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By midlandsmovies, Jun 16 2018 08:21AM



Songbird (2018)


Directed by Sophie Black


Written by Tommy Draper

Produced by Laura C. Cann.

Triskelle Pictures


Starring Janet Devlin (from ITV’s The X Factor), Songbird is an enchanting new short following a female singer who encounters a wicked stranger set on stealing her talents.


A folktale that jumps swiftly between reality and fantasy Songbird comes from Nottingham filmmaker Sophie Black and her Triskelle Production company who has already seen success with the 2016 film Night Owls.


With a feathery familiarity, here our red-headed heroine is Jennifer (played with a subtle vulnerability by Devlin) who is dropped off near a forest at the film's beginning. But as she holds up a writing board which says “Thanks for the ride”, we get the impression that all is not as it seems in the woods today.


Heading into the countryside, the eerie sounds are well edited as the crunch of leaves by Converse-wearing feet introduces us to the tone of the film which mixes a modern hipster vibe with fairy tale folklore.


Cutting to 3 weeks earlier at an open mic in a local café, a chattering and chirping audience isn’t paying a great deal of attention as Jennifer plays a soft rhyming ballad with her acoustic guitar. A wonderland of poetical lyrics sends us down an aural rabbit hole complimented by Black’s potent cinematography with its dreamy visuals and hazy glow.


As the audience warms to her soaring vocals we cut to a set of crusty finger nails drumming on the bar to reveal an evil dark-eyed woman. Whilst Jennifer is spotted by a local producer, all looks well but she is soon confronted by the ominous lady in an alley outside the venue. As a strange powder is blown over her by the old crone she awakens at home, yet an uncomfortable phone call reveals her inability to speak. Black invites the audience to ask if this is a medical condition, but a visit to the doctor finds nothing wrong and her frustration kicks in with her vocal wings wholly clipped.


However, a handwritten book of spells and rune symbols is discovered and we are migrated back to the film’s opening as Jennifer begins collecting frogs and mushrooms to concoct a potion that perhaps can release her from this spell.


Black alludes to well-known fairy-tale myth from Sleeping Beauty - as Jennifer passes out - to Devlin’s auburn hair which plays to the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood’s adventures in the woods. As well as this, Therese Collins is excellent as a classic villain keeping her victim in a state of bondage with her incantations. She mixes a dash of Helena Bonham Carter witchcraft with fellow vocal-thief Ursula from The Little Mermaid as she incubates her stolen voices in jars amongst the trees.


2018 has had a fair share of similar cinematic encounters with fantasy voices, from the silent creature in Guillermo Del Toro’s aquatic fable The Shape of Water, as well as Duncan Jones’ Mute. Black tackles some parallel themes using well-shot special effects, gothic make-up and a superb choral score at its conclusion to deliver a bittersweet fairy tale.


Like all good fairy tales though, the film could be interpreted with having a number of symbolic undertones including an allegory of stage fright. As a musician myself, the fear of losing one’s voice can be difficult to swallow and here the film showcases a strong female trapped in a cage of insecurities.


Songbird is a tremendous short that shows the importance of voices and how they can truly transform and heal when you are filled with doubts and a lack of confidence. Sophie Black demonstrates a skill for the craft of filmmaking and, others take note, has created an artistic short with a raft of narrative to keep an audience captivated. With a selection of thematic and emotional beats, Songbird therefore takes flight with a magical trip from the mic stand to wonderland.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jun 14 2018 12:58PM



New film You Are My Sunshine, which will be filmed and produced in and around the Midlands this summer, is launching a new crowd-funding campaign for their upcoming LGBTQ drama.


Written and directed by award winning filmmaker Dave Hastings, and produced by award winners Troy Dennison and Kaush Patel, You Are My Sunshine promises to be a heartfelt look at two extraordinary lives wanting nothing more than to be together against hostility and prejudice.


Set across two decades, Sunshine tells the story of Tom and Joe, who first meet in the 1970s, a time when homosexuality is still deemed immoral and wrong. As the two youngsters try and navigate their way through an uncompromising time in history, their modern day counterparts also have to deal with the repercussions of their early lives when events take a turn and families collide once more.


Looking for help to tell their stories, their filmmakers’ campaign launches with an aim to raise funding for locations, make up effects, transport as well as other considerations such as food and insurance.


Much of the cast have already been secured including Steve Salt who will be playing the younger version of Tom, while Jack Knight will be the younger version of Joe, Martin’s son. Both are from the Midlands and studying drama in London and they are joined by Charlie Clarke, Charles O’Neill and Rosemary Manjunath.


Director Dave Hastings comments, "This is an important story to tell now more than ever. Especially when we are again seeing a rise in homophobic crimes around the world, which in itself is sickening. Sunshine shows that while in the face of tough adversity, whatever your sexual preference, there is never anything wrong with falling in love with someone of the same gender”.


Producer Troy Dennison elaborates; "while the film presents hope, it never shies away from showing the ugly side of these discussions, with the script showing how in the 1970s, even when we had the first Pride in the UK, attitudes were still very difficult, and were strong enough to rip whole families apart, an event that could take decades to heal, while in other cases, not even being repaired at all, leaving some members of the LGBTQ community vulnerable and separated by their families forever".


The filmmakers first feature collaboration was Checking In” (see MM review here) which told five stories all set over the course of a 24hr day in a hotel. The film was screened in London, was featured on BBC Midlands News, and eventually went on to WIN BEST BRITISH FILM at the 2014 London Film Awards. The film was made on a budget of £2,000.


And their Hammer horror inspired second film entitled The House of Screaming Death won Best Feature at the 2018 Midlands Movie Awards.


“We are very passionate about filmmaking and doing the absolute best we can with what limited resources we have. But we believe this just makes us more creative on set and how we develop not only ourselves but the movies we make”.


To make a pledge please check out the Indiegogo Campaign by clicking here


For more info please head over to their official website: www.lightbeamproductions.co.uk



By midlandsmovies, Jun 14 2018 11:05AM



"They sometimes say real life is scarier than horror movies. Those people just aren't watching the right movies!"


So say the organisers of Shock & Gore, a local festival that launched in July 2011 and looks to bring together audiences and film-makers who have a love of horror, science fiction and fantastic films at the oldest working cinema in the UK.


Returning this summer to The Electric Cinema in Birmingham from Friday 27th July to Sunday 5th August, a host of genre screenings make up the brunt of the festival but they also programme stand-up comedy, Q&As, live choirs and all-night events.


Classics like The Old Dark House and the original Cape Fear are accompanied by new films such as Under The Tree and A Prayer Before Dawn. Cult favourites like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The Prisoner will also be shown, plus their annual party night marks 20 years of Blade and 50 years of Night Of The Living Dead.


Shock & Gore are also hosting a special screening of Ben Wheatley's anarchic High-Rise at the top of Birmingham's iconic Rotunda building and the popular Trash Film Night will be taking to the seas (or, more accurately, Birmingham's canals) for a floating screening of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.


And on Thursday 2nd August, Conjurer's Kitchen will be presenting the classic movie The Silence Of The Lambs. Master food artist Annabel de Vetten will be cooking up some devilishly sweet treats to accompany a screening of one of the greatest thrillers of the last thirty years.


With a commitment to celebrating not only the work of established genre filmmakers, but also those looking to get their first break and national exposure, the focal point of the festival is always the official Shock & Gore competition. This is where entries from across the globe will be viewed and awards will be given for Best Feature Film and Best Short Film.


The Shock & Gore 2018 short film showcase takes place on Sunday 29th July at 2pm and offers opportunities for snappy jump scares, extreme set pieces and brief snippets of terror. Previous years have featured films from Japan, Dubai, Canada, the US, France and Italy, as well as a number of home-grown shorts.


And you still have time to enter via FilmFreeway at this link: https://filmfreeway.com/ShockGore


Full listings and the special events programme is online at www.shockandgore.co.uk


Plus you can find the festival on Twitter @ShockGore



By midlandsmovies, Jun 10 2018 08:51AM

12 Underrated films that may have passed you by since 2010


Despite your huge collection of DVDs, BluRays, boxsets, collector’s editions and streaming services, have you ever found yourself staring into space struggling to find a film to watch? With so many options available at just a touch of a button, the choice can be overwhelming. However, we’re going to provide a friendly list for your viewing pleasure as we showcase a dozen great films from the last few years that may have slipped under your radar.


Whether it be quirky documentaries, underground sci-fi or a splash of comedy, we have something for you. Take a read of the list below of our highly recommended, but often little-seen, movies – especially if you’re in the mood for something different to the usual multiplex blockbusters or critics’ darlings. And hit us up on Twitter @midlandsmovies with some of your own suggestions!




Coherence (2014) Dir. James Ward Byrkit

Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit this is an 89 minute thrilling sci-fi mystery set at a suburban USA dinner party that pulls at the audience’s emotions and brainstems equally. The film sets up a dinner meal and after discussion of a passing comet, the electricity goes off and the group explore their neighbourhood which leads to a mysterious occurance.. To say too much would be to spoil the surprise but with a similar tone to the low budget film Primer (2004) as well as the confusing and twisting narrative of Triangle (2009) the handheld realism leads to a brilliantly constructed film that demands a second viewing in order to fully appreciate the looping plot.



Stoker (2013) Dir. Park Chan-wook

A tense psychological thriller from the director who gave us OldBoy, Stoker again covers dark family secrets and was written surprisingly by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break. Avoiding any happy ever after clichés, the film has sinister fairy tale imagery from wooded copses, creepy spiders and phallic rocks to heighten the Hitchcockian themes of betrayal, deception and revenge. A trio of Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, bring strangely winning performances in a social drama with a mythic quality. A far-fetched but fascinating fable.




Tim’s Vermeer (2014) Dir. Teller

Directed by stage magician Teller, this documentary gives us a portrait of Tim Jenison, a man who spends 5 years testing his theory which proposes how Renaissance Dutchman Johannes Vermeer possibly used optical instruments to help create such realistic paintings. A friend of Teller’s magician partner Penn Jillette, Tim comes across as a barmy garage-style bonkers scientist who has worked with computer graphics but has no formal artistic training. In his quest to be authentic, Tim also learns to use traditional methods to render not just the painting he admires but the entire room. The doc constructs a brilliant study of one man’s drive and his crazy courage to complete his personal canvas.




Frank (2014) Dir. Lenny Abrahamson

Based on the idiosyncratic UK comedic stylings of Frank Sidebottom, this movie is a fictionalised account of an eccentric musician trying to find his calling in life. The musical journey is seen through the eyes of Jon (a brilliantly naive Domhnall Gleeson) who leaves his humdrum life to work on an album of bizarre instrumentations and unusual compositions. The lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender) persistently wears an over-sized homemade head and the film follows the erratic interactions and odd relationships between band members. Fassbender delivers a virtuoso performance as the comical yet infectious front man trying to connect with world he’s closed himself off to in a screwball study of creativity and mental hindrances.




White Bird in a Blizzard (2015) Dir. Gregg Araki

Set in a well-designed 80s of big hair, big phones and bigger boom boxes, the film follows the disappearance of unhappy mother Eve Connor (Eva Green) with flashbacks punctuating the modern day narrative strands to show her daughter Kat (Shailene Woodley) as she explains her drunken mother’s loveless marriage. The film may seem like Gone Girl-lite but its mysterious take on small-town life has echoes of American Beauty with its voiceovers, repressed fathers and dinner table silences. The comparisons continue with a sexless marriage and blossoming sexualised teenagers. The movie bounces easily between cold relationships to seduction secrets to create a winning formula of nosey next-door neighbours and night time naughtiness.




Snowpiercer (2014) Dir. Bong Joon-ho

All aboard for this South Korean/USA action film which tells the story of Curtis, a rebel on a fascist train that encircles the globe now that mankind has caused an accidental ice age. The snow train is a prison with the poor and destitute forced to live in squalor at the tail end whilst the rich live like royalty near the locomotive’s front. Curtis (a bearded Chris Evans) teams up with Edgar (Jamie Bell) and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) to overthrow the guards and with Tilda Swinton as a norther- accented minister with a nasty sadistic side, the movie is an original take on a tested formula. Joon-ho delivers the appropriate amount of fist fights and combines this with his artistic Eastern outlook with some inventive Hollywood-style smack downs. Although the premise is absurd, the audience will be pulled along for the wintery ride enjoying the emotional tracks the director lays out for us.




Joe (2014) Dir. David Gordon Green

After a glut of awful b-movie films, Nic Cage gets to tackle headier material by playing a violent loner in the Deep South where he stars as father figure to Tye Sheridan. We get a sizzling slice of Southern life played out amongst rural blue collar workers who turn to violence whilst trying to maintain their dysfunctional family dynamics. Alongside Cage’s muted dramatic chops and the rusty trucks, the two play out a tragic and cruel drama. The director elicits a cornucopia of emotions as we witness passionate kindred bonding and drunken falling. Cage is perfectly suited to the grizzled everyman and shows why he is still a watchable performer given the right material.




Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) Dir. Mark Hartley

Following Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who in the 1980s bought low-budget scripts to make even lower budget films, this documentary explores the ups and downs of the schlock movie business. Remembered for low budget action “classics” such as the Death Wish franchise as well as Delta Force, the film actually exposes some of the creative risks (but with little money) the cousins took as they tried to reflect, and sometimes create, the trends and fashions of the day. They made entertaining, amusing yet ultimately quite dreadful films but despite the low-low budgets, their productions focus on a sense of fun and the film provides a comedic look on how not to run a studio.




Love & Mercy (2015) Dir. Bill Pohlad

This biographical drama follows the life of Brian Wilson during the height of the Beach Boys’ fame in the 60s and his turbulent later years in the 80s where a confused Wilson deals with controlling advisors. The swinging section has a brilliant Paul Dano focusing on his song-writing whilst in the 80s, Cusack plays a more vulnerable Wilson who gets around with his new wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) and Paul Giamatti’s creepy psychotherapist. The Beach Boys’ music punctuates the film as Dano discovers his genius pop-hits and Cusack’s understatement is the flipside of Wilson’s fractured subconscious. Experimental in narrative, the film focuses on the brilliant brain of Brian through 2 different actors in a perfect portrayal of the mastermind musician.




Grand Piano (2014) Dir. Eugenio Mira

In the vein of Buried and Phone Booth Grand Piano is a taught ‘one-location’ thriller where a returning pianist protégé Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is threatened with murder during his comeback concert. An assassin promises to shoot him if he gets just one note wrong in his performance and the tension rises as a sniper’s laser sight passes over his sheet music. The pianist comes to terms that both he and his wife in the audience are at the hands of this man as he desperately tries to figure a way out using coded messages to escape with his life. A fast rhythm ratchets up the stakes using creative editing, along with a fantastic score coming from Frodo’s fingers himself. Any low-budget limitations are set aside as Grand Piano plays to its strengths like a fine composer.




As Above So Below (2014) Dir. John Erick Dowdle

Academic Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) delves into the catacombs under Paris in a found footage horror as she and her cohorts look for the philosopher’s stone, a powerful but possibly cursed historical relic. The jumps, scares and the Descent-style claustrophobia come across in every frame with the cast filming in the real caves and stone corridors under the City of Light. With a shadowy sense of foreboding around every corridor twist and turn, the concept is as old as the hills but the ancient caves contain enough no-frills shocks for a Saturday night scare-fest.




Life Itself (2014) Dir. Steve James

From the director of the Oscar nominated documentary Hoop Dreams comes this film based upon legendary film critic Roger Ebert's 2011 memoir of the same name. From his humble beginnings as a film critic through to the co-writing of the cult film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the film covers the major points of his life using interviews and archive footage as well as excerpts from his infamous show with Gene Siskel. A powerful but humorous writer, Ebert not only scored a Pulitzer for his work, he also helped elevate film criticism and established himself as the foremost authority on the subject. The doc later moves to Ebert’s hard fought struggle with illness but show how great his outlook was, not just through his career around the movies, but as a mantra for life itself.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jun 8 2018 05:27PM



Leicester filmmakers to be showcased at Midlands charity film gala


Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Kelly McCormack who is one of the producers of a new Leicester event coming up in July which will feature a range of regional short films.


Presented by Rajnish Sharma Films and Whatsername Productions a new film event takes place on July 14th 2018 with a charity screening of some of the newest short films and filmmakers in Leicester.


Promising a night that cannot be missed, Kelly explains that this will be an evening of red carpet glamour, movies and entertainment. With all proceeds going towards the YMCA charity, Kelly goes on to discuss how the preparations for event is going with just a week to go.


“We’ve been planning since September of last year but as we’ve got closer we’re now at full throttle with ticket sales and getting ready to show 5 brilliant short films”.


She goes on to say, “The films range from 1 minute to 18 minutes long with contributions from Rajnish Sharma, Mike Yeoman, G M Finney Productions and more”.


“We’ll be doing a raffle as well and all money raised is going to charity. Plus The Y Theatre is a great place so hopefully people will get an amazing experience in a fantastic venue”.


Built in 1900, the Y Theatre is the oldest surviving Victorian theatre in Leicester. It’s also a community focused non-profit and a bustling live performance venue providing a range of recreational programmes and performance for all ages.


“There will be a public vote on the evening too and a winner announced. And we hope to bring a lot of filmmakers together and give them an opportunity they may not have had”, adds Kelly.


The event will be a formal black-tie event with red carpet photos on arrival, the film screenings as well as question and answer sessions with the directors themselves.


Concluding with a charity raffle with exciting prizes, tickets are available and if purchased before 14th July are only £10 (£11.37 with Eventbrite).


Full price tickets will be available at £15 on the door and all seating is unreserved.


Venue information: Y Theatre (YMCA), 7 East Street, Leicester, LE1 6EY


TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leicester-short-film-gala-tickets-43074484944?aff=efbeventtix


FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/events/2053434741538285/



By midlandsmovies, Jun 8 2018 01:02PM




‘BEWARE THE MOON’ RETURNS TO DUDLEY CASTLE THIS AUGUST


Dudley Zoological Gardens are again teaming up with Flatpack Projects and Film Hub Midlands to present the cinema spectacular BEWARE THE MOON.


Dudley Castle will be transformed into a vast open-air cinema for two special events over consecutive nights – George A. Romero’s zombie horror NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD will screen on Friday 3rd August, followed by the vampire cult classic THE LOST BOYS on Saturday 4th August.


Previous events have included spectacular screenings of James Whale’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON in the stunning castle courtyard.


Guests at BEWARE THE MOON can enjoy hot food, a licensed bar and spine-chilling special effects projected onto the historic castle ramparts – with organisers promising even more spooky surprises this year!


BEWARE THE MOON: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (15)

Friday 3rd August 2018, 9pm

Castle Hill, Dudley, West Midlands,

DY1 4QF


Tickets: £10 (concs £8)

Double Bill Ticket: £18 (concs £14)

Book via https://www.dudleyzoo.org.uk/night-of-the-living-dead/


BEWARE THE MOON: THE LOST BOYS (15)

Saturday 4th August 2018, 9pm

Castle Hill, Dudley, West Midlands,

DY1 4QF


Tickets: £10 (concs £8)

Double Bill Ticket: £18 (concs £14)

Book via https://www.dudleyzoo.org.uk/the-lost-boys/



By midlandsmovies, Jun 5 2018 08:30PM



SOLO (2018) Dir. Ron Howard


With a troubled production you have to ask is it all Happy Days at Disney as it releases yet another new Star Wars movie? As Ron Howard stepped on board the galactic train after original directors Lord and Miller were ditched, many wondered if we would be getting a Suicide Squad/Fantastic Four chop job. Well, from first glance Howard has done stellar work in bringing a film back from the brink of collapse where the cohesive whole shows no sign of the multiple hands at work.


Solo is another Star Wars “Story” film – originally called Anthology films, Disney has done a great job in convincing everyone that this is expanded universe territory – but make no mistake that this is pure prequel fare. With huge reservations after the dull and misjudged Rogue One (another SW film with production woes), I had very low expectations for a narrative filling in a back story that I had no interest in.


That said, Howard (with sci-fi and fantasy skills honed with Apollo 13 and Willow) does a pretty solid job at the helm as we are introduced to Han, who is part of a gang of youths under the protection of slimey space worm Lady Proxima. But he soon wants to leave his home planet for a new freedom with his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). However, whilst Han escapes to join the Empire’s war, Qi’ra is captured and returned home. Moving forward in time we catch up with Han as he tries to escape the violent war by selling his skills as a pilot to Woody Harrelson’s gang of outlaws. They intend to grab some McGuffin power sources to fulfil a contract to Paul Bettany’s facially scarred baddie Dryden Vos.


The film actually keeps things simple in the main and is all the better for it as we follow a likeable and active protagonist (unlike the charisma-free Jyn Erso) who takes his life decisions into his own hands. Alden Ehrenreich is very alluring as a young and cocky Solo – some hints of Harrison Ford’s legendary charisma are present – but mostly avoids a direct impression of the actor as he blags his way through risky plans and double-dealing hunters. If anything, in seedy caverns and bars, he at times will remind audiences of Indiana Jones rather than Han. Which is no bad thing.


The subtler nods to the franchise and the muddy-brown battle scenes feel a far better attempt at a Star Wars “war” film than Rogue One and I thoroughly enjoyed the real location work given my constant struggle with dodgy CGI. The light-hearted banter was fun, the characters were broad but understandable and although not hilarious, the dialogue avoided the under-cutting Marvel quips to make the characters well, actually, likeable.


But it’s not all good right? Well, yes there are some problems. It’s ultimately not needed as an entry into Star Wars lore, that much is true. Also, the Starship Troopers-style Empire recruitment video was a mess alongside (in the same scene no less) a reveal about the origin of Han’s surname so heavy handed it will draw groans.


Emilia Clarke returns later in the film and is passable after some worrisome performances (her stilted Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys still grates) but Donald Glover certainly delivers as a young Lando. His space gambler is a mixture of sleaze and, strangely, sexuality that has him build more than a just a friendship with sarcastic freedom-fighting robot L3-37. It was also great to see Ron throw some romance back into the galaxy after the amicable friendships of the last 3 movies with a bit of frisson between Han and Qi’ra. And he also gives cameos both to his brother Clint and his Willow (and Star Wars) star Warwick Davis.


On a technical level, a slightly strange vignette-sepia colour palette with backlighting that sometimes drowned out the foreground characters was an enjoyable aesthetic but I predict some may think it doesn’t ‘sit’ well in the SW universe. The small sets were intimate yet underwhelming but they did remind me of the matinee style of the original films and this more compact story was a nice change from planet-destroying space battles.


As Han inevitably meets Chewie in a fun, if again unnecessary, prison break scene, the film ticks off its obligatory story beats whilst some surprises arrive in a lack of a Jabba appearance and a rather shocking Lucas-prequel reference. And after a rollicking rollercoaster heist on snowy mountainside (especially fun in 3-D it has to be said), the film heads towards a more interesting final third act with plenty of double-crossing character beats.


Solo is not perfect and as a prequel (yes, it is!) it just cannot compare to the forward-thinking joys of The Last Jedi but it is far more fun than Rogue One’s deathly hellscape of non-characters and forced fan service. Howard has done more than an admirable job with a production that was deep in trouble and his classic filmmaking style gives Solo some intimacy and old-fashioned movie making gloss. It won’t set the world alight – and I’m dreading the inevitable internet backlash – but ignore the haters as this is a fun, if a little undistinguished, family blockbuster.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jun 3 2018 05:04PM



Den of Thieves (2018) Dir. Christian Gudegast


Opening on an explosive action sequence where a gang of robbers strangely steal an empty armoured truck, Den of Thieves is a new crime thriller where heists and corrupt cops abound. On one side we have career criminal Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) whose identity is unknown by the Detective investigating him, Nick "Big Nick" O'Brien (played with sleazy glee by a rotund Gerard Butler).


To gain more information on the crew and their plans Big Nick kidnaps and interrogates the gang’s getaway driver and local bartender Donnie (O'Shea Jackson Jr). Toying with him at a local hotel Big Nick only learns part of the plan and once Donnie returns to the gang, he is roughed up to see what he has blabbed about. But he ultimately convinces them he’s passed over no information.


As the gang are planning to infiltrate the Federal Reserve to steal $30 million in bank notes, Donnie gains access as a food delivery man whilst Big Nick’s investigations are derailed by his own secret sexual liaisons which sees his family relationship break down. As the film rushes headlong into the heist, it flips from the gang to the police with Donnie stuck in the middle of both groups’ misadventures.


Butler as Big Nick is a terribly violent and threatening oaf whilst Jackson Jnr is brilliant as the bartender caught on both sides of the conflict. Jackson Jnr is certainly carving out a great eclectic career from playing his own father in Straight Outta Compton to a Batman-loving geek in Ingrid Goes West. And now with this, the actor is surely a star in the making with his likeable but edgy persona.


The film rattles along but tension is raised during the latter sequences as hostages are threatened at a bank and Donnie is hidden in a cash trolley to be snuck into the counting rooms of the Reserve itself. With shoot-outs and smatterings of verbal back-and-forths, Den of Thieves breaks no new ground in the heist genre but has enough in its swag bag to provide a few hours of distracting no-frill thrills.


Clearly influenced by Michael Mann’s Heat, the film is not even close in the quality stakes to that film BUT the movie is no doubt an entertaining actioner as it barrels around the good, the bad and the ugly side of Los Angeles.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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