Sex, Leins & Videotape #9. Paignton’s resident film critic Tom Leins heads off the beaten track and checks out an eye-opening selection of new releases
Our first port of call this week is rural Spain, the setting for Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s wilfully enigmatic thriller King of the Hill (Optimum). Everyman Quim finds himself sucked into a blood-soaked game of cat and mouse when he heads into the wilderness in pursuit of Bea, a woman who seduced him and stole his wallet at a petrol station.
He manages to catch up with Bea, but they soon have other worries on their mind -there is a cold-blooded sniper on top of the hill, and he wants them both dead! Although suspicious of one another Quim and Bea join forces in a bid to outwit their tormentor. It is no surprise to see that writer/director Lopez-Gallego has already been poached by Hollywood, as this artfully-imagined thriller barely puts a foot wrong throughout. His minimalist art-house aesthetic is undercut by an increasingly visceral charge, making for a tense, edgy thrill-ride. Admittedly, it loses its impact in the final half-hour, when the murky narrative starts to come into focus, but it retains a potent charge throughout. With Fermat’s Room, Timecrimes and now King of the Hill, Spain is fast becoming a hot-bed for subversive Euro-thrillers. Intriguing stuff.
Back in 2001 the magnificent Y Tu Mama Tambien launched the careers of hitherto unknown actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna and future Harry Potter director Alfonso Cuaron. Never ones to forget their roots, Bernal and Luna have returned to Mexico to make Rudo & Cursi (Optimum) , a new comedy directed by Cuaron’s brother Carlos. Luna and Bernal play the feuding Verusco brothers, a pair of banana plantation workers with dreams of soccer stardom.
When Baton, an outlandish talent scout from Mexico City breaks down near their village he decides to kill time watching them play for the village team. Impressed by what he sees, he decides to pluck the mis-matched siblings out of obscurity and set them up with professional teams in the capital. What begins as a lightweight rags-to-riches parable benefits considerably from the collective charms of Luna and Bernal, and their bitter rivalry gives the film added impetus. It takes a while to acclimatise to the uneven, offbeat pace of the film, but Rudo & Cursi is well worth persevering with. It may not be a patch on Y Tu Mama Tambien, but Rudo & Cursi is an engaging slice of world cinema.
With Halloween fast approaching, the horror floodgates are beginning to creep open, and one of the first movies through the gate is I Sell The Dead (Anchor Bay). This wacky, light-hearted horror-comedy stars Dominic ‘Lost’ Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as Arthur Blake and Willie Grimes, a pair of inept grave-robbers whose gruesome business interests become increasingly complicated when they stumble across a burgeoning market for the trafficking of the un-dead. I Sell The Dead recounts their shady history and follows their ramshackle attempt to outwit the notorious Murphy family and bag a haul of grisly goodies for themselves.
Despite big-name stars like Monaghan and Ron Perlman (who plays Father Duffy, the priest charged with listening to Blake’s pre-execution confessions), I Sell The Dead feels strangely half-baked. It has a nice central conceit, buoyed by some well-judged Hammer-style retro flourishes, but the movie lacks energy and plods from rambling scene to rambling scene. There are some gleefully macabre moments, but overall I Sell The Dead doesn’t really withstand comparisons to its illustrious predecessors
If rumours are to be believed, The Keeper (Optimum) represents the screenwriting debut of washed-up hard-man Steven Seagal! Not content with producing and starring in his own distinctive brand of heavy-duty thrillers, the chunky tough guy is now attempting to wrestle back control of his waning career by scripting his own movies! Seagal stars as Roland Salinger, a pill-popping, knife-throwing ex-cop with a grudge.
Gunned down and left for dead by his treacherous ex-partner, Roland leaves the force and heads to New Mexico where he comes to the aid of an old friend whose sexy daughter is being targeted by thugs. Needless to say, the plot thickens -much like Seagal’s waist-line -and Roland soon finds himself back in the thick of the action. Earlier this year Seagal starred in Driven To Kill, an enjoyably brutal straight-to-DVD effort about a former Russian mobster who finds himself sucked back into a life of violence. I thought that it signalled a return to form for Seagal, but unfortunately The Keeper paints a very different picture, and sees Seagal languishing back in no-man’s-land. In truth, there isn’t much to enjoy here -not unless you like the sight of a fat guy in a suit breaking people’s arms every few minutes! Cheap and cheerless.