FILM | Reviews
MELODRAMA MIA MADRE (15) 107min ●●●●●
Italian director Nanni Moretti is a master at sensitively mapping the heartbreak of personal tragedy. His Palme d’Or winner The Son’s Room captured a family’s guilt and grief following the death of a beloved son. The death of Moretti’s mother during the filming of We Have a Pope is the direct inspiration for Mia Madre but this understated, reflective melodrama is less about loss and more about an artist struggling to reconcile life and art, reality and make-believe. The Moretti-inspired character is Margherita (Margherita Buy), an earnest, self-absorbed film director trying to cope with a crumbling private life, and her dying mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini). Moretti co-stars as Margherita’s dutiful brother Giovanni, and the film offers a thoughtful study of family dynamics in the face of looming tragedy. If it sounds a bit glum then there’s extravagant comic relief in the shape of John Turturro’s larger-than-life American actor Barry Huggins, who arrives to join the film. Insecure, conceited, disarmingly charming and full of tall tales, Turturro is an exuberant, scene-stealing hoot, adding fireworks to the quiet colours of this absorbing, affecting take on the many burdens of being human. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 25 Sep.
CRIME CAPER DOPE (15) 103min ●●●●●
Coming on like ‘Geekz n the Hood’, Dope follows a nerdy trio as they nervously negotiate their dicey Inglewood neighbourhood. Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his thinly drawn pals (Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons) wangle their way into a local thug’s birthday bash, where Malcolm pursues his wafty dream-girl (Zoë Kravitz). When it descends into a shoot-out, they end up hanging with and trying to duck a procession of crooks. From here on in, writer-director Rick Famuyiwa plumps
for a crude caper. Careful avoidance of the criminal path is surrendered too blithely, and the cartoony presentation of gangbangers and seductresses is at odds with the initial sensitivity and subversion. Nevertheless, Dope is lively and likeable, with a protagonist who resists easy definition, plenty of visual pop and a propulsive, evocative soundtrack. Yet any truthfulness struggles to survive the contrivances and Moore’s nuanced performance feels suffocated by the sheer flipness of it all. There’s a serious point here about what it takes to escape the ghetto but it’s preachily imparted; that Famuyiwa has to spell out his message in a concluding speech suggests that he knows the film hasn’t done its job. (Emma Simmonds) ■ General release from Fri 4 Sep.
BIOPIC – CRIME LEGEND (TBC) 131min ●●●●●
‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’ So says reporter Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and it’s advice that American writer-director Brian Helgeland applies to his biopic of gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, who ran roughshod over London’s East End during the 50s and 60s.
That it is based on biography The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the
Kray Twins by John Pearson – an author hired by the pair in 1967 – goes some way to explaining the reverential tone. Both screenplay and camera often flinch from the worst of the violence, most notably of the domestic kind, and the fights we do see – including a transformative one between the brothers – are choreographed, bizarrely, to knockabout circus music. It could be that the film is intended as a snapshot of the Krays as they saw themselves, but putting such a sheen on their crimes strikes an uncomfortable chord. Legend’s main point of interest lies in its casting of Tom Hardy as both men, a risk that pays dividends. While Hardy’s portrayal of Ronnie borders on caricature, blurring the line between eccentric and psychopath, he is magnificent as the swaggering Reggie. And though the practicalities of bringing the two together on screen results in necessarily restricted camerawork, the editing is flawless.
For all its technical and dramatic achievements, however, Legend has one
insurmountable flaw: it’s just too glossy. The Krays were not a couple of ambitious businessmen forced to break a few rules, but violent opportunists determined to get their way at any cost. Their story is not one of legend but notoriety – a distinction the film ignores to its ultimate cost. (Nikki Baughan) ■ General release from Wed 9 Sep.
ACTION-THRILLER SICARIO (15) 121min ●●●●● Emily Blunt is superb in Denis Villeneuve’s meticulous action-thriller which takes us into Juárez, Mexico, a lawless land of drugs and guns. When her FBI tactical team leader, Kate, is offered a new interagency assignment, her mettle is tested by a secretive CIA taskforce willing to adopt any means necessary to take down a cartel kingpin. Kate is the kind of dogged female investigator we read about in crime novels and see on TV but that appears less on the big screen. We’re right with her as she’s led unknowingly, then unwillingly into danger. As she
slowly learns the troubling details of her mission, so do we, adding to the stifling sense of dread and confusion so brilliantly cultivated by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score. Kate is surrounded by a male team, led by wise-cracking asshole Matt (perfectly judged work
by Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro – on subtle form as a quietly intimidating ‘adviser’). She becomes a pawn in a game of horribly corrupt international relations, but challenges every move. Sicario (meaning hitman) masterfully explores the strength it takes to question those in command when you’re immersed in a volatile environment. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ General release from Fri 9 Oct.
62 THE LIST 3 Sep–5 Nov 2015