Tag Archives: chris

FILM REVIEW: Demolition

Davis Mitchell was sleep walking through his marriage. His young, beautiful wife, Julia (Heather Lind), had told him that he didn’t listen, and then one day she was gone; taken from him in a car accident.
I can relate with that. Not in its literal entirety, but the premise and the overall emotional upheaval that it would bring about rings very true to me, as I’m sure it will for many.
There then follows the curious scenario of a man standing at the epicentre of a collective outpouring of familial grief and emotion, yet feeling just a kind of numbness to it all and an overwhelming urge to distance himself from the entire charade.
Davis Mitchell, (the very excellent Jake Gyllenhaal), it would appear has spent the last twelve years of his life on auto pilot; one half of a convenient marriage; almost certainly the less committed half.
A faulty vending machine in the A&E department of the hospital in which his wife has just died prompts Davis to write the first of what becomes an obsessive sequence of letters to the vending firm’s customer care representative, Karen Moreno (Naomi Watts) who, in time he befriends along with her troubled son, Chris (Judah Lewis), and through whom he gradually begins to rediscover himself.
In the aftermath of his wife’s passing, he slips into a somewhat detached and surreal place in his head; the sort of place that one finds oneself in, in times of upheaval, and much as his wife used to implore him to do when she was physically there, he suddenly starts noticing things again, right down to the tiniest of details.
This sudden, new-found observance, together with an obsessive compulsion to rip apart – more often than not, literally – the very fabric and structure of his marriage and everything that has come to represent it, is all well and good in attempting to aid the healing process, but Davis is still employed by Julia’s father, a man who expects Davis to remain true to his daughter’s memory and true to the man that he was before her untimely death.
This thoughtful piece from director Jean-Marc Vallée‘s is simultaneously emotionally involving and entertaining. Predictably Jake Gyllenhaal excels as the emotionally confused widower experiencing the kind of new lease on life that can maybe only be found through the total abandonment of all that has preceded and supposedly defined you to date.
It’s not a film that panders to emotional cliches or resorts in any way to unnecessary schmaltz – when the opportunities are certainly there to do so – and as bizarre as Davis’ new found reality can be at times, crucially it’s a film that remains credible and believable throughout.
Vallée has successfully captured a very different take on the concept of going through the rigours of the grieving process, and how it’s sometimes only ever possible to truly appreciate someone and what they truly meant to you once they’re gone.
A subtle, understated piece that deserves far better critical recognition than sadly it appears to have had thus far.
Very much recommended.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Triple 9

Last year’s truly excellent Sicario raised the bar for hard-hitting, brooding action thrillers. Triple 9, in some ways at least, takes the baton and runs with it.

A gang of criminals together with a number of ‘dirty cops’ are up to no good, using their expertise, insider knowledge and street know-how to pull off a number of heists at the behest of the Russian Jewish Mafia.

On what they presume has been the successful completion of their most recent escapade, they are distressed to discover that their paymasters are not only unhappy with its outcome, but insistent upon one further job, blackmailing them in the process.

It’s a job that’s bordering on the impossible, and any thoughts of successfully navigating its myriad issues are impossible without pulling a ‘Triple 9’ distraction tactic (a ‘Triple 9’ being the recognised police reaction code for killing a police officer).

It’s clear that this job is going to be particularly problematic.

With major personal concerns at stake, the gang pursue this final goal, but very quickly all best laid plans begin to unravel and it becomes clear that some of the people they’re depending upon have not read the script properly.

In an increasingly volatile environment, a game of double-cross, bluff and revenge ensues and it’s left to redneck wayward ‘straight’ cop, Jeffrey, (Woody Harrelson), to attempt to foil this plot and come to the aid of Chris (Casey Affleck) – a genuinely straight cop and the unwitting pawn in the criminals’ game – in the process.

There’s good support from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clifton Collins Junior and Norman Reedus, amongst others, all of whom are convincing in their respective, crooked roles, whilst Kate Winslet’s turn as Russian Mafia boss, Irina Vaslov, is both sinister and beguiling.

John Hillcoat’s direction is strong and purposeful, maintaining a good pace and urgency that both captivates and enthrals as the action unfolds. He’s engineered a plot line here that’s powerful and relentless, weaving in and out, wrong-footing as it goes, springing some genuine surprises.

Add to this a thumping soundtrack from Atticus Ross, reminiscent of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s great work in 2015’s Sicario, driving the action on and ramping up suspense levels in the process, and it’s all too good to be true, right?

In some ways, yes, for there’s one key problem with Triple 9.

For all of the good things that it brings to the table, ultimately it comes across as a film whose director has cherry-picked his favourite aspects from any number of his favourite crime thrillers, moulding them all together; not always convincingly. It’s a film therefore that falls victim to its own over-complicated ambition. In attempting to lead the viewer on a merry dance, Triple 9 does rather tie itself in knots, ultimately falling over itself and losing its way a little towards the end.

Don’t let that be a deterrent though.

It’s not perfect. There are flaws and things that perhaps should have been addressed prior to the final cut, haven’t been.

Nevertheless, Triple 9 still successfully manages to pack a considerable punch and stands ably on its own.