The Villainess


Viewed – 18 February 2018  online-rental

I was first exposed to the wonders of Korean cinema quite like many were I presume with Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy.  From that starting point firstly, that director became a firm favourite, and I also was treated to some real gems; including last year’s personal top ten entry Train to Busan.  So we come to this somewhat under-hyped action thriller.  Sook-hee has been trained from a young girl to become a deadly, highly skilled assassin.  However upon the death of her mentor, she vows revenge which ultimately lands her in the custody of a government organisation that would like to put her kills to work.

The-Villainess

This starts brilliantly with a no-holds-barred visceral action sequence filmed mostly in first person that well, has to be seen to be believed.  This immediately hooked me, and once again it seems I was in for a top level Korean movie that I’d be recommending to anyone willing to listen.  There’s clear echoes of French classic La Femme Nikita here, as well as Lady Vengeance.  Also the direction, with rapid-fire editing and impossible camera work certainly makes this an experience.  It’s sad to report then, that this is all held together with a rather generic and muddled plot with a myriad of flashbacks that only help to confuse matters.  Performances are largely decent, especially from Kim Ok-bin as Sook-hee and there’s some fun characters and interesting twists.  It also doesn’t take any prisoners and is at times very bloody and violent.  I also found myself caring for the central protagonist’s plight and affected by the shitty things that happen to her … but with a villain who’s motives seem simply ‘because I’m evil’ this ended up not being the full package.

See it for it’s action and impeccable style.  Not so much for it’s plot.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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The Foreigner


Viewed – 02 January 2018  Netflix

I used to be, and probably still am a big fan of Jackie Chan, and have at one time or another seen a great deal of his back catalogue.  In subsequent years I’ll admit he’s gone off my radar even though I realise he still makes movies.  Yet this latest caught my eye as it had been granted a cinema release at one stage and good word of mouth.  Chan plays Quan, a local Chinese restaurant owner living in London who unfortunately witnesses a bombing outside a shop where his daughter goes, leading to her death.  Vowing to track down those responsible, he soon latches onto Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who’s former links to the IRA may prove invaluable.

the_Foreigner

You could call it Chan’s version of all those copy-cat Liam Neeson thrillers we’ve seen of late and has echoes of Taken.  Chan may not be the most compelling of actors and his grasp of English is still hit and miss … but he’s a likeable presence and well, can still kick ass and defy gravity even in his sixties.  Pierce Brosnan however steals the show as a not so subtle take of former Sin Fein leader Gerry Adams, and his spot-on Northern Ireland accent brings a level of authenticity to proceedings.  Also it was interesting having the backdrop of the IRA troubles and director Martin Campbell (Golden Eye) delivers a realistic and thrilling movie with plenty of action and intrigue.

I’s a shame then that really, it hasn’t much going for it we haven’t seen dozens of times before.  It’s engaging and mostly well acted especially from Brosnan, but it’s sense of deja-vu mares what is otherwise a solid thriller, and one certainly more convincing and gritty that I’d normally expect from Chan.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Hounds of Love


Viewed – 01 January 2018  online-rental

I consider abduction / kidnap as one of the most disturbing crimes anyone can do to another person, so sat down to this Australian thriller with a mixture of trepidation and intrigue.  This tells the story of a teenage schoolgirl who falls victim one night to a sexually depraved couple, who abduct and then imprison girls in their suburban house, using them for their sexual needs before discarding them once they’re bored … usually leading to a shallow grave in the woods.

hounds_of_love_

Inspired by real life crimes of a similar type, this pulls no punches.  It’s shot in a very realistic and voyeuristic style, that makes for very uncomfortable viewing, although I found myself absorbed thanks to strong performances, especially from Ashleigh Cummings as Vicki in a harrowing turn.  Director Ben Young doesn’t linger too much on the more violent or sexual aspects, instead choosing to cut away and leave a lot to the imagination … whilst keeping enough in to hammer home the full extent of the couple’s depravity.  I should also point out the atmospheric score, subtle but well judged to increase the intensity.  The exploration of the couple’s brittle relationship was also well observed, along with how Vicki attempts to drive a wedge between them.

I felt support characters like the boyfriend and father were under-developed and Police are as usual portrayed as incompetent idiots.  It also gets a bit predictable in the final act.  That being said I came away rather affected by this, and therefore give it a firm recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

2017 disappointments


A lot of movies come with a degree of anticipation.  Some get hyped beyond all proportion.  Some are adorned with awards and positive buzz.

Below are 10 movies that whilst not inherently bad, I felt either didn’t live up to anticipation or the attention they had received, or I had personally been excited for them but ended up disappointed. 

10.

Alien Covenant

Alien Covenant

9.

Split

Split

8.

The Wailing

The Wailing

7.

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell

6.

Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider Man Homecoming

5.

Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049

4.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver

3.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk poster

2.

La La Land

La La Land

1.

Trainspotting 2

Trainspotting 2

Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

train-to-busan

‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2