Tom Leins reviews a pair of true-crime inspired DVD releases.
Based on an audacious true story, The Bling Ring (StudioCanal) depicts what happened in 2008/09 when a group of celebrity-fixated LA teenagers embarked on a crime spree in the Hollywood Hills. After tracking the whereabouts of their idols online, Rebecca (newcomer Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard) targeted the homes of a series of careless celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan. Accompanied by their friends Chloe (Claire Julien), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Nicki (Emma Watson), the self-styled Bling Ring went on to steal more than $3 million worth of clothing, jewellery and luxury goods before their shameless scheme eventually caught up with them.
Hip and stylish, The Bling Ring arguably represents the logical conclusion to the story itself, with the movie’s release finally giving the real-life protagonists the fame that they so clearly desire. Sofia Coppola is obviously at home in the flashy celebrity-centric world that she depicts here, and the involvement of Paris Hilton herself (she has a cameo role and allowed her home to be used for location shoots) adds a playful element to the proceedings. While Coppola stops short of offering any kind of meaningful social commentary, the frivolous depiction of youth-gone-wrong is undeniably compelling. Nevertheless, what it lacks in moral perspective, it makes up for in gaudy cheap thrills! Entertainingly shallow stuff.
In Snitch (eOne) John Matthews (ex-wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) is a successful businessman whose estranged son Jason (Rafi Gavron, Breaking and Entering) is arrested for drug trafficking when a friend couriers him illicit drugs in an effort to reduce his own sentence. When Jason turns down an offer from ambitious US Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise) to manufacture evidence against someone else, John begs the authorities to let him go ‘undercover’ on his son’s behalf. Through his reluctant employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead), an ex-con desperately trying to keep his nose clean, John secures a meeting with fearsome gang leader Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams, Boardwalk Empire) who agrees to let John transport his drugs, giving him a valuable foot in the door…
Stuntman-turned-director Ric Roman Waugh made a splash in 2008 with the brutal prison drama Felon, which transcended its straight-to-DVD origins with its gritty, compelling narrative. Despite the explosion-heavy marketing campaign, Snitch actually has a stronger resemblance to Felon than it does to Johnson’s bombastic action movie oeuvre. The ‘hard-working family man plunged into a vicious snake-pit’ template is obviously one that appeals to Waugh, but Snitch falls short of its predecessor’s impressive benchmark. Sadly, Johnson, who is undeniably effective in high-octane action movies -and also has decent comedy chops -is slightly out of his depth here, and struggles to convince in some of the more dramatic moments. It doesn’t help that the supporting cast is so strong: Jon Bernthal, extremely impressive as Shane in The Walking Dead, continues his good work here, while fellow small screen supremo Michael Kenneth Williams also adds depth to his potentially clichÃ©d scenes. All in all: a respectable thriller that suffers from a muddled focus.