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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Late Quartet - A late review...

 Yaron Zilberman presents the story of a string quartet from New York who must come to grips with the thought of losing one of their members. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Peter, the eldest of the group, expresses his wish to leave. As his departure threatens the future of the quartet, so too does the breakdown of Robert and Juliette's marriage. Tensions increase further when Robert becomes dissatisfied with his position as second violinist, while first violinist Daniel becomes involved with Alexandra, Robert and Juliette's much younger daughter.

Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener and Philip Seymour Hoffman turn in predictably high calibre performances here, with the latter truly shining; Hoffman's ability to find truth in a character through subtlety continues to thrust him higher through that league shared by the likes of Ed Harris, Tim Roth and Viggo Mortensen. It is a league actors who are, quietly, better than anyone ever says; actors who make a film worth watching, almost all on their own. Frustratingly, Mark Ivanir, as Daniel, doesn't quite strike as resounding a note as his screen partners; had a fourth cast member been able to share the screen with these masters, we would have had a perfect ensemble cast.

Nicely written, with real characters and great dialogue, A Late Quartet closes where it opens, with everything you see in between ensuring that when you reach the end, you see it anew. It makes for an engaging watch, with some golden scenes strewn throughout. It is true to say we do not quite get to know everyone as well as one might hope, and the running time could have been longer, allowing for better pacing, but the use of a quartet as an analogy for the strains that real-life relationships face, not to mention the fantastic performances, lend all the weight needed to what would have otherwise been a more average drama.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

2 Guns - A surprising hit of the summer!

If you only saw the trailer, you may recognise '2 Guns' as an attempt at a buddy-cop style movie, light in tone, featuring an always-questionable Mark Wahlberg, likely to be carried by Denzel Washington, and from a director whose only known previous work is last year's 'Contraband', which bombed rather badly. Your conclusion might be that you will have seen this film before, and you'll have seen it done better, so despite your admiration for Washington, you'll opt out of this one. That was certainly my first impression. I am happy I did not go with my gut reaction, for whilst it is true that the director's last release was a failure, Wahlberg can be a letdown, and there is nothing here to really surprise us, it is NOT true that I have seen it done least, not for a long time!

'2 Guns' is a by-the-numbers, nuts and bolts story of a DEA agent and a naval intelligence officer, who are both trying to infiltrate a drug cartel for their own reasons. Upon stealing drug money, they find themselves caught up in a conspiracy rooted in nastier, murkier territory than either of them expected, playing cat-and-mouse with some very dangerous people, bringing into play a wonderfully villainous Bill Paxton, looking like he's having more fun than he's had in a long time. They try to simultaneously bring justice and stay alive! The whole thing feels very familiar, as it should; if you have seen 'Tango and Cash' or 'Lethal Weapon', you already know the dynamic between the two leads and the general direction the story is headed, although there is a distinct difference in that, unlike Danny Glover's Murtaguh, neither man is particularly straight-laced. Part of what brings this film to life, though, is the fact that you cannot help but think of early Tarantino as you watch it. 'True Romance' serves as a particularly obvious touchstone for '2 Guns' in terms of dialogue, character and pace; there are in fact at least two scenes that seem to consciously mirror famous sequences in Tony Scott's movie. Perhaps most surprising to me is how well Washington and Wahlberg work as a screen partnership; with plenty of chemistry and Wahlberg responsible for a fair share of the success, it would be unfair to say he needs carrying.

Slick, stylishly shot, well-paced, with some vintage "Tarantino" moments and really snappily written, this feels like a trip back to the 90s in the best way! Okay, no big surprises, but director Kormakur knows exactly what type of film he is making here, and he hits a home run with it!

Not likely to stay in my top 10 of 2013, but good enough to make it on to the list in the first place, which in itself is a surprise!


See it if you like: Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, True Romance