THOUGH you wouldn’t know it from the title, this latest Nordic Noir is actually a belated sequel to one of Sweden’s most acclaimed thrillers (1996’s The Hunters). Don’t let that put you off, though.
False Trail (15)
Directed by: Kjell Sundvall
Starring: Peter Stormare, Rolf Lassgård, Annika Nordin
* * *
It works well enough as a stand-alone feature, one that’s clearly being released to try and entice some of The Killing’s vast fan base into cinemas. Revolving around the hunt for a missing female cop, it certainly has more in common with the gloomy atmospherics of Scandinavian television than the knock-around caper antics of recent films such as Headhunters and Jackpot.
At its heart is the rivalry and animosity that exists between Peter Stormare’s small-town rural cop and the Stockholm-based detective (Rolf Lassgård) brought in to help crack the case. Both men are linked by tragedy, but their mutual contempt intensifies with the latter’s arrival – particularly as he questions whether the suspect the local cops are convinced is involved had anything to do with it. Plot twists abound, but they don’t detract from the strong character work done by the leads, with Coen brothers regular Stormare on especially unhinged form.
The Man with the Iron Fists (18)
Directed by: RZA
Starring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Lucy LIU, Byron Mann, Rick Yune
* * *
“PRESENTED by” Quentin Tarrantino and co-written by Eli Roth (his most eager disciple in producing knowing exploitation trash), this directorial debut from genius hip-hop artist RZA isn’t half bad. That’s largely because the musical visionary behind the kung-fu obsessed Wu-Tang Clan uses his well-documented interest in martial arts movies to deliver a scrappily authentic and entertainingly bloody tribute to old-school chopsocky films and taken purely on those terms, there’s not a lot to complain about.
RZA may cast himself in the title role of a blacksmith in rural 19th-century China who gets caught in the middle of a clan war, looses his arms and draws on his trade – and his knowledge of chi – to forge some anvil-smashing fists, but he’s smart enough to surround himself with out-there supporting players to shoulder the burden of carrying a movie.
Chief among these is Russell Crowe. Sporting another of his dead-eared English accents, he’s unexpectedly good fun as Jack Knife, a burley adventurer with violent proclivities whose entrance into the movie involves him reluctantly gutting an overweight patron of a brothel who goes by the name of Crazy Hippo. It’s that kind of film.
Love Crime (15)
Directed by: Alain Corneau
Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet
THIS posthumous release for the late Alain Corneau’s last completed film is notable mainly for pitting two of European cinema’s most enticing actress against one another in a sort of corporate spin on All About Eve. Too bad, then, it’s not riskier. With Kristin Scott Thomas starring as an icy, power-hungry executive whose willingness to exploit, maltreat and humiliate Ludivine Sagnier’s workaholic corporate grunt under the auspices of a character-building mentor/protégé relationship, there’s a disappointing lack of interest in exploring the rich psychological landscape this premise throws up.
Indeed, both actresses appear to be primed to engage in a delicate game of head-messing and intergenerational warfare, especially in the early stages when their characters appear to be benignly sizing each other up. Alas, all they’re really doing is setting the scene for a rather rote, noirish crime movie, as Christine (Scott Thomas) hoists herself with her own petard as she foists her own callow lover (Patrick Mille) onto the lonely Isabelle (Sagnier) only to discover she’s underestimated her underling’s pathological desire to get to the top. What a disappointment.
Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings (U)
Directed by: Robert Gannaway, Peggy Holmes
Voices: Timothy Dalton, Lucy Hale, Mae Whitman, Lucy Liu, Anjelica Huston
TIME was sequels and spin-offs from classic Disney films would go straight to video, where they could be enjoyed multiple times by undemanding fans. Not any more. This slight adventure for Peter Pan’s practically minded pixie hardly qualifies as a feature (it’s barely 70 minutes long), but here it is in cinemas anyway, plugging the tots-friendly 3D-movie gap normally filled by those Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.
That it’s nowhere near as annoying or cloying as those films is at least some relief, as is the film’s female-centric focus, which homes in on Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) and her discovery that she has a long-lost sister called Periwinkle (Lucy Hale). The latter’s status as a frost fairy becomes the prime plot kicker as Tinker Bell strives to find a way that will allow warm fairies like her and winter fairies like her sister to survive in each other’s environments.
Classing up the supporting voice cast is a typically stern-sounding Timothy Dalton (as the pixie overlord of Winter Woods) and Anjelica Huston (as Queen Clarion), but the brightly-coloured visuals and frenetic story ensures this is little more than a cinematic stocking filler.
The Pool (12A)
Directed by: Chris Smith
Starring: Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan
* * *
BETTER known as the director of acclaimed documentaries such as the hugely entertaining American Movie and the disturbing Collapse, Chris Smith’s first narrative feature since his 1996 debut American Job finally makes it into cinemas – almost six years after debuting at the Sundance Film Festival.
Quite why it’s taken this long to appear is unclear given that this Slumdog Millionaire-anticipating tale of haves and have-nots in modern-day India makes for fairly compelling viewing.
Conforming to the reality-blurring style of so much modern arthouse cinema (characters named after the non-professionals playing them; real locations; a semi-improvised feel to the dialogue), it revolves around the vagabond-like Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan). A country boy who scrapes a living selling plastic bags on the streets of Panjim, he becomes obsessed with the swimming pool in a nearby holiday home owned by a wealthy Mumbai family.
Though plot-wise nothing much happens, Smith elicits strong sense of place and teases out the film’s themes through simple exchanges between Venkatesh, his pauper-like friend Jhangir (Jhangir Badsha) and Ayesha (Ayesha Mhan), the teenage daughter of the pool’s owner Nana (Nana Patekar), whose wealth, it transpires, is no barrier to tragedy.