Brutal Brit-grit, electronica-fuelled Euro-crime and Nicolas Cage nuttiness are all on the agenda in this week’s DVD round-up.
After testifying against her abusive father, Shelly (Lauren McQueen, Ordinary Lies), finds herself rehoused on a downtrodden Liverpool sink estate, with her volatile older brother Andy (Derek Barr) and her vulnerable younger brother Jerome (Callum King Chadwick).
A petty thief, Shelly spends her days roaming the estate and docklands in search of opportunities, before flogging her ill-gotten gains at one of the area’s pawn shops. It isn’t long before Shelly attracts the attention of charismatic local loan shark Mikey Finnegan (Stephen Lord, EastEnders, Shameless), who quickly develops an unhealthy interest in her. At the same time, Shelly crosses paths with an enigmatic young girl named Rachel (Brogan Ellis), who becomes similarly fixated with her, even if her motivations are less than clear. After being told that her father is to be given early parole, Shelly sees no option but to go to the manipulative Mikey for help, but at what cost…
The Violators (Bulldog Film) is the directorial debut of acclaimed author Helen Walsh, who made major literary waves with her excellent debut novel Brass back in 2004. Like that book, The Violators unfolds in Liverpool, albeit further down the social strata, with pawn shops, pubs and patches of waste-ground looming large. McQueen delivers a tremendous performance as Shelly, and the remainder of the little-known cast are similarly impressive. While the thriller dynamic that comes to the fore in the final third of the film feels slightly forced, the compelling performances and unforgiving narrative are already under your skin. Tense and menacing throughout, The Violators is a dirty gut-punch of a film, and on this evidence, writer-director Walsh seems destined for a similarly compelling second career.
In Disorder (Soda) Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust & Bone) is an ex-French Special Forces soldier, struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan. When he returns home he is given a bodyguard job, protecting Jessie (Diane Kruger, Anything For Her), the wife of a shifty, well-connected Lebanese businessman. Enchanted by Jessie, and suffering from debilitating hallucinations, Vincent is unable to cast off the role of alert on-duty soldier, and becomes obsessed with the idea that the woman he is protecting is in danger from a strange outside threat.
Disorder is a sleek, engaging Euro-thriller, buoyed by the strong performances of its heavyweight leads. Schoenaerts is well-cast in the lead role, and while Disorder isn’t in the same league as Rust & Bone, and particularly the visceral Bullhead, it is nice to see the actor playing to his strengths once again, after a series of dubious Hollywood roles (The Drop notwithstanding!). The lush visuals and propulsive Drive-esque electronic soundtrack give the film a welcome gloss, even if the narrative does ultimately veer out of psychosis-drenched edginess and into more formulaic territory. Worth further investigation.
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Heralded in some quarters as a return to form for Nicolas Cage, The Trust (Signature) is an off-kilter buddy movie that was first aired on US satellite TV station DirecTV. Downtrodden Las Vegas cops Jim Stone (Cage) and David Waters (Elijah Wood) join forces to stage an off-the-books investigation into a bailed heroin dealer. Discovering the dealer’s huge underground safe beneath an apartment building, they hatch a plan into the safe for their own ends. An initially dialled-down (it doesn’t last!) Cage is on highly watchable form, and Wood offers solid support, but despite some neat interplay from the two leads, the stodgy narrative eventually falls flat. Diverting, but uneven, and ultimately, less than the sum of its parts – the Cage comeback will have to wait until the hotly-tipped Dog Eat Dog!
Set in Georgia – the former Soviet republic, rather than the south-eastern US state – Landmine Goes Click (Icon) opens with three young tourists trekking across the mountain terrain. Things take a hellish turn however, when one of them, Chris (Sterling Knight, Melissa & Joey), steps on an armed landmine, leaving them stranded. The situation goes from bad to worse when local hunter Ilya (Kote Tolordava) arrives on the scene – determined to exploit the youngsters’ desperation for its own perverted means. After an unconvincing start, Landmine Goes Click improves noticeably when the sadistic mind games start. The foot-on-landmine scenario is stretched out longer than initially seems possible, but director Levan Bakhia switches things up with a brutal, unexpected final act. Not quite good enough to secure cult classic status, but Landmine Goes Click offers enough visceral thrills to please B-movie horror junkies.
Reckless (Arrow Video) – originally known as Zipper – tells the story of Sam Ellis (Patrick Wilson, Hard Candy) a high-flying federal prosecutor whose one-off experience with a high-end escort turns into an all-consuming addiction. With his moral compass hopelessly out of sync, Sam’s newfound ‘hobby’ threatens to destroy his marriage and his career. Matters are complicated further by the presence of Coaker (Ray Winstone, Sexy Beast), a grizzled journalist and old family acquaintance, who suspects Sam’s extra-marital exploits and plans to expose him. The A-list cast ensures that Reckless is never less than watchable, but the film takes itself far too seriously, and lacks the kind of brazen thrills that made the erotic thrillers of the late-80s and early-90s so memorable. Desperately underwhelming.