Monday, April 30, 2012


This is a new Norwegian thriller from bestselling author Jo Nesbo. I believe it's the first time one of his books has made the transition to film and it's a welcome relief to the fairly dull film choices out there now. While Hollywood is waiting for "The Avengers" to kick off the official "summer Blockbuster" season, this little foreign film sneaks in early and does it's best to entertain (in a very "R" rated sexy and violent way).

 It's an engaging story that begins when a corporate headhunter (who moonlights as an art thief) ends up with the wrong client. Roger Brown is a smug executive who lives well beyond his means (to keep his trophy wife happy) and after meeting Claus Greve, his neat little life takes a wild and unexpected turn. Roger becomes a hunted man and the film turns up the violence as his situation becomes more and more outrageous. There are moments of absurd black comedy as well as much bloodshed (and one nasty act of violence against an attack dog) as the film twists and turns it's way to a neatly wrapped up ending.

 Askel Hennie stars as Roger and he endures quite a bit in a physically demanding role. Also starring as the cool and calculating Claus Greve, is Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (currently on "Game of Thrones" as Jamie Lannister). The plot continues to thicken and twist as the two stars play a dangerous game of cat and mouse. See it before the inevitable American remake... starring James Spader (if the casting agent has any good sense).

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Cabin in The Woods

Five stereotyped friends go for a weekend at a cabin deep in the woods and mayhem ensues. Think you've seen this before? Think again. From the opening moments, you will realize this is not your typical horror film but rather a cross between "The Truman Show" and "Evil Dead". The entire "horror" experience is being controlled by a group of scientists led by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. And just when you think you know where the film might be headed, it veers of course and surprises you.

Directed by Drew Goddard and written by Mr. Goddard and Joss Whedon, "Cabin" is a fun puzzle of genres that stays true to the source but playfully mixes things up. Mr. Goddard and Mr. Whedon manipulate their audience just as the characters themselves are manipulated. At times, the script is too smart for it's own good. Scattered throughout are sly references to other films (blatantly even a character named Truman).

There is horror (but not that scary) and cast members do die bloody deaths but there is also humor (mostly the witty banter of Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Whitford) and many suspenseful moments. The friends are played by Chris Hemsworth (pre-Thor), Jesse Williams, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison and Fran Kranz. Each one inhabits their stereotype admirably. There is even a surprise guest star who is very appropriate.

I originally wrote it off as just another "kids in the woods bloodbath" but when other critics became so divided about the film, I had to see it for myself. Despite the "aren't we clever moments", and even if you do feel manipulated, you'll still enjoy the ride.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

This simple premise of police raiding a drug lord's apartment complex turns into a masterful choreography of bullets and bodies in this new Indonesian action fest. While the film is in subtitles, the story is really all visual. A heavily armed police squad enter the building and have to fight their way to the 15th floor through an army of thugs. Non-stop use of machine guns, handguns, machetes, knives, fists and feet all combine into 100 minutes of action packed violence that will leave you breathless.

This is certainly not a film for everyone but fans of the genre will enjoy themselves very much. Hollywood will probably remake this film but will be hard pressed to recreate the suspense and action as the police fight their way up through the building, their numbers dwindling floor by floor. The martial art fight scenes are remarkable and directors Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais perform movie magic keeping the body count high but maintaining a human element in the form of the hero cop, Rama, played by Mr. Uwais.

It's an all out war played out in the urban landscape of the apartment complex and the claustrophobic camera work puts the viewer directly into the action from the very beginning. The stunt work is exceptional and watching the end credits made me laugh when I saw the long list of names for the on set medical team. Leaving the theater, I could swear I had new bruises myself.