Sex, Leins & Videotape #56. Paignton film critic Tom Leins puts this week’s top DVD titles through their paces!
Francis Ford Coppola’s work-rate has declined in recent years, with the Oscar-winning director indicating that -after a long and illustrious career -he struggles for inspiration, going as far as to say that he had started to question his desire to be a filmmaker. Tetro (Soda Pictures) -dubbed his most personal film yet -is his cinematic response.
The film opens with Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich, in his debut movie role) arriving in Buenos Aries to track down his estranged half-brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo), a once-promising writer who has retreated into his shell after a series of knock-backs. Despite inviting Bennie to stay, Tetro appears withdrawn and unfriendly, seemingly reluctant to share his life with his younger sibling. As the suspicious brothers circle one another warily, brooding Tetro begins to touch on the reasons behind his departure from the family fold years earlier -resulting in a revelation that threatens to rip them apart all over again.
The fact that temperamental on-off director Vincent Gallo should star as a frustrated artist, paralysed by his own history, is an enjoyably apt casting decision, and what he lacks in warmth he makes up for in glowering charisma. Alden Ehrenreich -reportedly discovered by Steven Spielberg at a Bar Mitzvah(!) -offers an eerily Gallo-like performance as the increasingly cocksure Bennie, but thankfully the classy Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Pan’s Labyrinth) provides a welcome counterpoint to the petulance of Tetro and Bennie. Tetro may lack the enormity of classic Coppola movies such as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, but it remains an elegant art-house drama, stylishly presented by a master craftsman. Much has been made of the autobiographical content in Tetro, and prolonged exposure to Coppola’s suffocating world leaves you hoping that the real-life Coppola clan aren’t half as dysfunctional as their fictional counterparts.
Deadly Impact (20th Century Fox) stars Sean Patrick Flanery (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Boondock Saints) as Thomas Armstrong, a tormented cop with a deadly grudge. Eight years after a sadistic hitman forced Armstrong to murder his own wife in a booby-trapped basement, Armstrong is lured back from his boozy early retirement in Mexico when the chameleonic killer -known as The Lion -resurfaces in New Mexico. Flanery is undeniably effective as the hard-hitting renegade cop, and he channels Jack Bauer’s earnest spirit to enjoyable effect. Despite a career in TV movies and straight-to-DVD thrillers, Deadly Impact could signal the start of a bizarre comeback that will be well underway when Flanery appears in Saw 3D this Halloween.
Considering his background is in horror movie special effects, director Robert Kurtzman (himself an associate of Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter) handles the action sequences with a steady hand, and there enough splashes of visceral blood-loss to appease his long-time followers. Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos, Memento) has fun as the scenery-chewing villain, and offers some much needed kudos alongside the ropey supporting cast. As bargain basement thrillers go, Deadly Impact is above average, with higher production values than you might expect. Admittedly it has its fair share of ridiculous moments -threatening to descend into nonsense at any moment -before clawing back some self-respect with an explosive conclusion. One for the straight-to-DVD purists among you.
Old Joy (Soda Pictures) is a small but perfectly formed US indie drama about a pair of middle-aged buddies who embark on a weekend in the mountains of Portland, Oregon in a bid to salvage their eroding friendship. Seemingly stifled by the prospect of impending fatherhood, Mark (Daniel London) is reluctant to embrace the carefree lifestyle still enjoyed by his old pal Kurt. Tension bubbles up as the pair try to dissect the reasons why their close friendship dwindled in the first place, and as the trip progresses, the gulf between the two men looks set to widen even further.
Singer-songwriter Will Oldham -better known as Bonnie Prince Billy offers a wonderfully naturalistic performance as carefree slacker Kurt, and he could easily carve himself a niche as a character actor should the desire seize him. Director Kelly Reichardt went on to direct the better-known Wendy & Lucy, and although Old Joy explores similar themes of alienation, the buddy movie aspect imbues it with a different, slightly warmer slant. Deftly directed, Old Joy rings true throughout, and anyone with a taste for bittersweet indie dramas won’t go far wrong here.