ALISTAIR Harkness reviews the week’s cinema releases.
Fast and Furious 6 (12A)
Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Michelle Rodriguez
* * *
THE surprisingly resilient Fast & Furious franchise shows no sign of slowing down, with this sixth instalment bringing former enemies-turned-bromantic buddies Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) out of early retirement to help Dwayne Johnson’s hulking Diplomatic Security Service agent to track down a national security-threatening computer chip that’s been boosted from the Russian military.
Driving into latter-day Die Hard territory, the film promptly relocates to London (with Glasgow briefly standing in for Docklands), where Toretto’s team – sorry: “family” – face off against a nasty Brit villain (Luke Evans) whose gang of petrol-head mercenaries were responsible for pulling off the aforementioned heist. The soap opera-esque kicker is that Toretto’s thought-to-be-dead/now-memory-impaired girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is actually part of this enemy crew, which is just one of several bizarrely convoluted throwbacks to the earlier films that long-term franchise director Justin Lin deploys in an attempt to reverse engineer the series into a proper saga. Mercifully, there’s plenty of ludicrously exciting stunt driving to offset such spluttering storytelling, though an end-credit stinger (which reveals the past few films are actually prequels to the third movie) does feature a cameo that suggests some genuine action star charisma is about to be brought into the series.
A Hijacking (15)
Directed by: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Abdihakin Asgar
* * * *
THE first of two Somali pirate films coming out this year, A Hijacking may not have the stomach-lurching action sequences that will undoubtedly characterise Paul Greengrass’s forthcoming Captain Philips, but Tobias Lindholm’s film does do a fine job of cranking up the tension when it comes to depicting protracted hostage negotiations.
Borgen star Pilou Asbæk takes the lead as the cook on a Danish frigate boarded by machine-gun toting Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Under Siege premise duly established, what follows is a taut, quasi Dogme-approach to the ordeal as Lindholm jumps back and forth between the seemingly endless days on the ship and the Denmark-based efforts of the company’s CEO (played by another Borgen star, Søren Malling) to personally engage with the pirates and drive the price for the safe return of his employees down to a number that his stock holders can live with.
Though this might suggest another film intent on painting the “company” as bad guys intent on putting profit above everything, Lindholm complicates matters by showing the psychological advantages to haggling in this manner. It doesn’t hurt, either, that this raises the dramatic stakes immeasurably. Nerve-racking viewing.
The Liability (15)
Directed by: Craig Viveiros
Starring: Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mullan, Talulah Riley
* * *
THE odd-couple chemistry between Tim Roth and rising talent Jack O’Connell – as a hitman and his irritating prodigy – is the best reason to see The Liability, a promising if patchy mix of black comedy and genre thrills. From his name (Roy), to his drab appearance, to his kitchen fitter cover story, Roth nicely underplays his weary assassin role, letting O’Connell go into overdrive as Adam, a garrulous but gormless 19-year-old who has taken a job as Roy’s driver to appease his own mother’s gangster boyfriend (Peter Mullan) after writing off the latter’s car.
What follows is a blood-soaked road movie as Roy inducts Adam into the particulars of contract killing while also trying to get to his daughter’s wedding. Along the way, subplots involving sex trafficking and serial killers are woven in as the true nature of Adam’s position is gradually revealed. Alas, this busy set-up requires a lot more skill to pull off than director Craig Viveiros seems able to bring to it and, in the end, the results feel like a less confident Ben Wheatley film. Still, Roth and O’Connell see it through, even if it is a little dispiriting to see Mullan slipping into self-parody as he goes full-tilt crazy during the film’s finale.
Gimme the Loot (15)
Directed by: adam leon
Starring: Tashiana Washington, Ty Hickson, ZoË Lescaze, Joshua Rivera
* * *
DEBUT director Adam Leon graduates from working as Woody Allen’s production assistant to making his first feature with this energetic tale of a pair of young New York graffiti artists on a quest to “tag” a famous baseball landmark.
The plot’s really an excuse to spend time in the company of Sophia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson), though, as the friendship they’ve taken for granted deepens over two baking hot days running around the city trying to hustle enough money to pull off their mission. Both leads are compelling, if not always served with material that feels entirely authentic. But there’s a pleasing, old-school indie vibe about this, a sort of freewheeling, anything-goes approach that prevents it erring on the worthy side.
Leon has also clearly learned a lot from Allen’s ability to capture New York on film; as Sophia and Malcolm pound the streets, Gimme the Loot provides a vibrant snapshot of the city’s lesser-known neighbourhoods filmed by someone clearly in thrall to the life that exists in them.
The Stoker (15)
Directed by: Alexei Balbanov
Starring: Mikhail Skryabin, Alexander Mosin, Aida Tumatova
A CRITICAL hit in veteran director Alexei Balbanov’s native Russia, The Stoker’s blend of deadpan comedy, satirical bite, historical allegory, sexual violence and bewilderingly jaunty music makes for such an uneasy and uneven film it’s difficult to work out what exactly it’s trying to achieve.
The “stoker” of the title is the basement-dwelling Yakut maintenance man (Mikhail Skryabin) of a St Petersburg apartment building whose job it is to tend to the industrial-sized furnace heating the building – a furnace the mob also uses to dispose of their (sometimes still living) victims. But he’s also a war-damaged veteran of the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan who is attempting to write a story about the Russian oppression of his people while former comrades have turned to business and contract killing to make a living. This all suggests the film has things to say on the chaos of post-Soviet Union Russia. The trouble is, Balbanov’s method of teasing this out is itself so wilfully chaotic it’s hard to care, particularly as he seems overly fond of exploiting his female cast.