Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

Haunter (2013)

Posted: August 15, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Lisa (Abigail Breslin) finds herself trapped in her home reliving the same day over and over with her oblivious family.

After a fast start to his career with the excellent “Cube” and the under-appreciated “Cypher”, Canadian film-maker Vincenzo Natali’s career had stalled somewhat with the batshit crazy but deeply flawed “Nothing” and “Splice”, a ludicrous film that almost qualifies as “so-bad-it’s-good” (but still didn’t manage to be the most laughably bad Adrian Brody film released in 2009 thanks to the truly abysmal “Giallo”).

He arrives back on the scene with “Haunter”, a supernatural mystery thriller, which has been receiving positive feedback on the festival circuit without getting a full cinema release, and is now widely available on DVD. Something of a return to basics, Natali’s trademarks are present and correct, from his inventive, silky visuals, to the labyrinthine twisting plots he seems in thrall of, and even the ramshackle CGI that has bedevilled much of his work.

The “reliving the same day” set-up is always terrific fun, mined to great effect in “Groundhog Day”, and the recent “Edge of Tomorrow” among many others, although “Haunter” does a great job in steering itself away from the ground those films covered. Here the device is used as a means to present a mystery and slowly unravel it, like peeling away the layers of an onion. This is done effectively and lovingly, and the film’s main strength lies in how engrossing the mystery at it’s centre is.

There is a healthy dose of pinching from other films, most obviously in the initial set-up but also from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series (which is heavily mined), as well a few other notable plot lifts that are probably best left unmentioned so as not to spoil too much; although you will definitely know them when you see them. In many ways this magpie tendency becomes a positive, as the film repeatedly sheds it’s skin, morphing in ways that, although still derivative, are at least unexpected. Just when you think you have a handle on what the film is doing, it moves on, with every mystery solved just an opportunity to start unravelling the next. Although it is likely that the assembly was somewhat cynical (and the final “happy” coda feels depressingly tacked on), it does make for a gripping and surprising journey.

Abigail Breslin as Lisa shows that she is maturing into a leading lady of real standing, in no way resembling the goofy child star of “Little MIss Sunshine”, and making what could have been a frustrating role incredibly endearing. At once exasperated and scared by her situation, she is still believable when required to muster the courage to face the evil of the house, striking a fine balance that could easily have eluded a young actress (shockingly, Breslin was only 16 when this was filmed), especially when the camera is on them for much of the film’s duration. The rest of the cast are equally able in their roles, with particular mention to the wonderfully craggy-faced Stephen McHattie, who makes good use of his weathered features as the creepy and mysterious “Pale Man”. There is even time for a brief cameo from long-time Natali collaborator David Hewlett, a pleasing Easter egg for fans, even if he is somewhat under-used.

If there is one major criticism, it is that the film isn’t particularly scary, something that many consider a cardinal sin for a film in the horror genre. There are a few nice jump scares in the early going, but beyond a certain point the lack of peril is palpable, as if it fell victim to the multitude of narrative turns the film undertakes. Despite that, “Haunter” is a real return to form for Natali, a well made and creepily effective low-key ghost story that keeps your attention from start to slightly hackneyed finish.


Fossil (2014)

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Carla Juri spielt die blutjunge französische Freundin des amerikanischen Tunichtguts «Richard», gespielt vom britischen Sschauspieler Grant Masters.

Paul and Camilla (John Sackville and Edith Bukovics) hire a gite in the south of France, seemingly in a last ditch attempt to rekindle a spark long since gone. Tensions build between the two until they find a mysterious couple (Grant Masters and Carla Juri) cavorting in their pool. 

“Fossil” is a British psycho-drama from fledgling production company Blackwall Films, written and directed by first timer Alex Walker. It is a credit to all involved how well executed everything is given the minuscule budget they had to play with.

The performances are strong, albeit in a way that reeks of British television drama from the 1980s. The couple at the film’s centre have the standard RP drama school accents, while the American and French characters are essentially timeless stereotypes, exemplars of British perception of those two races. Masters does pull off a respectable low-key Nicholson impression, something you sense was a great party trick that has now borne fruit; while Carla Juri is clearly a performer with a genuine flighty charm who we will likely be seeing a lot more of based on her promising turn here as the naive but deceptively deep Julie.

The film does have a lovely picturesque look, making good use of it’s Dordogne setting and contrasting it with the claustrophobic confines of the gite the couples are staying in. The intent was likely to blend the feel of French New-Wave cinema with traditional buttoned-down British drama, a combination that shouldn’t really work, but ultimately scrapes by due to the commitment of those involved.

For all the positives, it is incredibly hard to get away from how “middle-class” everything feels, essentially just the “first world problems” meme writ large. It is all so twee and quaint, you imagine it being cooked up over a glass of fine wine on a family holiday, such is it’s lack of edge.

As the film is primarily a drama, it is perhaps churlish to say that it takes a while to get going, as the long build-up is precisely the point. While the characters are believable, the dialogue between them lacks bite, something that makes it hard to care too much about their fates. While not every four-hander can be “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, the interplay between the quartet really could have done with something to make it crackle.

The film is likely to be best remembered for a final third twist that is somewhat surprising, not for the explosion of violence that the film always threatened, but for the way in which it serves perfectly as an antidote to the majority of “home invasion” thrillers; a change of direction that is a pleasant surprise. However, it is all too neat and tidy in execution, squared away far too quickly and easily with scant regard for the possibilities the premise holds. For a film so rooted in relationships, it glosses over the shift in dynamic in surprisingly off-hand fashion, seeming to lose it’s focus as it attempts to quickly wrap everything up and stick a bow on it.

“Fossil” is a laudable attempt at a different kind of thriller, professionally executed in a manner that belies it’s incredibly tight budget. It is still relatively dull at times, lacking the zest and bite possessed by the best films of it’s ilk. While it may come a pleasant surprise if caught by accident late night on television, it is sadly not interesting enough to recommend actively seeking out.

Blue Ruin (2013)

Posted: May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Drifter Dwight has retreated from life due to tragedy, living out his days stealing food from bins and sleeping in his disused car. When a kindly police officer informs him that his parent’s killer is to be released from prison, he snaps from his malaise and sets off on a journey that will have far reaching consequences.

Where many revenge thrillers are gleeful fantasies, “Blue Ruin” is sad, melancholy and, at times, almost tranquil. For long stretches the film is wordless and you are left to piece together the story from the actions of the main character and exposition delivered in brief snatches.

The violence that must come, as necessary to the story as the air these characters breathe, arrives in sudden explosions; unpleasant, palpable and with a genuine weight to it that most films can only dream of achieving. Punctuating this are genuine gut laughs, as the form of the genre is subverted; contorted away from fetishistic daydream toward maudlin and mundane reality. The perfect example of this arrives when our hero attempts some Rambo-esque field surgery on an arrow wound before the scene quickly cuts to him staggering into a hospital and collapsing in agony.

The direction is down to earth, as long languid takes emphasise the fact that this isn’t your typical revenge movie. The stylised flatness is a constant reminder that this film has no intention of descending into Hollywood hyperbole. The somber slow-burn pace is tinged with an innate wistfulness, which makes it all the more effective when Saunier masterfully ramps up the tension.

At the film’s centre is a wonderful turn from Macon Blair, returning from director Saulnier’s earlier film “Murder Party” (and those that have seen that film will appreciate exactly how much of a departure this is from that peformance). The camera is on him for the majority of the film’s runtime and he is a consistently enthralling and unusual presence. His Dwight is believably beaten, defeated by the tragedies that life has thrown at him; his big wide eyes, innocent puppy dog face and hangdog demeanour eliciting a never-ending stream of sympathy  as he plunges ever deeper into a dark world that is as alien to him as it is to the viewer.

Devin Ratray is also excellent as Dwight’s gun-nut old friend, a brief but immensely likeable cameo that lightens the mood and reminds you that Dwight was once just as normal as any of us before his world was blown apart. Ratray’s main claim to fame is his appearance as Kevin’s older brother Buzz in “Home Alone”, and based on the evidence here, he is not a child star who should be consigned to a “Where are they now?” clip-show. A moment toward the end of the film that could easily be dismissed as a kind of Deus Ex Machina is a trespass immediately forgiven, as you get the chance to spend a few more minutes with his boisterous character.

Director Jeremy Saulnier showed real promise with his first film, the likeable but flawed “Murder Party” and he largely delivers on it here, despite being hamstrung by an incredibly low budget. He gambled on himself, with what he couldn’t earn through a Kickstarter campaign coming chiefly from his own pocket, and beat the house at it’s own game. While small in scale, this is a film that packs a real punch, a quirky “Anti-Hollywood” picture that delivers as much bang for your buck as any blockbuster.

the dirties (2013)

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Two best friends are making a film for their high school media class; a dark comedy that sees them taking brutal revenge on a group of school bullies they dub the Dirties. When their film is rejected for being too violent, one of them jokingly suggests doing it all for real…

First time director Matt Johnson’s unique take on the school shooting genre is an incredibly assured debut from a real new talent. Presented documentary-style, the fly on the wall conceit takes us into the lives of these characters, letting us get to know them as people, subtly exploring their mindsets and focussing almost entirely on the journey to the inevitable conclusion rather than the event itself.

Johnson also takes the lead in this film, and is an electrifying presence as he straddles the line between charming sociopath and deluded, hyperactive child. At times incredibly annoying in his childishness, it is a testament to his performance than you end up not only sympathising with him, but feeling actual empathy. He is no monster, just a confused kid lashing out, someone who has lost sight of the borders between healthy fantasy and reality. It is all too easy to see how he got there, and still be charmed by him. Owen Williams gives a more naturalistic performance as his best friend, cowed by life as well as his showy, exuberant buddy, and is equally as effective, the emotional heart of the film without ever succumbing to trite pathos.

The interplay between the two is believably light and frothy, and we see all their silly plans and personal in-jokes. In another film film their behaviour would be the basis for broad comedy as they get up to typical misguided teen shenanigans, but here it is often difficult to laugh knowing where the film is going; serving as a melancholy reminder of the humanity of the characters. These are not the cold, troubled teens that the media tells us of, but laughing, joking buddies whose single-minded nerdiness has alienated them from their peers during that awkward period when children lie on the cusp of adulthood.

The documentary style is not the most dynamic way of telling a story, with “found footage” increasingly synonymous with low-quality and lazy film-making, but it becomes increasingly necessary as the film unfolds, perfectly playing into the theme of distancing yourself from reality. As the movie goes on the possibility begins to hang in the air that you are not watching a faux-documentary, but a fantasy, the characters seeing themselves through a non-existent lens, life feeling no more real to them than the plots of the films they devour. This ambiguity, the questioning of what is “reality”, takes it to another level, the film increasingly becoming a study of mental illness rather than a salacious reinterpretation of the similar terrible events that periodically dominate the news.

“The Dirties” may well draw comparisons with the similarly themed “Elephant”, but where that was a cold, heartless journey towards a final act, this is a warm film about how characters got to where they are. The somewhat abrupt conclusion sums up the differences between the two; rather than making hay from the brutality like Van Sant’s film, this culminates with a personal moment between the two leads, telling us everything about where they are as characters at that moment. While it does have many of the flaws that bedevil “found footage” films, Johnson has crafted a brave and intelligent film does well to rise above it’s low-budget limitations. It is a credit to the makers that this is as enjoyable a watch as it ultimately ends up being, while it is encouraging to find a movie from first time film-makers that tackles a controversial topic not with the intent of assigning blame or generating shock, but of promoting understanding and provoking thought.

lesson of the evil (2012)

Posted: April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Hasumi is a teacher at an exclusive Japanese school, the Shinko Academy. Outwardly he seems the perfect educator, adored by students and fellow teachers alike, but he hides a dark side that puts those around him in grave danger. 
Takashi Miike is the very definition of a cult director, most well known for films that intentionally shock and polarise opinion but with a vast variety of genres under his belt. With around 90 films to his name he is never less than prolific, and “Lesson of the Evil” (“Aku no Kyoten”) sees him return to the horror genre for which Western audiences know him best.
Initially “Lesson of Evil” is a gripping thriller, a chilling character study played out at a leisurely pace. Hideaki Ito is excellent as Hasumi; charming, handsome and oozing charisma. The more we get under the skin of the character, the more frightening he becomes; Ito’s cold, dead eyes exposing his true nature and the terrifying boredom with the world that lies beneath his cheery facade. The battle of wits with the students and a teacher who suspect him that makes up much of the first hour of the film is brilliantly done, the tension building to nail-biting levels with Ito’s performance leaving you unsure who to root for, no matter what he does. 
A sudden turn around halfway through shows you just how far the character will go as the film leaves behind the trappings of a psychological thriller and devolves into a much more standard slasher film filled with an absolutely ludicrous amount of bloodshed. Miike ramps up the nastiness and even tosses in a bit of humour, perhaps to remind us that films are not meant to be taken seriously, especially when dealing with the extreme cinema that Miike specialises in. The violence is genuinely relentless, at times even monotonous as the film grinds on; a remorseless cavalcade of death. 
Miike introduces subtexts to justify the severe narrative turn, most obviously a message about not trusting figures of authority simply because they are in charge, no matter how charming or honest they may seem on the surface. Tied in with this is a fairly unsubtle anti-American sentiment, with the final-act slaughter taking place against a backdrop of casino style facades, a representation of the moon landing and, most tellingly, big bold letters stating that “The World is Yours”. The weapon of choice for the killer, a shotgun that talks to it’s wielder in a broad American accent, really hammers the message home; especially for a movie that comes from a country where gun-crime is so infrequent. 
As the film becomes more outrageous Miike also takes the opportunity to mock certain horror tropes, such as the current found footage fad and the enduring craze of sequels to films where all of the story has been told. While the violent turn does give Miike the opportunity to say things that he couldn’t in the more sedate confines of a character study, that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. There is always a rawness to the violence, a reality than borders on repetitiveness, that makes it extremely unpalatable. Although that was clearly Miike’s intent, many will think that he has finally gone too far given the identity of the victims and the cold-blooded remorseless nature of the slaughter. 
“Lesson of the Evil” may not be as graphic as some of Miike’s other films but it is ultimately as shockingly bad taste as anything he has served up. While nicely performed, stylishly shot and a spellbinding watch up there with Miike’s best work, it is still hard to recommend this film, as you really do need to be completely desensitised to cinematic violence to get past the fact that it is essentially a movie about a grown man arbitrarily murdering children. Those that can accept the unpleasantness of the premise will find one of Miike’s more effective films, and a rare example of him having something to say beyond his urge to shock. 

13 sins (2014)

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
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With a pregnant wife and mounting debt, a salesman finds himself in deep financial peril when he loses his job on the eve of his wedding. A mysterious phone-call from an anonymous caller provides a possible solution, as he is offered money to complete thirteen tasks.

“13 Sins” is a remake of the 2006 Thai film “13 Beloved” (also known as “13: Game of Death”), directed by “The Last Exorcism” helmer Daniel Stamm. This film follows the plot of the original fairly closely, but, as is typical of Hollywood remakes, what made that film truly distinct has been ironed out. Gone are the quirkiness and odd humour that flavoured the original, replaced with a more conventional tone and stream-lined narrative. The end result is a generic high concept thriller that is enjoyable enough but essentially empty and anodyne.

Much like the recent “Cheap Thrills” and 2012’s “Would You Rather?”, this film marries the increasingly over-used concept of a powerful protagonist putting the main character through a series of trials with a none too subtle subtext about the way the elite control the poor using money. Unlike many of the vast multitude of other films with similar premises, here there is no rationale behind the tasks our hero has to undertake beyond a thrown away line explaining that they want “to show that anyone can be turned into a monster”, a murky, muddled explanation symptomatic of the film’s lack of commitment to it’s concept.

It is the unsubtle attempt to tap into the “We Are The 99%” sentiment that most rankles, feeling like film-makers looking down their nose at a problem they consider zeitgeist rather than truly engaging with it. This film doesn’t even have the guts to follow through on it’s premise, settling for a vague (possibly papal) conspiracy and a resolution that seems to suggest that it’s ok to be poor and have a messed up life as long as you act out once in a while.

While “13 Sins” isn’t bad, nothing truly stands out. Twists are signposted, thrills undercooked; even for a remake this feels stale and derivitive. It’s enjoyable enough if you disengage your brain, but we’ve been here before and seen it all done far better many, many times.

Paul (David Keith) is a sound engineer and bespoke hi-fi installer who finds himself under suspicion when a series of housewives are murdered in his sleepy Arizona hometown. 
Donald Cammell has long been a mystery, an elusive cinematic genius responsible for only four full length films before committing suicide in 1996. His feature debut was 1968’s “Performance”, a film that failed to find an audience upon release but has grown in stature to the point where it is considered one of the all-time classics of British cinema. It took nearly 10 years for him to produce another film and when it arrived, in the form of 1977’s “Demon Seed”, it was equally polarising, with a reputation that has again grown over time. 
After another 10 year break he returned with “White of the Eye” which this month gets a plush DVD re-release from Arrow Films, complete with never seen before footage and a host of extras. 
Cammell was always a director with real visual flair and “White of the Eye” looks stunning, making full use of it’s Arizona backdrop as sparse hills fill the screen, rolling on for miles against striking blue skies. At first the film seems to be a kind of redneck Giallo (a “Yella”?) taking obvious inspiration from the motifs that populate that genre, particularly those of legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. An early murder scene plays out through point of view tracking shots, and a gloved killer smashes a beautiful woman’s head into a pane of glass in a direct nod to one of the Italian maestro’s trademarks. Several times the film explicitly recalls Argento’s “Tenebre” with recurring close-ups on a dilating eye, and even the title itself sounds exactly like the name of mid-70s Italian thriller.   
The film builds up a rich picture of the little town these characters inhabit, full of odd characters whose histories remain beguiling out of reach, the spotlight falling on them one-by-one like the line-up of suspects in a standard slasher whodunit. Little clues and red herrings litter shots, inviting you to participate in the mystery, a seeming adherence to a clear formula makes it all the more shocking when the film reveals it’s true colours. A powerfully low-key reveal snaps the film straight out of the trappings of a typical genre flick and leaves you with a feeling that any rule could be broken, a dangerous air replacing the previously gentle pace and offbeat quirkiness. 
From there on in the film becomes increasingly bizarre, openly mocking the cliches of slasher films, thrillers and even the Hollywood notion of a dynamite finale in a bravura final act that still manages to feel strangely intimate despite it’s gloriously self-aware excess. These characters may not know they are in a film but Cammell has made them strangely aware of the roles they must play, at once hopping on the genre bandwagon while blithely flicking a middle finger at the driver; ticking off conventions one by one because the TV in their head tells them to.  
David Keith is perhaps best known for his supporting role in “An Officer and a Gentleman” but has never been better than he is here. A charming, amiable presence for much of the film, there is always a hint of danger coursing through his performance as the flawed hero of the piece. Cathy Moriarty, an actress who could have been one of the biggest stars of the 80s but for a car accident that robbed her of her prime years, is equally good as his wife, a role that was her first in 6 years. Both handle the final third shift in tone admirably, particularly Keith, keeping their characters believable as the action becomes ever more outlandish.  

“White of the Eye” is a film that was always going to feel strangely out of time, and it remains difficult to pigeonhole. Not salacious or trashy enough to be considered typical late-80’s slasher fare, and not slick enough to sit among the mainstream thrillers of the day, it is clear this was a film never intended to simply fit in. It was a brave move to couch a psychological thriller in the trappings of genre cinema, potentially alienating both it’s target audiences, but Cammell was never a man for compromise. Rather than following a formula, Cammell matched a style then undercut it, crafting a film that takes real glee in setting your expectations then blowing them apart. Quirky, stylish and distinctive, “White of the Eye” is a long lost rough diamond just waiting to be rediscovered. 

cheap thrills (2013)

Posted: March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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An eviction notice hanging over his head, newly unemployed family man Craig heads to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he bumps into an old friend and two strangers, a rich couple willing to give them money to take part in outrageous dares.

The full length directorial debut of E.L. Katz, “Cheap Thrills” is a horror/comedy that has been attracting a lot of attention at film festivals and will see a wider release later this year.

Essentially nothing more than a charmless and cobbled together extrapolation of Quentin Tarantino’s segment of the film “Four Rooms”, it soon becomes clear that no deeper thought went into this beyond raising the stakes of that premise. The only real highlight is the section most clearly inspired by that film (and the original Roald Dahl story on which it is based), a brief upturn that not only betrays it’s origins but also illustrates how poorly executed the rest of the film is.

“Cheap Thrills” may be nasty in tone but it still manages to be incredibly dull in execution; playing out like a kitchen sink drama that becomes increasingly horrific, with neither element done well enough to be satisfying. This is a film that tries hard to shock, but even at it’s most outrageous it still feels tepid. Alongside it’s underwhelming attempts at horror are overwrought drama and unfunny humour, constantly grating on your sensibilities like nails on a chalkboard.

It may have been possible to be more forgiving of the film’s flaws if the characters involved were likeable or in any way believable, if you cared about their predicament or empathised with their situation. Instead they evoke no sympathy or interest, especially as the plot becomes increasingly contrived and their behaviour ever more idiotic.

It is hard to know who this misfire was aimed at; it isn’t funny, scary, thought-provoking or even especially gory. Most damningly, “Cheap Thrills”, for all it’s desire to be provocative, is simply dull. A far greater torture than the acts these characters commit for money, would have been forcing them to sit through the full length of this mean-spirited and predictable movie.

big bad wolves (2013)

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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The brutal murder of a child leads her father and an ex-cop to take extreme measures as they try to draw a confession from the sole suspect.

The latest film from the Israeli makers of “Kelavet” Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, “Big Bad Wolves” positions itself as a modern fairy tale, from the knowing name to the stylised look and feel. The world of the film is strangely empty and tranquil, at odds with the violence and pain at it’s heart; the camera creeping delicately through painstakingly composed shots, stalking it’s characters like the predators of the title.

This is not a tale of princesses or little pigs, but those who prey on them, and if there is a moral in this fable, it lies in an undercurrent of criticism toward Israeli policy on Palestine. The main players are coldly militarised from conscription and all complicit to some extent in the horrors that unfold, while the effectiveness of extreme responses to crimes, either real or perceived, is called into doubt repeatedly. The sole Arab character is a striking counterpoint to the mania of the rest of the cast, meandering serenely on horseback, a potential prince charming who never gets to ride to the rescue.

This is a fairy tale set in the real world, with a subject matter that couldn’t possibly be any darker. There can be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow these characters ride and ultimately the film is remorselessly bleak. Despite this, much of the enjoyment to be found on the journey comes from the pitch black humour. Great one-liners expertly undercut the tension that builds, and at times the film takes on a surreal, quirky feel, even occasionally slipping into the trappings of farce amid it’s brutality.

The sudden intrusion of mundane normality provokes genuine gut laughter; a comic reminder that evil isn’t the domain of imaginary monsters but real people with silly ringtones, bantering about age, cholesterol and how much burnt human flesh smells like a barbecue.

As the suspect, Rotem Keinan has the most pivotal role, with the central mystery of the film, and much of it’s effectiveness, hinging on his performance. his Dror is sympathetic and at times almost sweet, laced with a determined creepiness that occasionally bubbles to the surface. It is a testament to his subtle and ambiguous turn that you are kept guessing about his guilt right to the end.

The remainder of the small cast are equally strong. Tzahi Grad is wonderfully dry and brusque as the father of the murdered girl, while Lior Ashkenazi is immensely likeable as the cop Micki, finding a nice balance between thuggery and hangdog goofiness.

“Big Bad Wolves” is a well made and unique take on the torture-porn horror movies that have become so pervasive in recent years. It is rare that a films provokes laughter, revulsion and contemplation in equal measure, but Keshales and Papushado pull off this difficult task with real aplomb. However, despite the positives, many may find it difficult to reconcile the severe clash between it’s heavy subject matter and it’s often light-hearted style.


With the Yakuza running rampant in Los Angeles, “Samurai Cop” Joe Marshall is brought in from San Diego to deal with their threat.

“Samurai Cop” is a 1989 thriller from writer/director Amir Shervan, an Iranian millionaire who, based on having cranked out a few black and white shorts for the Iranian Ministry of Culture in the late 70s, reckoned that making action blockbusters would be a piece of cake, so he moved to the USA and had a crack. The end result is every bit as bizarre as you would expect.

The first point of warning is; don’t be fooled by the title. Despite this film claiming to be about a samurai, this in no way resembles a martial arts film. The majority of the fight scenes are poorly choreographed fist fights or choppily edited gun battles where everyone seems to be in a completely different location. Extras are offed in hilarious fashion, convulsing half-heartedly and holding the dried ketchup stains on their shirts as they are riddled with invisible bullets.

The whole film has been put together in completely random manner with scant regard for any film-making convention. A brutal torture scene suddenly cuts to our beefcake hero wearing nothing but overly tight speedos and walking into a room holding a cake singing “Happy Birthday” before briefly seeming to forget the name of the woman he’s singing it to. Then they have sex, one of the many completely gratuitous sex scenes that litter the movie.

Indeed, if you ever wanted to see naked women lying on a bed and looking extremely uncomfortable while being fondled by freakish men in their underwear, then this is the movie you have been waiting for. To make these scenes even more awkward they consistently arrive from nowhere, just like everything in the film. One minute you are watching a massive, poorly executed gun fight and suddenly you’re slap bang in the middle of a graceless, slobbering sex scene.

To give you an idea of how strange this movie is, there is a whole scene with a mounted lion head in the background, except, evidently, they couldn’t afford the genuine article so they cut the head off a large cuddly toy and stuck it on the wall. Another scene plays out with the actors partially obscured by a tiny sculpture in a bafflingly clumsy attempt at Hitchcockian artiness.

The Samurai Cop of the title is former carpenter and future bodyguard for Sylvester Stallone, Matt Hannon, who got the role despite a complete lack of acting skills or fighting skills or any skills that might be useful in the making of a movie. His main selling points appear to have been his impressive build, incredible hair and a willingness to spend a good portion of the movie walking around in nothing but an uncomfortably small pair of budgie smugglers. He zones out during long takes, mis-delivers lines (“Now, i’m telling these son of a bitches”) and generally looks incredibly uncomfortable. Still, that hair is awesome and he has a goofy charm that makes his character a lot of fun; the film wouldn’t be the same without this big hulking mass threatening bad guys and macking hilariously on every lady in sight.

Hannon is in good company, as it seems the casting criteria for the film was walking up to people in the street and asking them “Do you want to be in a movie?” with anyone who said “yes” getting the gig.

The “name star” Shervan got to appear is genre stalwart Robert Z’dar, possessor of the most alarming looking chin in all of show business. Amusingly, he is playing a Japanese character, despite looking in no way Japanese. This was solved by having him grow a beard, meaning that although he didn’t look Japanese, or sound Japanese, he did have a beard. It’s genius really.

The film opens with a soundtrack that seems to have been composed on a Nintendo Entertainment System, which is, amazingly, the musical highpoint. At times if feels as if the composer simply pressed the demo button on his Yamaha (“or Omaha or whatever his face’s name is”) keyboard and passed out drunk. It was then left to his slightly less wasted drinking buddy, who due to a tragic accident had been left with bowling-balls for hands, to fill in the gaps. The same music plays over sex scenes and fight scenes, sudden musical flares accompany dramatic moments like, er, someone standing up and, in one hilarious moment, an actor seems to miss their cue by a few seconds, leaving Billy Bowling-Ball-Hands hitting the same note over and over again until they finally appear in shot.

The dialogue is probably best described as “exactly how a 60 year old Iranian with a limited grasp of English would think Americans talk”, although that assumes that any of this dialogue was ever written down at all. There is a woman whose sole job is to say “Here comes the boss” just before her boss arrives, while the flirting in this movie is truly epic. In reply to being told to “Keep it up” our hero suavely remarks “Oh, it’s up and ready, you just keep it warm”. Unbelievably, that is about as subtle as it gets in this film.

The attempts at comedy are mostly based around extreme racial stereotypes. The “witty” banter between the Samurai Cop and his black partner is a great example of this, full of references to “black asses” and his “black gift”. The high (or low, depending on how you look at it) point is a brief cameo from an incredibly camp Costa Rican waiter whose slim grasp of English is mined for many “laughs”, a malodorous scene guaranteed to leave your jaw slackened in awe at the astonishing lack of taste.

“Samurai Cop” is inept in every conceivable department, from acting and writing to direction and music; literally nothing works. It is also hilarious in the most bizarre way, a hideous car crash where everyone involved was driving a clown car and bleeding custard. For those who take pleasure in the depths cinema can plumb, this is a must watch, a genuine trash cinema masterpiece that has to be seen to be believed.