As well watching The Matrix Resurrections a couple of times and the Bill & Ted films, I managed to cram in quite a few other films this month. The last five in the list were all recorded on Film Four and had been gathering dust on my Sky box for weeks if not months in some cases. The first three were on Netflix and Stuntman was on Disney+.
The Hunt (2020) is probably the film I enjoyed the most in this list. Betty Gilpin (GLOW) plays Crystal, a woman who (for reasons that become only slightly clearer as the film progresses) knows how handle herself and wakes up with eleven strangers by the side of a field. There’s a box of weapons in the middle of the field and a bunch of rich dudes taking pot shots at them from a hidden gun position. So begins their idea of fun – get a bunch of poor people together and hunt them down as if they were deer.
Unfortunately for the rich arseholes they’ve made a mistake including Crystal among their prey. The Hunt is a surprisingly fun romp through an unpredictable and violent story of immediate revenge and consequences. I won’t say any more than that and save potential spoilers for the other films in the list.
Army of Thieves (2021) is the non-zombie prequel to writer Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead which focuses on the exploits of gifted German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (charmingly played by Matthias Schweighöfer, who also directed) who joins a group of international thieves (including Game of Thrones‘ Nathalie Emmanuel, British comedy actor Guz Khan, Ruby O’ Fee (a new face for me) and Stuart Martin (another new face) as the ludicrously named Brad Cage) on a series of robberies during the early stages of the eventual zombie apocalypse.
The story is quite ludicrous in places and the whole process of safe-cracking made to look far too easy. There are some excellent VFX as you’d expect and some good humour along the way, but this is a popcorn movie without no more than two dimensions to any of the characters.
The Adam Project (2022) is on about the same level as Army of Thieves – good VFX, enjoyable story (this one a rather nostalgic time-travel adventure) and some good gags courtesy of Ryan Reynolds who plays a time-travelling pilot who goes back to the present day from the future to protect his younger self.
The cast is strong including Mark Ruffalo who plays the Adam’s scientist father, Catherine Keener who plays his untrustworthy project financier (the ‘bad guy’ in the film), Jennifer Garner as Adam’s mom and Zoe Saldana as big Adam’s girlfriend Laura (wife? I can’t actually remember). Coming so soon after Siggy and I watched Free Guy comparisons were unavoidable and given the choice I’d rather watch Free Guy.
Stuntman (2018) is a wonderful documentary which follows the trials and tribulations of veteran Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun as he gets roped in to financing and performing a rocket bike stunt that Evel Knievel was unable to pull off. Siggy and I didn’t know how this was going to turn out and so it was edge of your seat stuff by the time he climbs into the cockpit.
Hounds of Love (2017) was a pretty horrible film, written and directed by Ben Young, about a young woman who gets abducted and held prisoner in a couple’s suburban house. There are some brilliant performances from the three lead actors – Emma Booth, Stephen Curry and Ashleigh Cummings – but can only recommend it if you’re into that kind of ‘true crime’ fly on the wall type drama.
Loving Vincent (2017) reminded me somewhat of A Scanner Darkly in the way that every scene has been hand painted over the top of rotoscoped footage. It tells the story of the son of a postman who visits the last hometown of Vincent van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) to deliver a letter to his brother and ends up digging into the curious events of the artists his final days there before he shot himself.
Watching the film at times can make you feel a bit seasick as the scenes swirl around mimicking van Goghs oil paintings, but it is a visual treat.
Hell or High Water (2016) was written by Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy) and stars Chris Pine as a divorced father and Ben Foster as his ex-con brother who go around robbing small branches of a particular bank to amass enough money to pay off a debt on the family farm. The debt is owed to the bank whose branches they are robbing, so it’s kind of poetic justice in a way. Jeff Bridges plays the usual ‘one day off retirement’ jaded cop with his wingman Gil Birmingham who starred in Wind River also written by Sheridan.
Bridges puts in a good performance as the wise old cop trying to figure out who is doing the robberies and taking every opportunity to put down his sidekick. As you’d expect Pine plays the sensible brother and Foster the loose cannon. It’s a nicely put together story, with some nice driving sequences and well-written characters, that provides clear motivations to the ‘bad guys’ and leaves you wondering who indeed are the bad guys after all. It’s the bankers. Am I right?
Punisher: War Zone (2008) sees the skull suit worn rather unconvincingly by Ray Stevenson as the vigilante-hero Frank Castle aka The Punisher who is as usual waging his own ultra-violent one-man war on the mob. In this iteration he is up against Dominic West who seemed to love playing the over-the-top mob boss Billy Russoti aka Jigsaw – so called because his face is left horribly disfigured by Castle after being dropped into a glass crusher. This was obviously familiar ground for me after seeing the TV show, in which Castle’s ex-army buddy Billy Russo is disfigured by Castle grinding his face into a broken mirror and I assume that it’s in the Marvel comics too, which I haven’t read.
It’s a fairly well-trodden plot with Castle having to infiltrate the fortress (an abandoned hotel in this case) and kill off all the assembled goons to rescue some hostages. The script is laughable and the execution of visual and practical effects is mixed, resulting in a film that has less of an impact than a good episode of the TV show.
The Rhythm Section (2020) stars Blake Lively as a ex-druggy prostitute out for revenge after the death of her family on a flight that was blown up by a terrorist bomb, and Jude Law as a disgraced MI6 agent code named ‘B’ who trains her to be a killer. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell, directed by Reed Morano who directed The Handmaid’s Tale and produced by Barbara Broccoli who produces the Bond films.
It’s not your run-of-the-mill ‘girl with gun’ movie although it definitely falls into that category and while it is atmospheric and textured in terms of Lively’s great performance, it’s not to be confused with the Bond films. The action sequences are few and the obligatory car chase sequence is filmed from the passenger seat alongside Lively allowing for many hidden cuts and not a particularly exciting sequence. It is less about the action and more about the character.