Since surging to prominence with his riveting turn as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2007) German/Irish actor Michael Fassbender has been on an incredible hot streak, with movies as diverse as Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class raising his profile yet further.
Shame (Momentum) sees Fassbender team up with Turner Prize-winner-turned-director McQueen once more, for an all-new study of a man in crisis. Brandon (Fassbender) is a handsome 30-something living in New York and balancing a demanding job with an active social life and an all-consuming sex-addiction.
When his wayward sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan, Drive) turns up at his apartment unannounced, Brandon’s painstakingly balanced lifestyle quickly collapses in on itself, plunging him into an existential crisis. Wracked with self-doubt and plagued with commitment issues, Brandon’s sex addiction spirals even further out of control and he starts to trawl the rougher end of town for gratification, with a nihilistic disregard for his own safety.
Fuelled by a characteristically compelling performance from the unstoppable Fassbender, Shame is a corrosive drama that makes no bones about its frequently gratuitous content. With a similarly intense supporting performance from Carey Mulligan, whose star is also in the ascendancy, Shame sets out its stall as an emotionally-devastating piece of work, and McQueen hits the target throughout. The fearless Fassbender elevates potentially tawdry material into a different realm altogether, with Brandon’s libidinous conquests rendered defiantly unsexy throughout. Graphic, intense and undeniably strange, Shame is another impressive notch for Fassbender’s Hollywood bedpost.
Originally known by the anatomically correct, if slightly off-putting, name ‘Womb’ Clone (Arrow Films) is the latest movie from up-and-coming Hungarian writer/director Benedek Fliegauf.
Set in an alternative future where human cloning is possible and widely used, ‘copies’ are viewed by society as second-class citizens, and although identical in every way, are ostracised by the ‘originals’ in society. After more than a decade in Tokyo, Rebecca (Eva Green, Casino Royale) returns to the village where she grew up to reconnect with her childhood best friend Tommy (Matt Smith, Doctor Who, in his feature film debut). The mutual attraction is still evident, but a tragic accident cuts short their budding romance, prompting Rebecca to conceive and give birth to Tommy’s genetic copy, setting in motion an increasingly disturbing chain of events.
French-born Eva Green has started to carve an unexpected niche for herself with quirky sci-fi-infused material, and recently earned plaudits for the apocalyptic romance Perfect Sense. Clone explores similar territory, albeit far less successfully, with the painfully slow pace and fitful dialogue doing the film few favours. Further, Rebecca’s bizarre motivations are never satisfactorily explained, rendering the trudge towards the inevitably queasy finale more than a little questionable. While Clone succeeds as an extended mood-piece, its uncomfortable narrative leaves a lot to be desired. I can only hope that the film received a better reception in Fliegauf’s native Hungary…
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Improbably produced by Nina Wadia, who is probably best known for starring as Zainab Masood in Eastenders, gangland drama Four (High Fliers) tells the story of four very different individuals whose lives viciously collide on a bleak evening in a derelict warehouse.
An off-duty cop (played by Sean Pertwee, Dog Soldiers) has been hired by a shifty businessman (Craig Conway, Doomsday) to track down and kidnap the man having an affair with his wife, and bring him to the secluded location so vengeance can be enacted. However, when the young man (Martin Compston, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) is presented to him, the cuckolded husband struggles to work up the nerve to punish him, leaving the increasingly animated cop to demonstrate how he would behave in the same situation. The businessman’s resolve is tested even further when the cop reveals that he has a surprise up his sleeve – the wife (Kierston Wareing, Fish Tank) – who has also been kidnapped and brought to the warehouse. Suffice to say, nothing is quite what it seems, and things quickly take a turn for the worse…
Any dialogue-heavy crime drama set entirely in a warehouse is likely to court comparisons with Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and Four goes one step further when Pertwee’s character actually namechecks the 1992 thriller and threatens to re-enact an iconic scene, albeit with tongue firmly in-cheek. Although Pertwee has found a quirky niche through his work with Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Doomsday) his performance here lapses into cartoonish self-parody, and can’t disguise the badly underwritten dialogue. On the bright side, the highly watchable Kierston Wareing manages not to blot her copybook, and delivers a memorably foul-mouthed performance as the vivacious adulteress with her own agenda.
Although Four has a neat twist in the tail, it doesn’t make up for the sluggish narrative and unexpectedly weak dialogue. Sadly, despite an appealing cast and a grisly denouement, Four is a distinctly underwhelming proposition.