John Hurt and Ian McShane in 44 Inch Chest / image courtesy of Momentum Pictures
Our weekly round-up of film reviews
The writers of Sexy Beast are back with their leading man for another gangland frillah. But "there is a type of cinemagoer - let's call them the sort of males who regard an episode of Danny Dyer's Deadliest Men as gripping documentary - that will be left feeling short-changed" by 44 Inch Chest, think the Times (3 stars). Ray Winstone is Colin Diamond, out for revenge on the young French lad that his wife's left him for. He's gathered his partners-in-crime - Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane and John Hurt; seriously, feel the quality - for a spot of kidnapping and bloodletting. "Oddly, though, suspense isn't the point here. It's a static chamber piece about the male psyche in freefall" says the Telegraph (3 stars), and while Empire (2 stars) points out that "violent gits whining that nobody loves them aren't exactly anyone's favourite company, 44 Inch Chest gets by on the quality of its performances". The Guardian (2 stars) feels "it might have worked as the stageplay it probably was originally".
George Clooney is the professional downsizer, spending his life Up in the Air flying from city to city to fire employees whose bosses are too gutless to the dirty work themselves. His lifestyle is hermetically sealed and corporate branded, but the threat of its end and the appearance of two women in his life start to peel away at the edges. "There's nothing too profound here, and yet it works well as a smart, light cosmopolitan comedy" says the Guardian (4 stars) and Empire thinks "Billy Wilder would have loved its set-up, the barbs nestled amongst the folly of human foibles; Howard Hawks its complicated interplay between the sexes" (5 stars). But it's Clooney's film; he "reveals hitherto unexplored actorly depths. He's stiller and quieter here than he's ever been. He's haunted. And he plays his age" says the Times (4 stars). But the Standard is irritated by Juno director Jason Reitman's conservativism, "forcing the film towards being a celebration of marriage and kids" (3 stars), and the Telegraph (4 stars) finds a sour note in the film's treatment of its central unemployment theme, saying it's "a witty, often delightful, adult love story that deserves most of the Oscar-love it will surely get. That it's also glib will help rather than hinder its chances in March".
We loved seeing Blur back during the summer. And now we can see how that reunion happened in Blur: No Distance Left to Run (out Tuesday). "Although ostensibly the tale of Blur's rise, fall and rebirth, this is the story of four friends who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances" says Empire (4 stars), "using vintage snippets of the band’s first steps, wry (though occasionally confessional) interviews with Damon Albarn, Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree and artful footage from their comeback concerts" (Times, 3 stars). "It's tremendously shot and has great insights about the internal psychological dynamics of the band" is the Guardian's verdict (3 stars).
Inviting favourable comparisons to Tokyo Story (currently showing at the BFI) is Still Walking, a tale of a Japanese family gathered to commemorate the anniversary of a son's drowning. "Coming from the pace of the American cinema you may complain that nothing much happens. But this portrait of a fractious yet still affectionate and tightly knit family... is full of the small revelations that make up everyone's memories and regrets" (Evening Standard, 4 stars). "The writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda... has the imaginative sympathy of a great novelist, unsparing yet not unforgiving" reckons the Independent (4 stars), while the Telegraph praises the way such an "acutely observed and tenderly rendered portrait [is] brought to fleshy, pulsing life" (4 stars).
In All About Steve - yes, let's take a moment to absorb that terrible pun and move on - Sandra Bullock, "with her internal quirk-o-meter cranked up to 11" (Guardian, 1 star), is a woman who decides to stalk her failed blind date across the country, "demonstrating her ability to bore people to a standstill with her 'kooky' verbal diarrhoea - is she a latter-day Miss Bates or in fact a borderline Asperger's sufferer?" asks the Independent (1 star). Sounds like fun, no? "This rom-com [turns] into a farce that you can't get past unless drunk" winces the Standard (1 star), while the baffled Telegraph concludes "whatever disturbed and previously untapped audience this is meant to find, it's certainly novel" (2 stars).
For The Book of Eli, "it's as if someone who saw last week's apocalyptic drama The Road said, 'Let's do it again, but this time let’s make it rubbish'" (Times, 2 stars). Denzel Washington is Eli, wandering America 30 years after an atomic war laid waste to the country. He has a book. Gary Oldman wants the book: "his canny, squirming, amused baddie lifts what would otherwise be a complete downer enlivened only by bursts of violence and moments of laughable solemnity" says Empire (2 stars). The Telegraph thinks directors the Hughes Brothers "intend this doomily pompous multiplex-filler as a futuristic western, but its feet are firmly planted in a big bucket of po-faced messianic cement" (3 stars, including one extra for an appearance by the sublime Frances de la Tour).
Crude follows the true story of 30,000 Ecuadorean Amazon dwellers in the fight for compensation against the oil company Chevron. It's claimed that the company (then Texaco) left such a mess when they drilled in the area that the pollution is causing cancer and other illnesses amongst the population. Director "Joe Berlinger's film is a suitably forensic dissection of an ecological disaster and much less of a crusading piece of polemic" says the Standard, a little thankfully (4 stars). It may be "structurally a little jumbled" (Telegraph, 3 stars) but it raises important points about cases like these: namely, watching "the corporate denials from Chevron executives and their lawyers as they stonewall a reparations case... that has dragged on for 13 years already" (Times, 3 stars), "when Goliath gets sued, how does David pay for his lawyers?" (Guardian, 4 stars).
Finally, the second OSS 117 French 60s spy spoof, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, starring Jean Dujardin as Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, "obnoxiously self-confident, stupid and tactless, but patriotic to a fault" (Empire, 3 stars). He's on the case of a microfilm, but the film's main aim is to "send up the unthinkingly reactionary and offensive attitudes of the postwar French ruling classes" (Guardian, 3 stars). The Times (4 stars) loves it - "not only is it funny, it looks and feels fantastic, thanks to its duplication of the breezily kitsch cinematography and direction of Sixties spy flicks" - but others fail to get the joke. "Puerile slapstick for the most part" (Independent, 1 star); "too often crass and laboured" (Telegraph, 2 stars).
Next week: much awaited prison drama A Prophet and love triangle Brothers.