Jason Statham reprises his role as a tough, grizzled, hard-fighting, take-no-prisoners bruiser in a tried-and-tested cop-shop thriller noir about a psychopath targeting cops. If we can’t take care of our own, we’re not much use, says one character, as police officers drop like flies. It’s no surprise then that Statham, as Detective Sergeant Tom Brant, takes the battle outside the law. Director Elliott Lester switches uncertainly between gritty settings, campy dialogue and self-referential action-hero sequences, lending the film a jittery feel. Statham does what he does with skill and wit, but the film is so mired in cliche that it is hard to appreciate some of its better moments.
My Name Is Khan
An unconventional product from Bollywood, My Name is Khan, a film set largely in the US post-Sept. 11, tells the story of a young Muslim boy who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Directed by Karan Johar, one of Bollywood’s highest-profile directors, it provides a look through Bollywood eyes at the perils of being a Muslim in an increasingly paranoid US, and combines this with a tender love story and a meditation on human nature. Best described as a thoughtful tearjerker, My Name is Khan runs for 160 minutes. Primarily in English, with some Hindi.
The Child Prodigy (L’enfant prodige)
French film by director Luc Dionne that tells the story of the Quebecois composer and concert pianist Andre Mathieu, who gave his first public solo recital of his own work aged six, impressed Rachmaninoff as a genius when he was just 10, but who took to drink and died aged 39. The film provides an introduction to an interesting figure of contemporary classical music — described by some as the Canadian Mozart — with some fine musical performances of Mathieu’s compositions. Though handsomely shot, the film suffers from weak characterization and motivation, and degenerates into pop psychology insights as it explores the roots of Mathieu’s self-destructive later life.
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (單身男女)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is a romantic urban comedy created by veteran Hong Kong director Johnny To (杜琪峰) and screenwriter Wai Ka-fai (韋家輝). The two previously collaborated on the massively successful 2001 film Love on a Diet (瘦身男女). This genre piece plays it by the numbers. There is Gao Yuanyuan (高圓圓), a Chinese actress playing a recent immigrant to Hong Kong who is pursued by two eligible young men, the playboy turned responsible man of business (Louis Koo, 古天樂) and a top-notch architect (Daniel Wu, 吳彥祖). Performances are adequate as the attractive, well-dressed and articulate characters size each other up in the perennial mating game. It is not without some interest as a romanticized version of living the Chinese dream.
Female Agents (Les femmes de l’ombre)
Directed by Jean-Paul Salome and starring Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillain, and Deborah Francois as the agents of the title, the world of espionage never looked so glamorous. Whatever one might think about Marceau as a grim-faced sniper ace and Francois as an explosives expert, the film is exciting enough that we are not left with too much time to ponder. This old-fashioned war movie about female operatives working in France is very, very loosely based on the life of Lise de Baissac, who ran a network of agents in France under the British Special Operations Executive during World War II. Salome does not shy away from the violence of war, but the moral issues of resistance and collaboration are kept firmly out of the picture.
South Korean horror thriller by director Kim Min Suk that mixes the supernatural and heist genres, along with a healthy dose of domestic abuse, that perennial trope of Korean drama. In Haunters, the arch-villain Cho-in discovers he has psychic powers when he stops his father from beating his mother by taking control of his mind, then forcing him to break his own neck. Cho-in goes on to use these powers to obtain money, but during a heist of a pawnshop, he meets Kyu-nam, who inexplicably is immune to his mind control routine. The film follows the face-off between the two. Tough violence, strong performances and the occasional clever tweaking of genre conventions make this enjoyable entertainment.
Danish film by director Thomas Vinterberg scores high on artistry but is described by Variety magazine as “unrelentingly grim.” Two brothers brought up by an abusive and alcoholic mother meet at her funeral. Their upbringing has made them grow into damaged and emotionally unstable adults, and each in their own way are walking down a road to self-destruction, taking various other people along with them. Strong acting and acute character observation are the strong points of the film, but an overly lugubrious pace makes it feel longer than its 110 minutes.
Tears of April (Kasky)
This historical drama from celebrated Finnish director Aku Louhimies is set in Finland around 1918, on the periphery of the Russian Revolution and during a bloody civil war. Brutal violence against civilians elicits compassion from soldier Aaro Harjula, who saves one of a group of female soldiers, volunteering to take her to face trial (rather than being cut down in a massacre of enemy combatants). It’s no big surprise when the two develop romantic feelings, and Harjula is forced to witness the vicious exercise of so-called “justice” by the military to which he has sworn loyalty. Performances are strong and the historical background interesting, but the story development offers little more than conventional wartime romance.
We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay)
Life can be hard for cannibals in Mexico City, with the daily grind of picking up a member of the general public for dinner. A debut feature by Jorge Michel Grau, this is an urban fable that revels in urban decay, and its family of people-eaters only the most ghastly of many living on the fringes of subsistence. Technically, this is a more than adequate horror flick, but too much is left unexplained to make it entirely satisfying.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s/Charade/Roman Holiday
For lovers of old films and for fans of Audrey Hepburn, this week offers a glorious feast of three great films from distributor iFilm as part of its film classics series. The films will show at Ambassador (Changchun), Cinemark Cinemas (Living Mall), and Showtime Cinemas VIP (Shin-shin). A set of three tickets is available through tickets.books.com.tw for NT$749.