The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil.jpg

A hard as nails cop joins forces with a crime boss to take down a serial killer.

Based on a true story, The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil will get your undivided attention right off the bat from the opening scene. The South Korean film school proves time and time again that no matter what the genre, the outcome will be fulfilling and worth every minute you spend on it. Mu-Yeol Kim and Ma Dong-seok as cop and gangster respectively, develop excellent chemistry in their unlike partnership, offering a high-octane action / thriller trying to capture an unknown serial killer.

Captivating photography, engaging editing, and brilliant character and story development. Ma Dong-seok, after his amazing performance in Train to Busan (2016) comes back, punching above his league and comes out a winner stealing the show. Also, check Mu-Yeol Kim in Forgotten (2017) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/05/25/forgotten-2017-mystery-thriller/. Both films HIGHLY recommended.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the bloody ride.

Stay safe!

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Possession (1981): Drama / Horror

Possession

At the peak of the Cold War, a man comes back from a mission to reunite with his family only to find out that their marriage has fallen apart and an eerie entity might be behind it.

Possession is the art of writing, directing, editing, and acting with no rules. No. Rules. It’s been at least a couple of decades since I last time watched it and the first time, not knowing how to properly “read” a film, I just found it bizarre and moved on with my life. Now that I know a bit more, I can tell you with certainty that no review or analysis can be adequate to make one understand with certainty how, what, or why everything is happening. In addition, there is no way to predict who will like it and who won’t. Personally, I couldn’t recommend this film more to horror / mystery / thriller fans but also cinephiles with whatever particular interest they have in films. If you decide to watch it, here’s what you sign up for:

  • Sam Neill’s and Isabelle Adjani’s best-ever performances. Theatrical, verbal, and non-verbal performances like anything they had delivered before and anything like they ever attempted again to this very day, almost 40 years later.
  • Andrzej Zulawski’s most intricate script. Where did Mark come back from? What is he so good at? What is happening to Anna? Why does Helen look like…(no spoilers)? Why does everyone speak and act in such a way? Are their responses somehow related to “the thing”? Where did that thing come from? The fear. The possession. The siren… Zulawski defied rules and conventions, making an unprecedented, satisfying, yet questionable horror, heavily censored in the US and banned in the UK.
  • Zulawski’s directing which haunted both Neill and Adjani, taking them years to shake off the extremely unpleasant experience they were put through. Reportedly, Adjani stated: “He [Zulawski] is a director that makes you sink into his world of darkness and his demons”. His lens is captivating and the photography mesmerising throughout all three acts.
  • Editing-wise, Possession becomes the Bible of when not to cut! The pace and rhythm are remarkable and as this is a performance-driven film, the editing is patient enough to move on to the next shot only after Neill and Adjani have given their 100% or more!

Think of Possession as The Last Tango in Paris (1972) meets Kramer vs Kramer (1979) meets The Thing (1982). And that’s what I’m going to leave you with. For readers who have watched it, if you want to, please read further.

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SPOILER

 

I cannot even begin to imagine the reactions to the introduction of hentai pornography in a live-action film, in the early 80s, in the Western civilisation. If you know any European, (North or South) American, African or Australian films including hentai tentacles prior to Possession please let me know in the comments. I believe that awe and shock don’t even come close to describing the majority’s feelings. Personally, I think that the concoction of feelings and emotions throughout the film does not fall under one category. To the point where, possibly, you won’t even be able to explain how you feel or why you react the way you do to certain stimuli. A daring cinematic experience!

Capone (2020): Biography / Crime / Drama

Capone

Having spent 10 years in prison, Capone gets to spend the last year of his life at his mansion, suffering from dementia and visions of a violent past.

A few people asked me to watch it and tell them what I think. Well, here it is…

There are four (4) different points that need to be looked at rather than overlooked: The most obvious is Tom Hardy who, no matter who he portrays, he portrays them with effortless artistry. So, don’t pick up the stones yet. My next point is the A-list cast who supports him equally well and poses no threat to the film whatsoever. Then, it’s the makeup. Now, here I can see that you are looking at the stones again. If I had started watching the film ten minutes into it, I would think it’s a zombie or vampire Capone. The problem escalates and climaxes with the fourth point which is the writing that is all over the place. It seems like it parodies Capone’s end, and I can understand how this can be somehow offensive even if it’s regarding a criminal like him.

Writer/editor/director Josh Trank thought it would be a good idea to combine approaches taken by David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick and portray the well-known Italian-American as if he’s walking between two worlds. In such light, a major issue becomes the main genre that officially characterises the film and, consequently, the viewers’ expectations. As someone who doesn’t know much about Capone’s last year, I didn’t see it as biographical as I didn’t see any crime either (that one shooting doesn’t count).

Trank was somehow lucky – even though that might be an inaccurate term. Should the film had a theatrical release, chances are that it would have suffered a similar or worse fate than his last film five years ago. My humble opinion is that he is a great independent director who faces a lot of issues when it comes to collaborating with major studios. Chronicle (2012) is a solid proof of that.

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Da 5 Bloods (2020): Adventure / Drama / War

Da 5 Bloods

Four African American veterans return to Vietnam for the first time after the war ended to find their fallen brother and leader and claim something they consider rightfully theirs.

The opening sequence hits the nail! Right off the bat, you know exactly Spike Lee’s angle on this one. From Ali’s heroic statement to the historic footage that follows, Da 5 Bloods promises to be yet another Lee’s film way ahead of its time. But it isn’t. It most certainly is not. So what happened?

The story is quite an adventure. A sweet and sour and powerful one. The heroes are relatable and so is their background. Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors deliver powerful performances. Furthermore, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is gripping. So, again, what happened? I’ll start with the music. For a film that mocks Rambo, it surely shares a similar score that accompanies it throughout most of its moments, killing the emotion. Then, there are two major problems. The lesser problem is the editing which can make or break every film. And in this case, it is at least mediocre. So, what can be worse than mediocre editing? The script! The one too many weak subplots overshadow the main plot that has one too many gimmicks. The gold’s and body’s discovery, and the team arriving at the right place at the right time are just the tip of the iceberg. Before and after that, it just remains unreasonably and purposelessly convoluted. Shame really. Real shame. Should you decide to watch it, enjoy Lindo not holding back one bit! The best parts of the film.

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Knowing (2009): Action / Drama / Mystery

Knowing

A fifty-year-old list of numbers prophesying every major catastrophe that took place ever since will make a professor of astrophysics, and a single parent, to race against time to prevent the ones that are yet to happen.

Is pessimistic optimism a term? Does it make sense? It doesn’t, does it? Be it as it may, that’s the oxymoronic feeling you get out of Knowing. But first things first…

“Randomness vs Determinism”, from a philosophical and/or scientific point of view, will become the setup’s foundation, and your mind’s internal debate while watching the confrontation unfolding. One of my favourite Nicolas Cage movie from the noughties where, back then, I couldn’t find many flaws. Watching it now for a second time, eleven years later, I spotted certain plot holes and gimmicks but I didn’t let them get in the way. Yet, it answers all the questions it raises halfway there (not even in the end), and that feels a bit spoonfed for my taste. Regardless, Cage is the right man for the job, Rose Byrne delivers a great performance, the kids are surprisingly convincing, and Ben Mendelsohn, be it in a leading or supporting role, always nails it. Once again, it’s a shame that the film answers everything for you.

The man in the director’s chair is Alex Proyas, a director whose niche is dark fantasy/sci-fi. My personal bests are: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), and I, Robot (2004). Unfortunately, he has not been involved in many projects and some of them, I believe, were beneath him. I look forward to watching something of his ’90s style soon.

(Not)Fun fact: The film predicted the BP’s oil spill in the Mexican gulf the year after.

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Silence (2017): Short / Drama

Silence

The impending apocalypse finds a mother and her autistic daughter spending their last moments together.

Silence is one of these short films that you watch and the first question that comes to your mind is: “What is happening?”. Upon establishing that, the question that follows is: “Why is this happening?” The answer to that lies in the hands of the filmmakers and their effort to get the funding they need to turn it into a feature. Official selection at the Los Angeles Film Festival, so I keep my fingers crossed to be seen by the right people who can add a solid setup and confrontation. Something along the lines of Knowing (2009)?

While discontinuous editing has proved to be innovative and effective in the past – see Breathless (1960) – in Silence this is not the case. I believe though that the strong message, the impressive photography (observe the changes as the doom is nearing), and the great performances by both Louise Rhian Poole and Riann Mutlow will win the impressions and writer Rachael Howard, director Lee Burgess, and producer John Ninnis will come out of the festival with a signed deal that will answer the “why”. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Gwlb2-gw0

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Mohamed (2001): Short / Drama

Mohamed

In an attempt to save his life, a man enters an apartment building only to realise that his problems will only get worse.

First critical success for the – back then – young student, and writer/director Sergi Rubió who, despite the film’s little flaws, manages to clearly convey his message. It could be an excellent third act about a young man who has struggled his whole life because… he just looks different than the majority of the people around him. About a man who has so much love to give and no one to give it to. Unfortunately, there is so much hatred to get and everyone to get it from. You can watch it here: https://www.reelhouse.org/tropicanofilms/mohamed/4743014

Because some look like you or sound like you or have the same religion as you, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will or has to. No one can claim this world. We might be part of it, but it’s not ours. All of us can equally be a scourge on this planet or a blessing. Choose the latter. Mohamed did.

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The Vast of Night (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

The Vast of Night

New Mexico, 1948: A switchboard operator detects a frequency like anything she has ever heard before, a radio producer broadcasts it, and myth, reality, and paranoia start blending into one.

Act I: The phenomenal antithesis between fast-talking actors and protracted shots. To be more specific, we are talking about up to 10-minute dolly and steady-cam shots. Great set-up and character introduction along with made-up experiments that get you into the low budget sci-fi mood and make you chuckle with their “accuracy”.

Act II: Past the slow-burn intro, the clash between reality and storytelling of loneliness becomes as vague as the editing techniques pacing it. It takes yet another heroine of life to wind the pace down and get you comfy with another story from the “fortress of solitude”, the plot point that leads to…

Act III: A resolution with no twist, yet a worthy ending. An ending that the two previous acts promised and did not mislead you about.

Meet Andrew Patterson! The writer/editor/producer/director behind The Vast of Night. The filmmaker who is known for… The Vast of Night. I had never heard the guy before. Well, guess what? IMDb hadn’t either. So, here’s the question: Who cares?! The man made this film almost on his own (using three different names). An honest tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), and The Twilight Zone (1959) with suspenseful sequences accompanied by, among others, Cretan (Greek) music!

You watch the film, then you look at his picture and you can’t help but wonder: “Doesn’t he look like one of them alien conspiracy bloggers/vloggers”? Again, who cares?! Patterson is a talent! He got turned down by, I don’t know, 15 major film festivals? Few of them accepted him though and shared his vision. And I’m glad Amazon Studios did as well. I take my hat off to him. He’s a living, breathing, walking proof that all of us need to stick to our dream and keep it real. Andrew, cheers for that geezer!!! Much appreciated!

An extra, special bravo goes to Sierra Mccormick and Jake Horowitz for being true thespians and delivering Patterson’s dream.

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The Unknown Woman (2006): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

The Unknown Woman

A woman’s promiscuous past becomes a constant reminder in the present and a motive for every obscure step she takes.

Giuseppe Tornatore proves time and time again over the decades that his diversity knows no limits. I remember watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) in the theatres as a kid and even though there was a lot I missed back then (I caught up the second and third time I watched in the years that followed), I believe it solidified the foundation of my love about cinema. The Unknown Woman, one of the three films he made in the noughties – with Malena (2000) and Baarìa (2009) being the other two – is a suspenseful, dramatic, physically but also thought-provoking mystery/thriller about the search of hope. About a woman driven by her past sufferings, in the hopes that life will smile at her for once. Tornatore though doesn’t believe that the past should be left in the past. He believes it will always be part of us no matter how hard we try to run away from it.

Kseniya Rappoport and Clara Dossena steal the show on screen. Ennio Morricone (over the last 60 years!) fills the atmosphere with doubt with his tachycardic music, amplifying and constantly prolonging the suspense until the film’s denouement. But here’s the thing:

“It’s not a film until it’s edited” – Michael Kahn

Massimo Quaglia, Tornatore’s loyal editor, is the one who “stitches” the film together with artistry. The flashback’s metric montage invisibly permeates the present with extremely meticulous match cuts. Outstanding chemistry!

Most of the time, we think we’ve had it bad in life. Guess what? While sometimes life gives us the shortest straw, to others she gives nothing but pain. Why? Because she can. The pandemic but also the unfathomable, bottomless human buffoonery have proved, once more, that life is not to be taken for granted. Make the most of it and…

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A Case of You (2005): Short / Drama

A Case of You

A man’s mind is playing tricks regarding when and how his relationship took a turn for the worse.

Did you ever wake up one day asking yourself, “what happened”? Struggling to put together the where, who, why, what, and when? A Case of You is exactly that! John wakes up in his apartment one morning and, in real time, he wanders from room to room trying to figure out what went wrong between him and Emily. Why he is alone. What happened.

The one 18-minute shot is impressive. It takes a huge amount of preparation in preproduction where EVERYONE in front and behind the camera gets to know EXACTLY what they need to do when filming starts. The beauty though in Jack Davie’s creation is the marriage of his directing and writing which provides practical answers and raises existential questions. No spoonfed drama here. The mind works in mysterious and, more often than not, incomprehensible ways. Try to keep track of how John and Emily’s relationship deteriorated. It’s a non-linear jigsaw and every event, every utterance, and every action is part of it.

A standing ovation for writer/director Davies, actors Jamie Draven and Julia Hickman, and every member of the crew who made this film possible. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wxTj8ZBUEo

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