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By midlandsmovies, Aug 26 2016 09:10AM

A splurge of talent comes to Leicester in gangster film musical Bugsy Malone


Released in the summer of 1976, Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone is a musical gangster film set in New York in the 1920s with a cast of only child actors and this new Curve Community Production brings that Jazz age vibe to the Leicester theatre stage.


Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, the show takes the music of songwriter Paul Williams and tells the story of washed up boxing promoter Bugsy Malone as he flirts with aspiring singer Blousey Brown amidst a backdrop of a city-wide gang rivalry between Fat Sam and newcomer Dandy Dan and his hoods.


The original 70’s film was Parker's feature-length directorial debut and introduced actor Scott Baio (later of Happy Days fame) as well as a 13-year old Jodie Foster as Tallulah. At the time of filming, all of the cast were under 17 years old.


For this local production, director Nick Winston has brought along his unique choreography previously used in other film-related shows such as Legally Blonde and Grease to design a fantastic piece which showcases Leicester’s brightest young talent. Taking on everything from “Fat Sam's Grand Slam" speakeasy showtune to upbeat "So You Wanna Be a Boxer?" the adolescent actors encapsulated the music and prohibition vibe in all its glory.


In a whirl of gangsters and guns - for the uninitiated, the splurge guns fire kid-friendly whipped cream – the community cast and orchestra undersold their talents as an ‘amateur’ company and delivered the goods in all the important areas. The modern Smooth Criminal-influenced speakeasy dance number complimented the Charleston bopping as showgirls danced on tables whilst the acting of Alfie Bright (Dandy Dan) and Joel Fossard-Jones as the hero Bugsy Malone were particular standouts.


The acting was top notch across the board though as Arlo Mulligan-Vassel (Fizzy) delivered a brilliant solo rendition of “Tomorrow Never Comes” early in the show whilst Harvey Thorpe encapsulated a superb sleazy (Fat) Sam and Amica Kuroda (Lena) almost stole the show as a diminutive but strong loudmouth singer at an audition.


Special note should go to the stage design. A series of elevated train lines (Chicago’s infamous ‘L’ track) alongside a huge skyscraper-like video board allowed the audience to be whisked away to different parts of the city – even at times becoming a visual printing press for the narrative’s news style. As well as these impressive visual designs, the display was a practical prop too with some ‘screens’ opening up as windows and doors adding physicality to the stage as well. At times the smoky silhouettes of the dark city streets were straight from a film noir further enhancing the play’s dazzling cinematic quality.


This show’s success mirrors the film’s achievements where it gained award nominations including Best Motion Picture, Best Score and Best Song at the Golden Globes and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song Score. Alan Parker received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, and a nomination for Best Direction too.


Back to the stage though, Bugsy Malone is a phenomenal success – it being one of my favourite musicals may have made me slightly biased – but the costumes, music and especially the delivery of song and dance numbers by the whole cast made this a magical and marvellous “Malone” night to remember. Check it out while you still can.


Midlands Movies Mike


Bugsy Malone can be caught at The Curve from Friday 19th August — Sunday 28th August



By midlandsmovies, Apr 10 2016 09:13PM

New writer Guy Russell took a trip to Derby's QUAD Cinema for their season of Hong Kong crime films and took a look at a film Tarantino described as "the best film of the year" - 2005's Election. Read his thoughts on this Asian crime classic below...


Election (2005) Dir. Johnnie To


This thrilling Hong Kong crime picture from infamous director Johnnie To commands your attention from the first minute and never let’s go. “Election” pits two gang leaders against each other, each vying for the top position within their Triad organisation. When Lok (Simon Yam) comes out successful, his unorthodox rival Big D (Tony Ka Fai Leung) refuses to accept the defeat threatening Lok and others with an inevitable street war.


Many critics argue that To is Hong Kong’s answer to Scorsese, a compliment that is hard to shrug off seeing as both filmmakers have spent a large part of their career directing stylish gangland epics.

2005’s Election is no different.


Staples of gangster films are on exhibition here, honour, brotherhood and loyalty. The violence however sets To’s “Election” apart from the others, rarely do guns come into the fore in this film instead rivals are placed in wooden crates and purposefully fired from the top of a mountain.


Substituting gore and bloodshed for traditional and simple torture techniques “Election” focuses on shocking its audience with the history and the motives of these characters rather than with shock treatment. Also in a scene to rival To’s American counterpart Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” famous ‘who’s funny’ scene, a gang member is jokingly told to eat a porcelain spoon along with his meal which he does in a strikingly confident manner.


Shot in a stylistic and vibrant manner by Cheng Siu-Keung, the cinematography succeeds in showing how beautiful China and Hong Kong are. The freedom of the countryside contrasts against the seemingly growing decay of the streets that are filled with garish karaoke bars and strip clubs.

As I said earlier, the violence displayed in the film makes the viewer aware of how different the film is, the story and its themes are served the same way.


What’s interesting is that the film spends a large amount of time with the many captains within the triad discussing who is to become the next chairman of the organisation. The inner workings of the Triads will fascinate those who also find other infamous gangs interesting.


It’s refreshing to see a Film or TV show dedicate itself to showing the hierarchy and politics of these morally absent characters. Not since David Chases ‘The Sopranos’ have I seen such a project show so much interest in exploring the world of its subject matter. Standout performance of this film belongs to the unstable and ambitious Big D played by Tony Ka Fai Leung, his performance is anchored by the quiet and focused Lok (Simon Yam). Leung plays Big D like a hyperactive child, his goals become more unachievable as his temper grows.


The only disappointing aspect of the film is it ends up feeling like a set up for a more explosive sequel, the war that is constantly being threatened throughout the film never comes to fruition which could frustrate a viewer expecting a violent gangland thriller.


It was a joy watching this film recently as part of Derby QUAD’s Hong Kong Crime Season, especially as it was screened in the glorious 35mm. There is plenty on offer here to quench the thirst of any film fan and if you’re like me and missed this in 2005 I would highly recommend this gem of a film.


8/10


Guy Russell


QUAD is Derby’s centre for art and film, on the Market Place in Derby city centre. QUAD is a gallery, cinema, café bar and workshop that anyone can use. QUAD is a partnership between Derby City Council and Arts Council England.

By midlandsmovies, Mar 23 2016 07:57PM

A brand new season of crime films from Hong Kong screens at QUAD, Derby in April which looks at the influence of Hong Kong film-makers in one of cinema’s most enduring genres.


Curated by HOME in Manchester, the season is a mix of new and classic films: Police Story, Election, That Demon Within, Wild City, As Tears Go By. CRIME: Hong Kong Style screens in QUAD from the 1st to the 3rd of April.


Hong Kong Superstar Jackie Chan wrote and directed Police Story as a vehicle to showcase his wide variety of skills in front of and behind the camera. The result is a classic and hugely influential blend of martial arts, crime and comedy which remains perhaps one of the best examples of Hong Kong action cinema. Police Story (15) screens in QUAD on Friday 1st April at 8:45pm.


Johnnie To is one of Hong Kong’s most important contemporary film-makers and Election is one of his greatest works. Starring Hong Kong acting heavyweights Simon Yam and Tony Leung, Election focuses on the selection of a new triad leader and explores a string of issues from generational conflict to tradition and loyalty. It is also a pointed reflection on the politics of post-1977 (independent) Hong Kong. Election (18) screens on Saturday 2nd April at 6:15pm.


That Demon Within is a taut and ultimately unsettling psychological thriller. Quiet and distant cop Dave (Daniel Wu) is increasingly haunted by the violent images of a criminal gang who use traditional demon masks when committing their crimes. Truth, reality and imagination begin to blur in this stylish film, which is a taut and ultimately unsettling psychological thriller. That Demon Within (Advised 18) screens on Saturday 2nd April at 8:45pm.


Ringo Lam, the director of one of the most influential Hong Kong crime films, City On Fire (1987), returns to the crime genre with Wild City, an exciting and stylish neo-noir. Starring Louis Koo and Shawn Yue, this classic cat and mouse tale shows a former cop and his wayward brother who quickly get out of their depth when they take on a ruthless gang of Taiwanese gangsters. Wild City (Advised 15) screens on Sunday 3rd April at 6:00pm


As Tears Go By is a classic gangster film about loyalty, ambition and respect. It centres on Wah, a tough criminal specialising in debt collecting for the mob, who has to continually look out for his best friend Fly. When Ngor arrives in Hong Kong her presence makes Wah question his life. As Tears Go By (18) screens on Sunday 3rd April at 8:30pm


CRIME: Hong Kong Style film screenings have English subtitles and will be introduced by Peter Munford and is presented by HOME Cinema in Manchester with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery. Ticket prices are; £8.20, £7.80 concessions, a Weekend Pass which covers entrance for all five screenings is available, priced £25.


More information is available online:

http://www.derbyquad.co.uk/film/crime-hong-kong-style-weekend-pass


QUAD is Derby’s centre for art and film, on the Market Place in Derby city centre. QUAD is a gallery, cinema, café bar and workshop that anyone can use. QUAD is a partnership between Derby City Council and Arts Council England.

By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2015 07:09PM

Aside from the Midlands area, when I go on vacation I love to visit local attractions and nothing gives me more pleasure than going to see places that are featured in famous movies. With my previous holiday blogs covering Madrid, Italy and California I was very excited to be heading back to the good ol’ USA for a trip to New York, Chicago and the surrounding area.


For all the movie photos from the USA please click here


I landed at JFK airport tired but excited on October 29th (the day after our Shaun of the Dead screening) and, still drained from that late night, I put my lack of energy to one side to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Apple. This was my third visit in as many years so I had seen some of the most famous destinations before, but I always get a flush of excitement when I see some of the icons of this big city. On my first full day there I walked around Manhattan for over 6 hours catching all kinds of sights and with the November weather being unusually mild, I even managed to spend some time in my t-shirt as the sun beat down.


I was staying with my good friend at an apartment on Wall Street which immediately linked to my favourite film of 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Di Caprio, whilst later as I was walking around I even spotted a Steve Madden shop – the real–life shoe company that DiCaprio’s fraudulent banker floats on the stock exchange. Speaking of which, just 200 yards up the road was the real life stock exchange which Bane (Tom Hardy) terrorises in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Nolan’s Batman franchise was a running theme of the trip as the second half would be spent in The Windy City, Chicago, where much more of those movies were filmed. Rises also contains shots of “Gotham’s” bridges collapsing which have been clearly influenced by the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges of New York city as Bane and his gang attempt to cut the citizens off from the rest of the world.


On my walkabout I also came across the fire station from Ghostbusters (1984) as well the Museum of the Native American which was the location of the painting of Vigo for that film’s sequel. After an accident in the building which resulted in me cutting my head, it seemed that the museum still has some bad vibes. Has anyone checked for a river of slime underneath again?



Up at the other end of the island, Central Park was where the Tavern on the Green was situated (67 Central Park West) which was used when Louis Tully (a demon-dog avoiding Rick Moranis) cried for help in Ghostbusters. Just across from that is Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment building – referred to as “spook central” – where the final battle against Mr. Stay Puft occurs. Still at Central Park is the bridge the protagonists hide under from Cloverfield (2008) whilst nearer Grand Central Terminal is the Chrysler building, both of which appear in the film as well.


Further downtown is the iconic Flat Iron Building (used as the Daily Bugle’s headquarters in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) whilst the second film also includes the fantastic action sequence where Spider-Man battles Doctor Octopus on an elevated train. In fact, NYC does not have an elevated train track passing through its skyscrapers so the filmmakers used digital footage of Chicago’s “L” train to get the shots they needed.


After my brief stay in the city that never sleeps, I headed east to meet friends nearer Chicago. Quieter and with a more relaxed atmosphere, my friends lived in Aurora which you may know as the home-town of Wayne and Garth from American comedy Wayne’s World (1992) and its sequel. The city of lights provides the backdrop for their rock antics although much of both films were actually shot in and around Los Angeles – which Myers alludes to again in a fourth wall joke from Austin Powers.


From Aurora, I took a trip up to Woodstock, Illinois - Del Preston: “It rained all morning, and then it cleared up in the afternoon. And that's it... I almost remembered something else, but it's gone”. Actually not the location of the infamous 60s musical love festival but this Woodstock was the small town used in Groundhog Day (1993).


The town’s central square double’s as Gobbler’s Knob which hosts the groundhog ceremony before Bill Murray’s grouchy weather man begins to repeat the same day over and over. As his depression sets in, Murray’s worn out character attempts to commit suicide – one death is from the town’s clock tower – but continues to wake up unharmed back in his hotel bedroom each morning.


The bandstand in the square hosts the main festivities but is also the backdrop for the first snowfall dance between Murray and Andie MacDowell. As we walked around the picturesque town we saw the infamous corner where Murray steps in a puddle trying to avoid Ned Ryerson – who has a burger named after him in a local bar (Bing!) – as well as the cinema where he takes a date dressed up as Clint Eastwood.


Woodstock also played host to the film Trains, Planes & Automobiles (1987) where Steve Martin and John Candy are stopped for speeding in a burned-out car and then the pair are picked up by a truck outside the old courthouse (now the Old Courthouse Arts Center) as well as its more famous doubling as the town of ‘Punxsutawney’.


This lovely town proved to be a calm highlight of my trip between two big cities but it wasn’t too long before I was in my room at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Chicago. The city has been on my ‘must-go’ list for an age and I was thrilled to finally be in this cinematic city. As mentioned before the city’s bridges and industrial ambience was perfect for its stand-in as Gotham. From ‘the narrows’ in Batman Begins (2005) to the Tumbler heading under Lower Wacker Drive (the underground road system), the city’s pier also was the location of the Joker’s hostage heist on the two tourist boats.



Moving to The Dark Knight (2008), me and my friends had drinks and food at the iconic Berghoff Bar which is an historical 100-year old watering hole. This was the location of the scene where Jim Gordon and his team arrest Maroni whilst the nearby Chicago Theatre was used when Harvey attempts to see ballet with Rachel, but is unable to do so after Bruce Wayne takes the entire company on a sunny cruise. Lastly, the unfinished (at the time) Trump Tower was where the final battle took place twixt Batman and the Joker at the film’s climax.


Their earlier bust-up in the street with the BatPod and a big-rig truck occurs at South LaSalle Street with the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the background (which was also the HQ of ‘Wayne Enterprises’ in Batman Begins).




That street is also famous for its appearance in The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) whose fictionalised version of Elliott Ness’s struggles with Al Capone utilised a wide range of Chicago locales. Recreating the Prohibition Era, the movie mostly drops historical accuracy for cops and robbers entertainment. The police HQ is the Rookery Building on South La Salle whilst Costner’s Ness first meets Sean Connery’s “Irish” beat-cop Malone on the pedestrian deck of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Federal Reserve is also on the same street whist mid-town’s Cultural Center is where De Niro’s Capone pleads his innocence to the media.





The film’s most famous sequence is at the end where a shoot out at the city’s Union Station paid homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and is also used at the climax of Man of Steel (2013) for the showdown between Superman and General Zod.




Another film which hugely uses Chicago’s many distinct locations is the 80s High School classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The John Hughes teen comedy has the title character skipping school for an educational and fun day out in the Windy City with his girlfriend Sloane and his put-upon pal Cameron.


The film has many unique local settings including when the friends pass the Flamingo, a huge red structure created by noted American artist Alexander Calder. This 53-foot tall stabile is located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building and is not far from the Art Institute of Chicago which hosts the city’s impressive art collection. In the film, the trio are fascinated by some legendary pieces including the Portrait of Balzac by Auguste Rodin, Picasso paintings, Marc Chagall’s America Windows and (most famously) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – an 1884 pointillism work by Georges Seurat.


The film also includes trips to Wrigley Field (home of the city’s Cubs baseball team) and Ferris crashing the annual Von Steuben Day Parade on a float for a musical sequence. The last place I visited from this film was up at the Sears Tower's skydeck (now the Willis Tower) which gives unparalleled 360 degree views of the city from the 103rd floor. Don’t go up if you have vertigo but if you’re feeling brave then take a seat in one of the all-glass boxes which allow visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below!


The final picture in the Art Institute that I recognised was Francis Bacon’s “Figure with Meat” which was the painting Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked Bob the Goon not to destroy in the museum scene in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Another Batman link!


Outside the Institute is Millennium Park which holds Cloud Gate – a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It is locally nicknamed The Bean because of its shape and weighs 110 short tons and is used in the film The Break Up (2006) but most will have seen the silver/metallic structure in Duncan’s Jones’ Source Code (2011).



So what else do we have? Well, the gritty streets of the city can be viewed in The Fugitive (1993) as Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run after being accused of murdering his wife. Ford rides (and fights) on the “L” train whilst he also visits City Hall which doubles as a prison in his second encounter between himself and Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall.


There were sadly many other movie locations that I didn’t get to experience in my tight schedule. From The Blues Brothers, High Fidelity, Adventures in Babysitting, While You Were Sleeping and Public Enemies Chicago’s grimy streets have been used from genres involving gangsters and superheroes to comedy and drama and will no doubt continue to provide the backdrop for independent and Hollywood films for many years to come. If you get the chance to visit any of these locations then both tourists and die-hard movie fans will absolutely be overjoyed and thrilled by the amazing places (both old and new) that these awesome sites serve up.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 19 2015 12:25PM

North Vs South (2015) Dir. Steven Nesbit


Director Steven Nesbit follows up his supernatural thriller “Curio” which was sound-tracked by Blur’s Graham Coxon with this violent British gangster flick.


Obviously, given the title, the crime rivals are split between the north and south of England and we begin with a black and white slow-motion intro with voiceover from Terry (Elliott Tittensor), a young northerner who is knee-deep in wrongdoing. Terry is also protective of his girlfriend Willow (Charlotte Hope) and his mum wants him to get out of his seedy life to avoid a similar nasty fate like his dad.


The plot begins when we see a young girl witnessing the death of her father (in clown makeup) after their road-trip is halted for a toilet break in a hotel – which unfortunately happens to be the location of a meeting between the two rival gangs. They are there for a “peace” conference but hot-headed southern gang member Gary Little kills the father over a trivial matter and his loud mouth continues to get him into trouble at the meeting itself. Unluckily, the father is friends with the northern faction who promise revenge for the bloody attack.


With a great sequence involving the girl hiding from the perpetrators underneath a table that the gangs are sitting across from each other on, there is plenty of intrigue as we move to a French hit-man who puts on lipstick in an echo of the strange clown makeup from the beginning.


The film jumps from one plot point to another but it struggled with the cohesion of these together as a whole. Female gangster Penny (Freema Agyeman) tells Eastern Europeans to “get some manners” as she’s taking protection money whilst Gary’s plans to become the head leads him creating further friction by knocking off his partner Bill in a violent underpass confrontation. This is subsequently blamed on the northern group (as an eye for an eye attack for his previous indiscretion) and Gary begins playing off the two sides for his own nefarious means but some narrative confusion may stop audiences getting fully engaged.


One issue is the film does not focus on the protagonist enough. Assuming it was Terry as he was delivering the voiceover but he didn’t seem to have the most screen time. Also, his is love story with Willow – which is heavily focused on the poster – is actually barely in the film. A succession of interwoven set pieces are interesting but it needed someone like Snatch’s Turkish (Jason Statham) who audiences can root for and who centres all the chaos. At the start, the voiceover doesn’t always give any enlightening insight into characters that cannot be worked out from the images but it later goes to the other extreme by delivering so much information I would have preferred to have seen the action rather than hear about it.


The film is shot very well but with a few more scenes, a bit less voiceover and a tweak in the editing, it would have made more sense. That said, there are many postitives. Brad Moore as Gary is a nasty piece of work but a joy to watch as he becomes unhinged as the movie continues and there are many great images that lingered in the mind. From the black and white intro, the slow motion flamethrower and Silence of the Lambs-esque killer putting on make-up in the mirror, the film had superb cinematography even on a low budget.


A well edited car chase with a helicopter offers a scene of intense action and Keith Allen, Steven Berkoff and Bernard Hill are great as the senior heads of the gangs and light up the screen every time they are on. The story loses some realism when the young girl from the start begins to use snipers rifles and guns like a British Hit-Girl but she throws in a few comedy quips acknowledging its absurdity. This all leads to a crescendo that Gary has orchestrated which places both sides in trouble, whilst Terry and Willow (who we find are on opposing sides) try to stay safe in the face of increasing violence.

If you enjoy your Brit-gangster flicks then North vs South will be up your brutal street showcasing a variety of stories, characters and bloody violence that will satisfy fans of the genre.


6.5/10

By midlandsmovies, Sep 23 2015 04:11PM

Midlands Movies Mike chats to Gurps Sidhu who is promoting the release of his latest film from the region. Does this “weighty” film have what it takes in the action stakes? Read on to find out more.


Gurps Sidhu’s new film is 10 Grams (2015) which has recently been released was shot entirely in the local areas of Derby. Gurps is not wasting any time getting the film out to the public as the main release for the film was in United States and Canada on cable TV.


With that success, 10 Grams has been subsequently released on DVD in North America too. An American distributor called “Sector 5 Films” distributed the movie and in April of this year the film was released on DVD throughout the UK.


Influenced by both modern and classic action and gangster flicks, Open Image Films’ 10 Grams tells the story of Charles Willis who appears to be a successful, hardworking defence lawyer as well as a loving husband and father. However, another side to Charles is only known by a select few. His little secret is that Charles is part of a major European drugs distribution chain and against his better judgement spends a lot of his time and money on high class escort girls and frequenting gentlemen's clubs.


Drinking expensive champagne, Charles likes to give the impression he has a lot of power and money. But that all goes wrong as the movie progresses.


Gurps goes on to say that this is a film about two-sides as after the murder of one of Charles’ couriers he recruits replacements in the form of 2 brothers who he has represented as a lawyer in the past.


As the brothers break the rules of the network Charles quickly realises that he was just a small cog in the large wheel of organised crime.


Gurp has high hopes for the film’s continued success in the UK after the interest already received from abroad and more information about the film can be found on the movie’s IMDB page here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2658544/plotsummary?item=ps0751820


Catch the full trailer for 10 Grams below




To contact Gurps about his current and upcoming projects check the Facebook page at this link:

https://www.facebook.com/10Grams?pnref=lhc




By midlandsmovies, Sep 19 2015 01:09PM

Legend (2015) Dir. Brian Helgeland


A pair of dirty mobsters…talk to me! Grisly gangland gruesomeness abound in this new film from writer/director Brian Helgeland (Payback, writer of Mystic River & LA Confidential)about the notorious Kray twins who glamorised and terrorised London in the swinging sixties.


Excitingly, the grim brothers are played by the skilful Tom Hardy, an actor who balances art-house indie ventures with huge blockbuster roles such as Mad Max & The Dark Knight Rises and here he gives a Jekyll & Hyde performance as Reggie and Ronnie. Reggie is shown as the calmer of the two (though that’s not saying much) whilst Ron’s psychotic tendencies explode in violence, ramblings and a fragile mental state.


Already denounced by those who were there as a bit of a whitewash (the brothers were less of an extreme and collaborated more than they conflicted) the film leaves a certain amount of reality at the door to create a more compelling narrative. The film’s centre point is Reggie’s marriage to Frances Shea who is played with wide-eyed innocence by Emily Browning and focuses on their fiery relationship. The film contrasts the bloody violence of warring gangs, nasty fights and under the table dodgy nightclub dealings with the “ordinary” life of the couple and the turmoil both lives bring as they intertwine.


Hardy is on magnificent form here though. Whilst Paul Bettany is wasted in a brief appearance, Hardy steals the show with a fantastic attempt to differentiate the characters enough whilst the technical effect to place the actor in each scene is so seamless that you do not give it a second thought. Reminding yourself that it is in fact two actors, the film is Hardy-centric but suffers whenever he is off screen. Luckily he’s in most of the scenes in some way. Chris Eccleston plays a copper trying to bring the brothers to justice but it’s hardly a beefy plot point and could have done with a bit more screen time as he pops up randomly after being introduced in the first scene. I’m thinking something more akin to the cat and mouse of Hanks-DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can.


That’s merely speculation though as the film follows the brothers through the major points in their life with increasing tension and fighting (both with others and within the gang). One negative is clearly the pantomime nature of some of the characters. Subtlety is sometimes thrown from the window as Hardy’s version of Ronnie veers close to TV’s ‘Phonejacker’ Terry Tibbs with comedy cockney banter and rather odd dialogue. That said, a scene within a bar was a hilarious back and forth that literally had me in tears of laughter (intentional? I don’t know) before descending into a bloody and bruising battle in a boozer.


One thing to mention is that it clearly has influences from Goodfellas. Long tracking shots of Reggie & Frances entering a bar and sitting at a table appeared a direct reference whilst the atmospheric lounge music appeared similar to Scorsese’s use of popular tunes sound-tracking his scenes.


Not flinching from Ronnie’s homosexuality, the film also shows the demons that plagued both brothers coming to terms with their situation but eventually both of them succumb to their worst instincts.


Legend is a film that won’t be vying for best gangster flick anytime soon and sometimes Hardy is the only watchable thing in it but that is no bad thing at all. Taking two roles and blending them for comedy and tragedy, this is Hardy’s picture throughout and it’s a slight shame the film isn’t as narratively entertaining as that. With wit, heartbreak and brutality vying for their positions in the film, Legend is a tonal jumble but one that can be forgiven when it’s done this entertaining.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 20 2015 09:29PM

A Most Violent Year (2015) Dir. J. C. Chandor


Statistically 1981 was one of the most violent years in New York City history and it’s against that backdrop we view a family run oil business struggling against felons, larceny and police interference in the grimy Big Apple. Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, the father of 2 and husband to Anna (Jessica Chastain) whose integrity and moral stubbornness is tested to the limit as he tries to do a business deal to expand his operation by buying a river-front property owned by a local Jewish group.


Giving him limited time to finalise (and pay for) the deal, Abel must turns every cheek on his body to remain righteous despite an impending police department investigation and rising threats against his family. The film’s slow pace allows tension to build up and the absence of almost any music shifts focus to the performances and Isaac shows a magnetic screen presence and a restaurant showdown with his rivals sees him channelling Al Pacino in The Godfather. His oily dark hair and suit bringing out incredibly dark eyes with a piercing stare that the film even brings attention to in his speeches to his wayward employees.


The snail’s pace of the film may not be for everyone and it almost grounds to a halt two-thirds in but maintains a solid if lumbering forward momentum to its conclusion. With an interesting protagonist to characterise, Isaac has the look of every Brooklyn gangster ever seen but the revelation of the movie is that throughout the movie he tries to do the right thing although this comes with its own hefty repercussions.


Chastain gives a great performance as his multi-faceted wife, equally supportive and exasperated with her obsessed husband as he fails to react to the attacks upon their idyllic life. Support from David Oyelowo as the police captain unravelling the dirty deeds on the street and Albert Brooks as Abel’s legal confidante fills out an impressive cast and the period setting is spot on in its representation of dilapidated neighbourhoods and warehouses.


The film doesn’t run out of fuel but those expecting a quick cutting gangster flick will be tested but those willing to invest in the challenging and calculative direction and some beautifully lit scenes will be rewarded with a tale of money and murky morality.


7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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