THRILLER UNSTOPPABLE (12A) 98min ●●●●● ROMANCE/DRAMA/ANIMATION CHICO & RITA (15) 93min ●●●●●
This Spanish-made, English-language, feature-length animation joins the ever- growing list of highly unconventional, beautifully realised, adult-oriented cartoons made outside of America that also includes The Illusionist, Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis. Co-conceived and directed by filmmaker Fernando Trueba (Belle Époque), artist and designer Javier Mariscal and promo/ad-maker Tono Errando, it’s a love story set against the backdrop of Havana and New York in the late 1940s and 50s, a key time for popular music when Latin rhythms and modern jazz were fusing to create a new kind of sound. Trueba conceived the story of Chico & Rita as a bolero, a Latin ballad about heartache, in which the young Cuban couple would meet in Havana, make love and music together and subsequently be separated and reunited repeatedly.
The animation style, cartoon-y but detailed, is richly evocative of the era and locations in which the story takes place. As befits a film that’s as much about music as it is about romance famous musicians of the day appear in a series of cameos, among them, Dizzy Gillespie, Gillespie’s Cuban Congo player Chano Pozo, Charlie Parker and Nat King Cole. Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is fantastic, featuring classic tunes reworked by contemporary musicians under the leadership of Cuban pianist/bandleader, Bebo Valdés. (Miles Fielder) ■ Selected release from Fri 19 Nov. See profile, index.
THRILLER THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (LUFTSLOTTET SOM SPRANGDES) (15) 146min ●●●●●
‘It’s like a Greek tragedy’ comments one of the minor characters in the third thriller adapted from the late Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy. There’s certainly something mythic about Lisbeth Salander’s baroquely rendered revenge story. Meanwhile, dogged reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) follows each labyrinthine twist in her quest for justice like any straight-faced TV Euro-cop. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest picks up the story with Salander
(Noomi Rapace) having a bullet removed from her brain as she recovers in hospital. Blomkvist is still active, and aware that the wheels are already in motion to stop her trial for the attempted murder of her father. During her trial, the prosecution continually cast aspersions on Lisbeth’s mental state, and she certainly cuts an eccentric figure in a full Mohican hairdo and steel-toe-capped boots. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest skillfully unravels the method in her madness, Lisbeth’s lawyer accurately sums up the situation by suggesting that she’s been assaulted, by individuals and by the State itself, in a manner all the more distressing for being both ‘psychological and legal’. Larsson’s story is essentially as reactionary as any crowd-pleasing vigilante thriller from the 1970s, but cleverly revised with more modern concerns about political manipulation and the exploitation of women.
With David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
already in progress, starring Daniel Craig and Fincher’s The Social Network star Rooney Mara, these Swedish made-for-television versions may soon become somewhat outmoded, but they’re compulsively watchable. Director Daniel Alfredson has the intelligence to skip the more complicated machinations of the book, inadvertently exposing some shonky plotting in the process. While no great shakes as cinema, Hornet’s Nest will be catnip to those who empathise with Lisbeth’s war against the male hegemony – unjustly treated and propelled to her own sweet revenge, Lisbeth Salander’s story is enough to ignite the inner goth in us all. (Eddie Harrison) ■ Selected release from Fri 26 Nov.
Director Tony Scott clearly hasn’t had enough of Denzel Washington and locomotives; after their half-hearted remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable puts both director and star back on the tracks for a slick action film about a runaway train.
Scott’s film claims to be based on an actual incident where an unmanned train with an explosive cargo steamed through several states before being brought to a halt, but Unstoppable ends up as pure Hollywood moonshine. Writer Mark Bomback (Die Hard 4.0) at least creates a degree of blue-collar authenticity by reshaping the narrative as a buddy movie, with old hand Frank (Washington) and rookie Will (Star Trek’s Chris Pine) bonding as they attempt to board the errant locomotive.
Whatever the narrative deficiencies of his other work, Scott is a consummate visual stylist, and creates a fresh, colourful palette that makes the ongoing pursuit fun to watch. Less effective is the use of commentary from various Fox News anchormen to explain the technicalities of the chase, constantly setting up obstacles for our heroes to surmount with predictable ease. Unstoppable is a fast and furious popcorn movie, but ultimately adds up to little more than an expensive thrill ride. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release, Wed 24 Nov.
THRILLER MACHETE (18) 104min ●●●●●
Originally positioned as an intermission in Grindhouse, the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino homage to 70s exploitation movies, Machete’s trailer encapsulated the Mex- ploitation genre with extra cajones, with man-mountain Danny Trejo ideally cast as a hitman set up for a crime he didn’t commit. By expanding this three-minute segment into a full-blown action film, Rodriguez (co-
directing with editor Ethan Maniquis) has constructed an absurdly violent tale that quickly goes so far over the top, there’s nowhere left to go. The story may be as plain as any run- of-the-mill thriller, but with a game all-star cast roped into the pantomime, there’s never a dull moment. Robert De Niro features as a crooked senator, Don Johnson as a racist sheriff, Lindsay Lohan as the senator’s nubile daughter, Steven Seagal as an über- gangster, Jessica Alba as an FBI agent, Michelle Rodriguez as a Tex-Mex underground leader and best of all, Cheech Marin as a turbulent priest. Throw in a silly climactic recreation of The Alamo with a variety of souped-up automobiles, and all the elements of a good trashy movie are in place. That Machete is never quite the sum of such disparate parts is no surprise; whereas the trailer was sprightly and knowing, the feature struggles to re-invigorate the genre clichés. But there’s no lack of imagination or effort to the presentation; if you’re in the mood and have a few beers at the ready, Machete kills, and kills, and kills. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release, Fri 26 Nov.
18 Nov–2 Dec 2010 THE LIST 43