After seeing the trailer for this drama I had a strong feeling it would be good. Viggo Mortensen, an actor I feel I haven’t seen in anything for a while, plays Tony Lip a bouncer who after a stint at the coppacabana comes to an end finds himself out of work with a wife and kids to provide for. As an Italian, Tony tries to avoid working for the local mob and instead gets a job chauffeuring former child prodigy and pianist Dr Don Shirley who happens to be African-American. So begins an unlikely pairing and a journey of self discovery for both men.
This entertaining and engrossing drama boasts two strong performances aided by a story inspired by true events. The mismatched pairing mixed with a road trip may be familiar fair but it’s the gravitas of the real-world spot light it puts not only on racism and prejudice in 60s America but also that of different classes and how throwing such people together can change otherwise narrow-minded opinions. The movie is often funny with Mortensen brilliant as a loveable wise-guy type and the gradual bonding and chemistry that is formed between the characters is heart-warming and particularly thought-provoking.
Yes the story doesn’t quite tackle the real ugliness of racism and offers up a more palatable take on the subject but I’d say that works in the movie’s favour and makes this a must watch.
As a fan of David Cronenberg for many years, I will normally seek out anything he does. Although he has stepped away from his horror background of late with thrillers A History Of Violence and Eastern Promises, he has maintained throughout an expert eye for emotional character pieces, none more so than this absorbing drama.
Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung, a Psychologist working in Switzerland who comes across a young woman suffering from hysteria (Kiera Knightley) and turns to famed professor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) to help in her treatment, leading to the beginnings of psycho-analysis. Although the subject fascinated me, I was surprised to be drawn in so deeply by this well acted and interesting movie, which has three strong performances from its leads, especially Fassbender in a very complex role as a man torn between his professional ethics and his sexual desires. Mortenson is also very good as Freud, although for such a famous name, is a little side-lined. Knightley, although effective as the troubled Sabina Spielrein is somewhat over the top, with her constant gurning and facial tics bordering on comical. Doesn’t help that her accent is also pretty ropey.
For a David Cronenberg movie this may be lightweight (the s&m aspects of Spielrein’s condition are only lightly explored), but his often used themes of human psychology and sexuality are a perfect fit, and along with some simply beautiful locations (the architecture and settings of Vienna and Zurich enrich proceedings) and compelling performances, I found this very enjoyable.
Continuing the epic trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings brings together all the plot strands that we have been following in the last two movies as Middle Earth becomes a battle ground. Dark Lord Sauron’s army has developed into a mighty legion who rage war on the city of Minas Tirith, where white wizard Gandalf takes refuge with Pippin, whilst Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli seek out The Army Of The Dead. Meanwhile Froddo Baggins and Samwise Gamjee, along with an increasingly conflicted Gollum close in on Mordor.
David Cronenberg was once mostly known for disturbing horror / dramas that focused on ‘body horror’ and disease, with the likes of Shivers and The Fly. At his best he’s explored the human psyche to brilliantly creepy effect in films like Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch. Yet more recently he has also become a very interesting gangster movie maker. Following on from the unflinching A History of Violence, Cronenberg explores his new playground further and takes that film’s lead Viggo Mortensen with him.
This time we’re in London where a gutsy young midwife (Naomi Watts – as beautiful and convincing as ever) becomes embroiled in the case of a dead prostitute, a new born baby and the Russian Mafia. Mortensen, sporting a very good Russian accent plays a seedy driver / body guard to the local gang, and delivers a steadily menacing and layered performance of a man with more to him than meets the eye. Cronenberg once again, like A History Of Violence gives us frank scenes of sex, nudity and shocking violence (with probably the most savage throat slit in cinema history!) and creates a feeling of dread and brutal realism throughout.
Although for me the film seemed to end too easily, and I was hoping for a bigger climax, this still delivers a powerful and gripping take on the gangster genre in that unique Cronenberg style.
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