When a third wheel goes off the rails

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - CLARKE DON­ALD

THE PER­FECT GUY Di­rected by David M Rosen­thal. Star­ring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Mor­ris Chest­nut, L Scott Cald­well, Charles S Dut­ton, John Getz, Tess Harper, Kathryn Mor­ris. 15A cert, gen release, 99 min Oh, why not? Let’s end the year as we be­gan. You may re­mem­ber that, back in Fe­bru­ary, we saw Jen­nifer Lopez ter­rorised by an ini­tially en­tic­ing young neigh­bour in The Boy Next Door. That film had the virtue of trig­ger­ing ac­ci­den­tal hi­lar­ity at ev­ery ab­surd turn. (Though I de­fend the film-makers from the ac­cu­sa­tion that they thought Homer’s Odyssey was first pub­lished in the 19th cen­tury.)

This African-Amer­i­can take on the same plot is not quite so broad or in­com­pe­tent. No­body falls over (un­less the story so de­mands). The cam­era re­mains up­right. The ac­tors keep straight faces.

All of this, un­for­tu­nately, adds up to a con­sid­er­ably more bor­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. What we wouldn’t give for a rub­ber swamp mon­ster.

The com­pe­tent, if un­charis­matic Sanaa Lathan plays a top some­thing-or-other (a lob­by­ist, I think) who is fail­ing to get along with the re­li­ably gor- geous Mor­ris Chest­nut. He gets the old heave-ho and she then falls for the more compact, bor­der­line be­atific Michael Ealy.“I spe­cialise in cor­po­rate es­pi­onage and net­work pro­tec­tion. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion from making peo­ple safe,” he says by way of de­layed ex­po­si­tion and un­con­vinc­ing de­flec­tion.

Ealy is ini­tially so pre­pos­ter­ously vir­tu­ous that one of only two later plot devel­op­ments will seem sat­is­fac­tory. He must turn out to be the Lord him­self or a per­pe­tra­tor of full-scale geno­cide. The truth is closer to the lat­ter.

Fol­low­ing a week­end at Lathan’s par­ents, Ealy flies off the han­dle and at­tacks a largely blame­less hick at a gas sta­tion. In the blink of an eye, he turns from the nicest chap in the whole world to a psy­chopath of su­per­nat­u­ral pro­por­tions.

The beats of the char­ac­ter are as fol­low: lovely, lovely, lovely, satanic, satanic, satanic. To be fair, The Per­fect Guy does have a grat­i­fy­ing strain of ruth­less­ness to it. As­sume no char­ac­ter to be safe from an­ni­hi­la­tion.

How­ever, the rhythms are too jar­ring for most sober au­di­ences to bear. HAND GES­TURES (IL GESTO DELLE MANI) Di­rected by Francesco Clerici. Fea­tur­ing An­drea Boc­cone, Ni­co­lae Cior­tan, Mario Conti, Luigi Con­tino, Simion Mar­ius Cos­tel, Ilaria Cuccagna, Lino De Ponti, Tom­maso Rossi, Caled Saad, An­to­nio Serra, Elia Alunni Tullini, Ve­lasco Vi­tali. Club, IFI mem­bers, 77mins THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCK­ING­JAY – PART 2 Di­rected by Fran­cis Lawrence. Star­ring Jen­nifer Lawrence, Josh Hutch­er­son, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Har­rel­son, Don­ald Suther­land, Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man, Ju­lianne Moore, El­iz­a­beth Banks. 12A cert, gen­eral release, 135 min View­ers with an ap­petite for the purer vari­ants of slow cin­ema – think Two Years At Sea and Le Quat­tro Volte – will find plenty to savour in this pa­tient Ital­ian doc­u­men­tary.

Win­ner of the Fipresci (In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Film Crit­ics) prize at the Berlin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Francesco Clerici’s short de­but fea­ture is a fo­cused Vic­tim of an­other money-grab­bing, last-vol­ume bi­fur­ca­tion, the penul­ti­mate episode of The Hunger Games suf­fered from not hav­ing a proper end­ing. You couldn’t say that about (deep breath) The Hunger Games: Mock­ing­jay – Part 2. I counted at least four. There may have been an­other two or three, but it was too murky to tell for sure.

It seems un­likely that there has ever been a main­stream block­buster that has been quite so con­spic­u­ously un­der-lit. At times, Jo Willems’s cam­era al­lows only the odd nos­tril and cheek­bone to pierce the per­vad­ing gloom. This is to a tonal pur­pose.

Be­gin­ning with Peeta (Josh Hutch­er­son), Kat­niss Everdeen’s clos­est chum, re­cov­er­ing from a fit of brain­wash­ing, the film is mostly taken up with the hero­ine lead­ing a team through hos­tile ter­ri­tory in an at­tempt to as­sas­si­nate the sickly Pres­i­dent Snow (Don­ald Suther­land).

As the revo­lu­tion gath­ers mo­men­tum, we be­gin to sus­pect that, rather than en­joy­ing a new dawn, the cit­i­zens of Panem are caught in a repet­i­tive cy­cle of op­pres­sion. They look “from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but al­ready it was im­pos­si­ble to say which was which.” You know how it goes.

The murk also helps to study of a his­toric bronze foundry in Milan that still uses lost-wax cast­ing, a tech­nique that dates back to the fourth cen­tury BC.

Di­a­logue-free – save for an in­struc­tion to fetch a crane, a worker com­par­ing the wax to cus­tard and the hum of a ra­dio – Hand Ges­tures holds fast to its ti­tle, as var­i­ous crafts­men toil on a sculp­ture by the artist Ve­lasco Vi­tali.

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