Adapted from the autobiography of notorious gangland boss Hiroito Joanides de Moroaes, Boca (Universal) recounts the tumultuous life story of one of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals. At the age of 21 Hiroito was accused of the brutal killing of his father -who was razor-ripped 40 times in a murderous frenzy -but the police never got the charges to stick. After shrugging off the attentions of the cops Hiroito promptly bought two guns and moved to Boca do Lixo -a seedy downtown Sao Paulo neighbourhood known for its nightclubs, whorehouses, strip joints and drug dealers -and forged a reputation as one of the area’s most profitable pimps and pushers.
Boca do Lixo (which roughly translates as ‘Mouth of Garbage’) is brought vividly to life in Boca, and prolific TV actor Daniel de Oliveira shines as the fearsome Hiroito, who developed a fascination with the seamier side of Sao Paulo life after a teenage visit to a whorehouse with best friend-turned-rival Osmar. Despite the recent success of epic Brazilian crime movie Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within, Boca somehow slipped through the cracks in this country, and this welcome DVD release helps to re-dress the balance. Although Boca is a very different beast from the seminal City of God -and lacks the earlier film’s eye-catching verve -it is a vivid, gritty period piece that is sure to find favour with fans of retro gangster fables.
(Note to movie trivia fans: the Boca do Lixo neighbourhood was also home to a exploitation cinema sub-culture known as ‘Mouth of Garbage Cinema’, in the late-1960s, early-1970s -specialising in cannibal movies!)
X: Night of Vengeance (Revolver) is a seedy Australian erotic thriller set in Sydney’s sexual underbelly. At the film’s outset, high-class call girl Holly Rowe (Viva Bianca, Spartacus: Blood & Sand) is on the verge of retirement, with just one last job scheduled before she can quit hooking and move to Paris to start a new life. Meanwhile, Shay Ryan (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Acolytes) is a teenage runaway, broke and alone, and struggling to make it through her first night on the game. When fate throws them together for a simple-sounding group-sex assignment, things inevitably take a turn for the worse and the pair become embroiled in a murderous game of cat and mouse with a demented woman-hating cop.
At face value, X: Night of Vengeance bears a passing resemblance to Paul Andrew Williams’ London To Brighton -albeit with the disturbing Brit-flick reimagined as a sleazy erotic thriller. After a provocative but slightly amateurish opening, X hits its stride in the second phase of the film, with enough twists to make the effort worthwhile. Fuelled by an impressively bleak energy and a few splashes of nihilistic sex, X is compelling if slightly uneven viewing, but its adult-only content is sure to divide audiences. Approach with caution.
Directed by young Chinese-American director David Ren -who earned widespread praise for his debut feature Shanghai Kiss –The Girl From The Naked Eye (G2 Pictures) is half a world away from the bittersweet culture clash romance depicted in the earlier film. Nevertheless, an unexpected romance also propels his new flick -albeit in a drastically different direction. When high-class escort Sandy (Samantha Streets) is found murdered, her driver/protector Jake (Jason Yee) is devastated, and their unconventional bond compels him to immerse himself in the city’s sordid underbelly and uncover her sadistic killer. The deeper Jake stumbles into the underworld, the darker his investigation gets, and the more brutal his actions become.
To director Ren’s credit, the kung-fu/noir hybrid makes for an interesting stylistic mash-up, but the threadbare plot flatters to deceive, and the narrative lurches between brutal fight scenes with scant regard for any real kind of character development. Stuntman Jason Yee is a potent force when he’s busting heads and dispatching henchmen, but -as is often the case when an accomplished stuntman co-produces a movie in an effort to get his name in lights -he lacks the charisma to carry the bulk of the movie. Factor in interesting (but slightly superfluous) cameos from Sasha Grey (the adult film star who appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience) and British boxer-turned-actor Gary Stretch (Dead Man’s Shoes) and The Girl From The Naked Eye is distracting but pretty inessential. All in all: a filmic footnote in waiting.
There Be Dragons (G2 Pictures) is a historical drama written and directed by Roland JoffÃ© -the veteran British filmmaker whose CV encompasses everything from acclaimed Cambodian drama The Killing Fields to poorly received 1995 period piece The Scarlet Letter. The film tells the story of modern-day Spanish journalist, Robert (Dougray Scott, Mission Impossible 2), who is mending relations with his dying father, Manolo (Wes Bentley, American Beauty), who took part in the Spanish Civil War. Through his investigations Robert discovers that his father was a close childhood friend of JosemarÃa EscrivÃ¡ (Charlie Cox, Stardust), a candidate for sainthood -with whom he had a complicated lifelong rivalry. As the movie unfolds, Manolo became a soldier during the Spanish Civil War and becomes obsessed with enchanting Hungarian revolutionary Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace), who rejects him in favour of brave militia leader Oriol (Rodrigo Santoro, Lost).
A seriously stodgy drama with few real hooks, There Be Dragons marks the latest mis-step in a once-promising career littered with curious decisions. While Joffe’s son Rowan helmed last year’s enticing Brighton Rock remake, Joffe Senior has struggled to find work in recent years, turning out tepid horror movies such as 2007’s Captivity. Despite an appealing ensemble cast, few of the actors involved manage to boost their reputations, and the headline presence of Dougray Scott is misleading as he merely acts as a framing device for the increasingly cumbersome story. Don’t be fooled by the appealing ensemble cast -at times There Be Dragons is so boring it verges on the unwatchable. Even worse, not only is Dougray Scott barely featured -there are no dragons in it either!