FILM | Reviews
COMEDY CUBAN FURY (15) 98min ●●●●●
If it didn’t sound like a totally awful poster quote, Cuban Fury might be billed as ‘From half the team that brought you Shaun of the Dead’. Conceived by and starring Nick Frost, it’s produced by Nira Park, the woman behind all of Frost’s collaborations with Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. The film is set in the world of salsa dancing, and the
prologue shows our hero Bruce as a teenage prodigy who gave up his dream one night after taking a beating. Two decades on, Bruce (Frost) – now a few pounds heavier – has long since put his dancing shoes away. Until, that is, he discovers that his new boss Julia (Rashida Jones) is also a secret salsa lover. Taking a shine to her, he decides to reignite his old passion and win her heart – which first means confronting his grumpy former dance teacher (Ian McShane). While Cuban Fury is a jolly enough film, you never really feel
enough’s at stake. The cast (including the excellent Kayvan Novak) has colour and there’s plenty of sparkly fun to be had but the script lacks the idiosyncrasies that the Pegg-Frost team- up has so often brought, and the direction (by James Griffiths) is shorn of Wright’s invention. Not so much Saturday Night Fever, then, more a Thursday Night Itch. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 14 Feb.
WAR LONE SURVIVOR (15) 121min ●●●●●
Two years after overloading his summer blockbuster Battleship with enough gung-ho patriotism to sink an aircraft carrier, Peter Berg returns to the military for an altogether different kind of film but, in displaying more restraint, duly excels. Lone Survivor is a brutally efficient war movie based on the true story of a 2005 Navy SEAL operation in northern Afghanistan that went badly wrong. It follows a SEAL team led by Marcus Luttrell as they attempt to complete a covert mission to capture a notorious Taliban commander. Mid op, however, they are faced with an ethical decision that could compromise both the mission and their safety.
Mark Wahlberg plays Luttrell, while the remaining members of the team are portrayed by Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch. All four throw themselves into the roles both physically and emotionally. Berg’s direction is tense, especially during the prolonged fire-fights. Crucially, however, the director doesn’t come over too jingoistic. Indeed, the film highlights some of the shortcomings that left the SEALs exposed, while nodding towards the crucial involvement of local Afghans in protecting Luttrell at great risk to themselves. As modern war movies go, Lone Survivor is gutsy, draining and brilliant. (Rob Carnevale) ■ General release from Fri 31 Jan.
NEO-NOIR BASTARDS (TBC) 83min ●●●●●
Films by Claire Denis offer certain pleasures as standard. Ravishing visuals, courtesy of her regular DoP, Agnès Godard. Stirring sounds from her musical collaborators, Tindersticks. Subtle performances from actors who tend to be awfully good-looking. All of those elements are in place in this, her 11th feature, and mark it out as worth seeing; Denis, in any case, is one filmmaker worth being a completist for. But as existing completists know, her oeuvre tends to fluctuate in terms of emotional effectiveness – for every couple of breathtakingly acute and moving works, there’s one that hits wider of the mark. After the double triumph of White Material and 35 Shots of Rum, this is that lesser work:
a murky neo-noir that tangles its plot unnecessarily in the telling, and ends up feeling at once distant and overwrought. Vincent Lindon plays a sailor who comes ashore to unravel his family’s messy involvement with a corrupt and sexually depraved businessman (Michel Subor), only to complicate things further by embarking on an affair with the man’s partner (Chiara Mastroianni). Or is that gambit part of his plan from the start? That’s one of many matters over which we are invited to puzzle; but a lot of enigmatic,
moodily lit encounters don’t create the sense of connection with characters that this plot demands, and the pointlessly chopped-up order of events further blocks engagement, making the viewer work too hard to keep track of a story that doesn’t end up offering all that much. Denis’ ensemble cast takes its collective endeavour admirably seriously, and there are
moments of great visual beauty, but the intensity that the story shoots for is lacking, and the effect is confusing and somewhat empty. It’s also disappointing – if faithful to the noir genre – for Denis to let her female characters languish in such afflicted passivity. (Hannah McGill) ■ Limited release from Fri 14 Feb.
DOCUMENTARY TEENAGE (12A) 77 min ●●●●● Teenage sets itself an impossible task. Inspired by Jon Savage’s hefty bestseller Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, it attempts a sweeping overview of how the concept of the teenager came into existence, from the introduction of revolutionary child labour laws in the early days of the 20th century to the publication of Elliot E Cohen’s young person’s manifesto ‘A Teen-Age Bill Of Rights’ in The New York Times in 1945. It attempts this in little over an hour and a quarter, and the result is fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.
Director Matt Wolf blends the conventional with the experimental as he makes use of some beguiling archive footage and employs the likes of Ben Whishaw and Jena Malone to read the diary entries and voice the thoughts of individual teenagers from Britain and America.
Impressionistic and unpredictable, Teenage feels fairly random and lacks a great deal in the way of context and clarity. It also seems to view the teenager as a unique creation of America and Europe with no notion at all of what might have been happening in the rest of the world during this period. A mildly interesting documentary, but one that barely skims the surface of its subject. (Allan Hunter) ■ Showing as part of the Glasgow Youth Film Festival, Glasgow, Tue 4 Feb. See preview, page 37.
60 THE LIST 23 Jan–20 Feb 2014