The Water Diviner

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DIR: Russell Crowe • WRI: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios PRO: Troy Lum, Andrew Mason, Keith Rodger • DOP: Andrew Lesnie • ED: Matt Villa • MUS: David Hirschfelder • DES: Chris Kennedy • CAST: Isabel Lucas, Jai Courtney, Olga Kurylenko, Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe goes Oscar hunting in the director’s chair with The Water Diviner, a historical fiction about a father’s search for his dead sons after the WWI battle at the Ottoman. It’s clear early on that Crowe doesn’t have the subtle subjective hand to make such done-to-death subject matter any more compelling than what has gone before it.

 

Olga Kurlyenko is great to look at but can’t act. Russell Crowe can act and does his usual thing of being gruff and charmingly unapproachable, but his mood fluctuates too inappropriately in this. You watch it and can’t help but wish there was a better director to navigate the tone. But no, it’s Crowe that’s calling the shots. Admittedly though, there are some nice shots in it, with some nifty tracking across the scenery, particularly in his home that engages and might even surprise. Structurally the film is solid but becomes predictable and towards the end just downright pedestrian.

 

Like in any war movie the battle scenes are key. In this film they are terrible. Not for the want of trying, they’re shot at considerable scale and there’s no little amount of energy shown when the Aussies and Turks throw down. But, blurred slow motion has been outmoded since the turn of the last century and it’s largely used to compensate for an action scene’s lack of tension. Neither does Crowe feel the need to bother with such gimmicks as filmic realism. All I’ll say is this, if you shoot someones face from absolute point-blank range, it’s going to do more damage than a cut on the forehead.

 

The title refers to Russell Crowe’s less than holistic profession of someone who uses his senses to detect water underground and plunge it out. The efficacy of this is something the movie is pretty ambivalent about, but sees enough to allow Crowe’s character to suss out his sons remains in the rubble four years after they were killed. That’s fine, family connections and all that, but you can’t help but think the title was dreamed up as a way to shift the story along in order to draw some blood. One of the opening scenes with Crowe using his apparatus (coat-hanger) to find water and dig it out is dangerously close to the introduction in Their Will Be Blood. Possible spoilers here, but Russell Crowe is no Daniel Plainview. And he’s certainly no Paul Thomas Anderson.

 

It’s a perfectly serviceable film, it’s nowhere near bad enough to get angry at, it plays it safe enough to avoid offending, but it surely made it into cinemas because the director is Superman’s dad.

 

And that’s the frustration of this movie – I really, really wanted to care. Even if that meant expending energy in hating it rather than just thinking it was okay. Nothing. You can tell that Crowe had good intentions, this was more than an Aussie flag-waving exercise for him, he wanted to tell a story. But he doesn’t have the tools to do it, and no amount of twisted coat-hangers is going to change that.

Shane Hennessy

15A (See IFCO for details)
111 minutes

The Water Diviner is released 3rd April 2015

The Water Diviner – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Red Dawn

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DIR: Dan Bradley • WRI: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore  • PRO: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen  • ED: Richard Pearson •  DES: Dominic Watkins • CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck

Remakes continue to take up time on cinema release schedules. They’re nothing new, but there’s always a reason behind them. Sometimes it’s a property that thrives on reinvention. Other times, it’s allowing the story to be told fully with more resources, better cast and direction. Others, it’s simply a money-making experience; all involved need a quick buck and remaking a film is the way to do it. With Red Dawn, there is nothing redeeming about it. The original Red Dawn, scripted and directed by Communist-hating John Milius, is something of a cult favourite. Where the original is now viewed with a sense of irony and humour, this remake is something entirely different.

Held back from release by MGM’s financial woes, Red Dawn has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Having the film heavily edited to accommodate the Chinese market – the original invaders were supposed to be the Chinese Army ‘repossessing’ American land / loans – and, as mentioned, being held by back MGM going under, it’s not surprising that Red Dawn is already infamous. Chris Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert (the role originally filled out by Patrick Swayze), a Marine returned from Iraq to his hometown of Spokane and living with his father, Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen, originally Harry Dean Stanton) and his younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck, originally Charlie Sheen). The North Koreans (yes, really) soon launch their invasion and begin their assault on Spokane and the American East Coast. Fleeing into the woods, Jed and Tom, together with a group of B-list teen actors (Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Josh Hutcherson) form a guerilla resistance and start fighting back against the North Koreans.
Dan Bradley, who previously worked as a stunt director for the Bourne trilogy, Quantum of Solace and countless others, shoots and cuts with a decent sense of pacing. Some of the action sequences are delivered quite well and wouldn’t look out of place in any other blockbuster. The problem here, however, is that he’s been let down by comically bad acting and laughable dialogue. Josh Peck, in particular, is devastatingly bad as Hemsworth’s brother and has all the charm of a toothbrush. Likewise, Hutcherson simply says his lines and waits to react. The screenplay doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The North Koreans invade – then what? Why haven’t they done anything else? Why did they only invade the East Coast? Why don’t we see any more of the invasion? Where are the Army? Had Dan Bradley been given a superior script and better actors, he could have made a fairly decent action film. Instead, Red Dawn is straight-to-DVD tosh that doesn’t have anything going for it.

Brian Lloyd

12A (see IFCO website for details)

93mins
Red Dawn is released on 15th March 2013

Red Dawn– Official Website

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