Previously known as Sweetwater -when it premiered to a mixed reception at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year –Sweet Vengeance (eOne) is a twisted revenge thriller set against the backdrop of the American Old West. Newlyweds Miguel (Eduardo Noriega, Transsiberian) and Sarah (January Jones, Mad Men, Unknown) settle on a patch of land with a view to earning a crust, only to encounter demented local preacher Prophet Josiah (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter, Brotherhood), who hatches a fiendish plot to strip Sarah of both her land and her dignity. At the same time eccentric Sheriff Jackson (Ed Harris, A History of Violence) arrives in town, throwing another unknown element into the already volatile mix. With no other options except revenge left open to her, Sarah is forced to fight back
With Sweet Vengeance, writer/directors Logan and Noah Miller -a pair of identical twins from West Marin, California -have crafted a memorable, if undeniably flawed, revisionist Western, which makes effective use of both its New Mexico location and its well-judged household name cast, particularly Jason Isaacs and Ed Harris who are allowed to let their hair down in supremely weird roles. With shades of John Hillcoat’s brutal The Proposition and the Liam Neeson/Pierce Brosnan vehicle Seraphim Falls -not to mention the female revenge classic Hannie Caulder -Sweet Vengeance is an appealing prospect, albeit one that feels like less than the sum of its parts. With a more coherent script Sweet Vengeance could have edged into cult viewing territory, but it remains to be seen whether Western fans will buy into its oddball shtick
In Dead Mine (eOne) a rag-tag group of treasure hunters and mercenaries (including Sam Hazeldine [Lightfields] and Joe Taslim [The Raid]) head to a remote Indonesian island in search of wartime gold. However, the group find themselves torn apart by in-fighting, and things go from bad to worse when they are suddenly attacked in a hail of bullets by a mysterious enemy. Taking refuge in an old Japanese WWII mine it quickly comes apparent that the treasure hunt has turned into something far more dangerous, and they discover that the area was used for secret medical research on prisoners of war. The threat increases as the team get picked off one-by-one and the ‘dead mine’ finally gives up its dark secrets
As HBO Asia’s first original production, Dead Mine’s reputation precedes it, and the US cable channel’s seal of approval is sure to pique the interest of film fans. Director Steven Sheil was previously responsible for the nasty Fred West-inspired horror flick Mum & Dad, which earned a cult following despite its twisted outlook. Whereas his debut was too unpalatable for my sensitive tastes (!), Dead Mine is a more appealing prospect, even if its generic title does it few favours. Despite the kudos earned for his first movie, it has taken Sheil four years to helm another project, and it is unclear whether he found himself backed into a corner after his uncompromising debut or whether he was just biding his time. The slick production values ensure that Dead Mine is never less than watchable, but the film badly lacks originality, and feels like a perfunctory Asian re-tread of the 2008 Nazi zombie movie Outpost. Dead Mine isn’t a disaster, it just feels like a strangely average way for HBO to announce its presence in Asia
White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away (eOne) is the sequel to last year’s underwhelming The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan. After ratting out his former criminal acquaintances to the cops, Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern, GBH) is in Spain, living under a new name as part of the witness protection scheme. However, when a pair of old enemies discover his whereabouts and kidnap his pregnant girlfriend on behalf of their Russian mobster boss, Mike has just four days to raise the £2 million he and his old partner Eddie (Simon Phillips, Jack Falls) stole from them. However, with time running out, the pair of ex-hooligans hatch a daring last-ditch plan to correct the situation with old-fashioned British violence.
Written and directed by the admirably prolific Paul Tanter, who has now racked up around a dozen writer or director credits since 2008, WCH2 is a plausible sequel to a reasonable original, albeit one that feels weirdly half-baked. Whereas the first film was fleshed out with appearances from genre mainstays like Billy Murray, Roland Manookian and Ricci Harnett, the only familiar face that WCH2 can muster is Vas Blackwood of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame. Indeed, his appearance only serves to highlight the gulf between this kind of barrel-scraping Brit-grit and the infinitely more compelling work of Guy Ritchie. Nevertheless, with a third instalment already rumoured to be in pre-production, the crew behind White Collar Hooligan aren’t going anywhere in a hurry, suggesting that fans of similarly reductive material are sure to lap this up