The Drop

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DIR: Michaël R. Roskam • WRI: Dennis Lehane • PRO: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Mike Larocca • DOP: Nicolas Karakatsanis • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Thérèse DePrez • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Raf Keunen • CAST: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Elizabeth Rodriguez, James Gandolfini

A screen flickers to life with nothing on the soundtrack but the sickly drip of water and the buzz of urban indifference to adorn the faded in shot of an alley we’d rather not be in. Various silhouetted figures stumble through the cold, bundled up well and breathing intermittently, their foggy discharges adding to the impending sense of dampness filling the screening room. One figure halts, disturbed into curiosity by a noise they’ve heard in a nearby bin. They investigate. They always investigate. Welcome to (Dennis) Lehane-ville, home of blue-collar noir for the 21st century.

There is no genre so much as noir that one may develop a story in provided a few dynamics are in place, regardless of era or location. Noir films tend to be set in worlds a few streets wide where nobody aids police investigations and nobody has nothing to worry about. They tend to progress towards revealing a series of murky secrets and so it is appropriate as a viewer to trust no one. They will eventually pit you as the star prize in a cock fight between two devils, one you’ll know and one you won’t. There are never markedly unknowable plot points in the noir-genre and as such it is the music made as murky motivations twang off hopefully engaging characters that these stories rely upon most.

Along these lines Michael R. Roskam’s The Drop fairs reasonably well. The disturbed silhouette from the opening frame is Tom Hardy’s seemingly simple barman, the noise he’s heard is an abused dog whose been thrown in the bin, Rocco, who’ll soon function as MacGuffin and symbol simultaneously. He finds the dog in Noomi Rapace’s rubbish and he argues over what to do with it with his Uncle Marv, who’s James Galdolfini back from the dead once more and not doing a great deal more than he did in New Jersey for HBO for almost a decade. The sense of impending doom is set in motion by the Czechian gangsters who run a bookies through Marv’s former bar, which gets robbed at the start and whose responsibility transpires to be more of a multi-layered question than you’d expect, except perhaps if you were aware you were watching a Dennis Lehane noir film.

I’m referring to the film in a tone that would suggest it will not surprise you and in a certain sense of the word that is true. There are a couple of twists in store in the third act and at least one eureka air-puncher moment but for the most part this is business as usual.

The film’s greatest strengths are in the acting, the script and the thematic symbol of the dog (if you think about it). The performances are great across the board though particular credit should fall at the feet of Hardy who does a great Rocky and Matthias Schoenaerts who does a great bastard. The dialogue, however colloquial the delivery, is as sharp as one would expect from an author of Lehane’s stature, and for once the inclusion of a dog as a major story-point doesn’t give cause for foreheads to whack palms. The film’s greatest weakness is that it doesn’t demand a cinema visit of the audience and doesn’t strive to stand out from the standard fair of rain-soaked detective fiction. The Drop is good pulpy, crime fiction of the sort there’s never a shortage of.

Worth a watch for a fan of anyone involved, strangers to the cause might save their allowance this week.

Donnchadh Tiernan

 

15A (See IFCO for details)

106 minutes

The Drop is released 14th November 2014

The Drop – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Enough Said

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DIR/WRI: Nicole Holofcener PRO: Stefanie Azpiazu, Anthony Bregman DOP: Keith P. Cunningham   ED: Robert Frazen   MUS: Marcelo Zarvos   CAST: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette

 

Most post-divorce romantic comedy dramas are repetitive, dull and structured. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Nicole Holofcener’s latest romantic comedy Enough Said.

It is the story of Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) a divorced mother whose daughter is just about to leave home to go to college. One night she goes to a party and meets Albert (James Gandolfini), a loveable big guy who is also divorced and also has a daughter heading off to college. At the same party, she meets renowned poet Marianne who hires her as a massage therapist, and the two soon after become great friends. However, things get complicated when Julia finds out that Albert and Marianne were once married and doesn’t quite know how to handle.

Director Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were in London at the 57th BFI London Film Festival and had a lively chat about the film after its screening at the Odeon West End. “Thankfully, nothing like this ever actually happened to me,” said Holofcener, referring to the story of Enough Said. “I’m a much better person than these guys and have ethics. I thought it would make a good fun plot and that maybe that plot would express those fears that make people act that way.”

“What first drew me to the film was the script. It grabbed a hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go,” said Louis-Dreyfus. “Also, I too had a kid going off to college at the same time. And I was a huge fan of Nicole and her work. We met and I think it’s safe to say that we became sort of sister soul mates. We were both crying for some reason and when we stopped crying she said ‘okay, you have the part’ and I said ‘sweet, that worked!’”

The performances by the cast really make the script and the film come alive. “Both Julia and Jim added so much to the film,” explained Holofcener. “I mean, I would be crazy not to listen to talented actors when they have something to say about their characters, but they made it so much funnier and much more dramatic too.”

Enough Said also features the late great James Gandolfini in his final leading role. Gandolfini is seemingly cast against type in this romantic comedy, yet not only is he convincing as Albert but also reveals a sweet and perhaps more personal side in his performance that he rarely ever had a chance to show throughout his career. “The character of Albert actually comes close to what Jim was,” said Louis-Dreyfus. “He was huge physically but very dear, sweet, self-deprecating, almost unsure of himself a lot of the time, which made him even more lovable. In many ways, he was the opposite of the character from The Sopranos. He was always very aware of other people around him and their needs.”

Enough Said is a stand out, middle-aged, sunny side up romantic comedy. What is particularly striking about the film is the wonderful balance of the script and the charming and funny performances by the talented cast. While it may not be particularly original, it certainly represents the better, brighter and more rewarding side of a genre that all too often lacks creativity.

Matt Micucci

12A (See IFCO for details)

92 mins
Enough Said is released on 18th October 2013

Enough Said – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Killing Them Softly

DIR/WRI: Andrew Dominik   PRO: Dede Gardner, Anthony
Katagas, Brad Pitt, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz  DOP: Greig
Fraser • ED: Brian A. Kates, John Paul Horstmann • DES: Patricia Norris 
Cast: Brad Pitt, Scott McNairy, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard
Jenkins, Ben Mendelsohn

Although only on his third feature film in 12 years, Australian
writer/director Andrew Dominik has garnered quite a reputation for
himself. Having debuted with his homegrown black comedy Chopper in
2000 (which launched the film career of then TV comedian Eric Bana)
about Australia’s most notorious criminal, Mark ‘Chopper’ Reed,
Dominik took an extended break from filmmaking before returning with
the masterful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford in 2007.

Originally set to be released in 2006, Dominik’s take on the famed
American outlaw was delayed due to an on-going battle with Warner
Bros. to gain control of the final cut of the film (the studio were
angling towards a more action-driven picture, while Dominik was aiming
for a meditative feel), The Assassination of Jesse James… was
critically lauded, and would be recognised with two Academy Award
nominations for Casey Affleck and cinematographer Roger Deakins.

With such a prolific double whammy on his back catalogue, anticipation
was always going to be high for his next release, and with Jesse James
star Brad Pitt once again on leading man duties, Killing Them Softly
has all the appearance of a sure thing.

Dominic updates George V. Higgins’ Boston-set 1970s novel Cogan’s
Trade (the film’s original title) to modern-day New Orleans, where
Pitt’s Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer, is brought in to
investigate a robbery of mobster Ray Liotta’s high-stakes poker game
by a pair of small-time crooks, played by Monsters’ Scoot McNairy and
Ben Mendelsohn (recently seen as the snivelling John Daggett in The
Dark Knight Rises).

Having previously organised the theft of his own game, people suspect
that Liotta may be the one behind it again, but Cogan suspects
otherwise, and he enlists the help of ‘New York’ Mickey to get to the
bottom of it.

Having set the bar so high with his extraordinary sophomore effort, it
is inevitable that his take on a straightforward crime thriller
wouldn’t have the same impact. Yet, though the use of archival footage
of George W. Bush and Barack Obama doesn’t really take effect until
the final moments, Killing Them Softly is nevertheless a slick and
stylish (and often darkly humorous) film, that will find favour with
fans of the genre, as well as Dominik and Pitt devotees.

Though he is off-screen for much of the opening-third of the film,
Pitt is on terrific form as Cogan, bringing the same kind of
effortless cool to the role that we have seen from the Oklahoma man in
films like Ocean’s Eleven, Inglourious Basterds, Fight Club and last
year’s Moneyball.

The supporting performances are also on the money, with the reliable
Richard Jenkins building up a good rapport with Pitt as his secretive
contact with an anonymous benefactor, McNairy and Mendelsohn are
perfectly cast as the hapless criminals at the centre of the piece,
and it is interesting to see a Sopranos reunion of sorts with
Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola and Max Casella cropping up alongside
Liotta, a gangster film veteran.

At 97 minutes, Killing Them Softly is somewhat slight (and like Jesse
James its running time was originally much longer), but it still comes
with a high recommendation, and the Dominik/Pitt partnership is one
that both parties should be eager to expand upon in the future.

Daire Walsh

18 (see IFCO for details)
97mins

Killing Them Softly is released 21st September 2012

Killing Them Softly – Official Website

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Where The Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

DIR: Spike Jonze • WRI: Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers • PRO: John B. Carls, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Vincent Landay, Maurice Sendak • DOP: Lance Acord • ED: James Haygood, Eric Zumbrunnen • DES: K.K. Barrett • CAST: Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, Michael Berry Jr., Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose

This is quite a dark, brooding little tale, made all the more affective by its simplicity. A young boy, Max (Max Records), disobeys his mother (Catherine Keener) and seeks refuge in a land of monsters who adopt him as their king. The film is directed by Spike Jonze and has been adapted from Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story. But whereas Sendak’s 1963 book, which was less than 350 words long, was a fable for children, Jonze’s film is more a melancholic reflection on childhood for adults.

In the world populated by Jim Henson’s overgrown, and wonderfully realized, mondo muppet monsters, Max learns valuable lessons about who he is and what he has. This is not a world populated by the usual collection of the cartoonish opposites of the good loveable creatures versus the bad evil pantomime ones. Here we have a mixed bunch of hulking hirsute creatures that you will neither cheer for nor boo. But you will listen to and be moved by them.

Not everyone will be enamoured with what happens in this other world. Most of what occurs on the island with its dense forests, rolling sand dunes, and swooping cliffs, is random and inconclusive. The creatures, mostly somber and somewhat neurotic are simply living their lives. In between nothing really happening, Max engages in some contemplable dialogue with the monsters (who all represents facets of himself) and gets the chance to play out his problems with aggression and fears of isolation.

Having said all that, Max is actually quite an irritating spoilt little blackguard at the best of times and there can be little sympathy for him as he rallies against his home life; after all it is quite a normal life and he has a cushy number there pushing the viewer to annoyance at what he has to rage against, and that really he should be disciplined by having his Wii taken off him and no cookies for a week. But he’s a kid – and kids don’t know if they have things easy or not, for their inexperienced egocentricity means that if something bad is happening to them, it’s the worst thing in the whole wide world. And yes, it is a simple message he learns. And let’s not even start on the ending (cringe factor 9).

Yet despite this, the world that exists over Max’s rainbow is a sumptuous one to behold and the film is beautifully shot (in Australia) masterfully capturing both scenes of vast open spaces and claustrophobic tight spaces. Jonze treats it all with a low-key approach and uses a natural palette to bring this world to life.

Jonze has made Sendak’s book his own fleshing out its cerebral musings and opening it up to rich reinterpretation. Where the Wild Things Are is not what you might expect; as is often the case with Jonze. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see such a film that doesn’t feel the need to play for laughs or pander to cutesiness. A kid’s film you don’t have to bring kids to.

Steven Galvin

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Where the Wild Things Are
is released 11th Dec 2009

Where the Wild Things Are – Official Website

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