise, and inevitably with such movies, the setting is now international (tag line: “Evil goes global”), and the villains more numerous and have bigger killing machines. And, it goes without saying, it will be in 3D.
Another in a series of feature films with a revelatory agenda (eg: Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids), in this case to expose the failure of America’s school system. Directed by Tony Kaye (who also directed American History X), Detachment provides a magnificent vehicle for its star Adrien Brody, whose performance as dedicated substitute teacher Henry Barthes is seen by some critics as his best work since The Pianist. The hectoring tone, stylistic gimmicks (deliberately crude animation sequences, direct address to camera) and tabloid sensationalism of the film have annoyed many critics, who nevertheless acknowledge that the film has visceral power.
Director/writer Avie Luthra is both a filmmaker and a practicing psychiatrist, and although the dramatic development of his story of a Zulu AIDS orphan and a short-tempered Indian woman who comes to his rescue (initially for no more than financial gain) is predictable, the quality of the script and the acting make Lucky both warmhearted and real. The central character, Lucky (Sihle Dlamini), is anything but, and moreover, he is far from being a loveable youth. He is bitter and violent, and his savior, played by celebrated Indian stage actress Jayashree Basavaraj, is rapacious and mean. But people change, and Luthra handles these transformations with great sensitivity and insight.
The Prey (La Proie)
Action-packed French film from director Eric Valette and starring veteran tough guy Albert Dupontel. There are plenty of twists and turns in a tale of imprisoned armed robber Franck Adrien, who is a little too forthcoming to a cellmate. After this cellmate’s release, Adrien discovers that his revelations have put his family at risk. He escapes, and a many-tiered manhunt begins. The story is not original, and some of the action sequences a bit too obviously copied from Hollywood, but direction is taut and the cast of veterans provides efficient character portraits.
Publicity material proudly states that this film, directed by Edmond Pang (彭浩翔) was shot in just 12 days, and Vulgaria has all the qualities of a hastily cobbled together variety show comedy. Pang, whose career as a novelist, show host and filmmaker amply prove that he has his hand on the pulse of Chinese pop culture, may yet strike gold with this off-beat comedy about a unsuccessful film director who gets drawn into a film project in backwoods China financed by Mafia money and aimed at fulfilling various libidinous impulses of the film’s main backer.