Prolific Irish crime writer Ken Bruen has developed a reputation as a cult figure among noir fans with a pulpy, self-referential array of thrillers. After last year’s poorly-received London Boulevard adaptation, Blitz (Lionsgate) marks the second time that his work has made it onto the big-screen in as many years.
Brant (Jason Statham, The Transporter) is a violent, borderline alcoholic detective, perilously close to burnout. When a vicious cop killer -with a pronounced vengeance against the cops on Brant’s South East London beat -emerges in a storm of tabloid publicity, the rogue cop finds himself reluctantly teamed up with ambitious gay colleague Sergeant Porter Nash (Paddy Considine, Dead Man’s Shoes), and the unlikely duo are ordered to apprehend the mad-man before the body-count rises any further. But with cops dropping like flies, it is clear that Brant and Nash are going to have to play dirty in order to nail the culprit.
Interestingly, Blitz is far slicker than the strangely sloppy source material that inspired it, with screenwriter Nathan Parker -the man behind Duncan Jones’ Moon -manipulating the slap-dash book into something far more purposeful. While his shtick hasn’t really evolved over the years, Jason Statham has arguably developed into one of action cinema’s most dependable presences, and his appealing knack for growling threats and cracking heads is underpinned with an effective vein of black comedy which helps to lighten the occasionally grisly mood. Furthermore, Statham definitely meets his match in Barry Weiss (Aiden Gillen, Queer As Folk, The Wire), the unhinged serial killer who prefers to be known as The Blitz. It may not be a classic example of the police procedural, but Blitz plays out like a demented version of an ITV cop-show, to largely enjoyable effect. Good unclean fun.
Latin American cinema has thrown up some gems over the last decade or so, with filmmakers such as Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron spearheading the charge. 2009’s Blood & Rain (Axiom Films) is the acclaimed debut offering from Colombian director Jorge Navas, a man tipped by many to be the region’s next big thing. Set among the sordid, rain-drenched streets of Bogota, the film opens with grief-stricken taxi driver Jose (Quique Mendoza) determined to wreak revenge against the gangsters responsible for his brother’s murder. After crossing paths with the damaged, unstable Angela (Gloria Montoya) Jose seemingly finds a degree of solace with his new companion, only for their day to go from bad to worse when they cross paths with a deranged vice cop with a dark secret.
Buoyed by a ferociously raw performance from novice actress Gloria Montoya, Blood & Rain begins in sleazy, nihilistic fashion, as the characters plumb the seedy depths of Bogota. Unfortunately, the film badly loses its way in the middle, and the plot starts to sag, with the paper-thin character of Jose unable to paper over the film’s disjointed narrative. Blood & Rain is an undeniably eye-catching debut, but it struggles to justify the hype, ultimately overstaying its welcome and degenerating into a stylish, violent dirge. While we should definitely expect to see more of former music video director Navas in the future, his debut is likely to rank as a footnote, rather than a highlight.
After finding fame with proto-boyband Bros in the late 1980s, Luke Goss made an unlikely comeback in 2002 when he starred as Jared Nomak in Blade 2. The former chart-topper has picked up a steady stream of film work ever since, infiltrating the mainstream with last year’s above-average action sequel Death Race 2. Blood Out (Lionsgate) sees Goss explore similarly action-packed territory as small town sheriff Michael Savion (Luke Goss), who quits the force in order to investigate the murder of his little brother David, a small-time pusher killed for attempting to quit the thug-life. Obsessed with uncovering the truth, Savion gets himself heavily tattooed, picks a fight in the wrong neighbourhood and sets about infiltrating a local drug gang, only to sink far deeper than he ever imagined.
To his credit, Goss is utterly convincing as a straight-to-DVD action star, and acquits himself very well during the increasingly violent fight scenes. Indeed, the gratuitous violence is filmed with the voyeuristic intensity of pornography, and the succession of shoot-outs, bare-knuckle fights and motorbike chases confirm the movie’s bloke-ish appeal. Unfortunately, the remainder of the cast don’t quite display the same level of commitment as Goss, with a succession of household names popping up in ill-judged cameos. Guilty parties include: Val Kilmer (embarrassing), Vinnie Jones (bewildered-looking) and 50 Cent (lamentable). Aside from the proliferation of dubious bit-parts, Blood Out is a slick B-movie thriller for the most part. (Just make sure you switch off before the bizarre conclusion, in which Savion literally throws a car down the street, in a mind-boggling Incredible Hulk-esque feat of strength!)