Sex, Leins & Videotape #24. Paignton film critic Tom Leins takes a walk on the weird side with this week’s batch of DVD reviews!
Goodbye Solo (Axiom) is the latest indie drama from Ramin Bahrani, the director who has already achieved widespread plaudits for movies such as Man Push Cart and Chop Shop. His latest gem charts the unlikely friendship between Souleymane (AKA Solo) a cheerful Senegalese taxi driver working in North Carolina and William, an elderly curmudgeon who hires Solo to drive him to the Blowing Rock mountain range in two weeks time.
Despite his passenger’s reluctance to interact with him, Solo draws the taciturn pensioner out of his shell, and the duo build up an easy rapport. However, when Solo realises that Blowing Rock is a notorious suicide spot he charges himself with dissuading William from taking the drastic course of action that he has planned. Solo (played by the charming Souleymane Sy Savane) urges William (played by former Elvis bodyguard-turned-stuntman Red West) to hang out with him and his drug dealer buddy, and the posse drink beer and shoot pool together.
When Solo discovers that William is harbouring a troubling secret, he increases his efforts to prevent the old man from killing himself -only to drive a wedge between their burgeoning friendship. But can Solo win over his stubborn companion before it is too late? Goodbye Solo is a bittersweet gem of a movie, that reclaims the ‘buddy movie’ template from Hollywood’s tedious world of mismatched cop movies. Absorbing stuff.
Based on James Lee Burke’s acclaimed novel In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead, In The Electric Mist (High Fliers) is an intriguing but ultimately flawed cop thriller that will struggle to win over anyone outside Burke’s loyal fan-base. World-weary Tommy Lee Jones stars as Cajun cop Dave Robicheaux, a reformed alcoholic with anger management issues. An investigation into the murder of a mutilated prostitute leads Dave to suspect the involvement of his former high school buddy-turned-Mobster ‘Baby Feet’ Balboni (John Goodman), but Dave’s efforts to solve the case are complicated by the discovery of a long-dead corpse in the Bayou, by alcoholic Hollywood actor Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard). Unfortunately, the atmospheric visuals and rich sense of place can’t disguise the muddled narrative, and the top-drawer cast struggle with a convoluted plot that crams too much information into its brisk 90-minute run-time. All in all -despite some great flashes of Robicheaux brutality, In the Electric Mist feels a lot like a Southern-fried TV movie. Frustratingly average.
After winning over horror fans with the depraved double-whammy of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie has devoted his energies towards re-booting the seminal Halloween franchise. His new pet project is undeniably a labour of love, and although Zombie hit pay-dirt with his first offering, this dubious sequel makes for a far less enjoyable visit into the director’s freak-show of an imagination. Although it seeks to examine the shared psychology between murderous Michael Myers and his surviving victim Laurie Stroud, for the most part Halloween II (Entertainment in Video) feels like a particularly gruesome dirge. Although the gore-streaked body-count is firmly in place, Halloween II lacks the warped humour of Zombie’s earlier work, and feels like a misjudged career move. Fans craving visceral blood-loss will find their appetites sated by this full-on sequel -just don’t expect too much entertainment along the way…
Kamikaze Girls (Third Window Films) is dizzying, madcap excursion into the surreal head-space of Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima, a man whose work has been widely compared to the likes of Tim Burton and Baz Luhrmann. Based on a cult novel-turned-Manga by Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls follows the antics of Momoko, a day-dreaming 17 year old with a penchant for Lolita clothing and Rococo aesthetics. In order to fund her all-consuming obsession, Momoko’s starts selling off her father’s stockpile of bootleg leisurewear. Her first customer is Ichigo, a rebellious biker chick who is instantly dismissive of Momoko’s bizarre lifestyle.
However, the duo quickly forge a close friendship, and decide to tackle their teenage alienation head-on. Nakashima’s movie is impeccably pieced together, but rather draining in its entirety. What begins as a cheerful satire on the Japanese infatuation with pop culture, quickly descends into a glib mess. Although fans of Japanese kitsch will find plenty to enjoy here, I didn’t have the stomach for a concoction quite as sickly as this!