Film reviews: Dead Man Down | Chimpanzee | All Stars | 21 And Over

Chimpanzee. Picture: Contributed

Chimpanzee. Picture: Contributed

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THIS American debut for Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (who made the soporific Swedish version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) is the cinematic equivalent of wading through sludge.

Dead Man Down (15)

**

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Colin FarreLl, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert

Revolving around a mob muscle man (Colin Farrell) with a dark secret in his past and darker thoughts running through his head, it spends a good 20 minutes milking every American crime movie cliché ever as it drops us into a thuddingly dull and violent world full of terse, monosyllabic men who use unimaginatively coded language to discuss money, drugs and prostitution with each other. It’s so dreary it’s practically impenetrable and it doesn’t help that the normally reliable Farrell is on twitchy, startled-looking form as he tries to walk an ambiguous line with his character in order to set up a big reveal that isn’t all that interesting.

Far better is Noomi Rapace as the car accident-scarred French girl who lives opposite him. Batting eyelids through the windows of their respective tower blocks, they begin a relationship predicated on blackmail and revenge. It’s preposterous, of course, but Rapace makes it easy to empathise with her character. Needless to say, the whole thing builds towards a big shoot-out, but none of the action is executed with any verve or style.

Chimpanzee (U)

Directed by: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield

***

Combining gorgeous camera work with a compelling tale of an orphaned chimp called Oscar who is left to fend for himself in the wilds of the Ivory Coast rainforest after a leopard kills his mother, this latest venture from the recently renewed DisneyNature documentary brand is fairly adorable.

True, there’s some shameless anthropomorphism on display, particularly in the way Planet Earth/Frozen Planet filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield set up a good-vs-evil context for the story by placing Oscar at the mercy of two warring tribes of hungry chimps.

But as a primate primer for the younger end of the family market, Chimpanzee does a good job of inspiring awe in our closest cousins and doesn’t stint on harsh “circle of life” lessons (check the scene where Oscar’s fellow chimps hunt down some monkeys for dinner). Tim Allen’s gently amusing narration, meanwhile, is reminiscent of Animal Magic’s Johnny Morris: he characterises the chimps’ behaviour in fun but educational ways, making them easily relatable without erring too much on the side of sentimentality.

All Stars (PG)

***

Directed by: Ben Gregor

Starring: Theo Stevenson, Akai osei-mansfield, Ashley Jensen, Fleur Houdijk, Hugh Dennis, Mark Heap

Revolving around a group of misfit tweens as they attempt to save their local youth centre by putting on a show, this spin-off from the bafflingly successful Street Dance movies is much better than its junior Britain’s Got Talent-esque premise suggests. Credit first-time director Ben Gregor for this.

A graduate of the hipster TV show The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, he shoots London in bright, poppy primary colours and works hard to present everything from the point-of-view of its young cast (there’s an amusing gag about Eminem being “that old rapper”). But it’s the energy and inspired visual flourishes that he brings to the dance sequences that really help elevate this and it’s hard not to go along with the film as his day-dreaming protagonists find themselves battling kendo warriors in an origami world, having dance-offs with space invaders in a Tron-esque videogame, and indulging in cheeky black-and-white homages to The Artist.

The young cast – led by Theo Stevenson and Got to Dance winner Akai Osei-Mansfield – are surprisingly appealing too, and there’s fun, unobtrusive support from Ashley Jensen (interviewed on page 6), Hugh Dennis and Mark Heap as the adults variously trying to help, hinder and outright harm the kids’ quest.

21 and Over (15)

**

Directed by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Starring: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright

The Hangover’s original writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore make their directorial debut with this disappointing college-bound spin on the same inebriated formula. The celebratory night out in this case is the 21st birthday of stressed-out student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), which just-so-happens to be the night before his big interview for medical school.

That kind of thing doesn’t mean much to his best friends from high school, though. Visiting from out of town, garrulous git Miller (Miles Teller) and preppy square Casey (Skylar Astin) are on a mission to get Jeff properly wasted. Sure enough, what begins with the promise of a few quiet drinks soon gets progressively more out of control as Jeff passes out, leaving Miller and Casey to drag him around town, Weekend at Bernie’s style, with no idea how to get him home.

Ritual humiliations for all concerned are duly dished out, and along the way, home truths are learned as the guys realise that they’re perhaps no longer as close as they thought they were. Alas, despite the veneer of vomit-stained raucousness, it’s fairly mild stuff, something commensurate with the lack of danger inherent in a premise built around American twentysomethings indulging in legal drinking.

F*** for Forest (18)

***

Directed by: Michal Marczak

Dundraising and fornication collide in this documentary about a group of German-based environmental activists who raise money and awareness by copulating with volunteers off the street and charging subscribers to view it via their website.

The plan is to use the money – tens of thousands of euros, according to the film – to help tribes in the Amazon save the rainforests, but as the film shows, good intentions don’t necessarily count for much when their activities raise suspicions and hostility among those they’re trying to help. It probably doesn’t help that they’re such an unlikable bunch.

Polish director Michal Marczak’s film spends the first part following the F*** For Forest collective as they ply their gonzo porno trade, revealing its most prominent members to be a group of narcissistic crusty hippies who’ve hit upon an obtuse way to force people to question whether their 
methods of raising awareness through sex are more obscene than standing by as the planet is destroyed.

It’s unintentionally funny in places, but when the group heads for the Amazon and is confronted with the realities of practical activism, the film fails to interrogate their failings in any meaningful way.

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