Prometheus (3D) ***

Director Ridley Scott was quoted as saying that Prometheus was a film that would ‘stand on its own’, apart from the Alien series. It’s fair to say that the sweeping, opening 3D vistas and alien mutation on the IMAX screen are truly spectacular to watch, so there is a lot of genuine expectation from the start – and for the newcomer, it’s quite a show of effects prowess to be initially engulfed by.

But as the film goes on, the grand, industrial production design is almost like a sci-fi distraction to the riddles the narrative throws up. It’s comparable to an annoying rhetorical inner self, constantly questioning and re-questioning Man’s origins, with no feasible conclusions, and instead favouring falling back on the same, lame biblical and mind-bending one of the ultimate creator being a deity. Perhaps a second viewing is necessary to grasp all the ideas that fall under the ‘science verses religion’ label, complete with obvious Darwin and Christianity connotations.

It’s 2093, and the crew of the Prometheus are woken from cyrogentic sleep to begin their mission to find mankind’s creator on a rocky planet, headed by archaeologists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Behind the scientific purpose is a darker ulterior motive yet to be revealed that only the ship’s super efficient humanoid, David (Michael Fassbender), seems to hold the clues to. However, while exploring the site, the crew that also includes company spokeswoman Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and loyal, renegade captain Janek (Idris Elba) encounter a terrifying alien secret. They must battle to save the future of the human race back on Earth.

Even keeping reveals to a fair way into the story, in all honesty, this was always going to be an Alien prequel spotting exercise, as we expect to be shocked and appalled by the first appearance of the notorious goo-dripping, acid-stripping life form. However, the scares are not so much in the traditional, surprise-tactic horror sense, rather more about ‘realistic’ visual horrors of gut-wrenching proportions – cue a nod to Alien, as well as for those with an Ophidiophobia complex that is equally terrifying and disturbingly phallic and erotic.

Ridley is more about exploring the Darwinist theories here, rather than staging epic, squelch-fest battles of latter Alien films. Fire is the biggest threat to all – much like for primitive man, and the analogy is not lost. That said there is still enough wonderment at the genetic composition of the alien species that takes on a different form in this to thrill fans – the problems lie in the lack of a decent explanation as to the true effects of the tar-like DNA matter and its engineer.

Ridley needed a contemporary Sigourney Weaver, someone who combines courage with empathy. Athletic Rapace delivers anxiety, vulnerability and grit determination simultaneously – also present in her Girl With a Dragon Tattoo portrayals. Her strong performance as Shaw in this helps keep the status quo on some meaningful track when all else gets blown into the metallic ether, or fails to amount to much else than visual awe: Included in the latter statement is Theron who knows how to play the stunning ice maiden but is allowed little else to really sink her teeth into in this, apart from one reveal that leads nowhere for her character.

Nevertheless, it’s Fassbender who ultimately steals the show as David, a Peter O’Toole lookalike in a space jumpsuit with an eerie sociopathic tendency, unconditionally serving a ‘higher being’ but keeping us guessing as to possessing any real feelings as such. This both works in the character’s favour and against, which is where lies another of the film’s flaws; could such a manmade creation indeed be capable of developing free will, aside from following his programme. Still, this is another Bishop origin pointer for Aliens fans, as well as neatly emphasising man’s ironic reliance on technology for survival.

The biggest frustration in what is a stunning, visual sci-fi feast – a must-see at the IMAX – is the plethora of possible ideas that detract from making Prometheus a tighter-scripted, latter-day blockbuster worthy of challenging the 1979 film. Its commercial slant that the earlier film sardonically defied is made more apparent by the odd quips to lighten the mood, hence defusing any whiff of mounting tension. Without the claustrophobic space of the other films, the pressure cooker effect is sorely absent in this, with the only feeling of entrapment being the lack of oxygen on the planetary surface. Still, Ridley coaxes out some memorable performances from Rapace and Fassbender, and keeps a consistent sense of man’s curiosity at the bigger evolution picture, which fuels the film’s own fire. The rest is open to interpretation.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Snow White and The Huntsman ***

This long-anticipated version of Snow White couldn’t be more different from the humourless and bland Mirror Mirror with a smug Julia Roberts. Bathed in Gothic shadows and sinister trickery it stars Twilight’s very own vamp princess Kristen Stewart as the snow-white skinned maiden doing battle with her evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). But much as debut director Rupert Sanders may have thought some of the Twilight magic may rub off by casting Stewart, the most successful performances come from Theron and the ‘famous’ faces of the dwarves.

It’s a shame that Stewart seems to have little else in her acting arsenal than to continually act like she’s permanent in oral pain. In fact, any empathy we might feel for her Snow White is probably more a throwback response to her equally awkward and gurning Bella character, making us seriously question whether she is literally a one trick pony. Still, with her army of loyal fans, both Sanders and her know their target audience for this film, and she plays the same hand.

In all fairness, this Snow White has a lot to be miffed about, having been locked in a tower all her developing years, alongside other young maidens that evil and bewitching Ravenna uses to suck the soul out of like a stunning, flaxen-haired Dementor, simply as an alternative to Botox to rid her of her wrinkles. As Snow White escapes, the Queen soon learns that one suck on stepdaughter would have rid her of old age for eternity, and so recruits the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a drunken, grieving widower to track her and bring her live ‘beauty treatment’ back. But to everyone’s surprise, including his, the Huntsman falls for Snow White, and hence decides to help her reclaim her rightful throne, with the help of a small army of supporters.

Colleen Atwood’s stunning design is worth witnessing alone on the big screen, opening up Sanders’ fairy tale to a wider fantasy league, such as those who enjoy LOTR, for example. It even comes complete with an exhilarating horseback charge of attack at the end that is reminiscent of The Return of the King in energy and panoramic glory. Ravenna’s mirror on the wall also oozes lethal golden beauty but is mesmerising too.

Sanders makes sure there is a seductive dichotomy of beauty and brutality throughout, with Theron encompassing this. She plays the role straight laced, being an expert in portraying thorny and unhinged beauty in a number of films. With Stewart cast as her nemesis in the looks stakes, it’s a tad hard to believe Ravenna has anything much to be jealous of. Nevertheless, both actresses are match for match in the final confrontation scene, which showers us with some of the best special effects this film as to offer, but feels short lived.

Hemsworth, still in Thor mode, plays rugged ‘brute’ naturally in his sleep, no doubt, with little else to challenge him in this. There is a nice ‘will they, won’t they’ love triangle going on between Snow White, Huntsman and Snow White’s childhood sweetheart William (Sam Claflin) – echoing the Twilight love saga perhaps? It’s disappointing that the introduction of the fun celebrity dwarves – played by Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, Toby JonesBrian Gleeson and Johnny Harris – is later on in the story, meaning this heady mix of talent has limited screen time, before they are recruited into Snow White’s onslaught on the castle. In fact there are characters for everyone to enjoy in this, as it’s certainly not the narrative that engages the viewer.

Sanders’ outing is a Gothic technical triumph in many ways – minus the Tim Burton quirkiness of yesteryear. His attention to detail is fully commendable as he tries to reinvent the children’s bedtime story into something more substantial and appealing to the grown-up market. His choice of cast is hit and miss, with Stewart actually being the weakest link, regardless of her box office draw. That said there is a lot of visual wonder to bask in and be inspired by, making Sanders’ next project one to watch out for.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Men in Black III (3D) ***

The fact that the second MiB film seems to draw a complete blank either means it was totally unforgettable tripe or someone’s been trigger happy with a Neuralyzer. Needless to say, it’s a happy predicament to be in as having watch the first film recently, to then watch the third in the series the latter nicely ties up the J and K relationship and explores a deeper bond.

In fact, mimicking the Back to the Future series – second film being duff and the third redeeming the franchise, there is also a bit of time travel involved. That’s not to say there aren’t a few soggy, bloated parts full of unnecessary banter, but it’s the charisma of Will Smith and the cantankerous, grumpy nature of Tommy Lee Jones that keeps the life source flowing. What’s more thrilling is Josh Brolin adopting the mannerisms, like for like, as a younger K. Eternally witty Emma Thompson is right at home as the eccentric Agent O, too, entertaining as always as you never know where she will take a character next.

In film number 3, Agent J (Smith) must travel in time to MiB’s early years in the 1960s to not only prevent murderous alien Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) from assassinating his friend Agent K (Lee Jones), but also stop Earth being destroyed in the present by an alien warship attack. The goal is to change history, but J finds out more about the younger K (Brolin) than he bargained for in trying to change history for the better.

The initial concern for any fan of the first film is just what director Barry Sonnenfeld and his new writing team could conjure up that’s at all fresh for a third outing by the mystery men in black suits. After a hilarious opening eulogy, it all starts out in much the same way with a far grumpier and lacklustre team tackling yet more devious aliens in disguise in a local Chinese restaurant then Smith supplying his humorous trademark comments to passing onlookers that raises the necessary laughs and places us back the frame. A decade has passed and the jokes and grouchy nature are still in full flow – but rather than being tiresome, it’s somehow reassuring and quite nostalgic. Thompson as the new agency boss doing her usual po-faced comedic turn punctuates the atmosphere, and helps give further clues to the characters’ past.

However, this time, the true path of destiny between agents is explored, giving MiB 3 an unexpected emotional substance among all the alien chasing, and making it less superfluous at that special moment of clarity to the point that the unstoppable Boris takes a backseat. Much of the ‘buddy’ credit goes to Brolin for taking up the K mantle so fittingly and working to compliment Smith’s sarcastic stand-up act. There is also a notable performance by Michael Stuhlbarg as future-forecasting Griffin that emphasises all the characters’ vulnerability as they venture down a life-changing path, plus a bit of grounding in historical fact that some older viewers will enjoy reliving.

Those expecting wanton alien bashing will not be disappointed as such, but be prepared for more of a sentimental time-travelling journey down memory lane with less of the Smith wise cracks – though still enough to be comically flippant and charming. In the end, everything has to grow up, and J and K with renewed understanding will probably be on the case until they’re MiB Seniors.

3/5 stars

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2 Days in New York ****

Julie Delpy is proving as accomplished in her writing-directing as she is in her acting, bringing a cross-cultural humour that resonates with international audiences while defiantly drawing laughs from stereotypical situations. Hers is a rudimentary form of wit, the un-PC kind that still revels in pointing out our apparent differences that result in miscommunication and ultimately comic farce.

Following on from the 2007 romantic comedy, 2 Days In Paris, a kind of wordy, intellectual dissection of a cross-cultural relationship between Marion (Delpy) and American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg), her latest sequel, 2 Days In New York, sees her free-spirited photographer character back home in New York and living with new partner, talk-radio host Mingus (Chris Rock) in near idyllic bliss. Enter the arrival of the visiting family from France, an uninhibited bunch – jolly father (Delpy’s real-life father, Albert Delpy), oversexed sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and outrageous on-off, pot-smoking boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon) – who put the ‘ex’ in exhibition and test the couple’s relationship to the full.

Delpy’s style is an engaging Cinéma vérité one, allowing seemingly tense, real-life family scenarios to escalate to the point of combustion, rather than set pieces designed to coax laughter at various cues. The myriad of possibilities of what any of the characters could do next is what keeps this eccentric comedy fresh and equally volatile. In addition, Rock tones down his wise-cracking for a more subdued if bemused delivery, and is quite the tonic in this, managing to come across as the more level-headed of the bunch opposite his Gaulois counterparts. In doing so, he expertly supplies the cynical dry wit to match the nutty mayhem in a role some will be surprised to see him in.

Delpy is very much the passive-aggressive catalyst as Marion in the story, combining beauty, brains and cerebral brawn to propel the farce forward as all her players act and react within the confined space of the apartment. Although the French liberal ways seem at odds with the more reserved American ones on face value, ultimately, Delpy highlights the similarities in both cultures when the going gets rough, and it’s merely a difference of expression than purpose that is an intriguing aspect of the whole social affair.

The story also throws up some memorable tabooed subjects and presents them with a refreshingly open frankness that directly challenges our reaction while suggesting we self-reflect at the imperfections on display. There is also a sequence where Marion feels she is losing her inner soul, and where some might feel the film goes off on a bizarre and unnecessary tangent, but it does serves as a deal maker/breaker and allows Delpy to analyse where her character’s at in life.

This zany and hilarious observation of human interaction is beautifully scripted, acted and timed with expert comic precision, emphasising the subtle absurdity of – essentially – normality, and how it is perceived differently by different walks of life. Delpy has carefully crafted her film and given us intriguingly layered personalities that translate universally within a bohemian setting that could ultimately be staged anywhere.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation ****

Not to be confused with the 1997 teenie film of the same name, this is Mel Gibson’s new drama, How I Spent My Summer Vacation that for those in the know seems part like a film version of Rusty Young’s brilliantly gripping Marching Powder. It seems that Gibson – who needs a career/personality boost and is the co-writer on this film – has possibly taken some ideas from this novel about the real-life experiences of a drug dealer in a Bolivian jail run like a miniature city.

In terms of a Gibson revival after the rather odd and equally retrospective (if pretentious) The Beaver in 2011, this action film is far better placed to draw back audiences, and the actor draws on a lot of the personality traits of his previous, best-loved characters – including Riggs’s sideways shooting from the Lethal Weapon glory days.

Gibson is back in action-man form playing ‘Driver’, a career criminal who is chased by the US authorities over the US-Mexican border and crashes to a stop. Placed in a tough, tiered prison ‘city’ of haves and have-nots with its own rules, he learns to survive the harsh lifestyle with the help of a 9-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez) who has been raised in the penal environment. Everything can be bought and bartered inside, and Driver soon realises a grim new ‘currency’ that is life-threatening.

It’s a carefully considered, tailored part written for controversial Gibson – you never really make your mind up about Driver either or know whether to like/trust him completely, but you know he needs to be given a chance to put injustices right: life imitating art, perhaps? Gibson is highly watchable mixture of harden cynic and melancholic, weary softie in this, and like his Riggs character, has a lot of baggage that this story never really needs to venture into to keep up the enigma that is ‘Driver’.

Bouncing off Gibson/Driver’s knee-jerk reactions is a rather commendable performance by young Hernandez who plays a wise-beyond-his-years and hardened kid with time running out, a far better role than his cringeworthingly racist turn as Rodrigo in flop comedy The Sitter last year. He reflects Gibson/Driver’s edgy attitude in mini form, and even though the outcome is fairly obvious and will result in an unlikely bonding, co-writer-director Adrian Grunberg’s film still has a lot of intriguing avenues it could head down as it combines action, humour and dramatics, all within one tough environment and never stagnant pace.

There is almost a stylised, Tarantino-esque expenditure to it as the body count rises, mixed with old-school Latino crime drama shootouts. Bottom line is all are ‘bad guys’ in this; the question is which ones perish or live to tell the tale, and that is what keeps things fresh and engaging. With a devilish sardonic humour running throughout, Summer Vacation always entertains in action or retort. It has a free will attitude that you can really get onboard with, as well as a sympathetic stance on the politics of the region, without being overtly condescending.

Love or loathe Gibson, he is hard to resist in this tantalizing tale of hard knocks, winners and losers, as he charms then reminds us of what made him a big screen star in the first place. It does promise a good night out at the cinema.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Dark Shadows ***

Once upon a time, the Burton-Depp partnership was such a sure thing with every project they entered into that they seemed to have the monopoly on quirky Gothic tales; we fell in love with Edward Scissorhands and were enchanted by Corpse Bride. So the chance to see the pair collaborate on a feature-film version of Dan Curtis’s much-loved TV show, Dark Shadows, seemed like ideal material. However, as has been the case since Alice in Wonderland, too much of a good thing has led to them becoming complacent and lacking any new ideas.

Burton fans will find some satisfaction in Dark Shadows as Depp does his stiff upper-class English gent take once more, but they will be disappointed in the lack of substance – however superficially easy on the brain this film is. It is a fair adaptation of the TV show that will entertain, but it was also ripe for so much more twisted fun than it offers, which is a shame with such a show-stopping cast at the fore.

Depp plays Barnabas Collins, son of a fishing merchant who is turned into a creature of the night by his spurned love, witch Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), and rises from the ‘dead’ after a 200-year slumber. Now it’s 1970s’ America in his home town of Collinsport, and Barnabas, complete with a ferocious thirst returns to the family mansion to find his descendants living in disarray and near poverty: head of the house is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), her moody teen daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz), her scoundrel brother Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) and his grieving son David (Gulliver McGrath) and their odd, alcoholic psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). The only sight for sore eyes is David’s new governess Victoria (Bella Heathcote) who looks the spitting image of Barnabas’s tragic lost love Josette. Old-fashioned Barnabas must cope with modern ways and a vengedful old fiend who is ruining the family fortunes.

The tragic thing about Burton’s new offering is all the cast are literally superb in their individual role playing, each delighting any audience going to see a typical Burton parade of oddballs, and Depp does not disappoint with some hilarious observations and one-liners that question some of modern-day living’s screwed up values. Nostalgia is always a potent thing to draw on. However, the tempestuous Barnabas- Angelique show aside, all these intriguing personalities and their issues are never fully explored – as you might expect when trying to condense a TV series – or properly layered to satisfy having them all present, making the outcome seem frivolous. Like the two-dimensionality of Disney cartoons, the characters merely serve the Depp show highs and lows. It also seems like Burton is tiring of his eccentric missus, Bonham Carter, too, who gets to be erratic in this but does not get nearly enough screen-time to entertain fully.

Those expecting a crazed Noughties Beetlejuice – which the trailer suggests – of which someone like Depp would be perfect to follow in the maniacal shoes of Michael Keaton will be left sorely wanting because the Burton other-worldly imagination is missing. The only resurrecting grace is Depp’s now routine, freak pantomime performance and the bewitching Green in some wild frocks – oh, and a brief Alice Cooper appearance because he happens to spell ‘Goth’ in music world terms. You will scream with frustration at this ghoulish comedy, that’s for sure. Let’s hope Frankenweenie this year rekindles the Burton magic.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Silent House **

Elizabeth Olsen of Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) fame is fast becoming the thriller poster girl, with her dreamy, unreadable persona that portrays a mixture of innocence and hidden danger. In Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s new spooky thriller Silent House Olsen keeps us guessing as to her true personality once more, like in her confused character in the acclaimed 2011 film, and delivers another self-assured performance with the subject matter she is dealt. The flaws of the film are certainly not in her portrayal, rather in the confused plot that raises a disturbing issue but just doesn’t quite execute it satisfactorily.

Sarah (Olsen) is helping her Dad, John (Adam Trese), move their belongings out of their creaky, old family house that is without power. Her Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) is also lending a hand. While packing, Sarah gets a visit from an amorous old childhood friend called Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) who she cannot remember. After Peter leaves, and Dad goes off to get the power back on, Sarah finds she is alone and starts to experience strange and frightening happenings, making her question her own sanity.

Olsen is the film’s momentum; we experience the odd goings-on through her steps and point-of-view angles. The reasons for why these things are happening cannot be revealed, as it would totally spoil the film for anyone planning to see it. And Kentis and Lau’s film has not got much else to offer, following the classic scare tactics of other horrors when things go bump in the night. The only hook is finding out the difference between reality and imagination, and just who’s fooling who. Through Olsen we are kept relatively intrigued – and for those with a soft spot for the actress, equally titillated by her horror-film prerequisite ‘clingy’ attire, should the scare tactics fail to work or are becoming a little bit of a drag.

Lau’s screenplay just doesn’t flesh out adequately to reveal the true horror lurking in the family’s midst. It ends in a brutal and short-lived fashion that doesn’t attempt to tease out more of the dark secret, but just slams the conclusion in your face with no further investment in those who live to tell the tale. The ending is also obvious as to who the victor will be – and there can only be one given the subject matter, and there are no real surprises, once the photos are revealed. In this sense, it’s another acting triumph and showpiece for Olsen but not much of a stimulating watch.

Based on Gustavo Hernández’s more chilling La casa munda, Silent House has a powerful enough context behind it, but with hindsight, it disappoints when you think what kind of film it could have been. Still, Olsen is a star worth following and has carved out an impressive niche in the psychological thriller genre; so let’s hope for another Martha Marcy May Marlene for her to really sink her capable teeth into, rather than this serviceable nightmare of déjà vu happenings.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Safe ***

British bulldog Jason Statham always manages to beguile you on screen with his seemingly boundless choreographed energy and corny one-line growls that have become his reliable trademarks. Without such qualities of seasoned action veterans like Schwarzenegger and Stallone in their heyday, the Statham flick would be dead in the water, like an action flick of a bygone era.

Paradoxically, there is also a very fresh and contemporary feel to a Statham film too, in its video-gaming context that combines style and a breakneck editing pace that often defies reality. Writer-director Boaz Yakin’s Safe is in this category, as The Transformer energy is unleashed on the Big Apple, it keeps you gunning for Statham from beginning to end, however farcical and far-fetched the bits are in between, and comical his ‘American’ accent gets.

Statham is Luke Wright a former cop with a dubious past and ex-cage fighter who upsets the Russian mob then witnesses his family’s massacre. Condemned to live a solitary life by the mob – who will kill anyone he gets close to, Luke stumbles across a fleeing young Chinese girl, Mei (Catherine Chan), who is being used to memorise numerical codes for the Triads. When the mob also discovers the value of the little girl, Luke steps in to rescue her, and the unlikely pair is pursued by the Triads, the mob and corrupt NYC cops and the mayor.

Statham does what he does best in Safe: frowning in annoyance then delivering a just desert, all the while showing a soft side when the moment calls for it. It’s classic Statham in every sense; but just be warned about the more adult language and delivery than in his other films. In a nice twist to the usual, weepy, dependent child, Mei is equally tenacious and guarded and very much wiser beyond her years, making for an intriguing dynamic between Statham and Chan of two very different survivours leaning on each other.

Yakin’s story may overdose in action and make you question just how much destruction one man and several villains can seriously get away with in an urban sprawl like the Big Apple. However, its momentum and engaging cinematography never let you think too long or too deeply about how plausible everything is, as you are flung from one set-piece to another, pausing only to catch one witty Statham retort after another.

There are so many holes in Luke’s backstory that they are almost rendered irrelevant as more holes are made in the baddies as the impressive body count tallies up. Anyway, it would take more energy to make sense of the protagonist than it would to keep up with the action and car and subway chases. Yakin ensures you hear every rip, splat and crunch in true and thrilling comic-book audible style, which seems to fit perfectly with the one-dimensionality of his characters. There are also some serviceable performances from James Hong as the Triad boss and Robert John Burke as the corrupt cop captain to enjoy as stereotypical, greedy bad guys in pursuit.

Since his Transporter days, Statham has resurrected the retro action hero favoured by the likes of Bruce Willis as a likeable avenging ‘ordinary guy next door’ who just gets the job done with some impressive martial arts moves flung in. Nothing much changes in Safe or is original, only the language has got more colourful, with Yakin delivering up Statham gold for fans once again.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Piggy **

London seems to be awash with potentially violent males lurking on every street corner, ready to explode with pent up rage given the right situation – if homegrown cinema is anything to go by. Debut writer-director Kieron Hawkes’ Piggy is another depressingly gritty tale of modern-day woe from the UK capital’s ‘mean’ streets that follows a vengeful angle to justify its brutal onslaught. Even the most hardened viewer will find this genuinely beautifully shot film tough to stomach, with little respite or acceptable explanation as to how its protagonist goes from loathing violence to cold-hearted and mindless thuggery.

Mild-mannered and solitary Joe (Martin Compston) is coasting through life in a mundane job and shut away from society until his older brother, John (Neil Maskell), comes back into his life and offers him a chance to reconnect, socially. But after being mugged, then witnessing trouble brewing at the local pub between John and a bunch of men, Joe decides to go home early that night only to be woken by John’s friend, Claire (Louise Dylan), and told that John has been brutally attacked and is on his death bed in hospital. Losing his brother and only real friend, Joe gets a knock one day from a mysterious stranger who claims to have been old school friends with John. Piggy (Paul Anderson) wants to help Joe get revenge for John’s death by ‘hunting’ down those responsible, outside of the law. But the price of revenge is a steep one that Joe realises all too late.

The context of revenge is a very tricky subject to depict in any film for danger of glorifying the violence and demeaning the complex reasons behind what drives it. In Hawkes’ case, the mindless death of a loved one is an excuse anyone can immediately relate to. What the script development fails to deliver is any real sense of how events play such huge psychological damage on Joe that he is driven to continue down the same path, long after retribution has been served. There is too big a piece of the puzzle missing from the character’s arc to be satisfying, although there is a nice twist to the expected ending.

Indeed, Hawkes favours The Horseman (2008) style of implied brutality, letting the imagination run riot and using a whole number of bone-crunching, gut-squelching effects to suggest the horrific bodily damage being inflicted on the hostages. All the while we are party to Anderson as Piggy’s disturbing if over-acted presence as he toys with his prey wearing a pig snout. In this sense, there are no added surprises as we expect each member of the pub gang to meet their fate.

That said ‘judge and executioner’ Piggy dishes out the punishment then intriguingly observes Joe’s reaction in return: It’s here that Hawkes’ film sadly reverts to visceral ‘gangster’ type as it misses the opportunity to explore the full psychological impact in more depth of what is effectively a look at capital punishment gone wrong, all coming too late to suitably round off the story. The result is a lot of the physical and very little mental energy spent. It’s an added shame because Anderson becomes more ‘bogeyman’ caricature than he should be opposite Compston’s reserved persona.

Piggy is a bold and striking start for Hawkes who shows off his impressive technical skills. However, the general topic is too titillating in execution to fully influence any worthy debate into the effects of isolating grief, leaving an altogether lacking investigation and no strong feelings either way for either character we are exposed to.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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