Movie reviews: The Boys Are Back, Armored, A Prophet (Un Prophete)
THE BOYS ARE BACK * * * *
Cert 12A, 103 mins
Coventry’s Clive Owen, who also has a producer credit, puts in one of the best performances of his career in a heartfelt emotional drama.
It is Owen who stops things becoming too sappy and sentimental. He plays sports writer Joe Warr, a Briton living in Australia and a character based on real-life journalist Simon Carr.
Joe’s second wife Katy (Laura Fraser) gets cancer and dies quite early on in the film. Devastated as he is by her loss, he now has to learn how to be a single dad to their six-year-old son Arthur (Nicholas McAnulty).
He’s pretty hopeless at it to begin with, as he’s essentially selfish and puts his career above his son.
The house is a mess and his laissez-faire attitude to parenting – his motto is “just say yes” – means he’s great at pillow fights but not so hot on rules.
Inevitably this leads to problems, especially when Harry (Ron Weasley lookalike George MacKay), Joe’s rebellious teenage son from his first marriage, comes to visit from England. Joe is attracted to Laura (Emma Booth), the single mum of Artie’s classmate, but she’s not too impressed by his lack of paternal discipline.
“You drink too much and you live like a pig,” she tells him straight.
This is a flawed film – I’m not sure if I liked the ghostly visitations of Katy, who keeps showing up to give him parenting advice.
And without a structure or plot which really goes anywhere, this meandering tale loses its way as it searches for key dramatic moments.
But I still enjoyed this moving depiction of fractured families and fatherhood, a subject often neglected on screen.
It doesn’t hurt that it looks great, from Owen’s chiselled face and green eyes to the Australian scenery, captured by Shine director Scott Hicks. RL
Cert 12A, 88 mins
The Americanised spelling of this film makes it sound like some sort of French art-house movie.
But don’t be misled. This is Hollywood at its dumbest, especially given that the cast includes Matt Dillon (Crash), Jean Reno (Léon), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream).
Armored is a brutal, dehumanising drama about a security firm, whose workers wonder why they shouldn’t keep the cash they transport in armoured trucks.
The story starts off promisingly for all of two minutes, then gets sidetracked into a bit of burger-chewing male domesticity.
It becomes clear we are all wasting our time before the halfway mark.
Why was this predictable script ever commissioned?
And why didn’t the filmmakers do the sensible thing – and jump off a building like one of their characters?
The director, who made the little-seen Kate Beckinsale movie Vacancy, is called Nimród Antal.
But he’s clearly got no radar for taste.
Nimród will be back in the summer with Laurence Fishburne starring in Predators (aka Predator 3). Can’t wait.
UN PROPHETE (A PROPHET) * * * *
Cert 18, 155 mins
So here is a decent French film. And one with a clever concept, too.
Although British cinemagoers will think of The Beat That My Heart Skipped star Niels Arestrup as a doppelgänger for harmless chef Antony Worrall Thompson, his character César Luciani is a fearless old warrior who’s running a prison from the inside.
The Corsican gangleader thinks he can control who gets bumped off and by whom.
North African Malik El Djebena (played by promising newcomer Tahar Rahim) is both illiterate and estranged from his Muslim community.
So he’s an ideal new inmate to be told one thing and then expected to do something else.
“Now that you’re in on it, if you don’t kill him, I’ll kill you,” César tells him.
And it’s a measure of the film’s quality that you believe his every word.
Jailed for six years for reasons we don’t know why, Djebena soon earns his spurs on the inside, But he’s haunted by his crime, so when César fixes it for him to be able to go outside of prison on release, will it be the Corsican’s undoing?
Director and co-writer Jacques Audiard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes this year, and he was nominated as Best Director at the European Film Awards.
The chief thing to worry about is the degree of violence in Un Prophète (A Prophet), coupled with its overlong running time of 155 minutes.
Un Prophète’s complex set up which isn’t exactly helped by being subtitled, but you can see it being remade in the way that Infernal Affairs became Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning The Departed.
This is an edge-of-seat masterclass in filmmaking techniques that are way above and beyond the scope of Armored.
Were Un Prophète a Sean Penn movie (either in front of or behind the camera) it would be arriving with lots of hype.
So why not discover it for yourself at either Cineworld Broad Street or the Electric Cinema, Station St. GY