I really don’t know what’s taken me so long to get around to this. It’s Denzel Washington in a remake of the much loved cult TV show that starred the late Edward Woodward. Now, I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the show, but Denzel killing bad guys never gets old. So here he plays a mundane blue collar guy who works in a hardware store and by night frequents a diner to read books and swap small talk with the local troubled young prostitute (Chloe Grace Meretz). Now before you make the leap that I did that this was more Taxi Driver than anything else, firstly you wouldn’t be far wrong but said blue collar guy also possesses mad skills as demonstrated when he goes up against a gang of Russian mobsters after said prostitute winds up in hospital. So less the social commentary and more a strong case of picking on the wrong guy, ala John Wick, Leon etc.
What this lacks in originality it more than makes up for with several solid performances and well choreographed action and some brutal violence that makes every stabbing, every punch and every broken bone really hit home. Denzel is on great form, charismatic and deadly and plays the duel ‘everyman’ and ‘trained killer’ personas effortlessly. This is aided well my a scenery chewing, stand out turn from Marton Csokas as the man called in to solve the problems Denzel creates. Moretz is also good if a little underused for a large portion of the movie, but every scene she’s in is decent, with clear echoes of Jodie Foster.
Sad then that in the final act, a very stupid decision by the supposedly intelligent bad guy lets the show down and plausibility is stretched as the movie tries to tie everything up in a neat bow, regardless if it rings true or not. Which is a shame because Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is otherwise stylish, thrilling and confident … and a helluva lot of fun. If this was the 80’s and it was Arnie or Stallone, I could forgive such developments, but cemented in a fairly believable world, I didn’t think the ending worked in the context of what had come before. That said, this is still worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Denzel Washington.
When many people discuss favourite all time horror movies, often this much admired 1973 cult classic gets a mention. Edward Woodward plays a Police Sergeant following up a mysterious letter about a teenage girl going missing on a remote Scottish island. On arriving at the island that seems to have a close-knit community, overseen by the wealthy Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) – Woodward begins to suspect there’s more to the case than meets the eye.
I have always wanted to see this, being a long time horror enthusiast, and often try to seek out those old classics that you keep hearing so much about. Edward Woodward is a fine actor but is wasted here, given little to do than look relatively sane amongst a cast of oddballs. Christopher Lee offers up an imposing, charming performance, that’s creepy but so unashamedly mad, it comes off more pantomime than scary. Britt Ekland is clearly meant to be some sort of seductress, but with a Scots accent that was dubbed by another actress, and even a body double for her famously bizarre nude dance, she barely made an impact. Director Robin Hardy’s movie is meant as an exploration of strange religious beliefs, pagan rituals and isolated communities – which might have been fascinating if it wasn’t for such amateurish production values, and only passable acting, leaving this viewer puzzled as to the movie’s almost-universal acclaim. A twist towards the end was interesting, and I did find the final reveal of the enormous Wicker Man disturbing – but that was at the end – everything else was borderline laughable. And really, what was all that singing about?
This recently released 40th Anniversary Blu-ray holds 3 cuts of the movie, and although I haven’t sat through the other versions (I may take a look) this Final Cut is meant to be the most complete, fully restored version. Which is disappointing when presented with an often poor image quality that occasionally looked like an 8mm home movie, and a serviceable but sometimes muffled soundtrack in basic 2 channel stereo. I have seen movies older than this that look way better, but then again it could all be down to how well preserved the original negative was, and the low-budget of the movie itself. Fans will be happy to find a wealth of extras, including a documentary called ‘burnt offerings’ featuring and written by critic Mark Kermode, exploring the movie’s troubled treatment by the distributors. Add to this a commentary on the director’s cut, a restoration comparison (apparently the movie can look even worse!) and the soundtrack on CD (oh dear…) and this remains a flawed but bumper package.
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