Tom Leins is off with a bang for his final batch of 2009 DVD reviews

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Sex, Leins & Videotape #17. Stand well back – Paignton film critic Tom Leins prepares to detonate his final batch of 2009 DVD reviews!

Few film fans would have anticipated reclusive director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Near Dark) returning to the Hollywood major leagues after so long on the sidelines, but return she has! Considering her reputation for making enjoyably vacuous action thrillers, Bigelow explores brave new territory with The Hurt Locker (Lionsgate) The Hurt Locker.

If Bigelow’s lengthy, self-enforced retirement seems like a cause for concern, you needn’t worry, as this subtly-handled, nerve-shredding combat movie is a triumph from start to finish. When their good buddy Sergeant Thompson is killed in the line of duty, bomb disposal technicians Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are assigned to work with Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner), a maverick soldier with a penchant for war-zone thrill-seeking. His new colleagues are disturbed by James’ reckless streak, and he quickly sucks the jaded soldiers into his deadly headspace.

The mutual relationship veers between grudging respect and outright hostility, and as their tour of duty draws to a close, James’ lack of self control pushes them all to the brink. Critics are desperate for a media-friendly sound-bite to sum up The Hurt Locker, and I’ll contribute: “the War on Terror’s answer to Full Metal Jacket”! Simultaneously blistering and thought-provoking, The Hurt Locker is an inspired piece of film-making that re-boots the war movie for a new generation. Excellent.

Exhibit A (Bigger Pictures) is an inventive, ultra-low budget drama about a family in turmoil. Filmed on a teenager’s video camera, Exhibit A is effectively a suburban version of the Blair Witch Project – but this time the horrors are all too real. Exhibit A (the title refers to the video evidence in an impending court case) charts the mental disintegration of cheerful family man Andy (Bradley Cole). After lying to his doting family about a much-needed promotion, Andy’s quiet desperation spirals out of control. Little does he realise, each step of his mental decline is being captured by the voyeuristic gaze of his daughter’s prized video camera. Exhibit A plays out like a demented soap opera, and although it lacks the savage poise of Brit-grit legend Shane Meadows, it remains an inspired UK drama, and refuses to be held back by its budgetary limitations. If the visually induced motion sickness doesn’t get you, the creepy domestic meltdown will. Queasy stuff!

The peculiarly British world of Dogging arguably lends itself to comedy better than any other grubby sexual peccadillo of recent years. Unfortunately, Dogging: A Love Story (Vertigo Films) Dogging: A Love Story fails to make the most of its curious premise and possesses neither the humour nor the dramatic tension to set itself apart from similarly crude comedies. Devon-born actor Luke Treadaway stars as Dan, a jobless wannabe journalist desperate to make an impression and carve himself a media career.

When his brash flatmate Rob introduces him to the seedy world of Dogging, Dan spies an ideal opportunity to work on a journalistic expose and launch his faltering career. Torn between his shallow, demanding girlfriend and mysterious online Dogging enthusiast ‘Horny Geordie Lass’, Dan (AKA ‘East of England 8 Inches’) finds himself increasingly sucked into the sleazy Geordie Dogging scene. Smut fans will find plenty to gawp at, but the anyone hoping for a truly edgy Brit-flick will be disappointed when confronted with the grim, humourless reality of car park sex. All in all, a disappointingly limp offering.