Film Reviews DRAMA A BOY CALLED DAD (15) 79min ●●●●●
ADVENTURE/WAR VALHALLA RISING (15) 92min ●●●●●
Expectations have substantially cooled on Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow- up to last year’s brilliant Bronson, but those accustomed to his art-house sensibility/ visceral action fusions will find something original in Valhalla Rising. Refn’s brutal film shares less with conventional Viking flicks than the atavistic mood of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God.
After their successful collaboration on the first two Pusher films, Refn returns to Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Clash of the Titans) to play One-Eye, a sinewy, tattooed warrior first introduced in slavery to a Norse chieftain. One-Eye’s imprisonment is a temporary affair, and after an extremely bloody escape, he falls in with a group of Scottish pilgrims. Their high-minded mission across the sea leads One-Eye into a plotless, hallucinatory mess of dirt, squalor, madness and death.
Rumours that Refn would be watering down his uncompromising vision
for a mainstream audience for this long gestated project prove false. Valhalla Rising is a difficult, surprisingly meditative but ultimately rewarding slice of historical ultra-realism.
As with Bronson, Refn is more than ready to get inside the head of a man whose vision is regularly clouded by a volcanic dust cloud of vengeful fury, and Mikkelsen is up to the task of immersing himself in the role. Unfortunately, the locally-sourced supporting cast is less convincing, saddled with over-enunciated delivery that grates in comparison with One-Eye’s menacing silence. As uncompromising, unsentimental and deliberately unlovable as its central character, Valhalla Rising is strong meat for those who can take it. (Eddie Harrison) ■ Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 30 Apr. Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Mon 10 May (Momentum). See profile, page 43.
April’s pre-blockbuster season is a traditional ‘dump slot’ for unanticipated UK films, and it’s a shame to see A Boy Called Dad given such unceremonious treatment, particularly as it showcases a strong performance from the perennially underused Ian Hart.
Filming on unlovely locations around Nottingham, Llandudno and Skegness, A Boy Called Dad’s title succinctly nails the nature of its small- scale drama. 1980s casualty Joe (Hart) is the seldom-seen father of teenage tearaway Robbie (Kyle Ward), who inadvertently fathers a child during a bus-shelter fumble with Nia (Charlene McKenna). Things take a melodramatic twist when Robbie goes on the run with their baby, while Joe searches desperately for his son (and grandson) before the authorities close in.
As with East Midland Media’s other kidnapping drama from 2009, Crying With Laughter, Brian Percival’s film treats a potentially contrived situation with welcome seriousness, with Hart ideally cast as a genial man sobered up by seeing his son make the same mistakes as he did. Cameos from genre stalwarts Steve Evets (Summer) and Chrissy Rock (Ladybird, Ladybird) set the tone for a worthy entry in the ongoing grim-up-north cycle. (Eddie Harrison) ■ Selected release from Fri 30 Apr. See profile, index.
THRILLER REVANCHE (15) 121min ●●●●●
ALSO RELEASED Gentlemen Broncos (12A) 89min ●●●●● Disappointing comedy from Jared Hess, the writer/director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. This quirky but condescending and unfunny rites-of-passage comedy follows introverted sci-fi aficionado Benjamin (Michael Angarano) as he attempts to write and then film a fantasy epic with his hero – sci-fi author Dr Ronald Chevalier (Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement). Selected release from Fri 30 May. On DVD from Mon 3 May (Fox). Iron Man 2 (12A) 124min (Unable to review at time of going to press) Sequel to popular superhero adaptation. Will be reviewed at www.list.co.uk. General release from Fri 30 Apr. Furry Vengeance (PG) 91min ●●●●● Likeably silly family comedy with a welcome ecological message. Brendan Fraser stars as ambitious real estate developer Dan Sanders who is stalked by a band of angry animals when his new housing project pushes too far into their wilderness habitat. Zany, broad and a lot of fun. Great live action effects too. General release from Fri 7 May A Nightmare on Elm Street (18) 95min (Unable to review at time of going to press) Remake of Wes Craven’s seminal, sequel spawning 1984 horror. Will be reviewed at www.list.co.uk General release from Fri 7 May. The Back-Up Plan (12A) 103min ●●●●● Jennifer Lopez returns to film acting in this bland, generic comedy about a single woman who opts for artificial insemination after dating for years and failing to find the right man. Of course Mr Right (Alex O’Loughlin) breezes into her life just as she learns she’s pregnant. General release from Fri 7 May.
Austrian writer-director Gotz Spielmann’s brooding contemporary fable brings together two couples from two very different environments, exploring how a traumatic event impacts emotionally on human lives. Ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) is a dogsbody at a Viennese brothel. Needing cash Alex decides to rob a bank, near to where his grandfather (Hannes Thanheiser) lives on a farm. Sheltering there after a tragically botched raid, Alex becomes the victim of wretched circumstance. On paper Revanche seems a contrived affair, yet Spielmann is far more
concerned with examining his characters than relying on plot twists to keep the viewer’s attention. The filmmaker takes his time in establishing the various individuals and their milieu and this leisurely approach reaps real dividends. There’s no musical score either, allowing us to appreciate the sounds of the natural world, and the carefully controlled compositions of cinematographer Martin Gschlacht have a powerful starkness: certainly there’s an interesting counterpoint between these precise tableaux and the messiness of the emotions (guilt, fear, vengeance, loneliness, anger etc) experienced by the protagonists. Impressively acted by its ensemble cast, Revanche is an absorbing, sympathetic and appropriately open-ended work, and further proof of the vitality of current Austrian cinema. (Tom Dawson) ■ GFT, Glasgow, Fri 30 Apr–Thu 6 May;. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Wed 12–Mon 17 May.
44 THE LIST 29 Apr–13 May 2010