Thriller archive

Here’s all my old Thriller reviews in one easy to find place.


Mission Impossible 3  Feb 02 2007  DVD

To think Tom Cruise was sacked from Paramount shortly after this film was released, seems very hard to understand considering it’s easily the best of the franchise. Side-stepping the real reason for Cruise’s dismissal (scientology, increasingly bizarre behaviour) this latest spy action fest has super agent Ethan Hawk now living a life with a new bride (the delicious gorgeous Michelle Monaghan) until he’s called back into action to locate a missing agent he once mentored. Cue some of the most thrilling and adrenaline-fuelled action sequences I have witnessed in a long time, and this is probably the film John Woo (action-god) should have made instead of the mostly poor M.I. 2. Directed by J.J. Abrams (the brains behind hit TV shows Alias and Lost), this is a stylish and enjoyable 2hrs with a cracking cast (especially the ever likeable Ving Rhames, and also the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain), and despite whatever the future holds for Tom Cruise this franchise still has a helluva lot going for it.

Verdict: 4 /5

Smoking Aces  Jan 23 2007  Cinema

Billed as the new Pulp Fiction, this too clever for its own good multiple cast thriller may play with the same cool ideas as Tarantino’s masterpiece, but this gun is firing in a whole other ball game. Several different hired guns are all trying to kill the same guy, and it all converges one day at a Las Vegas hotel, where at the end of his tether Vegas magician-come-mob associate has nowhere left to run. We get cool camera work, glossy locations, guns, tits and rapidly edited action sequences – but what we also get is a complete lack of heart. We don’t care about the guy everyone is trying to kill. We should. The hired guns are cool (especially a drop-dead-gorgeous Alicia Keys), and there’s some great moments and a few grizzly death scenes. Yet this lacks the subtlety or the charm of any of Tarantino’s output (and thankfully, he had nothing to do with it), is so different and over the top that a comparison to Pulp Fiction is pointless, and fails to really have its own personality by being way too complicated in its closing moments.

But if you are just after two hours of stylish nonsense, then this will still hit the nail on the head.

Verdict: 3 /5

Casino Royale  Nov 28 2006  Cinema

I don’t know whether or not I’d call myself a Bond fan – more a casual admirer, having grown up liking the classics such as Goldfinger or Live & Let Die. I also really loved Die Another Day, the (sadly) final Pierce Brosnan outing. Yet despite initial trepidation, and my general concern over the casting of Daniel Craig as the No.1 super spy – it turns out he’s the best Bond yet. A bold statement I hear you say, and granted I was reluctant to bestow such an honour on someone who looks too ugly to be the smooth secret agent we all know and love. Yet he is, because he has all the basics, the charm, the humour and the action credentials, plus he’s probably harder than any Bond there has ever been – even in their prime. He also seems more real, with more genuine emotion – or maybe Daniel Craig is just a better actor. Yet this realism is definitely how the film has been produced, and it works wonders, giving the Bond franchise a new beginning, and in some ways free reign for the film makers to remake any Bond from the past (my money’s on Goldfinger). Director Martin Campbell (who also directed Goldeneye, not to mention Mask of Zorro) brings together everything you need, superb action (with an opening hit that has to be seen to be believed) and a gripping story based on an Ian Fleming novel, which hasn’t been done in years, obviously making the whole thing stick together, just like the classics. So we should never have feared, Bond is back in a big way – this time fresh, exhilarating and above all else – cool.

Verdict: 4 /5

Warrior King  Nov 21 2006  DVD

I used to really be into martial arts films, and loved the legendary skills of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Of course with any hardcore obsession, you burn out and really I haven’t bothered with a far eastern action pic in quite a while. My tastes may have changed, but I still love world cinema, and was borrowed this, the latest from the new hope for kung fu genre, Tony Jaa, a Korean kick boxer with some amazing acrobatic skills. He plays like a mix between all the greats, but mostly resembles Jackie Chan (who makes a blink and you’ll miss it appearance near the beginning) in his use of the environment around him and some hair-raising stunts to get through an action sequence. His movies boast no wires, no stunt doubles and no camera tricks, which is a brave statement when you see some of the violence and stunts on display. Jaa first came to prominence in the acclaimed Ong Bak, which I haven’t seen, but going by this more convoluted follow up, I am thirsty for more!!

Tony plays a young Korean villager who sets off to Australia to investigate the kidnapping of two Elephants from his homeland. This simple premise sets up some stunning confrontations where Jaa can unleash his amazing skills on a never ending supply of bad guys, and really it has to be seen to be believed. Tony Jaa lacks much of the charisma of Chan or even Jet Li, so a Hollywood career seems unlikely unless he plays second fiddle to some big name actor, and as if to support this he doesn’t really say much throughout the film. Yet actions speak louder than words, and if you’re after a fast, energetic and gob-smacking display of action, fights and stunts – this rarely disappoints.

Verdict: 4 /5

Poseidon  Oct 14 2006  DVD

Kurt Russell returns from the wilderness (where has he been of late?) to headline this remake of the classic Poseidon Adventure. After Titanic seemed to tick all the boxes of what a disaster movie should do, this feels at first like another lame copy, until a big wave hits and we are plummeted into a very intense and convincing thriller. Kurt Russell is joined by a mostly unknown (probably off TV) cast but for the legendary Richard Dreyfus, and everyone fits the bill perfectly, with Russell of course doing what he does best, even if he’s getting on a bit these days. The effects work throughout is first class, with oceans of water and people dying at every turn, and you do really feel for the characters and their hopeless predicament. Yes the film is packed with clichés, the irritating kid who complicates even the simplest situation, the scumbag who thinks he’s better than everyone else (Kevin Dillon, another ‘where has he been?’ appearance), the reluctant hero (a show stealing Josh Lucas) and the brooding father – it’s all there, but really who cares when it’s so well done?

Director Wolfgang Peterson (The Perfect Storm) packs the film with tension, and some things happen to really make you squirm and tense up (well it did me at least), and when things finally reach their conclusion, you feel like you were right there with them. Tough stuff, and well worth a look.

Verdict: 3 /5

The Departed  Oct 11 2006  Cinema

Leonardo Dicaprio continues his work as Director Martin Scorsese’s new bitch in his third outing with the power house film maker. A remake of Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, this stylish crime thriller gives more than a few nods to the Director’s previous hits Goodfellas and Casino. Following the story of an undercover cop (DiCaprio) infiltrating a ruthless gang, and an undercover gangster (Matt Damon) infiltrating the cops, this has a premise equally as good as any decent thriller of the last twenty years. Backing up the duel 30 something-turns is Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson in a brilliant, comically-evil performance that really steals the show.

DiCaprio as the film’s focus is once again unable to control his obvious acting talent and really goes for it in some powerful and very violent scenes that may come as a surprise to fans. I felt he was a little over the top to be honest, but it did suit his character’s situation. Damon on the other hand is more subtle, confident and womanising and a flipside to DiCaprio throughout – not a bad thing. Add to this Brit actor Ray Winston who’s casting in a Scorsese flick must have been a marriage made in heaven, even if his thug image is over-used compared to his acting ability, and one of the best casts in many a year you have – not surprising for a film of this calibre though. Hopefully a few Oscar nominations are on the way.

On a downside some of the plot revelations are a bit convenient, it seems too easy how the undercover guys come under suspicion and not much is made what Jack’s gang are all about, but for a film that is primarily a chance for big actors to do their thing – this delivers like a punch in the face.

Verdict: 4 /5

Miami Vice  Aug 08 2006  Cinema

I only really got excited about a big-screen version of famed 80s TV show Miami Vice shortly before it was released. That wasn’t because I was a fan of the show – to be honest I’d hardly ever seen it. My reason was solely down to the guy behind the camera, Michael Mann. Over the last few years, he for me at least has delivered two of the finest thrillers ever to grace a cinema screen – Heat and Collateral. That to anyone in the know should be enough of a reason to get all moist about Miami Vice. Collateral scene-stealer Jamie Fox is Ricardo Tubbs, and Irish pretty-boy popular for god-knows-what-reason Colin Farrell is Sonny Crocket, and so sets up a gritty, mostly night time set thriller with all the shine and cool of Michael Mann at the top of his game.

You see, Michael Mann was partly responsible for the TV show in the first place, so really nobody else is worthy of making it and updating it for a modern audience. Gone are the pastel colours, the dodgy suits with no socks, and much of the glamour – and in steps a much more serious and edgier tone, telling the story of Crockett & Tubbs forced to go deep undercover to snare a ruthless Columbian drugs cartel. From the outset this is very much a serious film, which doesn’t rely on cheap action set-pieces, and therefore the character, the atmosphere and the tension is the focus for much of this 2hr 26 minute movie. I can understand the lack of some high-octane thrills, and if you’re expecting something along the lines of Bad Boys – well, that would mean you’d walked into the wrong film and hadn’t really done your homework.

Jamie Fox, whilst a little side-lined is on great form, as likeable and as cool as ever, yet Farrell lets the side down struggling with a tough American accent that too often veers into Irish-twang, and his hair isn’t cool or a nod to Don Johnson – it just looks silly. Acclaimed Chinese actress Gong Li is ok as the love-interest but really has so little grasp of English that I had difficulty understanding her. The villains, a greasy-haired Arab and some ruthless white-supremacists are sadly wafer thin to say the least. So this might not quite have the depth of Heat (not many thrillers do), but what it does – it does perfectly in creating an attitude and a gripping story, that whilst long-winded kept me hooked.

Verdict: 4 /5

The Last Seduction Special Edition  July 02 2006  DVD

Linda Fiorentino plays Bridget Gregory, a scheming, manipulative bitch who has just run out on her husband, bagging a case load of cash in the process following a drug deal. She journeys into a little town and catches the eye of a local guy who falls for her obvious charms in a heart beat, and although she treats him like left luggage – he is smitten. Hot on her heels is her bitter husband, equally as calculating as she is, and somehow Bridget has to find a way to escape for good.

Director John Dahl’s 1994 thriller is part Basic Instinct part Film noir and has a stand out performance from Fiorentino, very sexy in a perfect representation of the modern femme fatale, and although this character uses her sex-appeal to charm the men in her life, all to her own gain, we don’t need to go down the Sharon Stone route and show some ass (or panty-less crotch) to make them sit up and beg. The dialogue is sharp and perfectly written, with Fiorentino getting all the best lines. The twists and turns in the tale are not obvious and instead cleverly thought out, and the supporting cast, especially Bill Pullman in one of his best (if often forgotten) roles, is suitably impressive. Dahl’s direction is subtle, gentle and with the wispy, piano theme quite pacey, with pretty much all the screen time deservedly set aside for Linda Fiorentino, who really should have got an Oscar, if it wasn’t for the fact this made for TV movie was automatically exempt from the runnings. Shame.

This special edition houses the still gripping original cut and a longer extended cut, although I felt short changed to discover the additional scenes had been spliced into the original movie, still in their grainy, shaky lying-on-the-cutting-room-floor condition, and obviously would have benefited from a major remastering. You wouldn’t be missing much as the new scenes add nothing to the movie, and even ruin some of its themes. Extras otherwise consist of an old documentary which is in pretty poor quality, a commentary on the extended cut, a TV episode of the series Fallen Angels directed by Dahl, and not much else. Strange too, the original cut (and therefore the only one really worth seeing) is slightly softer and darker in picture quality compared to the version used to add the deleted scenes to. Why they couldn’t have used this for the original version is beyond me.

Verdict: 3 /5

Transporter 2  March 25 2006  DVD

Produced by French director Luc Besson (Nikita, Leon) and choreographed by Hong Kong martial arts maestro Corey Yuen, the first instalment of this classy action series was easily one of the sharpest action movies of last year. Jason Statham’s cool-as-ice turn as the driver for hire who always gets the job done, returns mixed up in a kidnapping plot involving European gangsters and chemical terrorism as a rich family come under threat. Statham matches up with brilliant car chases, over-the-top heroics and one foxy lingerie clad femme-fatale who sure knows how to handle a gun (or two). The first film was a well executed thriller with plenty of personality, and this one easily compliments it, although adds very little to the mix, and gets a little stupid at times with obviously impossible stunts that even a James Bond flick would avoid. Yet in the end this is fast, frantic and fun – and that’s all that matters. Oh, and the camera work is superb.

Verdict: 3 /5

Battle Royal Special Edition  March 07 2006  DVD

Based on a controversial best selling novel that shocked Japan, this equally hard hitting movie tells the rather extreme tale of a class of 42 students who are inadvertently entered into the Battle Royal scheme (a law that is passed in near-future Japan to combat youth-related violence and over-population) where they are put on a deserted island, and have three days to kill each other. There can be only one winner and only one survivor. The gob-smacking premise sets up a violent action thriller that seems at first distasteful and overly shocking, until you experience the human drama and emotion that unfolds. This incredibly powerful, strangely exciting film has similarities to classic film / novel Lord of the Flies but with a hyper-realism that could only come out of Japan. The teenage stars at the centre of the action are excellent, really bringing across the turmoil of a terrible, impossible situation, and you believe in their plight whole heartedly. Backing up the teen actors is famed actor / director Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano, in a mesmerising, cruel performance. Directed by acclaimed director Fukasaku Kinji (try saying that after a few beers), this film packs a punch but also has enough heart and atmosphere to see you through the nasty stuff.

In addition to some quality camera work and some great, heart-in-mouth action the whole film is also lifted up a notch by some well chosen orchestral music (I’d hazard a guess at works from Mozart or Beethoven). Now as this DVD is a Special Edition, I can’t remark on the differences between this extended version of the film compared to the original release, but hazard a guess that some of the much appreciated flashback scenes might make up the additions. As for the alternate ending, the one here works well, but no light is shed at all on what the original ending was. A commentary would have been much appreciated!

A must-see.

Verdict: 4 /5

A History of Violence  October 04 2005  Cinema

David Cronenberg films are difficult to review – fact. His brand of slightly off-centre social commentary often mixed with perverse imagery and creepy horror has made him one of the most unique and analysed director’s still working in film today. Some have said this is his most mainstream movie since The Fly, another slightly freaky film hiding behind a big budget, but this story of a family guy whose past returns to haunt him – has much of what has made Cronenberg’s films so talked about over the years. Tackling a subject much less controversial and shocking than his last big-name media-grabbing work Crash, this tale of Mobsters and a small close nit family in a sleepy American town, still proves powerful viewing. Lord of the Rings’ Viggo Mortenson is excellent (and surprisingly unnerving) as everyman Tom Stall who may or may not be a retired killer for the mob, and Ed Harris plays a facially disfigured gangster out to prove Tom is anything but who he says he is. Special mention must also go to the beautiful and emotional performance from Maria Bello who after this really deserves to start landing bigger movies, as she’s obviously a helluva talent.

Like much of Cronenberg’s work, this is no simple by-the-numbers thriller. It’s very violent, although only in short sharp bursts that really knocked me back in my seat (a broken nose comes to mind). Cronenberg is good at making you feel something you never planned on feeling when first sitting down to view the film (a good example being ‘Dead Ringers’…shudder). The story is simple, yet the acting, the emotion and the atmosphere of impending violence draws you in despite a slow mood. Also the look and feel of the film seemed cold, not quite right and almost dream-like, which worked for me. Yet I also thought a few more things could have been explained (there’s no flashback to Tom’s supposed past) and I was waiting for a big shoot out ending, which never really came.

Verdict: 3 /5

National treasure  September 15 2005  DVD

The concept of Nicholas Cage as an action hero works. He’s got the look, the muscle and the one-liners, but whether it’s where he belongs, this viewer is still undecided. This fast paced adventure, something to do with a legendary fortune and the Declaration of Independence ticks many familiar Indiana Jones plot basics, even down to a dispensable blonde piece of skirt, a nerdy side kick and a boo hiss villain (surprise surprise – played by Sean bean!!), yet still this glossy action flick still has some good moments, especially in the cat and mouse race against time between hero and villain, a stand out car vs. van chase that would make Michael Bay blush (checks the box quickly – its not made by him…phew, no headache post-credits….) and of course Cage is great leading-man material. Yet also there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before (and often better) but if you’re not too demanding and just want 90 minutes of pure entertainment that you wont really be talking about after, but also wont be too disappointed with – check this one out.

Verdict: 3 /5

Funny Games  September 09 2005  DVD

Some foreign cinema really understands how to affect the viewer. Maybe it’s because foreign directors haven’t the restraints of Hollywood to dilute their vision, and is often the reason why when these director’s make the transition to Hollywood their impact is mostly stilted, until eventually they are just a name above the title with little or no relevance anymore (step up John Woo, Luc Besson etc). Therefore tracking down some of these foreign films can be wealth worth your wile.

This film caused a bit of a stir a few years ago, and always attracted me – as I love films that are a little bit ‘out there’. Such can certainly be said of this very disturbing and unsettling Austrian thriller. Telling the tale of an innocent family (a husband, his wife and their young son), who are visited one morning whilst staying at a luxury holiday home for the weekend, by two polite, inoffensive young men. What starts out innocently soon spirals into sheer terror as these two men hold the family hostage in the house and subject them to some of the cruellest and sadistic ‘games’ I’ve ever sat through. These two obviously unhinged men play and toy with the family for their own pleasure, and even more disturbing have the balls to involve us, the viewer in proceedings, by occasionally talking directly to the camera (!). This is world cinema minus the safety switch, and left me feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. I think it’s clever and bold but definitely not a film for everyone. Yet those who desire something truly effecting and emotionally powerful, which will stay with them and make them think, then see this one immediately.

The DVD is presented well in widescreen even if the subtitles aren’t that clear at times (yet you still get the ‘gist’), and as far as extras go, only a text review and a text interview are on offer, which is poor to say the least.

Verdict: 4 /5

The French Connection  August 28 2005  DVD

Gene Hackman hit the mainstream with this gritty Police thriller. After a slew of somewhat ignored roles in smaller films, popular character actor Hackman found his feet in the role of tough talking NYPD detective ‘Popeye’ Doyle, a character that has become something of a legend in its own right. Inspired by the drug-bust claimed by two real life cops, director William Friedkin (the Exorcist) wanted to make a harsh, no nonsense thriller that showed police work the way it really was but with enough pace and flamboyancy to appeal to a mass audience. This was clearly achieved thanks to its powerhouse performances (especially Hackman, and to a lesser extent Roy Scheider) and what is often sited as the greatest car chase in cinema (which as it turns out, is pretty bloody stunning).

It was nice to see that the surrounding film held up beyond its famous set pieces, and Hackman and Scheider’s characters were both likeable, convincing and people you enjoyed being with. The plot was nothing that special but the fact it was based on a real life case leant it some weight, and Friedkin’s direction throughout was assured, with New York exposed as quite the opposite of what we have become familiar with in much more glossier films. The whole thing may have seemed a bit slow and TV cop show at first but soon pulled me in once I was able to grasp the full extent of the plot and get used to the characters. Overall well worth seeing, or even revisiting.

The DVD, presented here in a 2 disc special edition is nothing short of amazing. The film is in great shape with a sharp wide screen transfer and we have 5.1 sound as well as two commentary tracks, one by the director and the other by Hackman & Scheider, which if you know your stuff, is invaluable material. The second disc houses two decent documentaries and we also get deleted scenes and photo galleries. Overall an impressive package well worthy of your collection.

Verdict: 3 /5

Chinatown  August 27 2005  DVD

This 1974 detective thriller is heralded by many as one of the defining movies of the 70s, a decade most regard as the finest in cinema history. Having explored a few choice titles recently of that era, it was high time I sat down to view this Jack Nicholson classic. Although not as well known for his performance as that of One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest or The Shining, Jack is much more subtle and suits the gentle pace of the film perfectly, cast in a role he seems very comfortable with as a gumshoe private eye investigating a femme fatale’s suspicion of her husband’s infidelity. Faye Dunaway (looking her most beautiful and iconic) is perfect as the lady who hires Jack, and hides more than a few secrets herself, and the chemistry between the two actors is very appealing, leading to a certain amount of passion, both verbal and physical.

Directed by the often controversial Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist), this is a very well made and gripping tale, that whilst complex and mysterious, never lost me like similar thrillers have (namely L.A. Confidential), and the shock ending is truly powerful cinema. A deserved and memorable treat.

The DVD possesses a very good picture, suitably enhanced by the film’s stunning cinematography, and is presented admirably in Dolby Digital 5.1. As far as bonus features go, the disc is a bit sparse with just a 13 minute selection of interviews featuring the director and also the writer Robert Towne (who won an Oscar for his efforts), which proves very interesting regardless. A commentary would have been great, but at least we get a nice booklet as part of Paramount’s Golden Classics collection.

Verdict: 4 /5

Spartan  August 06 2005  DVD

Val Kilmer is a hard as nails mercenary for hire – but before you switch off thinking this is another no brains actioner, that would probably star Vin Diesel or Steven Segal – this is a thriller done with a realism those kind of movies could only wish for. A respected politician’s daughter is abducted and disappears without trace, and like an episode of the equally intelligent TV series ‘24′ the one man with the training and the experience to find her is called in. Val Kilmer’s mercenary is the type that will beat you senseless, break a rib or two, and then ask questions, a lethal one track mind where the objective is everything, and everyone else is just in his way. Written and Directed by famed Hollywood screenwriter David Mammet (The Untouchables), this gritty and convincing film is full of red herrings, plot twists and crooked politicians, and piecing together all the clues is all part of the fun. Although at times Mammet’s dialogue can seem cold and a little over-rehearsed, it seems to suit the calculated way the characters in the story work and converse with each other, and with brief bursts of action, and tight blink-and-you-miss-it scripting, this absorbing film kept be hooked from the outset. Those brought up on less complex films may find this one a little difficult to follow, and although I myself had problems from time to time with the often vague turn of events, I still came away suitably thrilled.

Verdict: 3 /5

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage  June 12 2005  DVD

Cult Italian horror auteur Dario Argento’s 1970 debut, has all the trade marks that have distinguished his career right through to the present. The black gloved killer, beautiful female victims, superb camera work, an effective, characteristically-unnerving musical score, and grand set-piece murders. Although by no means as graphic as the director’s other works, this well told murder mystery harks back to the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock in both the theme and iconic imagery. Dario Argento has been often labelled the Italian Hitchcock, and with this thriller such a label is hard to deny. Yet although his work has become more abstract and bizarre over the years, and such creating a style that is distinctly his own, with this effective film, the director made a mark in cinema that introduced the world to a bold and brilliant new visionist. Tony Musante plays an American writer travelling in Rome with his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall, who looks like a young Suzanne George), when he witnesses an attempted murder on a local female gallery owner by a dark figure dressed in a black raincoat. He becomes amateur sleuth after the local detective takes away his passport, and soon further murders take place and he grows ever closer to unmasking the assailant. A classic story given much needed energy thanks to engaging performances by its lead actors and situations that really get your pulse racing, creating a thriller right up their with the director’s best, which is stunning when you consider it was his debut feature.

Note: Review is based on U.S. VCI release (remastered).

Verdict: 3 /5

Layer Cake 13 May 2005  DVD

Mathew Vaughn, one time producing partner of Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) makes his directing debut with this equally stylish and expertly crafted East End meets Scouse Gangster yarn. Based this time on a novel, and featuring heavy weight talents such as Michael Gambon mixing it up with Daniel Craig (TV’s Our Friends In The North) and Mick out of Brookside (??), this twisting tale of drug dealers, hitmen and coke deals that go wrong, kept me glued throughout. Narrated by Daniel Craig’s never named lead character (an interesting idea), the story is fast, funny, and interesting. We watch as familiar faces (some from Lock Stock I am sure) fill the screen with gangland capers – and although this doesn’t quite have the bite of Snatch, it still has bags of personality for it to stand proudly on its own. On the downside, Sienna Miller as a sultry moll, lends very little to the film apart from set-dressing, a plot involving a missing girl goes nowhere, and something that happens right at the end, just pissed me off royally. Yet despite these few flaws, this is still cracking entertainment.

Verdict: 3 /5

Heat 6 May 2005 DVD

(Special Edition 2 Disc re-release to mark Tenth Anniversary)

Director Michael Mann, the person behind such filsm as Ali and Collateral, made this seminal cops ‘n’ robbers masterpiece, surprisingly ten years ago now. How time has flown by, but I am glad to say that time has been very good indeed to this stirring, accomplished thriller. Although not as shiny as Collateral, this stylish and deeply involving look at two very similar men on opposite sides of the law, still has all the gravitas and overwhelming emotion it generated so superbly in the cinema a decade ago. The big pull of course, was the first on-screen paring of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro (and fan boys, you can sit down, as The Godfather part 2 doesn’t count, as both actors were never on screen together). Both these acting heavy weights deliver career defining performances, with Pacino, the loud brash spokesman, and DeNiro the calculated, quite alter-ego. Everything I remembered from first seeing the film still works (the street shoot out remains one of the greatest gun battles in cinema history), and even other parts I didn’t think worked as well as many had acclaimed, seemed to work even better on this viewing, with the assistance of hindsight (I’m talking about the coffee house scene, that I originally thought a bit unbelievable, but have since changed my mind). Heat is one of the best films ever made – and even if you bulk at the hefty near-three hour running time, every aspect and every moment just works, that not a second seems stretched out. Other director’s could learn a lot, it seems from Michael Mann.

Verdict: 5 /5

Old Boy  11 March 2005  DVD

A man is imprisoned inexplicably in a room for 15 years by an unknown captor who films and watches his every living moment, before finally releasing him into society and allowing him five days to discover the truth. This awesome premise is given life through the director’s formidable style and taught camera work, flourishes of violence and a central performance so amazing it makes many Oscar winning actors pale significantly in comparison. As somebody who has seen more than his fair share of subtitled films, this complex and gripping Korean thriller was still a bit of a struggle (I found myself rewinding bits just to read certain subtitles again), yet I still came away impressed (and thoroughly humbled by the shock twist) and felt I had watched something quite special. It’s a dark tale, with a fantastic visual sheen to it, but I can understand it not being to some peoples taste – the live squid eating scene was as nasty and disgusting as I had heard – yet I feel also this is as important a film as you are likely to see from a foreign country, with more intelligence than almost anything you may see in the mainstream.

Verdict: 4 /5

Collateral  Feb 25 2005  DVD

Michael Mann directed Heat. First and foremost, that was the reason I wanted to see this acclaimed LA set thriller. Mann is the perfect director to capture the City Of Angels, like Woody Allen is the perfect man for New York. I had also read that this was Mann’s return to the gritty, stylish thrills of Heat after diversions with biopics like Ali…so all the ingredients were in place. Add to the mix the ever dependable Tom Cruise, playing against type as a brutally efficient contract killer, and a chance to check out new big thing Jamie Foxx (star of recent Oscar hopeful Ray) – and you can appreciate, I was looking forward to this immensely. I had heard a few things about it, that it really wasn’t that good, but thankfully I ignored such words and came away suitably impressed. Did I say impressed? Lets rephrase – I really bloody loved this film – it was exciting, nail biting entertainment, shot with a night time beauty only Mann seems able to capture (think the night set airport runway finale of Heat), and with Cruise and Foxx sparking off each other brilliantly, and a tense nightclub shoot out that almost rivals Heat’s big set pieces for memorable heart in mouth adrenaline, and anyone with half a brain should be more than satisfied.

Verdict: 5 /5

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