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This Week's Film Reviews (Apr 24, 2020)

22 Apr 2020

With all cinema theartres closed, there are still new films released.  The films reviewed every week will include at the end of the review, how the film can be watched out of theatres on different platforms or on virtual theatres.

 

FILM REVIEWS:

 

EXTRACTION (previous title: OUT OF THE FIRE) (USA 2020) **
Directed by Joe Russo

Advertised immensely, EXTRACTION is a Netflix original American action thriller, directed by Sam Hargrave with a screenplay based on the graphic comic ‘Cuidad’. It is scheduled to be released on April 24, 2020, by Netflix.

American movies have amassed bigger take at the box-office recently when combined they are co-produced with China, which is a huge market.  India is yet another huge market and EXTRACTION aims for a bigger audience with an Indian setting.

The plot involves Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) - first shown in Hemsworth’s native Australia - as a fearless black-market mercenary with nothing left to lose.  His skills are solicited to rescue Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal), the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord currently in prison.  The crime lord still manages to control his empire outside his cell. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible, forever altering the lives of Rake and the boy.

EXTRACTION, despite being an action film has plenty of faults to identify.  The lazy script depends on the action pieces to excite the audience.  These are all right, the car chases,  actually above average in terms of continuity, which most action films like  THE FAST AND FURIOUS films seem to ignore.  The best car chase film ever - Peter Yates’ BULITT should be compulsory viewing for action directors.  A lot of the action during the car chase is observed from the inside of the car through the windows and windscreen, a tactic already getting quite popular in recent films.

The script should have included more verbal banter or more interaction between the Indian kidnapped son and Tyler.  The boy is often just seen in the background just following Tyler, not knowing what to do.  The really bare story-line does not help either.  A lot of plot details are left out as well.  How does the international crime lord currently in prison keep control of his resources?  It does not help that the script has one of the main villains in prison.

EXTRACTION gets really silly during the second half.  After some sappy moments about Tyler trying to find himself amidst guilt (shown several times in silly flashbacks of his imagining of his wife walking on a beach in a bikini) , the film turns up the action scenes where the audience is led to believe that two men can take out an entire police force. 

The film was shot in both Ahmedabad and Mumbai in November 2018.  Apparently the locals hung around for as long as 15 hours to catch a glimpse of Hemsworth.  The film’s setting elevates the film from its flaws, but still with a running time close to 2 hours, the film is quite a chore to watch.  The crowded streets of Bangladesh is something North American are unfamiliar with and this lifts the film from the normal settings often seen too many times.  Still, with so many action films already flooding the market, EXTRACTION fails to rise above the typical actioner. 

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1576582681?playlistId=tt8936646&ref_=tt_ov_vi

KUESSIPAN (Canada 2019) ***1/2
Directed by Miriam Verrault

KUESSIPAN’s impressive opening begins with two circles of light in a background of darkness.   What might first appear to be the headlights of a car at night turns out to be the lamps on the headgear of two girls fishing in the night.  It is a marvellous piece of cinematography by Nicolas Canniccioni where the sea is filed with hundreds of fish (smelts) that are washed to shore by the waves of a tide, just waiting to be picked up by the girls and put into their pails.  The girls later gather in a sort of community gathering by a bonfire where they sing, laugh and enjoy their childhood.  The two girls are best friends in a Quebec Innu community.  They promise to stick together no matter what.  But they soon grow up to find that fate will not always be kind to them.

Mikuan (Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao) has a loving family and a white boyfriend.  Shaniss (Yamie Gregoire) has a young daughter with an abusive Innu boyfriend.  Mikuan dreams of a better life with her white boyfriend, intending to leave her Innu reservation to study in Quebec City with him.  Her brother is a talented hockey player hoping to be recruited in the big league.  Shannis considers Mikuan a traitor to the community, which is having problems with the white folk stealing their land.  The disagreement leads to big quarrels among the two where their friendship is threatened.  Worse is when Shannis returns beaten up.  While the brother ventures out to deal with the situation, he is killed in an accident which again threatens the already sensitive relation between the two.

Director Verrault deals with two main issues in the film.  The first is the female bond that exists between the two indigenous friends.  The other is the conflict between the Innu and the white Quebecois.  Mikaun’s white boyfriend is drawn to all the family squabbles to the point that he cannot take it any longer.  The problem could exist between any couple with the same background, but in this case the problems also stem from the family being Innu.

Within all these problems, Mikaun takes refuge in her writing.  She is given the chance to ready aloud her writings to an open audience.  The poetry flows, as does the film’s voiceover narrative that is heard on the soundtrack from the start to finish the film, as voiced by the adult Mikuan.  At one point, Mikuan describes how silence cannot be put into writing.

Director Verrault’s film is often lifted by segments of elation.  Examples are the beginning sequence of the two girls as children fishing in the dark and others that are interspersed throughout the film.  The music by Louis-Jean Cormier is solid as well.  The club mixes heard when the two girls go dancing make awesome listening to.

KUESSIPAN also delivers a good geography lesson of the Quebec region where the Innu lives.  KUESSIPAN is Verrault’s first first fictional feature after directing two documentaries WEST OF PLUTO and MY TRIBE IS MY  LIFE. 

The film opens 27th of April on  is currently available on iTunesVimeo, and Illico and is one of the titles being featured on National Canadian Film Day on April 22. 

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi2395127577?playlistId=tt4292432&ref_=tt_ov_vi

 

THE SOUND OF THE WIND (USA 2020) ***

Directed by Jared Douglas

THE SOUND OF THE WIND, an American indie psychological drama is entitled not because it is some adage or phrase from a proverb but for the fact that there is the sound fo the wind during the film’s climatic last 15 minutes.  The film traces how the protagonist arrives to this sorry ante of affair and how he handles it.

The protagonist of the film is a young father, Lucio ( Christian Gnecco Quintero). He has a baby daughter and a wife, Vanessa (Stefanie Rons) who supposedly loves him.  The trouble starts when he finds a bag of cash in the parking lot one day.  He thinks the money will help his bay daughter and he thinks he has not done enough for his family.  His guilt hangs so heavy, Lucio gets paranoid and a bit crazy.  Find the money leads him to think that there are strangers following him, out to get the money or getting him killed.

This goes on for the first half of the film.  Director Douglas gets the audience in thriller mode though it is a slow burn watching Lucio’s paranoia.  Lucio has not returned home and is by himself with the bag of cash driving around trying to outsmart who he thinks are the people following him.

At the half way mark of the film, his car breaks down and he is given a ride to a remote shack by a bearded stranger.  This is the point the film takes a change.  The usually timid Lucio now takes control using his hidden anger that had never surfaced.  Films like Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS follows a similar protagonist who is quiet and mild-mannered until some event causes them to unleash the anger and potential in them to kill in order to protect loved ones.  But unfortunately, the film’s second half does not satisfy the built-up suspense.  Instead the film turns into drama.   

But the film is not all bad.  It is just that it does not satisfy an expected more thrilling second half.   For an indie film, director Douglas’ film includes a solid soundtrack of sounds superimposed on an equally eerie musical soundtrack.  Credit to the sound mixers.  The cinematography is also impressive, especially with a large part of the film shot during the night,  The film also includes a little car chase.

Another plus point is that the film hits close to home.  Almost every family man’s main aim is life is to wish to have a better life for his children or to see his adult kids do better than them in life.  And so true too for Lucio who does all it takes so that his daughter can have a better life.

The confrontation segment where Lucio and Vanessa have it out is done over the telephone.  The audience can only hear the wife’s voice.  It is a clever and different confrontational scene that works well, though director Douglas uses its second time, milking its far more than is worth.

In this time of Covid-19, THE SOUND OF THE WIND might be too depressing a watch (there is hardly any humour in the film), though it is a good classic example of an indie film with solid marks in all departments.

THE SOUND OF THE WIND was scheduled to open in theaters next month, but will instead be released on 'virtual cinema' with participating locations beginning March 24, before a general home entertainment release the following week to honor Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Trailer:  https://www.imdb.com/video/vi2894773785?playlistId=tt10400198&ref_=tt_ov_vi

 

SWALLOW (USA 2020) ***1/2
Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis

First impression of the film’s title of SWALLOW is that of the bird, but it is the swallowing of objects by the protagonist, Hunter (Hayley Bennett) that is what the film is about.  SWALLOW is a slow burning psychological horror drama that is an intense watch that takes its premise to a satisfactory end.

Hunter is a pretty young newly and expecting wed.  She is alone in the he mansion owned by her husband, Richie, a gift by her in-laws as Richie has juts been made Managing Director of his father’s large and successful company.  She is bored to death but her pregnancy is unable to given her the satisfaction that she is seeking for.  It does not help that her in-laws look down upon her, giving advice that belittles her.  Her husband Richie (Austin Stowell) is of little help either.  He is all words and no action.  He claims that she can do nothing to hurt him.  But when she unknowingly  irons and ruins his silk tie, he verbally abuses here.  So what is a girl to do?  Hayley takes on a new hobby.  She swallow objects.  At first it is a harmless glass marble.  The tact pin is then followed by large and more dangerous objects.  A few she manages to extract while in the bathroom.  But when she swallows too dangerous and large object, the family finds out.  After countless attempts to cure her, the family tries to commit her.

Director Mirabella-Davis is an expert at building up suspense.  Hunter says: “I feel so lucky.”  But her mother-in-law gives her advice: “Fake it till you make it.”  followed by an important question to her: “Are you really happy?”  The script, also by Mirabella-Davis does not offer any explanation of her impulse to swallow objects though a rough reason is afforded at the end when Hunter meets her real father.

The film can be considered to be a horror film as there is genuinesacres felt throughout the film’s 90-minute running time.  It is not supernatural horror but horror close to home - as to the mental anguish one feels when one feels inadequate and bored with absolutely no one to lend any support.  The male nurse hired to look after her, or rather to see that she does not swallow anything else is sympathetic but he this is not enough for Hunter.  The film is also a psychological drama as the script goes through great lengths at trying t explain Hunter’s behaviour.  The setting is the rich family home where drama sets in.  The sexual satisfaction, a key element in the film as it is obvious Richie married Hunter fro her looks is not left out.

The indie film has some heavyweight attached to it.  The film is produced by famous director Joe Wright and the main actress Hayley Bennett.

Bennett is nothing short of excellent, portraying hr decline from sanity and finally redemption, though difficult as it sounds, she makes it all believable.

SWALLOW is not released theatrically for the obvious reason that all cinemas are closed due to Covid-19.  The film is available beginning the 24th of April VOD and similar platforms.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi3463298841?playlistId=tt8372298&ref_=tt_ov_vi

 

TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG (Australia/UK/France 2019) ****

Directed by Justin Kurzel

The film begins with the words on the screen  “Nothing you about to see is True.”  The words disappear except for the last word True that remains on the screen followed by “History of the Kelly Gang.  Unlike other films that have the words “Based on a True Story” appear on the screen followed by too many fictional segments, this film based on Peter Carey's novel is unafraid to say that this is a fictional account of the true story of the Kelly Gang.

Ned Kelly is one of Australia’s most notorious outlaws in the 1870’s.  Ned and his gang pilfered and plundered, often going on a killing spree.  The film tells this fictional true story of Ned and the many influences that made Ned the man he ultimately is remembered for.

The first third of the film follows the adventures of Ned as a 10-year old, played remarkably well by Orlando Schwerdt.  Schwerdt has an uncanny resemblance to an angel capable of performing unthinkable deeds.

The film contains superb performances from the cast including Russell Crowe as Harry Power, the man who buys Ned Kelly from his mother, Ellen and exposes the boy to violence for the first time.  George MacKay who wowed audiences in the recent war movie, Sam Mendes’ 1917 gets to deliver another solid performance.  MacKay who is 28, plays Red who in real life dies at the age of only 26.  Essie Davis playing Ned’s mother also deserves mention.

If one wonders the reason for Ned’s mother speaking with an Irish accent in an Australian film, it is for the fact that she is an Irish immigrant.  The hated folk are the ruling British.  At one point in the film, Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult) asks Ned; “Do you hate me because I am British or because I am a constable?”   Ellen almost weds a Californian.  The clash among the English speaking countries, Ireland, England, Australia and America is well captured on film.

TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG is a grim but handsomely mounted period film showing the hardship the poor rural Australian folk go through to survive in the outback, and even worse for a woman such as Ned’s mother. 

Director Kurzel again demonstrates his queer way of story telling, first observed in his breakout movie SNOWTOWN. A number of the Kelly gang wear dresses while pillaging.  Ned plants an unexpected kiss on the lips on an imprisoned writer.  He also wrestles fellow gang member in an erotic scene.

TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival.  It opens on various VOD platforms Friday the 20th and is well worth watching - much better than the other 2 Ned Kelly films with Mick Jagger in the title role directed by Tony Richardson made way back in 1970 and a worse one directed by Gregor Jordan starring the late Heath Ledger as Ned.

TRUE HISTORY opened in Australia in January and in the U.K. in February before the Covid-19 cinema closures.  It will open in North America on VOD and on other similar platforms.  It currently holds around 83% approval on Rotten Tomatoes with general acclaim by critics.  TRUE HISTORY is a typically different kind of storytelling that commercial audiences might not be used to, but the film is definitely on my recommended list.

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1569832473?playlistId=tt4844140&ref_=tt_ov_vi

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