Created by TV industry mainstay Michael Lannan, and inspired by his experiences as a gay man, new drama Looking (HBO Home Entertainment) offers an unflinching look at the complicated friendships and relationships of three men in modern-day San Francisco.
Patrick (Jonathan Groff, Glee) is a 29-year old video game designer who is keen to get back into the dating game following his ex-partner’s engagement. His best friend since college is aspiring artist AgustÃn (Frankie J Alvarez), who is questioning the idea of monogamy as he transitions into domesticity with his boyfriend. Rounding out the trio is career waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett, Farscape), the oldest member of the group who, at 39, is facing middle age with his romantic and professional dreams still unfulfilled…
After a slow start, Looking picks up when the ensemble cast expands, and the central trio’s romantic entanglements grow more complicated. With well-judged supporting roles for Brit actor Russell Tovey (Being Human), who stars as Kevin, Patrick’s boss and potential love interest, as well as TV legend Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), who plays Lynn, an entrepreneur who strikes up a connection with Dom, Looking becomes more compelling the more you get to know the characters.
Not that they are particularly likable -the cynical Agustin is fairly unpleasant throughout, and Patrick’s behaviour is rarely endearing -but the actors are convincing enough to pique your interest. I don’t mind admitting that when Looking first aired it wasn’t particularly high on my viewing list, but I’m glad I watched it. A sincere, convincing drama that stands to get even better in Season Two, provided the writing team are able to inject a lighter touch to alleviate the constant moping!
In A Most Wanted Man (eOne) a Chechen illegal immigrant (Grigoriy Dobrygin, Black Lightning) arrives in Hamburg’s Islamic community, arousing the suspicion of German and US intelligence agencies, who suspect him of being a terrorist. Seemingly penniless and brandishing horrific torture scars, he holds a letter that states he is entitled to his father’s fortune. With the assistance of a naÃ¯ve but well-meaning human rights lawyer (Rachel McAdams, Midnight in Paris) he seeks access to the funds through a sinister private banker with corrupt connections (Willem Dafoe, Anti-Christ). Meanwhile, disillusioned espionage officer Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master) seeks intelligence from the local Muslim community, only to find himself going head-to-head with American CIA agent Sullivan (Robin Wright, House of Cards) who has her own agenda.
The late, great Hoffman dominates all of the smoke-choked set-pieces he appears in, prowling Hamburg with a protruding gut and an air of barely repressed exhaustion. However, as the film meanders towards its drawn-out conclusion, you start to share Gunther’s weariness, with the double-dealing drudgery of international espionage laid uncomfortably bare. A Most Wanted Man has nuanced intrigue in spades, but genuine thrills are in short supply, and the whole movie seems to have been played out at arm’s length.
Is A Most Wanted Man a fitting tribute to Hoffman after his untimely death? Possibly not, but there is no doubting his magnetism, and you will likely admire the way he carries a patchily uneven spy thriller by sheer force of personality. All in all, a disappointingly ponderous affair from the always-interesting Anton Corbijn, who desperately needs to recapture the spark he demonstrated with 2007’s top-notch Ian Curtis biopic Control.
In Night Moves (Soda Pictures) three committed environmentalists come together to execute the most radical protest of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam, which they believe epitomises the resource-sucking industrial culture they despise. As organic farmer Josh (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network), high society dropout Dena (Dakota Fanning, Man on Fire) and ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing) plan, carry out and then witness the fallout of an attention-grabbing act of sabotage, they find their own morals tested to the limit.
Director Kelly Reichardt understandably hangs her film on Eisenberg (soon to be seen as Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice), but his tightly-wound performance left me cold, and underlines the film’s weakest element: its detached, weirdly objective tone. Dakota Fanning impresses as Dena, and Peter Sarsgaard is well within his comfort zone as the volatile Harmon, but Eisenberg’s performance doesn’t click in the way that it should.
Reichardt is too unassuming a filmmaker to pursue the bombastic thriller path and the fusion of conspiracy drama and psychological fallout is defiantly, almost perversely low-key. Despite the impressive cast, Night Moves feels strangely lifeless and ultimately unmemorable. After the warmth of Old Joy and the breathtakingly sad minimalist drama of Wendy & Lucy, Night Moves suggests that bigger isn’t necessarily better.