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My big wrap-up continues! In this installment I'll concentrate on the many crime stories featured at this year's fest, the overwhelming majority of which have one key thing in common: No matter if focused on cops, ex-cons, doctors, or dealers, almost every one of these features characters who never quite shake off the allure of easy money, power, or the thrill of the kill.

Film after film, these men and women address each mistake by making an even bigger mistake, and there's very little redemption to be found in the lot. If you're the kind of crime movie buff who can't stand the sugar-coating of a Hollywood happy ending, there's bound to be something here for you, but it's pretty grim stuff throughout.


Fuck Up
Directed by: Oystein Karlsen

Jack (Jon Oigarden) is a habitual screwup on the verge of losing his girlfriend and his job as an ambulance driver, and he has three best friends who are as screwed up as he is. When one of them, Glen (Atle Antonsen), botches a cocaine delivery for some out-of-town mobsters, Jack tries to fix things before they all find themselves broke and maybe dead, but he has very few natural talents for this kind of work.

Director Karlsen keeps the emphasis on character in this blackly comic crime noir, and the quartet at the heart of the story is charismatic enough to keep the story afloat between the handful of tenser bits, but ultimately this is mainly a film full of small moments that work fairly well but don't necessarily stand out from the best crime thrillers. The ending is sweetly satisfying, however, and this is the one film of the batch in which its protagonists may actually have brighter futures ahead. But probably not.


Hail
Directed by: Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Daniel P. Jones (playing himself) has just come home after a long stretch in prison. His girlfriend Leanne (also playing herself; Daniel's real-life girlfriend) is a supportive partner, sometimes over-enthusiastically so, but she can't fully chase away all his demons, and Danny fears that he's been in prison too long to make his return to a life of crime anything but inevitable. A fusion of autobiography with stories of his friends' real-life experiences, what starts off as a straightforward docudrama soon deteriorates, along with Danny's mental state, into a fever dream of surrealism contrasted with bitter, gutter-level brutality.

A grimy glimpse into the vicious circle of crime, punishment, depression, and self-loathing, "Hail" is fascinating to watch because of Jones, and we're never really sure where the performance ends and his unguarded real persona begins. But by the end it may feel to some (me included) that there are only so many times one can be hit in the head with hopelessness before the numbness sets in.





No Rest for the Wicked
Directed by: Enrique Urbizu

Santos Trinidad (Jose Coronado) is Spain's answer to the "Bad Lieutenant", a violent, hateful drunk of a corrupt cop who likes to keep drinking long after the bars have closed. When he walks into a closed strip club and demands they serve him, the manager's attempt to placate the unhinged cop backfires, and Santos murders everybody in the building save one escaped witness. His search for the only person who can finger him for the murders touches off an investigation that includes international drug smugglers and terrorists, with Santos himself largely unaware of the intricate and potentially catastrophic can of worms he's opened.

Equal parts crime drama and dense political thriller, Urbizu's "No Rest" is a lot like "Taxi Driver" in that its main character is on a collision course with a destiny that he himself doesn't fully understand, and probably wouldn't voluntarily choose. Above all else, though, Coronado's performance is the real standout reason to see this. Santos is a complete bastard, barely likable most of the time and occasionally flat out monstrous, and the brilliance of the script is in how it thrusts him into a cesspit of arguably even more vile foes, one he navigates through sheer force of vicious will.


Paris By Night (Une Nuit)
Directed by: Plilippe Lefebvre

Vice cop Simon Weiss (Roschdy Zem) gets a new and seemingly idealistic new driver named Deray (Sara Forestier), and they've barely shaken hands before he has her carting him back and forth among Paris' seamiest bars, nightclubs, mob parties and brothels. Weiss is a supercool customer who has nonetheless made enemies of the wrong people, and tonight he's determined to sort things out before it's too late so he can transfer into a less dangerous department. A smart, fast-talking schemer who's been working the streets for a long time, Weiss hardly ever carries a gun but still resorts to the occasional breach of ethics, and tonight will either be the night when he beats the system or it beats him.

Lefebvre's crime drama is more about the words than the bullets, and one of the two things that make it great is its depiction of underground criminal politics, where cops and crooks remain on opposite sides of the law and yet openly love each other like brothers. The other is lead Zem, who is simply one of the suavest guys ever. A chain-smoking, hard-drinking cop who charms as much as he scares, Zem's Weiss is the kind of character who decades ago would have belonged to an icon of cool like Alain Delon or Steve McQueen, and this is his movie from start to finish.


Plan C
Directed by: Max Porcelijn
Ronald Plasmeyer (Ruben van der Meer) has failed at a number of things. His marriage ended long ago, he is considered one of Amsterdam's least effective detectives, and his gambling problem has put him $10,000 deep with the Chinese mob. When he convinces his friend Gerrit (Rene van 't Hof) to help him rob a local illegal poker club, that fails too, mostly because Gerrit's cousin Bram (Ton Kas) tags along and can't resist shooting people. Full of unassuming would-be criminals that would make the Coen Brothers proud, "Plan C" is best when its characters succumb to pressure and become what we least expect, often making their most important decisions in moments when they are the least themselves.

Van der Meer's Plasmeyer only starts to get his act together when things have gone horribly wrong, but most of his best moments are accidents. He's at his luckiest when least prepared to make the most of his luck, at his most heroic only when initially unable to make his latest ass-saving plan work. It's always fun to watch a solid little film noir, and this one is alternately funny, surprising, and eventually pathetic, which is perhaps all Plasmeyer could have honestly hoped for.

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