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Kilburnlad

BlacKkKlansman


BlacKkKlansman

An African American cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s is hard to believe, but this is the plot of this film from Spike Lee. Ron Stallworth always wanted to be a cop, so he applies to the all-white Colorado Springs police force and convinces his interviewers to take him on, beautifully coiffed afro and all. His inauspicious start in the records archive soon starts to demoralise him, so he requests a transfer to the detectives. At first denied (surprise, surprise!), an opportunity arises when the department wants somebody to go under cover at a meeting being addressed by Kwame Ture, a national civil rights leader. This goes well, and also introduces Ron to Patrice Dumas, whose afro outdoes Ron's. She's president of the black students' union and becomes Ron's ongoing love interest.

Sitting with the detectives, and flush with his success at the civil rights rally, Ron spots an advert from the Ku Klux Klan for new members. So he phones the number and speaks to Walter, convincing him of his anti-black credentials. A meeting is arranged. Of course Ron can't go, for obvious reasons, but Flip Zimmerman, one of his fellow detectives, agrees to do the 'meetings', while Ron handles the telephone conversations. The fact that their voices are different, and that Zimmerman is a non-practising Jew, making him as much a target of the Klan as Ron, just adds to the mix of tension and humour.
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The Equalizer 2


The Equalizer 2

Denzil Washington stars in this sequel to the 2014 adaptation of an 80s TV series. I enjoyed the earlier film and it must be said that this latest story is cast in very much the same vein. Critics reviews haven't been very favourable but it seems that audiences have been more inclined to have enjoyed what they saw. Denzil Washington is of course a big draw and despite arguably being too old to do what his screen persona Robert McCall does, the credibility factor doesn't seem to dissuade his fans.

As with many action films, the opening sequence has little to do with the ultimate plot, it being an introduction to McCall's penchant for taking up just causes on behalf of people with whom he has but a casual acquaintance. On this occasion it's the local bookseller, whose daughter has been abducted by her father. Cue the interior of a Turkish train, with McCall lightly disguised as some sort of religious elder having a conversation with the aforesaid father, as three mean looking henchmen sit in the background. We all know what's going to happen as McCall sets his watch timer to zero.

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Payback


Payback

The other evening I was browsing Amazon's catalogue and came across this 1999 film with Mel Gibson. The summary sounded interesting so I went for it.

It's a classic crime movie from perhaps a earlier age. I subsequently read that the director wanted to shoot it in black and white, but the studio wouldn't agree. Instead the colours were 'bleached' in post-production, giving it a monochromatic feel, particularly during the street scenes. There's lots of violence but also a degree of black comedy, much revolving around an ongoing 'misunderstanding' over a sum of money that Gibson's character 'Porter' is trying to get back.

We start with Porter being treated in a far from clinical environment for the removal of bullets from his back. It's a while before we see the reason for his condition, which basically arose because of a betrayal by his wife Lynn, and a partner in crime Val Resnick. Resnick is in any event a sado-masochist, who not only likes hurting people but also enjoys pain inflicted at the hands of a particularly brutal sex worker. He's also in hoc to the syndicate, this being the reason for his original betrayal of Porter.

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The Snowman


Snowman banner

Once again we've seen a film on its first day of release. And the cinema was relatively well attended for an early afternoon screening. Having checked out the reviews on my return, if Rotten Tomatoes is anything to go by (which is always a moot point) then the critics think it is terrible. But at the time of writing there is a 96% 'want to see it' score from audiences. Let's hope they are not disappointed. I wasn't.

A remote mountain house, a woman and her son, and a policeman arrives to the obvious disquiet of the woman. He is the boy's father, although clearly not of the live-in variety. He quizzes the boy on facts about Norwegian history, and every time the boy fails to answer correctly, he hits the woman brutally. After this he takes her to the bedroom. What follows sets up all that is to follow.

We jump forward in time and the main action is now set in a very cold-looking Oslo, where we're introduced to Harry Hole, played by Michael Fassbender. He's an alcoholic police detective who is just about hanging on to his job, having been quite a celebrity in earlier times for his crime-solving performances. He tells his boss that he 'just needs a case', which he feels will kickstart his recovery. The boss seems far from convinced. In the office he meets a new recruit, Katrine Bratt, played by Rebecca Ferguson. He asks her for a lift home, as he no longer has a driving licence, and on the way they divert to a missing person call. He doesn't see it as anything other than a marital dispute but she clearly sees something else. This is because she has a secret, and her interest in the case is coloured by something in her past.

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The Town


The Town

We watched this 2010 film yesterday evening. The free offerings on Amazon Prime are not always that appealing but this turned out to be a good choice. The cast was fairly star-studded, with an interesting performance from Jon Hamm as a no-nonsense FBI agent, and Blake Lively as the somewhat down-market sister of one of the four criminals upon which the film is based.

We are told that the Charlestown neighbourhood of Boston (aka The Town) is renowned for producing armed robbers, generation after generation. One such group is shown pulling off a very professional heist. After 'convincing' the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) to open the safe, they escape with the money after first microwaving the CCTV tapes and dowsing everything they've touched with bleach, to remove any DNA traces. But one of the group, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), comes across as a bit psychotic, having needlessly assaulted the assistant manager after a silent alarm was triggered - actually by Claire Keesey. Another of the group, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), comes across as the brains and the one who regards a professional job as one where nobody gets hurt, which puts him at odds with Coughlin. He is therefore less than pleased when Couglin takes Keesey as a hostage as they escape the bank.

Claire Keesey is released unharmed but Coughlin has retained her driving licence, with a view to finding her should there be a need to keep her quiet. However, it was clear that during the heist, and later in the escape van, MacRay had become interested in her, so he offers to 'take care' of the situation, intentionally wanting to keep Coughlin away from her. This is where the main storyline of the film develops, as MacRay initially befriends Claire, and then forms a deeper relationship.

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The Sweeney: Paris


The Sweeney: Paris

Another French language film from my watch list on Amazon Prime, this time not a comedy but lots of action. Interestingly for a French film it has an English language title, but apparently it had been know as The Squad, and Antigang, before settling on The Sweeney, piggybacking what was already a popular name from the British 1970s TV series. Most reviewers have found it odd, and a little bit daft, that this film should have been made after the poor reception given to the 2012 British film of the same name. It seems that the Paris version is a virtual remake of this earlier film.

All this being said, the French do make a good cop film, as witnessed in the popular series Engrenages, screened in the UK under the title Spiral. And despite the poor reviews given to the Paris Sweeney, I don't think you can fault it for action, and the backdrop of Paris always adds the extra something to any film.

In case anybody doesn't know, which I doubt is the case, Sweeney comes from London rhyming slang, Sweeney Todd - Flying Squad. The British TV series portrayed this outfit as a law unto itself, cutting official corners but obtaining results. The Paris Sweeney exhibits the same characteristics, but hyped up to the extreme. The film starts with the team causing 40,000€ of damage arresting a small group of robbers. Good results but rather expensive, and the new commander, Becker, is about to make changes. To complicate matters, the team's leader, Serge Buren, is having a relationship with Becker's wife, Margaux, who's on the team. Cartier is Buren's sidekick, a small man who certainly outperforms his stature.

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Baby Driver


Baby Driver

Baby Driver was released today and we went to see it. The trailer whetted my interest and a number of positive reviews reinforced my first impressions.

With quite a lot of film genres around that start to get repetitive, it's good when something comes along that's a bit different. You will no doubt think to yourself that there have been plenty of driving movies, but while the driving is certainly integral to this film, it's not really what marks it out as special. Baby, the young man who gives the film it's name, is in hock to master criminal Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, after he stole his car not realising from whom he was stealing. Doc found out a bit about Baby, so rather than killing him, he employed him as a driver for a series of heists. Baby has to work off the debt, but he is to find out that once he is in with people like Doc, it is difficult to break free.

The lead-in to the film shows us one such heist, with Baby producing some impressive manoeuvres in a 2007 Subaru WRX. All the car action in this film is realistic, with no CGI or 'green screen' effects, and there's certainly some very impressive driving on display. Baby is constantly listening to his iPod. When other members of the gang question why he does this, Doc explains he has tinnitus, and the music blocks out the ringing in his ears. This isn't the whole story, however, and we learn that his mother was a singer, and that a traumatic incident in his childhood influences much of what he does. We also are introduced to his foster father, and the very special relationship between them. We come to understand that Baby is a complex person.

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Hell or High Water


Hell or High Water

I missed this film at the cinema but it's just become available on Amazon Prime. I've not actually tagged it as a comedy but there is a wry humour throughout.

At the beginning of the film we're introduced to two brothers, Toby and Tanner, robbing a bank. There is a degree of amateurism about them and we immediately see that Tanner is the one leaning towards violence, while Toby seemingly wants to avoid any bloodshed. We later understand this difference, Toby being the 'clever' one of the two, while Tanner being an ex-con and basically a bit wild. The story becomes more interesting when we learn the reason for their criminal activity. Their mother is recently deceased and the Texas Midland Bank is looking to repossess her farm because of an outstanding reverse mortgage on the property. Thus we have the ironic situation whereby the brothers are stealing exclusively from Texas Midland to repay Texas Midland. A Robin Hood-esque sort of tale.

This, of course, tends to move ones sympathies to the brothers. But there is no such sympathy coming from Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton. On the cusp of retirement he immediately sees some interesting features to the thieves' MO. For a start, why are they only targeting Texas Midland. And why are the amounts stolen so small. Marcus, along with his native Indian partner Alberto are on the case. Hamilton's plan is to wait in what he regards as the next town to be robbed, having decided that the criminals were sure to come calling.

Meanwhile we learn a bit more about the two brothers. Toby is divorced, and his motive in all this is to provide a good life for his ex wife and two children. Tanner seems to be in it merely for the thrill of the game, at one point leaving Toby in a diner while he pops out impromptu to rob the bank across the road, resulting in a panicked escape leaving Toby in a state of disbelief.

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Free Fire


Free Fire

A bonus trip to the cinema this week while I was waiting for some work to be done on the car at Bury St Edmunds. I had seen the trailer for Free Fire, which showed a shoot-out in a derelict factory. What I didn't expect was that said shoot-out would be the whole film! Amazing as it may seem, this hour and a half film depicts one gun battle in the form of a black comedy.

Set in 1978, Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) have set up an arms deal between some IRA men and a gun dealer. Frank and Chris are the IRA chaps, who are meeting Vernon, a South African dressed in a loud 'Saville Row' suit. Each side have their helpers. Frank has Stevo, a zoned-out druggie, and Bernie. Things are going reasonably smoothly, despite the weapons not being as expected. "I'm not a pizza delivery service" says Vernon, when told that the rifles weren't the ones ordered. The money has been counted by Vernon's efficient sidekick, Martin, and everything is go, but then Harry, one of Vernon's team, recognises Stevo as the person he had fought with the previous evening, and all hell breaks loose.

The one-liners in this film come thick and fast, with the natural Irish humour mixed in with Vernon's equally funny retorts. But the 'little disagreement' between the two guys, thought to have been calmed, takes on a more serious aspect when shots are fired. And so the fire fight starts, with everybody drawing weapons and seemingly shooting at everybody else. To add to the mayhem, Martin, by way of insurance, has two more shooters outside, who subsequently arrive and start adding to the outright confusion.

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Hors la Loi (Outside the Law)


Hors la Loi (Outside the Law)

This film is set against the backdrop of the Algerian independence movement. It follows the life of three brothers from the end of the Second World War up to Algerian independence in 1962, although we are in fact first introduced to them when, as children, their father's land was taken away from the family in Algeria. The film has attracted controversy in respect of historical accuracy, with accusations that it portrays the French as the villains, while likening the Algerians to the Resistance during the War. I must say that I certainly came away with that feeling.

As adult brothers we are next introduced to the three of them, Messaoud, Abdelkader and Saïd, at a parade in the Algerian town of Sétif. This was on the morning of 8 May 1945, the same day that Nazi Germany surrendered. The film depicts the French forces opening fire on the marchers, the impression given that it was French aggression, while historical reports are more equivocal, indicating that there was aggression on both sides. Whatever the truth, it is acknowledged that this event was a turning point in Franco-Algerian relations, leading to the Algerian War of 1954-1962. In February 2005 the French ambassador to Algeria formally apologised for the massacre, referring to it as an "inexcusable tragedy".

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Au nom de ma fille (Kalinka)

Another high quality French film that recounts a true story of how a father pursued justice for his daughter over 30 years. While many films that are based on real events come across as a bit over dramatised, this film has a very authentic feel to it and certainly seems to adhere very closely to the actual events of this case.

Au nom de ma fille (Kalinka)

André and Danièle Bamberki have two children, a son and a daughter, Kalinka. We're introduced to them at their home in Casablanca, Morocco. Dieter Krombach is a German doctor who helps the family when their car goes off the road, injuring Kalinka. After this episode he becomes very attentive towards Danièle and they end up having an affair. André discovers German language learning tapes at home and this alerts him to what's going on. Despite Danièle saying that the affair was over, André remains suspicious and once more finds that she is with Krombach. This leads to their divorce.

The children go to visit their mother in her new home with Krombach in Germany. While there Kalinka mysteriously dies, aged only 14, allegedly as a result of an injection of Kobalt-Ferrlecit (cobalt-iron), given by Krombach supposedly to help her tan. André is, however, suspicious and obtains the autopsy report. This indicates that his daughter may have been sexually assaulted. From this point on he is convinced that Krombach isn't telling the truth and sets out to uncover exactly what happened. His daughters body is exhumed and a further autopsy shows that the sexual organs had been removed, a fact that further deepens his suspicion.

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Live by Night

No golf today as it rained all morning, so instead we went to the cinema. Our choice, Live by Night, starring Ben Affleck who also wrote and directed it. We enjoyed it but checking out the reviews when I got home it would appear that we're perhaps in the minority. The Guardian uses one of its recurring descriptions, namely too sanitised. Meanwhile at Rotten Tomatoes neither critics nor audience are overwhelmed. The general consensus seems to be that it is a good story, taken from a good novel, but that it just doesn't quite succeed.

Live by Night

Set in Prohibition Boston, and subsequently in Tampa Florida, Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a small time 'outlaw', which is what he choses to call himself as distinct from a gangster. Having had his fill of killing, and taking orders, in the First World War, he robs but doesn't kill. Unfortunately the resident 'mobs' don't find his activities acceptable and the head of the 'Irish Gang', Albert White, suggests that he gets rid of his incompetent sidekicks and joins his gang. Things are complicated by the fact that Joe is having a relationship with White's moll, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), a certain death warrant should White find out. A further complication, or one might say surprise, is that Joe's father, Thomas, is a police captain. The final complication is that Maso Pescatore, the Italian Mafias boss, has discovered the affair between Joe and Emma, and threatens blackmail in an attempt to get Joe to kill White.

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The Accountant

Today we saw The Accountant with Ben Affleck playing Christian Wolff, an autistic maths genius who has a sideline in assassinations.

The Accountant

There is a bit of jumping about between his childhood and the present, which is to help to explain why he is as he is. He and his 'normal' brother were brought up in a military family, with a father who pushed aside professional help and instead elected to teach the boys to survive, which included punishing martial arts training. Judging by what comes later, there was a fair amount of special forces training involved as well.

Wolff's small accountancy firm is a cover for his multi-national exploits that involve helping some very unsavoury people. He receives his instructions from a mysterious woman over the phone. She informs him that people "are looking for him", and suggests a more low-key assignment at a company developing advanced prothetic limbs. This assignment in fact turns out to be anything but low-key. Contracted to investigate anomalies discovered by Dana, a young woman from the company's accounts department (played by Anna Kendrick), he does what he's good at and finds a major accountancy discrepancy. This results in an executive of the company meeting an untimely end. Dana is then targeted and the sister of the company's owner doesn't last long either.

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Secret in Their Eyes

This was our film choice this Wednesday. A competent enough crime drama with an impressive cast, so I was surprised to read some fairly downbeat reviews. It seems that the film is a remake of an Oscar-winning Argentine thriller from 2009 and the general consensus is that the original was far better. Having not seen it I can't offer an opinion.

Secret in Their Eyes

The film is set 13 years after the murder of the daughter of a district attorney investigator, Jess, who is played by Julia Roberts, in a rather un-glam part. Ray, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, was as an FBI counter-terrorism investigator at the time, and a good friend of Jess, and has returned to the office because he thinks he has tracked down the murderer. He is there to convince Claire, another co-investigator at the time of the murder, to re-open the case, Claire now being the assistant district attorney.

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La Proie (The Prey)

I was so keen to see the end of this film that I prolonged my exercise bike session until it had finished. Well over an hour and a half. I normally watch a film over two sessions.

This was another Amazon Prime offering and I must say that the French films that I've watched on Prime so far have all been very good. This was no exception.

La Proie (The Prey)

Franck Adrien, a convicted bank robber, shares a cell with John-Louis Maurel, who's been accused of rape but professes his innocence. Adrien is the only one who knows where the bank heist loot is hidden and a group of other prisoners are intent on making him reveal where it's hidden. With the collusion of the guards Adrien is continually physically harassed by these prisoners.

Maurel is also a victim of harassment, but in his case because of his crime. At one point Adrien defends him, and when it transpires that Maurel is to be released, because his accuser has supposedly retracted her evidence, Adrien asks him to convey a message to his wife, this being a coded message that will allow her to find the loot.

Maurel, however, is far from innocent, and he and his wife collude to abscond with Adrien's young daughter, illegally adopting her as their own child, while also making off with the bank money. Adrien is visited by a former gendarme who tells him of his fears about Maurel being a serial sex offender and worried for his family's safety, Adrien escapes prison and sets out to find Maurel.

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Un Prophète

Having watched all the French DVDs that I recently bought I'm now finding films for streaming on Amazon Prime. The latest was 'A Prophet' a crime thriller based around a French prison where a Corsican gang leader, César, and his henchmen effectively run the place.

Un Prophet

A young Arab prisoner, Malik, arrives and is quickly picked out by César as a useful asset. To gain César's protection, which is worth having in what is a very dangerous environment, he must do a 'little job' for him - kill another inmate. From this point on he becomes César's property, while being haunted by his victim.

This film has a very realistic feel about it. It won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix in 2009 and Best Film at the London Film Festival in the same year.

As the plot develops Malik starts to undertake more jobs for César during his 'good behaviour' release days, these having been expedited as a result of César's influence. But Malik is far from stupid, and he starts to develop his own interests. Meanwhile César's influence is threatened when a number of the Corsicans are returned to Corsica, reducing his muscle, while a growing Muslim contingent in the prison is seen as a threat.

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11.6

I've come to the conclusion that where cinema is concerned I'm either easily pleased or my tastes doesn't align with the majority. Yesterday I watched 11.6, a French film about a security guard who one day just drives off with 11.6€ million in banknotes. That sounds straightforward enough, but his motives weren't financial, which separates this from the usual genre of bank heists. Reviews of this film were luke warm.

11.6

It's based on the true story of Toni Musulin, a complex individual who likes expensive cars and practises Krav Maga, although his use of this martial art in the film is limited to a few debilitating holds on his colleagues, by way of jests. He buys a Ferrari f430 Spider for 92,000€, apparently funded from hard-earned savings, amassed no doubt because his wife runs a bar and his money remains his.

A conscientious employee, he isn't at all valued by his boss and you can see his frustration building as the story unfolds. Once he has decided on the heist he distances himself from his wife and his normal work partners so as to not implicate them in his actions. Then, with meticulous planning, and reliance on the very poor procedures at his security company, he drives off with the money.

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Solace

I must be easily pleased where films are concerned, as Solace has been roundly slated by the critics and doesn't seem to have fared much better with audiences. I didn't find it that bad. OK, the clairvoyant aspect was overplayed, especially when John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins) relates FBI agent Katherine Cowles' (Abbie Cornish) life history to her. But Hopkins is good at the psychic stuff.

Solace

Clancy reluctantly assists the Bureau in finding a serial killer but soon discovers that the killer's psychic powers are far superior to his own, to the extent that the killer is playing cat and mouse with both him and the law enforcement officers. He foresees bad outcomes for agent Cowles, but clearly wants to help and if possible protect her, as she reminds him of his daughter who died of leukaemia.

Clowes initially dismisses the whole idea of the paranormal but Clancy reveals things that cannot be otherwise explained, and when he describes intimate details of her earlier life (as mentioned above) she can no longer doubt his powers.

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Mr Holmes

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this film and what transpired was certainly unexpected.

Mr Holmes

Ian McKellen gives an acting masterclass in this portrayal Holmes as an old man struggling with memory loss. Holmes is haunted by his last case but his memory lapses do not allow him to put the matter to rest. In this interpretation Watson, who has died, is credited with writing the Sherlock Holmes books, but Holmes knows that Watson's telling of his last case is not accurate in its ending.

Holmes has returned from Japan, where he sought a natural remedy for his declining memory, and is back in his cottage with his housekeeper and her very bright young son. Here, his bees are perhaps his most important consideration, and he introduces the housekeeper's son to the art of bee keeping. She however becomes concerned over Holmes's influence on her son, and wants to leave for another job, but her son has formed a bond with Holmes and wants to stay. Conflict ensues.

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Child 44

The choice of films this week was between A Touch of Chaos, with Kate Winslet, and Child 44. Reviews for both were not good, the former being somewhat whimsical, while the latter is dark and foreboding. I rather like Kate Winslet but decided in the end on Child 44, having listened to Noomi Rapace, who plays the female lead, on the Graham Norton show.

Child 44

Once again I find myself liking a film that the critics have slated. It is set in 1950s USSR, with flashbacks, including the raising the soviet flag over the Reichstag during the Second World War. Leo, the male lead played by Tom Hardy, is a secret police agent with a conscience. Raisa, his wife, played by Noomi Rapace (of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) appears afraid of him, which is hardly surprising in the atmosphere of distrust and fear that pervades nearly every scene. Everything is bleak, people appear downtrodden, and dissidents do not fare well.

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Inherent Vice

Today we saw Inherent Vice. If you are somebody who likes a film to have a clear plot, simply defined characters who are either 'good' or 'bad' and an ending that is clear cut, then this isn't the film for you.

Inherent Vice

To put this into context, take two newspaper reviews.

First from The Guardian: Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel is this season’s most baffling experience. What does it take to get people to leave before the credits roll?

Now from The Daily Telegraph: Stupendous - 5 stars: Paul Thomas Anderson's surreally funny Thomas Pynchon adaptation is like no noir you've ever seen.

Although the review does then say that after about half an hour you realise that you are going to have to see the film again.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry 'Doc' Sportell, a hippy-styled private investigator (it takes place in the early 70s) who is more often or not smoking something that makes the already surreal film all the more so. Shasta Fay Hepworth is his ex who is involved in some shady goings on with billionaire Michael Z. Wolfmann, who himself is involved with a 'free' property development and a group of Nazi bikers, and who disappears along, it seems, with Shasta.

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Gangster Squad

We saw Gangster Squad today. Very violent but with humour and very watchable.

A group of hand-picked cops leave their badges at home and set out to take down Mickey Cohen, a psychotic mobster who wants to own LA, and is well on his way to achieving his goal.

I particularly liked officer Max 'Hopalong' Kennard, who seemed to have drifted in from a wild west movie, replete with his Colt 45 (or something very similar), lightening fast draw and dead-eyed shooting.


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