Cinematic endurance tests are the order of the day, as The Deep, Breakout and Twixt go under the movie microscope.
Loosely based on real events from March 1984, The Deep (Metrodome) tells the story of larger-than-life Icelandic fisherman Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson), who finds himself plunged into the biting cold of the North Atlantic when a freak accident involving a snagged net causes his vessel to sink. While his crewmates quickly perish, Gulli digs deep and manages to swim for six hours and make his way to a volcanic island, where he proceeds to set out barefoot in search of safety. Reluctantly thrust into the limelight, Gulli’s story captures the collective attention of his countrymen, although his incredible survival leaves doctors scratching their heads.
Although he has recently carved himself a Hollywood career with a pair of Mark Wahlberg movies -the underrated Contraband and recent buddy movie 2 Guns -director Baltasar Kormakur’s reputation in his homeland is already solid thanks to the likes of 101 Reykjavik and Jar City. The Deep sees him enhance his CV even further, with its gruelling ‘man against nature’ story. Despite echoes of The Perfect Storm, The Deep functions equally effectively as a downbeat, existential drama. While the film loses its edge as Gulli makes it onto dry land, it remains compelling, and the archive post-credits clips offer a curious testament to Olafsson’s uncanny portrayal of the blank-slate Gulli.
In Breakout (Sony) petty criminals Tommy (Dominic Purcell, Prison Break) and Kenny (Ethan Suplee, My Name Is Earl) are on the run to Canada when Tommy’s violent temper bubbles to the surface and he kills a convenience store clerk. Taking refuge at a log cabin, Tommy ends up killing another man, and then sets about tracking down two children on a camping trip who he believes have witnessed his murderous handiwork. Improbably enough, the kids’ only hope is their jailbird father Jack Damson (Brendan Fraser, The Mummy), who orchestrates a daring prison break in order to protect his offspring. As Jack enters the woods a violent game of cat and mouse ensues, but can he outwit the savage Tommy?
Filmmaker Damian Lee is certainly a busy man -he has already directed Andy Garcia in Latin American eco-thriller The Dark Truth this year. Ecological issues are also at play in this far less exotic backwoods thriller. Breakout plays out like a violent TV movie, blending mawkish sentiment and low-octane thrills to largely underwhelming effect. Frequently illogical, and sloppily written, the movie is an undeniably odd prospect. Brendan Fraser is hopelessly miscast as the family man with the steel resolve, but chief villain Purcell emerges with his reputation intact, and deserves far better projects than this. Slightly confusingly, this is the second straight-to-DVD thriller called Breakout to be released in the last six weeks, following a Ray Liotta people-smuggling caper. In a word: slapdash.
Written and directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, Twixt (Metrodome) tells the story of struggling horror novelist Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), who finds himself plugging his latest book on a thankless small town book signing tour. Local cop Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern, Down In The Valley) takes it upon himself to offer Hall some inspiration for his next book, The Vampire Executions, but the jaded author’s life heads into off-kilter territory when he develops an obsession with a teenage ghost named ‘V’ (Elle Fanning, Super 8), whose connection to the town remains oblique. As he digs deeper into the town’s unique history -with a little bit of help from the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin, Mad Dogs) -Hall realises that his own life is now in jeopardy…
Francis Ford Coppola’s latter-day career has seen him condemned to the margins of Hollywood, and his Twixt -which was filmed on his own Napa County estate -represents his first movie since 2009’s patchy art-house melodrama Tetro. First shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2011, it has taken Coppola more than two years to see his film released on DVD, which tells you everything you need to know about its debatable quality. Although it commences with an enjoyably gravel-throated narration from Tom Waits, the movie goes downhill from there. A baffled-looking Val Kilmer stumbles through the ramshackle plot without breaking a sweat, and the performance is likely to end up filed away alongside some of his more dubious straight-to-DVD efforts. With cult TV show American Horror Story currently exploring similar territory, albeit with far more panache, Twixt feels like an embarrassing mis-step by a spent creative force. Seriously dodgy stuff.