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: Dead Man Down

dead-man-down-trailer

 

DIR: Niels Arden Oplev • WRI: J.H. Wyman • PRO: David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Hugo Shong, Andy Yan • DOP: Paul Cameron • ED: Timothy A. Good, Frédéric Thoraval • DES: Niels Sejer • Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard

Director Niels Arden Oplev’s American theatrical debut Dead Man Down is disappointingly devoid of all the edgy appeal of his acclaimed Swedish feature The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Set in New York, Colin Farrell plays the brooding and broken Hungarian immigrant Victor, who infiltrates the gang who killed his family in order to exact his bloody revenge. However, Victor’s plan is interrupted when his neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) discovers his dark secret and contracts him into a scheme to seek out her own grisly vengeance against the drunk driver who ruined her life.

Dead Man Down is unevenly paced throughout, at times simmering with the slow-burning intensity of a Scandinavian thriller before being catapulted forward with spectacles of explosions and ‘shoot ’em ups’ more at home in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

The film gets off to a lingering start with a heartfelt speech about the meaning of life from Farrell’s friend and fellow mob henchman, a heavily tattooed Dominic Cooper. Ominous close-ups of Farrell’s anguished face and Thespian eyebrows convey most of the dramatic intensity in the first 20 minutes and we settle in for what we expect to be a calculated, grim and gritty crime thriller.

Then all hell breaks loose with a great deal of gunfire, Albanian mobsters sporting AK-47s in broad daylight, much clichéd dialogue between clichéd villains and a flashy finale that involves the hero crashing through the front of a house to save his girl.

The plot is filled with twists and turns that occasionally defy logic and more than once Oplev and screenwriter J.H. Wyman (The Mexican, TV’s Fringe) breeze over weaknesses in the plot to move the film along.

Farrell has only been living in New York for a couple of years and yet has a flawless Yankee accent (for an Irish actor) with no trace of his Hungarian roots. This is briskly explained by Farrell in the film when asked by Rapace where his Hungarian accent went, ‘I worked hard to get rid of it.’ How convenient.

Rapace, well-versed in playing tormented souls, (her role as the damaged Lisbeth Saunders in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was widely applauded), plays a woman so ‘disfigured’ by a car crash that the local scallywags throw stones at her and scrawl ‘Monster’ on her front door and yet, even with a few pink scars on her face, the Swedish actress is still more beautiful than most women on the planet.

Victor spends two years playing cat and mouse with the gang who murdered his wife and child, picking them off one by one and saving his full wrath for crime boss Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). Yet in all his painstakingly intricate and cautious planning, kills one gang member in his own apartment in full view of anyone who happens to be looking out of the window of the huge tower block of flats opposite. A supposedly fragile Beatrice films the whole thing on her phone before boldly securing a date with her known-murderer neighbour and insistently blackmailing him.

These inconsistencies (and they don’t end there) may have been easier to overlook if the film was brought to a clever and compelling ending, but the showy climax that resembles scenes from a Die Hard movie will disappoint an audience hoping for something better crafted.

Dead Man Down is a classic example of the actors outshining the film they were cast in. Farrell is a good enough actor to play this role in his sleep and yet the film doesn’t draw out his talents above and beyond the paint-by-numbers vested avenger character he was cast as. Rapace, whose interpretation of the complex Saunders in The Girl with... is also wasted in this role, and yet, it is the offbeat and tender romance between Victor and Beatrice, urged along by Beatrice’s quirky mother (Isabelle Huppert) that is the most watchable thing about the whole film.

Carmen Bryce

15A (see IFCO website for details)

117 mins
Dead Man Down is released on 3rd May 2013

Dead Man Down – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Prometheus

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof • PRO: David Gilel, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Pietro Scalia • DES: Arthur Max • Cast: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender

For his first foray into sci-fi in 30 years, Sir Ridley Scott decided to return to the franchise he helped to create. Except not really, as leading up to its release, he’s tried to distance his latest creation from Alien, and have it serve as a stand-alone movie. To that end, this review shall be (hopefully) spoiler-free and (mostly) lacking in comparison to the Alien franchise.

Starting off with the creation of life no less, we jump forward several million years to scientists Noomi Rapace and her partner Logan Marshall-Green discovering ancient drawings with maps to the stars. After getting a trillion dollars’ worth of funding from kindly old Guy Pearce, they’re away to said stars with Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender and a crew of vaguely recognisables who might as well have ‘cannon fodder’ tattooed on to their foreheads. And once the good ship Prometheus lands on the planet they’re looking for, the crew make a discovery, but not the one they were looking for…

Scott takes his time setting up and, as with Alien, it’s the guts of an hour before the crew come across anything nasty. But, unlike Alien, it’s very unlikely you’ll care if any of these make it out alive. Rapace is fine as a Ripley-lite, Elba does a nice line in gruff and charming, but even though the rest of the cast are more than adequate, especially the scene-stealing Fassbender, they’re all so painfully unlikable that you start hoping for face-huggers galore.

To be fair to Scott, the film looks fantastic. The polar opposite of the lived-in gritty look of his previous sci-fi outings, the pristine and polished veneer of Prometheus is something to be constantly marvelled at, and throughout the course of the movie there are two scenes of genuine horror, including one that, while not quite up there with the giddy heights of the original chest-buster scene, gives it a good run for its money in terms of gore and tension. Unfortunately, Scott’s visuals are encumbered by one of the most horrendous scores in recent memory, and the small number of good horror scenes are surrounded by some truly dreadful dialogue.

Good sci-fi should always have the audience asking questions, and while Prometheus bursts out of the gate with potentially the biggest one of all: Why Are We Here?, it quickly drops its lofty ideals of intellectualism in favour of big men in spacesuits throwing other men in spacesuits around the place, and soon the only questions we’re left asking are about the gaping plot holes. What started out as potentially Alien with some brains ended up being Contact with some blood. And that is not a compliment.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Prometheus is released on 1st June 2012

Prometheus – Official Website

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

DIR: Daniel Alfredson • WRI: Ulf Ryberg • PRO: Søren Stærmose • DOP: Peter Mokrosinski • ED: Håkan Karlsson • CAST: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre

Having never read the book, I had looked forward to enjoying these much talked about films. Sweden has done great things for us in the past, from the awesome ’90s band the Cardigans; to its renowned meatballs; to Ikea… but unfortunately The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is not quite such a gift.

In anticipation of my mid-morning press screening, I had enjoyed the first of the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the evening before. Not terribly blown away but having enjoyed it nonetheless, I did what every reviewer should not do, and went in to this screening expecting the same. I was disappointed, not Star Wars disappointed, but even so, I had expected more.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third and final film adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy of books by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It concludes the story of the moody and heavily tattooed hacker, Lisbeth Salander, as her ex, Mikael Blomkvist, dredges up her past to try and save her future.

Mikael along with his ‘crack’ team of reporters and his sister must prove her innocent of the attempted murder of her father, all the while some old Swedish men try and cover the whole thing up and a creepy blonde man goes around attacking people.

The entire film lacks pace, rests far too heavily on dialogue, and the only half-decent action sequence feels unnaturally tacked on as an afterthought. The characters are either unlikeable or dull, with very little chemistry or even interesting interaction between the leads.

Hopefully all the kinks will be worked out with the series by the time the David Fincher remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hits the big screens in December 2011, as the overall plot has both genuine substance and gripping subject matter – it’s really just the delivery that lets it down.

Gemma Creagh


Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is released on 26th November 2010

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The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl who Played with Fire

DIR: Daniel Alfredson WRI: Jonas Frykberg PRO: Jenny Gibertsson, Jon Mankell DOP: Peter Mokrosinski ED: Matthias Morheden DES: Jan Olof Agren, Maria Haard CAST: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Yasmine Garbi.

The first film of the trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo premiered at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February to a warm reception proving to be a highly enjoyable and very accomplished murder mystery. Noomi Rapace embodied the character of Lisabeth Salander (the titular tattooed “girl”) magnificently and was certainly the high point of the film. Although not quite a classic, I’m sure the fans of the novel feel it was faithful. The second film follows just six months later, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and unfortunately it isn’t half as entertaining as the first film. In fact, it is alarming how inferior this film is to its predecessor.

The Girl Who Played with Fire sees Lisabeth accused of a double murder that just so happens to involve the Millenium publication that Mikael Blomqvist work with. She and Blomqvist have not kept in touch since the events of the last film but they both separately pursue the villain in this film in order to clear her name. The dynamic of two heroes searching for the same villain but not coming into contact until the final minutes is ambitious, but it unfortunately leaves the film feeling a little heartless. Michael Niqvist is painfully dull as Blomqvist, as he was also in the first film and makes it almost impossible not to find yourself wishing away most of the film, waiting for Lisabeth to get more screen time. It is clearly her film and Noomi Rapace tears up the screen every time she appears. The character of Lisabeth is the heart and soul of the story and as we peel back the layers and get to know more about her, the more interesting she becomes. I would go so far as to say that this character is the only thing that prevents this film from being a very mediocre thriller.

The Girl Who Played with Fire stretches your credibility to the extreme. As far-fetched as the first film was, this one will undoubtedly have you raising your eyebrows more than once. The final act is particularly ridiculous and although some might enjoy the bloody endgame (I did!), there are a lot of plot points that are difficult to buy into.

This is a standard murder mystery which is poorly played out, but is strengthened by another incredible performance from Rapace. The story is not half as classy as the first film, but it’s worth a look if you like a tantalising mystery.

Charlene Lydon

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
The Girl Who Played With Fire
is released on 27th August 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire Official Website

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