Sex, Leins & Videotape #42. Paignton film critic Tom Leins returns with a Brit-flick bonanza!
After a 15-year absence, cult British filmmaker Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin, The Passion of Darkly Noon) returns to the fray with Heartless (Lionsgate), a menacing urban horror movie about a mild-mannered young man haunted (literally and figuratively) by his demons.
Jamie (Jim Sturgess) lives his life in the shadows – edgy and fearful because of the huge birthmark on his face. From his shadowy vantage point he sees his East London estate being run ragged by violent delinquents. But are these terrifying youngsters simply wearing demon masks, or are they actually demons themselves? Despite some convincing scenes of urban terror, the first half of the movie feels sloppy and badly written – which is a surprise considering director Ridley’s previous experience as both a screenwriter and a novelist. However, Heartless is worth persevering with, and the second half is far more rewarding.
In a bid to remove his disfigurement, Jamie strikes a deal with a vengeful spirit known as Papa B, which sees him prowl the city, doing Papa B’s murderous bidding. Much to Jamie’s horror the deal isn’t a one-off, and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Boosted by arresting performances from Joseph Rawle (who plays demonic Papa B) and Eddie Marsan (who plays Papa B’s brutal henchman The Weapons Man) Heartless raises its game during the later stages, and protagonist Jamie is plunged into a nightmarish game of one-upmanship with the devil-like Papa B. Ultimately, Heartless is a lot more menacing when it sidelines the slapdash ‘hoody horror’ angle and concentrates on the malevolent soul-trading plot-line. Uneven, but undeniably intriguing.
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A decade after surging to prominence with the memorable clubbing drama Human Traffic, director Justin Kerrigan returns to our screens with I Know You Know (Network), a quirky drama about a young boy’s unusual relationship with his volatile father. Robert Carlyle stars as Charlie, a charismatic secret agent who is fiercely protective of his lonely son Jamie. Although Jamie has a tough time settling into his new school, he seeks solace in his Dad’s bizarre world of tall-tales, fast cars and cool clothes – even if it is never entirely clear what the enigmatic Charlie does for a living.
Tormented by bullies at school, Jamie relies on his Dad for support, but Charlie’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic, and Jamie becomes worried. As Charlie’s stories become even more improbable, his bizarre double-life starts to unravel before Jamie’s very eyes, and their fragile relationship approaches breaking point. Buoyed by an excellent central performance from Robert Carlyle – arguably his best role in years – I Know You Know is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age movie given a quirky, paranoid twist. Both a heartfelt tribute to his own father, and a compelling drama in its own right, I Know You Know belatedly reaffirms Kerrigan’s promising reputation, and is well worth checking out.
Produced by Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, 1234 (Soda) is a wry, entertaining drama about the musical fortunes of geeky Stevie, a reluctant call-centre employee and would-be rock star. Together with dopey colleague Neil (a stereotypically dumb drummer) Stevie attempts to follow his musical dreams in a London music scene already swamped with identikit indie bands. Their first move is to recruit Billy Nixon a former indie label contender with a ruthlessly ambitious streak. Initially unenthusiastic to team up with the uninspiring double-act (they seem to be fuelled exclusively by weak lager and predictable influences!) Billy eventually gives in, and boosts their recruitment drive by luring female bass player Emily into the fold.
With a demo cut and packaged off to the usual record labels, the band set out on the well-trodden toilet circuit, but their enthusiastic efforts struggle to match up to Billy’s exacting standards and tensions begin to mount. Factor Stevie’s growing attraction to the quirky Emily into the mix, and you are left with a volatile musical cocktail that could explode at any moment. 1234 is enjoyable without ever feeling truly essential, but the well-observed music scene details elevate it above mere whimsy. In musical terms, 1234 is like an old, scratched CD from your youth. It may not be the first album you reach for, but it will always put a smile on your face.
After attracting widespread condemnation for urging a heartbroken man to ‘cut’ his ex-girlfriend – so that no one else would want her – Danny Dyer abandons life as an Agony Uncle and returns to his day job with British underworld caper Pimp (Revolver). At a time when his enlightened credentials are under scrutiny, Dyer will win himself few female fans for his role as Stanley, a foul-mouthed pimp who rules his sleazy Soho kingdom with a withering contempt for all of the women who drift through his shifty milieu! However, despite his dapper presence dominating the DVD cover, Dyer actually plays second fiddle to Robert Cavanah, who stars as Woody – a sex-industry fixer who becomes embroiled in a queasy plot concerning an alleged snuff movie.
Determined to protect his girls and appease his paymaster Stanley (Dyer), Woody sets out to investigate – under the media glare of a documentary camera crew… (After beginning life as a regular movie entitled ‘Scratched Inside’ Pimp’s producers changed tack and added a flimsy mock-umentary angle into the mix.) In truth, this strange lapse in judgement provides the least convincing element of the movie, and seems distracting more than anything. Undecided as to whether it wants to be a violent gangster thriller, a dark comedy or a quirky mock-umentary drama, Pimp lurches between scenes with strange disregard for the final product. Dyer fans will lap it up, but despite a charismatic lead performance from Cavanah, and some darkly amusing dialogue Pimp never quite convinces.