Film reviews: Marley | Blackthorn | Mozart’s Sister | Oliver Sherman | Elles | Battleship

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The rest of this week’s films reviewed by Siobhan Synnot...

Marley (15)

****

Second only to the beaches as Jamaica’s biggest tourist draw, Bob Marley has become a messianic character, preaching one love – although he was unapologetic about the multiple infidelities that led to him fathering 11 children by nine women besides his wife.

Marley only gave a handful of interviews in his lifetime so the insights into his personality are essentially second hand, with the reggae icon remembered by his surviving family, friends and reggae heavyweights such as Bunny Wailer and Junior Marvin. Unlike Touching The Void and One Day In September, director Kevin Macdonald has opted for a relatively straightforward chronology here, perhaps because Marley himself was complex and chaotic enough. Even so, Macdonald makes his documentary sing.

Marley’s music was not strictly reggae but a diluted, sweetened product. However in a two-and-a-half-hour document already stuffed with assassination attempts, poverty, racial tension, concert footage, bust-ups and seductions, Macdonald wisely doesn’t try to add music criticism to the list. Besides, he has the last remaining Wailer, Bunny Wailer, on hand to offer a frank assessment of Marley’s ambition and drive towards global fame. Wailer also appeared in Fire In Babylon, where he gave a personal assessment of the importance of cricket to Jamaican culture and had a long argument with a dog. This time he turns up in a dazzling white officer’s uniform and smokes a carrot. More documentaries could benefit from having Bunny Wailer in them.

On selected release from Friday

Blackthorn (18)

***

You may have thought that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died in a gun battle in Bolivia, but Blackthorn takes advantage of claims that they pulled a last-minute switch and lived to rob another day. However, by 1927, only Cassidy is still alive, and played by Sam Shepard as if hewn from old leather. Shepard has also been lying low – this is his first lead in years – and you hope he’ll get back in saddle again soon because he’s great here as the grizzled, ironic, exasperated desperado.

After being ambushed and deprived of money and horse, he teams up with varmint Eduardo (Eduardo Noriega) for one last score. Along the way, there are shootouts and stand-offs and a lovely encounter with a dogged and exhausted Pinkerton detective (Stephen Rea) who never believed his greatest quarry could kick the bucket so early and so easily.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from Friday; Glasgow Film Theatre, 24-26 April

Mozart’s Sister (12A)

***

Apparently Wolfgang wasn’t the only musician in the family; nor was he the only talented composer but his older sister Marial (Marie Feret, right) hits a wall when she reaches the end of adolescence and her musical ambitions are viewed as unfeminine by her father. Instead, she trails after Wolfgang around Europe, accompanying him on the harpsichord. Things look up when she reaches the French court where the Dauphin is so taken by her that he commissions her to compose a concerto. It’s not the first time a Mozart has had their life reimagined, but this is rather less successful than Amadeus. It’s a great premise, and the Mozarts are rather more nuanced than Tom Hulce’s hyperactive irritant, but the treatment is so understated that it underwhelms.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Friday until 22 April

Oliver Sherman (15)

***

A war vet (Garret Dillahunt) with a brutal head injury pays a visit to the soldier who saved his life. Franklin (Donal Logue) sees him as a friend in need. His wife (Molly Parker) thinks he’s creepy. It turns out they’re both right in this sincere, well-intentioned plod.

Glasgow Film Theatre, Friday until 23 April

Elles (18)

**

Juliette Binoche is a journalist investigating the subject of student prostitution for a magazine article, who becomes increasingly unsettled by – and attracted to – two of her interviewees, Alicja (Joanna Kuligok) and Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustierok). Soon she’s fondling innocent shellfish, self-pleasuring in the bathroom and enjoying drunken nights out with one of the working girls. A clunky attempt at examining some well-worn themes, director Malgorzata Szumowska’s risible film seems almost as salacious as the escort trade it’s supposed to be documenting.

Glasgow Film Theatre, from Friday

Battleship (12A)

*

Liam Neeson, Rihanna and Taylor Kitsch star in this cacophonous nonsense where the US navy takes on aliens. Both sides blow up a lot of stuff. Ideal if you are the world-weary teenage offspring of weapons manufacturers.

On general release

Siobhan Synnot