Master & the ac­tor

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Di­rected by Bernard Rose. Star­ring Danny Hus­ton, Matthew Ja­cobs, Lisa Enos Club, IFI, Dublin, 91 mins TARA BRADY

Beat it, heav­enly spheres. If there’s a more pleas­ing sound in the uni­verse than the pa­tri­cian tones of Danny Hus­ton, we haven’t heard it.

To date, no­body has made bet­ter use of that unique Hustonov mod­u­la­tion than plucky Bri­tish mav­er­ick Bernard Rose. Box­ing Day marks the third col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween di­rec­tor Rose and lead­ing man Hus­ton and – fol­low­ing on from Ivan­sxtc and The Kreutzer Sonata – their third crack at a Leo Tol­stoy joint.

Box­ing Day, an un­fet­tered adap­ta­tion of Tol­stoy’s short story Master and Man, trans­forms a pre-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Rus­sian landowner into Hus­ton’s ill-de­fined, con­tem­po­rary ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist.

Brusque, avari­cious and un­named, it re­quires all of Hus­ton’s charm to keep us on­side as the en­tre­pre­neur ca­joles and lightly sneers at his crum­pled chauf­feur, Nick (Matthew Ja­cobs). The driver, a di­vorced dead­beat with a fu­ri­ous ex-wife (Lisa Enos, the former Mrs Rose), can ill af­ford to com­plain, and the two men ven­ture fur­ther and fur­ther into win­try, snow­bound Colorado in search of prop­er­ties on the verge of fore­clo­sure.

Re­gard­less of the in­creas­ingly per­ilous con­di­tions, the Master has no in­ten­tion of turn­ing back. But is there an old school Tol­stoy-brand fall and re­demp­tion in the works?

We’re used to see­ing Hus­ton ramp up the charisma for oth­er­wise ir­re­deemable characters. Here, Ja­cobs (a film-maker by trade) proves the equal of the bet­ter-known ac­tor. Shot in stark dig­i­tal and pared way, way back into a neat two-step, Rose re­tains the essence of his source de­spite the lo-fi pro­duc­tion val­ues.

As ever, the Bri­tish di­rec­tor has turned in a fine piece of guer­rilla cin­ema jol­lied along by thun­der­ing per­for­mance, colour­ful class snip­ing and bleak­est mid­win­ter. May we have a Tol­stoy quadrilogy, please?

Matthew Ja­cobs and Danny Hus­ton in Box­ing Day

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