FILM | Reviews
DRAMA THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN (TBC) 107min ●●●●●
Shia LaBeouf is rarely out of the headlines at the moment, whether it’s being caught for plagiarising a Daniel Clowes short story, sending pictures of his penis to Lars Von Trier for the forthcoming Nymphomaniac, or refusing to wash on the set of the currently-shooting war movie Fury. This Romanian- set thriller, directed by debut feature filmmaker Fredrik Bond, saw more LaBeouf antics – as he took LSD for one club scene alongside British actors Rupert Grint and James Buckley. Still, dropping acid must be far more entertaining than
watching this pretentious mess, in which LaBeouf’s Charlie heads to Bucharest after the death of his mother (Melissa Leo). On the plane, an elderly Romanian dies next to him, leading the impressionable Charlie to the man’s cellist daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). Falling head over heels with her, Charlie soon angers her gangster husband – a quick- tempered brute called, er, Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen).
The film is overly stylised, overly narrated and overly scored (your ears will take a battering from M83 and Sigur Rós) – it’s no surprise to learn that Bond’s background saw him shooting music promos. There are some amusing moments – mostly involving Grint and Buckley’s buffoonish pill-popping backpackers – but for the most part, it feels ill-conceived and ugly. (James Mottram) ■ Limited release from Fri 14 Feb.
RE-RELEASE THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (12) 92min ●●●●●
Masterpiece is a much overused term, but The Night of the Hunter, a 1955 thriller now restored and re-released, genuinely deserves that accolade. Adapted from Davis Grubb’s 1953 novel (itself based on a true story) by screenwriter James Agee and director Charles Laughton, this southern American Gothic chiller remains terrifying almost 60 years after it was made.
It is set in the Deep South during the Depression, where a bogus preacher named Powell (Robert Mitchum) attempts to retrieve a hoard of loot stolen by a prison cellmate and stashed away with his children. Following the death of said cellmate, Powell woos, marries and murders the dead man’s wife (Shelley Winters), but before he can get his hands on the cash, her plucky kids make a break.
Laughton, who only ever directed this one film, had his cinematographer, Stanley Cortez, shoot it in the style of German expressionist cinema, with several startling set- pieces. Mitchum invests the murderous preacher with a truly disturbing believability, and the result ranks as one of the greatest movie monsters of all time, in a film that remains as powerful as it is unique. (Miles Fielder) ■ GFT, Glasgow, until Thu 23 Jan; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Mon 3–Thu 6 Feb.
DOCUMENTARY KISS THE WATER (PG) 79min ●●●●●
A passion project for producer Eric Steel, Kiss the Water opens with his voiceover explaining a personal interest in the film’s genesis. Having read the newspaper obituary of Scottish fishing legend Megan Boyd, Steel was inspired to investigate, travelling to the northern coast of Scotland to find out the true story of Boyd’s life.
Fly-fishing was Boyd’s art, and although footage of her is fleeting, there’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence from those who ventured to her Highland cottage. Plus, there are close-up reconstructions of the way Boyd created her bait alongside some rather lovely animated snippets depicting life below and above the water’s surface.
The documentary follows Boyd’s rather eccentric life in a straight chronology, with such milestones as Boyd’s creation of flies under the patronage of Prince Charles presented as events of huge significance, not to mention footage of Charles’ wedding to Diana weirdly interspersed with cartoons of fish being caught. It's an odd little curiosity of a film, likely to be of considerable interest to anyone passionate about fly-fishing, but the lazy structure and lack of narrative drive or visual stimulus quickly reveal the reasons that Boyd’s life hasn’t been tackled cinematically before.
As a documentary, Kiss the Water offers little of the lyricism that the title promises, mainly just offering picture postcard views and a succession of talking heads describing an arcane process that is never firmly visualised or explained. This year’s far more creative and visceral documentary, Leviathan, provided a much more cinematic experience; Kiss the Water’s charming but slight fisherman’s tales, as caught by Steel, seem like mere tiddlers in comparison. (Eddie Harrison) ■ GFT, Glasgow, Tue 28–Thu 30 Jan.
COMEDY GRUDGE MATCH (12A) 113min ●●●●●
Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are undoubtedly two of cinema’s heavyweights, yet much of their recent material has been of the lightweight variety. Grudge Match does little to change that perception even if it does manage to land a few telling blows. The film follows a pair of ageing boxing rivals – Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Stallone) and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (De Niro) – as they are lured out of retirement for one final grudge match. Both men have a seething animosity towards each other, fuelled
not only by their ring-based egos but also by their mutual love for a woman named Sally (Kim Basinger). Grudge Match applies more brawn than brain; it feels exploitative during its melodramatic
moments and loud and irritating during the comic parts. But the big fight is worth hanging around for, Stallone and De Niro get to share some nice scenes with each other, and there are a couple of decent sight gags, including a laugh-out-loud mid-credits cameo. For all its many flaws, Grudge Match wins you over – but it’s a points decision. (Rob Carnevale) ■ General release from Fri 24 Jan.
58 THE LIST 23 Jan–20 Feb 2014