There is no shortage of blood and guts in this week’s DVD round-up!
Based on the 1995 novel of the same name by cult author Pete Dexter, The Paperboy (Lionsgate) is the story of two brothers: Ward (Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe), a successful reporter and Jack (Zac Efron, High School Musical), a college dropout forced to deliver newspapers for his publisher father. Miami-based Ward returns to his hometown in the backwater of Moat County, Florida to investigate the case of Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack, The Raven) a wrongly convicted, but deeply unsavoury character, who has been sentenced to death for murdering a sheriff. The investigation is complicated further by the sultry presence of Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman, Trespass, Stoker) a provocative floozy with a long-standing obsession with incarcerated criminals. As Ward’s pursuit of a scoop slowly gets overwhelmed by a mixture of sexual tension and enigmatic half-truths, Jack’s confidante -put-upon family maid Anita (Macy Gray) -watches in dismay as his innocence is corrupted.
Lee Daniels’ movies are an acquired taste (Shadowboxer, anyone?), and while The Paperboy is far more enjoyable than the grim Precious, it seems unlikely to duplicate the curious mainstream success of its award-winning predecessor. With a plot that takes in segregation, degradation, masturbation, exploitation and ultimately devastation, The Paperboy comes from Hollywood’s leftfield, and its household name cast prove themselves more than willing to embrace the script’s peculiarly dark themes -not least the rejuvenated McConaughey and eye-opening Kidman. Although the narrative seemingly congeals in the sticky Florida heat as the film unfolds, The Paperboy is riddled with arresting images that will linger long in the memory, and it is well worth immersing yourself in its warped world.
Set in Norway in 1363 -around ten years after the Black Death ravaged the country –Escape (eOne) follows young Signe (newcomer Isabel Christine Andreasen) as she attempts to escape from the merciless band of killers that slaughtered her family on a remote mountain pass. Although she is initially spared by the vicious Dagmar (Ingrid BolsÃ¸ Berdal, Cold Prey), at the posse’s camp she meets fellow kidnap victim Frigg (Milla Olin) and learns that a terrible fate awaits her
Director Roar Uthaug previously achieved cult status with 2006 slasher film Cold Prey, and Escape (or Flukt, as it is known in its native language) sees him team up once more with Cold Prey writer Thomas Moldestad and leading lady Ingrid BolsÃ¸ Berdal, who was most recently seen in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Chernobyl Diaries. With a brisk 77-minute run-time, chock-full of nastiness, it is fair to say that Uthaug doesn’t hang around, and Escape sees him trim the fat off an already lean idea. The (slightly disingenuous) artwork may recall The Hunger Games, but in truth the two films are poles apart, and the comparison does more harm than good. If you enjoyed the subversive Cold Prey -and Nicolas Winding Refn’s similarly brutal Valhalla Rising -then this moody little chase thriller is a solid addition to the genre.
In Stolen (Lionsgate) master thief Will Montgomery (Nicolas Cage, Con Air, Face/Off) is released from prison after serving eight years for a botched heist. Waiting patiently for him is tenacious FBI agent Tim Harlend (Danny Huston, The Kreutzer Sonata), who is convinced that Will stashed $10 million worth of stolen loot shortly before he was apprehended by the cops. Another man keen to get reacquainted with the ex-con is his former associate Vincent (Josh Lucas, Stealth, J.Edgar) who feels cheated out of his share of the spoils, and kidnaps Will’s estranged daughter Alison (Sami Gayle, Blue Bloods) as a way of forcing his former partner-in-crime to repay him. With only twelve hours to deliver a $10 million ransom to Vincent -before Alison is killed -Will enlists old friend Riley Jeffers (Malin Akerman, Watchmen) to pull off one last heist
It is difficult to put a finger on when Nicolas Cage’s career went into terminal decline -his dubious cinematic decisions arguably pre-date his oft-documented 2009 troubles with the IRS -but his recent trend for churning out generic action movies with one-word titles (Trespass, Justice, Stolen) has done him few favours. Despite a solid genre director at the helm in Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic), the movie is so lazily strung together that not even the well-judged ensemble cast can save it. The funky, retro score and Danny Huston’s improbable Popeye Doyle-style porkpie hat attempt to recall a golden age of Hollywood crime movies, but Cage’s performance is pure ham throughout.
Nic Cage’s last good (lead) performance was four years ago in 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and before that Lord of War in 2005. By that logic, Cage owes us a good movie in 2013. Unfortunately, Stolen isn’t that movie, and time is running out…