Blitz (2011)

“A cross between hockey and murder!”

UK, France, US / 97 minutes / color / Davis, Current, Kushner/Wyman, Metropolitan, Lionsgate UK Dir: Elliott Lester Pr: Zygi Kamasa, Steven Chasman, Donald Kushner, Brad Wyman Scr: Nathan Parker Story: Blitz (2002) by Ken Bruen Cine: Rob Hardy Cast: Jason Statham, Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, Zawe Ashton, David Morrissey, Ned Dennehy, Mark Rylance, Luke Evans, Nicky Henson, Steven Harwood-Brown, Ellie Fairman, Nabil Elouahabi, Joe Dempsie, Christina Cole, Martina Laird.

A relatively recent movie that’s an adaptation of a Ken Bruen novel is definitely something of interest to this site—especially since in the past months I seem to have been covering preponderantly vintage movies rather than the usual mixture of ancient and modern.

I should tell you at the outset that Blitz is probably not a movie to watch with your mom. (Yes, yes, I know, I know, your mom is the exception that proves the rule. But my mom would have had a fit.) The profanity’s ubiquitous—there’s plenty of the F word, the C word and just about every other type of word you can think of except the Guardian cryptic crossword. The sexual references are pretty prolific, too, although there’s no actual sex unless you’re really, really into violence.

Mark Rylance as Chief Inspector Bruce Roberts.

Brant is a Sarf East London maverick cop—which is to say, at least within the terms of this fiction, that he’s a cop who has severe anger-management problems and habitually uses brutality to solve, as he sees it, society’s problems—the Met’s very own John Bolton, in other words. In the opening moments we see him tackling three thugs who’re trying to break into a car:

“This, lads, is a hurler [hurley stick]. Used in the Irish game of hurley. A cross between hockey and murder.”

He proceeds to beat them senseless with the hurley stick. We know the kids are indeed thugs, not just because they’re armed with carpet knives but because they swear a lot—selfconsciously so, in fact, as if worried that their moms might be watching the movie. This isn’t to say that Brant objects to their language—everyone in this movie, moms included, uses much the same vocabulary and “heavens to Betsy” isn’t a part of it.

Nicky Henson as Superintendent Brown.

There’s a bit of a fuss about the three “innocents” having been beaten up by an off-duty copper, and Brant’s superior, Superintendent Brown (Henson), tells him to keep a Continue reading

Telling Lies (2008)

Tricks of the mind . . . and a schoolgirl accused of murder!

UK / 81 minutes / color / Metro, Media One Global Entertainment, Motion Picture Partners Dir: Antara Bhardwaj Pr: Sunanda Murali Manohar Scr: Carl Austin, Mike Kramer Story: Carl Austin Cine: Ravi Yadav Cast: Melanie Brown, Jenna Harrison, Kelly Stables, Jason Flemyng, Algina Lipskis, Richard Fry, Matt D’Angelo, Carmen Du Sautoy, Claire Amias, Jane McDowell, Helen Worsley, Bethany Hague, Chloe Rose-Thomas, Lee “Dags” Alliston, Spud Murphy, Mary Mitchell, Genevive Swallow, Mike Mungarden, Kristian Wilkin, Susan Scott, Sarita Sabharwal.

Faith Munro (Harrison) has returned to her posh school, St. Matthew’s, after a period of compassionate leave following the death by carbon monoxide poisoning of her alcoholic mother Diana (McDowell). The girl’s having difficulty fitting back in; matters aren’t helped by the discovery that, during her absence, her boyfriend Derek Ellis (D’Angelo) has ditched her in favor of classmate Portia Samuels (Lipskis), who seems to revel in rubbing Faith’s nose in the reality of her changed status.

Portia (Algina Lipskis) and Derek (Matt D’Angelo) are very public about their new relationship.

Matters aren’t great at home, either. Her father, Jack (Flemyng, in a distinctly one-note portrayal), is a prominent defense lawyer who Continue reading

Last Job, The (2014)

A reluctant hitman!

UK / 25 minutes / color / Landa Dir & Scr & Cine: Luke Tedder Pr: Luke Tedder, Ben Probert Cast: Ben Probert, Erick Hayden, Rachel Marquez, Josh Reeve, Josh Probert, Luke Tedder, Lewis Dowton, Elliot Ward, Phil Probert, Charley Probert.

Detective Adam Fowler (Ben Probert) is leading the team investigating maverick cancer researcher Dr. Redgrove (Hayden). Shortly before the cops manage to nail Hayden for the deaths of fourteen of his experimental subjects, Adam discovers his wife Jane (Marquez) is suffering from terminal cancer. There’s a standoff at Redgrove’s home as the rogue scientist holds a gun to his own head and insists on a private conversation with Adam.

It’s not that maverick researcher Redgrove (Erick Hayden) is a nutcase or anything, honest.

Once they’re alone he makes Adam an offer:

Redgrove: “Here is your scenario. I will allow you to arrest me, I will even plead guilty to my crimes, and then I will save your wife.”
Adam: “In return for what?”
Redgrove: “You.”

The deal is that, as price for the curing of Jane, Adam must fake his own death and then function as Redgrove’s hitman, knocking off anyone who’s in a position to stop the legalization of Redgrove’s research or who simply knows too much about what’s going on.

Jane (Rachel Marquez) at the grave of her supposedly dead husband.

Two years pass during which Adam carries out hit after hit. Jane, believing herself a widow, remarries, this time to a man described by Redgrove as Continue reading

Killing Me Softly (2002)

She loves him . . . but does she really know who he is?

US, UK / 100 minutes / color / MGM, Montecito, Noelle Dir: Chen Kaige Pr: Lynda Myles, Joe Medjuck, Michael Chinich Scr: Kara Lindstrom Story: Killing Me Softly (1999) by Nicci French Cine: Michael Coulter Cast: Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes, Natascha McElhone, Ulrich Thomsen, Ian Hart, Jason Hughes, Kika Markham, Amy Robbins, Yasmin Bannerman, Rebecca Palmer, Ronan Vibert, Olivia Poulet.


A psychological thriller that, while it’s far from a masterpiece, I’d maintain is rather better than it’s usually given credit for.


Alice (Graham) is an American who’s been in London these past two years working as a designer of CD-ROMs and websites for corporate clients. For six months now she’s lived with her boyfriend, Jake (Hughes), in a relationship that’s become affectionate and comfortable, albeit no longer fiery.


Jake (Jason Hughes) is a comfortable companion.

One day on the way to work she accidentally touches fingers with a mysterious stranger, mountaineer Adam Tallis (Fiennes), at a pedestrian stop sign, and there’s an instant attraction. Soon they’re in a taxi to the apartment where he’s living—in fact his sister’s—and, once they get there, they promptly Continue reading

I Start Counting (1969)

UK / 105 minutes / color / Triumvirate, UA Dir & Pr: David Greene Scr: Richard Harris Story: I Start Counting (1966) by Audrey Erskine Lindop Cine: Alex Thomson Cast: Jenny Agutter, Bryan Marshall, Clare Sutcliffe, Simon Ward, Gregory Phillips, Madge Ryan, Billy Russell, Lana Morris, Fay Compton, Charles Lloyd Pack, Michael Feast, Lewis Fiander, Lally Bowers, Gordon Richardson.

I Start Counting - 0 opener

In an unnamed suburb of an unnamed large city—it feels much like a London suburb—orphan Wynne Kinch (Agutter), who declares herself to be not so much 14 as nearly 15, lives in a tower block with her adoptive family. She’s suffering a severe adolescent crush—which of course she believes to be the love of her life—on her much older adoptive brother George (Marshall), reckoning that the difference in their ages (he’s 32) won’t matter so much in a few years’ time. He’s one half of the small contracting business Kinch & Wells, Joiners & Decorators, although we’re never introduced to Wells.

One day, as he prepares to take her and her friend Corinne Eldridge (Sutcliffe) to school in the company van, George picks up a package and mentions that he’s just “going to drop this in with Mr. Chapman” . . . except that Wynne spots him instead stuffing it into someone’s dustbin. Earlier that morning, as she spied on him while he was shaving, she noticed scratches on his back. The conclusion seems to her obvious: he must be the serial killer who’s terrorizing the neighborhood, murdering young girls and dumping them on Dalstead Common. That evening Wynne digs out the package from the bin and discovers it’s a sweater she knitted for George, now with a big bloodstain on it.

I Start Counting - 1 The scratches on George's back

The scratches on George’s back.

Wynne’s passion for George is such that she really doesn’t care if he’s a serial killer; somehow their mutual love will solve that little problem, and she’ll be able to shield him from those who would wish to hunt him down and harm him. Rather than report her discovery of the sweater to the authorities—or even to her mum (Ryan) and granddad (Russell)—she smuggles it out to the family’s previous home, now abandoned and scheduled for demolition, and does her best to incinerate it in the furnace there. She gets the job just half done when she realizes the smoke pouring out of the cottage chimney could act as a beacon for the inquisitive . . .

I Start Counting - 2 Corinne & Wynne watch events through the back window of bus

Corinne (Clare Sutcliffe) and Wynne (Jenny Agutter) watch events at a crime scene through the back window of their bus.

That old family home is on the edge of Dalstead Common, and for those who don’t drive—like schoolgirls—can be reached from the nearest bus stop only by crossing the common. Nonetheless Wynne and Corinne come here from time to time to Continue reading

Blood (2012)

UK / 92 minutes / color / Momentum, BBC, BFI, IM Global, Quickfire, Lipsync, Neal Street/Red Dir: Nick Murphy Pr: Pippa Harris, Nicola Shindler, Nick Laws Scr: Bill Gallagher Story: Conviction (2004; TV serial) by Bill Gallagher Cine: George Richmond Cast: Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Brian Cox, Mark Strong, Ben Crompton, Naomi Battrick, Zoë Tapper, Natasha Little, Sandra Voe, Jasper Britton, Adrian Edmondson, Danny McEvoy, Elizabeth Lowe, Patrick Hurd-Wood, Stuart McQuarrie, Claire Harris.

Blood - 0 use as opening scene-setter

In a northern English town (unnamed, but in fact West Kirby, Wirral) Lenny Fairburn (Cox) used to run the local police force, and with a fist of iron. Even though he retired long ago, his senile dementia still brings him occasionally into the “office” where he puzzles as to why his desk is now occupied by his replacement, Daniel Telphen (Britton), and brags about the old days when he and his fellows beat confessions out of suspects—or, better, took them out the local islands (Little Eye, Middle Eye and Hilbre Island, all reachable by causeway at low tide) and so terrified them that “they’d confess to shagging their own mothers”.

Blood - 5 Lenny (Cox) struggling with his dementia

Lenny (Brian Cox), struggling with his dementia.

Lenny’s two unalike sons, Joe (Bettany) and Chrissie (Graham), are still on the force, and show little nostalgia for the time when they were working under their dad.

When 12-year-old Angela Drinkle is found dead of multiple stab wounds in a local playground, tensions immediately run high at the police station; everyone, most especially Joe, recalls how, years ago, a rapist had to be released from custody because Joe botched some evidence, and that rapist promptly murdered a woman.

Blood - 1 the murder scene

The original crime scene.

Soon the cops have an ideal suspect for Angela’s murder Continue reading

Felicia’s Journey (1999)

UK, Canada / 116 minutes / color / Marquis, Alliance Atlantis, Screenventures XLIII, TMN, Artisan, Icon Dir & Scr: Atom Egoyan Pr: Bruce Davey Story: Felicia’s Journey (1994) by William Trevor Cine: Paul Sarossy Cast: Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy, Claire Benedict, Brid Brennan, Peter McDonald, Gerard McSorley, Arsinée Khanjian, Danny Turner, Maire Stafford, Julie Cox.

In a small Cork town, Felicia (Cassidy) falls in love with Johnny Lysaght (McDonald). After he leaves to go back to his job at a lawnmower factory in the English Midlands, she discovers she’s pregnant. Her widowed father (McSorley) is horrified—not just by the pregnancy but because rumors are rife in the town that Johnny is no lawnmower maker but has gone over to the enemy by joining the British Army. Felicia tries to get Johnny’s address from his mother, but Mrs. Lysaght (Brennan) refuses to divulge it, and burns the letters that Felicia gives her to mail to Johnny.

Felicia's Journey - 1 Felicia (Cassidy) at home in Cork

Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) at home in Cork.

So Felicia steals money from her aged great-grandmother (Stafford) and heads for England. Searching in and around Birmingham, she’s unable to find Johnny—or even a lawnmower factory. She is, however, befriended by unctuous elderly canning-factory catering manager Mr. (Joe) Hilditch (Hoskins).

It soon becomes obvious to us that Mr. Hilditch is Continue reading

Fear is the Key (1972)

UK / 100 minutes / color / Kastner–Ladd–Kanter, Anglo–EMI, KLK Dir: Michael Tuchner Pr: Alan Ladd Jr., Jay Kanter Scr: Robert Carrington Story: Fear is the Key (1961) by Alistair MacLean Cine: Alex Thomson Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Elliott Sullivan.

Many of the adaptations of MacLean’s popular novels were epic blockbusters with major stars among the cast: The Guns of Navarone (1961) dir J. Lee Thompson, with Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker and Anthony Quayle, for example, or Ice Station Zebra (1968) dir John Sturges, with Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown. At the opposite end of the scale lies this quite palpably lower-budget outing: although released as an A-movie it has B-movie written all over it. It can also, with its themes of revenge and godgaming and its convoluted plot, and despite having plenty of sequences of MacLeanesque high adventure and some quite Bondish moments, be considered as lying within the noir genre, and indeed as one of the precursors, alongside such near-contemporaries as KLUTE (1971), of the modern neonoir subgenre.

Fear is the Key - Barry Newman, with a young Ben Kingsley behind as the psycho Royale

Barry Newman as our avenging hero, Talbot. That youthful figure behind him is Ben Kingsley, here playing a psycho, Royale.

Three years ago, in a remote radio outpost, airline owner John Montague Talbot (Newman) was speaking with his wife when the plane in which she, his brother and his son were traveling was shot down by a bogus USAF fighter jet; aboard the downed plane was a fortune in gold and gems being brought out of Honduras.

Now Talbot seems to be a bum drifting through Louisiana. In a remote gas station/bar he picks a Continue reading

I Thank a Fool (1962)

UK / 100 minutes / color / Eaton, MGM Dir: Robert Stevens Pr: Anatole de Grunwald Scr: Karl Tunberg Story: I Thank a Fool (1958) by Audrey Erskine Lindop Cine: Harry Waxman Cast: Susan Hayward, Peter Finch, Diane Cilento, Cyril Cusack, Kieron Moore, Athene Seyler, J.G. Devlin, Brenda de Banzie.

In Liverpool, largely thanks to the efforts of obnoxious prosecutor Stephen Dane (Finch), Canadian Dr. Christine Allison (Hayward) is found guilty of manslaughter for the mercy killing, by drug overdose, of her patient and adulterous lover, Benson (uncredited). Two years later she’s released from prison and, stripped of her medical credentials, does her best to find a job—any job. Even under her phony new name, Christine Garden, she can find no takers.

She’s in despair when suddenly she receives a mysterious phonecall offering her a job as a nurse. Obediently, she goes to the designated rendezvous where she’s met by dotty Miss Chandler (Seyler)—Aunt Heather—who erratically drives her out of town to meet her new employer . . . who proves to be Stephen Dane, the man who got her sent down.

Christine’s patient is Stephen’s wife Liane (Cilento), who’s been suffering mental difficulties—schizophrenia, Christine eventually concludes—ever since she was involved in a terrible car crash, in which her father died, near her Irish hometown of Caragh. Liane seems to be getting iller and iller, whatever Christine tries to do, and it’s evident that most of the people involved—Christine herself excepted but including the Danes’s studly Irish stableboy Roscoe (Moore), who’s possibly Liane’s lover—are often lying through their teeth about what’s going on.

I Thank a Fool - Liane hypnotized by a spinning sawbladeLiane (Diane Cilento) is hypnotized at sight of a spinning saw-blade.

For most of the movie we’re convinced that Continue reading

Trance (2013)

UK / 101 minutes / color with brief bw / Pathé, Fox Searchlight Dir: Danny Boyle Pr: Christian Colson Scr: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge Story: Joe Ahearne Cine: Anthony Dod Mantle Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, Mark Poltimore, Tuppence Middleton.

“There is a painting. It’s by Rembrandt. Storm on the Sea of Galilee, it’s called, and he’s in it. Old Rembrandt—he’s in the painting. He’s in there, right in the middle of the storm, looking straight out at you. But you can’t see him. And the reason you can’t see him is because the painting has been stolen. Lots of paintings have been stolen . . .”

These words, done in voiceover by Simon Newton (McAvoy), a staffer at the upscale London auction house Delancy’s, introduce what looks at first glance as if it’ll be a standard art-heist movie; in fact, it’s anything but.

Yes, it starts with an armed robbery from Delancy’s. As he has been drilled to do, Simon takes the most valuable piece in sight, the Goya painting Witches in the Air, puts it in a case, and heads with it and two colleagues toward the dropslot for the time-release safe. As they reach it, though, they’re intercepted by the robber gang’s ringleader, Franck (Cassel). There’s an altercation involving a grossly incompetent attempt to use a taser, and Franck knocks Simon unconscious.

Trance - Franck

Franck, confronting Simon as the latter heads for the dropslot.

The next we see of Simon he’s in hospital being treated for partial amnesia. On his eventual release he finds his flat trashed, and almost immediately he’s picked up by Franck and henchmen Nate (Sapani), Riz (Sheikh) and Dominic (Cross). It proves Simon was the inside man for the heist but managed to appropriate and hide the painting somewhere between the auction room and the dropslot. Franck and company torture him grievously to tell them where the painting is before becoming convinced he has genuinely forgotten.

The answer to that problem seems to be hypnosis. Franck, who may be ruthless when need be but is no monster, tells Simon to pick whichever hypnotherapist he’d like from the directory, and so Simon selects Harley Street practitioner Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson)—for no real reason except that he likes the name. (The photo accompanying the listing might have helped too.) At his first consultation he claims to be David Maxwell, amnesic after a mugging and trying to find his car keys. Elizabeth seems startled by him, but the session goes well and, once home, he does indeed locate . . . a set of car keys. Not the outcome—i.e., the painting—that the gang was hoping for.

At the next consultation it becomes obvious that Elizabeth recognizes Simon—supposedly from newspaper photos after the heist—and she spots the microphone through which the rest of the gang are listening in on the conversation. Soon she cuts herself into the gang’s enterprise and, working as a team—Simon included—they try various hyponetherapeutic techniques to extract Simon’s memories of what he’s done with the painting. For the audience things are—deliberately—made confusing, as quite often we’re not sure if we’re witnessing reality or Simon’s fantasies/dreams. We discover for sure, though, that, a compulsive gambler, he approached Franck with the idea for the heist in consideration of Franck paying off all his gambling debts. We also learn that Simon in fact recovered from being knocked out, stumbled into the street and, while receiving a text message, was bowled over by a red Alfa Romeo whose driver (Middleton) picked him up and offered to drive him to the hospital.

And we discover, too, something we hadn’t known about Elizabeth—that, however much she might seem today to be in complete control of events around her, she has not long rid herself of an abusive boyfriend. What she did, apparently, was hypnotize the abusive lover into forgetting all about her . . .

Simon tries to rid himself of Franck.

There’s more, much more, to the plot. Toward the end of the movie, there’s a long monologue/infodump from Elizabeth explaining—not necessarily reliably—the true meaning of the events we’ve seen (unsurprisingly, there’s been a godgame in progress, but it’ll take us a while longer to be certain of who’s godgaming whom); this is probably the weakest moment in the movie because the effect of delivering so much revelation to us in a single blurt is merely to convince us that the plot is ludicrously more elaborate than a movie plot ought to be. Yet, later, the final resolution comes as a perfect satisfaction, as if we shouldn’t be caviling about the earlier stumbles.

Another example of this dichotomy in the movie between excellence and amateurishness: while Trance overall is visually very striking, the cinematography and shot selection quite superb, there’s one odd little clumsy sequence where the camera coyly teases us by not quite showing us a fully naked Franck, as if we were schoolgirls peeping agog between our fingers in hopes of seeing his willy. Yet there’s also one of the very few examples in neonoir of a scene of full-frontal female nudity being entirely justified by the plot, rather than just a cheap thrill.

Trance - Elizabeth offers Franck the Trance app

There’s a way out: Elizabeth offers Franck the Trance app.

There are strong performances from all three principals, with Dawson — as a very likeable (and unusually intelligent) femme fatale — being especially magnetic. (She and director Boyle briefly became a couple after shooting the piece.) The movie is an elaborated remake of Trance (2001 TVM) dir and scr Joe Ahearne, with John Light, Neil Pearson and Susannah Harker.

On Trance (Dvd.2013)