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By midlandsmovies, Aug 11 2019 08:00AM



McKinley


Directed by Ben Bloore


2019


B Squared Films


After a bit of hiatus local Derby filmmaker Ben Bloore returns to the director’s chair for his new 7-minute short McKinley, an emotional police procedural containing many unfortunate consequences.


We open with a husband (Steve Wood as Craig) who arrives home late one Friday night to his wife (Tina Harris as Emma) who angrily shouts at his son (Rory McGuinness) to go to bed.


A violent row ensues with his wife pushed out the way as he heads upstairs to the boy’s room where he is unjustly punished by the whipping of a belt.


But there is a twist in this tale: a masked intruder enters from behind and attacks Emma before we are whisked away to the next day where a police officer is at the crime scene. A great introduction, Bloore switches focus (and our sympathies) with this narrative swap and immediately sets up an intriguing mystery just a few minutes in.


A dishevelled and unshaven detective turns up (Mark Tunstall as the eponymous McKinley) who is whisked around the house by a forensic scientist (Michelle Darkin Price) explaining how the previous night’s events unfolded.


Bloore again uses images to fill in the audience with the background as we cut back to see the final moments of the parents before their bodies were discovered now strewn on the floor. But again we are offered a plot surprise as we find out the son has in fact survived the attack.


McKinley appears haunted by a past case, especially one involving his family as he imagines their images in a broken photo frame and we again flashback to the incredibly traumatised detective at a different crime scene.


The film has a huge number of high points going for it. Bloore has assembled a crew who have created a quality short that looks as good as anything I’ve seen on TV. Director of Photography Jon O’Neill uses sharp images with great depth and the shot quality shows the professionalism and skill on screen.


Kudos should also go to editor Nick Archer who successfully cuts back and forth across many time narratives to ensure the audience can understand the multiple situations we are shown.


The acting is also a highlight with the whole cast delivering and getting across their characters in such a short space of time. This is probably due to the successful relationship the director has built up with the actors from their previous appearances in his earlier shorts 2015’s Hidden Truth (review here) and 2016’s Crossing Paths (review here).


Haunted by ghostly visions, McKinley finishes open-ended which again reflects the TV nature of the film with this short almost acting as the pilot episode of a longer drama series. As one door closes we are left to imagine another opening up as the film’s conclusion teases a bigger story and further investigation.


Although the short does contain some clichés of the genre – the troubled detective, a family murder etc – the film overcomes most of these. With high-quality professionalism and a well-written script, this allows the audience to discover the mysteries along with the characters in a fulfilling way. And from a satisfying set-up to an exceptional cast, McKinley is a first-rate detective tale with intriguing secrets that will leave an audience wanting much more.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 20 2019 08:36PM



Destroyer (2019) Dir. Karyn Kusama


As a huge fan of Kusama’s The Invitation, my expectations were high for her new crime thriller Destroyer which stars Nicole Kidman as an undercover cop taking out a gang years after she began working on the case.


Kidman plays Erin Bell in a role that’s as good as any she has delivered in the past. Dishevelled, weary and, what looks like, malnourished at times, the glamorous Kidman we've known from Hollywood is nowhere to be seen as she embodies a hard-nosed detective both physically and mentally.


Her character Bell is brought back to a case from her past by the appearance of a dye-soaked $100 bill from a botched robbery she was involved in whilst undercover with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan). The bill and the death of a man suggests that the gang’s leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) may have returned, so she begins to track down remaining gang members in order to find him.


The film’s narrative jumps from the present investigation back to the past when Erin and Chris were deep undercover. Questioning whether they should in fact become further involved with the crime, Erin and Chris begin a romantic liaison that has serious repercussions later on. Kidman is a tour-de-force here managing to perfectly play her naïve and unknowing cop from the past as well as embodying the rugged and vengeful vigilante version of herself in the present.


Harsh scenes of threats, sexual favours, violence and blackmail all add up to a world of horrid crime and one Erin is trying to protect her wayward daughter from. As each member leads her to the next, she ends up in a firecracker of a scene with lawyer turned money launderer Dennis DeFranco who is played fantastically by a sleazy Bradley Whitford. His spiteful confidence clashes with Bell but he underestimates both her resourcefulness and her lust for revenge.


The whole cast are fantastic but it’s Kidman’s great portrayal of a disparaged and down-and-out cop that has you rooting for her even when she’s aggressively settling scores.


And Kusama’s film manages to mix sadistic and cruel circumstances with intense scenes of emotional vulnerability – Kidman’s absent mother reigns in her most brutal tendencies when dealing with her daughter and her big-headed boyfriend – leading to an outstanding balance of tones and themes.


Narratively, as our protagonist begins to go off the rails, we never once get confused as to her motivations and Kidman says as much with a dismissive gesture and roll of the eyes as she does when delivering verbal take-downs of the city’s villainous crew.


With a tremendous cast throughout and first-rate scenes exploring the consequences of violence, Destroyer is an exceptional thriller from start to finish. But more importantly, it will destroy all preconceptions you had of Kidman as she delivers a superbly astonishing turn in the type of repellent role I’d love to see more of.


★★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Feb 24 2016 07:30PM

Secret in their Eyes (2016) Dir. Billy Ray


Apparently a remake of the 2009 Foreign Language Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes, which I haven’t seen, I came into this movie with the draw of an interesting cast mix and my love for a good ol’ police procedural. So I opened the case file and analysed the evidence within this new 2016 release.


The film mixes the past and the present and are introduced via a reunion with Ray Karsten (12 Years A Slave’s Chiwetel Ejiofor) and DA Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman) before quickly flashbacking to a case from their past. 13 years ago, Ray uncovered the murder of a young girl in a dumpster that we find out to be the offspring of his close colleague Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts).


Promising justice in his journey to apprehend the perpetrator we follow Ray back and forth in the story after a decade-long hunt for the killer. Suspects are hunted, chased but mainly stared at in photos – one of the film’s flaws – and with the tension kept to a minimum, the story’s snail pace keeps the audience informed but is a little wearisome.


A suspect interrogation scene hints at some interesting dialogue alongside a cleverly conflicted drama playing out between lawbreakers and lawmakers. Attempts to prosecute fade away amongst shifty circumstances despite Alfred Molina’s Martin Morales (chewing up and spitting out a feeble American accent) promising to put those responsible on trial but unable to due to a lack of evidence.


Julia Roberts appears in the later sequences as a haunted and gaunt mother coping with loss which elicits further passions for Ejiofor’s Ray who is fixated on getting his man – much to the detriment of his career and better judgment.


So, despite an impressive cast, Secret in their Eyes is a tiresome affair overall. There’s no flair or style within the film which for me is essential to remove the audience from the rather dull tropes of the genre such as people in rooms thinking over paperwork and the problematic bureaucracy they face.


A different approach to the story may have helped sell the twists and turns and a final reel rug-pull was too little too late. The cast was good, with Kidman being the slightly weak link –her botox-rigid face giving the audience almost no hint of emotion at all – yet they cannot lift the lacklustre yarn beyond what could be an entry in the Morgan Freeman-era Alex Cross series. Not the worse movie in the genre Secret in the Eyes does however simply takes a standard police drama and does nothing new with it at all.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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