As­sas­sins in a comic hit

A com­edy crime ca­per that’s bet­ter than Tarantino; and Mike Leigh sur­prises with his own feel­good fac­tor

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -



WRITER-DI­REC­TOR MARTIN McDon­agh’s blackly comic de­but fea­ture leaves few po­lit­i­cally cor­rect sa­cred cows un­stoned. Hit­men Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Bren­dan Glee­son) have been sent to the me­dieval Bel­gian town of Bruges to lie low while they wait to be con­tacted af­ter pulling off a hit in Lon­don. Ken en­joys sight­see­ing, Ray hates the place, and their con­stant ver­bal spar­ring fu­els a highly en­joy­able odd-cou­ple re­la­tion­ship.

It adds con­sid­er­ably to the sar­donic flavour of a crime ca­per which man­ages to be funny, shock­ing and mem­o­rably taste­less. The lively, cyn­i­cal cli­max, in­volv­ing the duo’s Lon­don boss Harry (Ralph Fi­ennes, com­mit­ting a cru­elly ac­cu­rate send-up of Michael Caine at his most cin­e­mat­i­cally Cock­ney) leads to a gun­fight. “Why don’t you both put your guns down, and go home?” asks a hote­lier as Harry and Ray ex­change bul­lets, only to be put down by Harry’s con­temp­tu­ous re­sponse: “Don’t be stupid! This is the shootout.”

McDon­agh’s high-spir­ited, low-in­ten­tioned film has been com­pared to Tarantino. For­tu­nately it is far more dis­ci­plined and much bet­ter than that.



I T IS time to break out the the­saurus for Mike Leigh’s blithe new com­edy. It is not just epony­mously happy, but also joy­ous, joy­ful, cheer­ful, life-af­firm­ing and feel­good, as well as be­ing his finest and fun­ni­est film to date. And it is blessed with an un­for­get­table, de­servedly award-win­ning per­for­mance by Sally Hawkins as Poppy, a kooky young pri­ma­ryschool teacher.

Leigh is not pre­oc­cu­pied with plot here. No mat­ter. In­stead, he of­fers a won­der­fully ob­served, con­stantly en­ter­tain­ing slice of life as it fol­lows free-spir­ited Poppy, in­tro­duced rid­ing her bi­cy­cle through Lon­don with a ra­di­ant, spir­i­trais­ing smile that in­stantly raises your spir­its.

The bike is stolen af­ter her com­i­cal en­counter with a mo­rose book­seller, but she re­fuses to be dis­heart­ened. Af­ter com­ment­ing wist­fully: “I didn’t even get a chance to say good­bye,” she gets on with mak­ing bird cos­tumes for her pupils and en­joy­ing nights out with flat­mate Zoë (Alexis Zegerman).

In what is Leigh’s fun­ni­est se­quence since the un­for­get­table re­hearsal scene in Topsy Turvy, Poppy ac­com­pa­nies a col­league to fla­menco lessons run by a droll Span­ish in­struc­tor (Ka­rina Fer­nan­dez), whose break­down when she ad­mits she was cuck­olded by a “Swedish bitch” is a tour-de-force.

Poppy’s driv­ing lessons with hec­tor­ing, up­tight Scott (a land­mark per­for­mance by Ed­die Marsan) are hi­lar­i­ous, and, Scott’s ob­ses­sion with his pupil forms a ma­jor and be­liev­ably mov­ing nar­ra­tive strand.

It would be all too easy to heap praise on Leigh for his acute char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, crack­ling di­a­logue and per­fect cast­ing. Easy, but none­the­less ap­pro­pri­ate.


(15) AL­CO­HOLIC LOS An­ge­les cop Tom Lud­low (Keanu Reeves) goes to the line and well be­yond it to res­cue two kid­napped young girls at the start of this hard-edged and bloody thriller. “We’re the po­lice,” he says, “we can do what­ever the hell we want.”

Which is ex­actly what hap­pens when, while be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for al­leged wrong­do­ing by cyn­i­cal Cap­tain James Biggs (Hugh Lau­rie, do­ing an en­joy­ably grumpy riff on his moody medico in television’s House), he seeks re­venge and sets out to clear him­self.

Just about ev­ery bru­tal genre sta­ple is here — gory gun­play, a high body count, unlovely well-used LA lo­ca­tions and a long list of familiar char­ac­ters (an aveng­ing po­lice­man, du­plic­i­tous su­pe­ri­ors, vi­o­lent crim­i­nals). It is topped off by a know­ingly scep­ti­cal screen­play (co-writ­ten by James LA Con­fi­den­tial Ell­roy) and driven hard and fast enough by di­rec­tor David Ayer to keep you watch­ing even when the ac­tion is un­con­vinc­ing.

Reeves, who ap­pears fi­nally to have grown up, is suit­ably mo­rose and mur­der­ous as Lud­low, Naomie Har­ris over­comes heavy­handed di­a­logue to make a good im­pres­sion as the widow of Lud­low’s for­mer part­ner, and, hav­ing won his Os­car play­ing Idi Amin in The Last King of Scot­land, For­est Whi­taker goes well over the top as Lud­low’s ve­nal com­mand­ing of­fi­cer.


(12A) TREA­SURE HUNTERS Ben (Matthew McConaughey) and Tess (Kate Hud­son) have just di­vorced. The rea­son for the split is re­vealed by Tess’s sar­donic di­vorce lawyer who ob­serves: “You mar­ried the guy for sex and ex­pected him to be smart?”

But the cou­ple re­luc­tantly join forces again to find sunken Span­ish trea­sure off the coast of Florida (played here, quite con­vinc­ingly in fact, by the coast of Queens­land, Aus­tralia).

It sounds silly, and that is what this com­edy ad­ven­ture cer­tainly is. But it is also fun, and just the job if you are look­ing for a glossy and deeply unde- mand­ing evening’s en­ter­tain­ment.

The film raises many ques­tions. Will the vil­lains win out in the end? Will Ben and Tess end up to­gether at the fi­nal fade? Will McConaughey ever put on a shirt? Will Don­ald Suther­land, play­ing a some­what fey English-ac­cented bil­lion­aire, be able to main­tain a straight face in the face of the di­a­logue? And per­haps most per­ti­nent of all, what on earth ac­cent is Ray Win­stone us­ing for his over­played vil­lain­ous role?

Hap­pily, all th­ese ques­tions (apart from Win­stone’s con­tri­bu­tion) are an­swered by a light and frothy con­fec­tion that would make a per­fect in­flight flick.

Silly but fun: Kate Hud­son in the en­ter­tain­ing Fool’s Gold

Ill-matched hit­men Bren­dan Glee­son and Colin Farrell star in Martin McDon­agh’s blackly comic In Bruges

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