Demented cops, apocalyptic romance and suburban sci-fi -Tom Leins checks out this week’s best DVD releases.
Killer Joe (EntertainmentOne) is veteran director William (The French Connection) Friedkin’s second collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts, following 2006’s claustrophobic Bug.
When small-time drug dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch, Into The Wild) finds himself up to his neck in debt to his supplier, he hatches a disturbing plan to have his estranged mother killed, so that his precocious younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple, Kaboom) can claim the $50,000 life insurance policy. Rather than get his own hands dirty, Chris hires ‘Killer’ Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, The Lincoln Lawyer), a corrupt Dallas detective who Chris has heard moonlights as a professional hit man. Unable to pay Joe’s fee upfront, Chris agrees to offer Dottie as a ‘retainer’, only to see the demented cop become besotted with his sister. Battered senseless by debt-collecting bikers and desperate to back out of the scheme, hapless Chris takes matters into his own hands, only to see his family’s combustible domestic unit implode before he has a chance to salvage the situation.
After falling from grace during the 1980s and ending up wallowing in TV-movie no man’s land, William Friedkin made a semi-comeback in 2006 with his creepy version of Tracy Letts’ play Bug. Killer Joe sees the duo collaborate once more, to mesmerising effect. Best characterised as a corrosive trailer-park noir, Killer Joe is as demented as a particularly unhinged Jim Thompson novel. With impeccable support from Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) and Gina Gershon (Showgirls), the three leads -particularly McConaughey -deliver pitch-perfect performances that bring the film to life. Suffice to say, the rom-com veteran’s female admirers will never see him in the same light again after witnessing the soon-to-be infamous scene in with the chicken drumstick! Make no mistake, Joe is not a tormented anti-hero in the Popeye Doyle mould -he is a stone-cold sociopath. Killer Joe is one of the darkest, strangest crime thrillers of the year.
After scripting the sporadically entertaining, but ultimately lightweight Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (StudioCanal) marks Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut. Set in the not-too-distant future, the film opens with a 70-mile-wide asteroid en route to Earth, with all attempts to counter it having already failed. Equally doomed is the marriage of soft-spoken insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell, The US Office), whose wife literally runs out on him when she finds out that the world will end in 21 days’ time. While Dodge’s friends see out their days in increasingly debauched fashion, all he craves is company, and a chance encounter with extroverted next-door neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method) leads to the discovery of a letter from his high-school sweetheart. Letter in hand, the unlikely double-act embark on a surreal road-trip, only to grow closer than they ever expected.
Despite a neat premise and a pair of decent, if often wildly unconvincing, lead actors, Seeking A Friend is one of the more bizarre apocalypse movies to ever grace the big-screen. After an engaging, darkly-humorous opening half-hour, in which the preoccupations of society on the brink are delightfully skewered, Seeking A Friend lapses unfortunately into slow-burn indie rom-com territory as it crawls towards narrative oblivion. That isn’t to say it is a bad movie -far from it -but, the movie loses its satirical bite as it progresses, which imbues the proceedings with an air of missed opportunity. Carell is firmly in his comfort zone as the buttoned-up Dodge, and his chemistry with the kooky Knightley never feels totally convincing. It may be a big step up from the flimsy teen-angst of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but, unlike the asteroid, Seeking A Friend doesn’t quite manage to hit its target.
After writing and starring in the gritty one-two punch Kidulthood and Adulthood (the latter of which he also directed) Noel Clarke marked himself out as something of a renaissance man, going on to direct the Sex and the City-meets-Guy Ritchie caper movie 22.214.171.124. Although he has yet to return to directing, Storage 24 (Universal) represents Clarke’s latest screenwriting effort. The film begins when a military cargo plane crashes in London and its classified contents are dispersed across the capital. Meanwhile, jilted everyman Charlie (Clarke) is hoping to win back his estranged girlfriend Shelley, (Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Lead Balloon), despite meeting up at a local storage facility to divide up their possessions. When power to the building dies and the secure storage warehouse goes into lockdown, the duo and their best friends realise that there is a very real threat far closer to home
Despite Clarke’s previous pedigree, Storage 24 is not a patch on the 2010 horror flick Salvage, nor for that matter the similarly titled 2009 Australian B-movie Storage, which was set, you’ve guessed it, in a creepy storage facility. While Noel Clarke’s unlikely leap from urban crime drama to suburban sci-fi may seem slightly incredulous at first glance, it is worth remembering that his big-break actually came in Doctor Who, which saved him from a succession of bit-parts in the likes of Doctors and The Bill! Director Johannes Roberts fails to give the film the chilling bite of his last movie, self-styled ‘hoodie horror’ F, despite a few brief flashes of the earlier film’s nastiness. What felt so compelling in a classic movie like Alien is rendered weirdly dull here, and the film takes on an aimless, repetitive quality as it unfolds. A sequel has already been rumoured, but the general public’s apathy should put paid to that. Disturbingly average.