*NEW* DETROIT REVIEW *NEW*

Tense, riveting if a little long at the tooth.

Fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots in which a group of rogue police officers respond to a complaint with retribution rather than justice on their minds.

The animated opening credits sequence about African migration during WW1 and WW2 was a little disjointed. The important issue was the overcrowded African American ghettos in the 60s.

The focal point of this piece. The growing frustration and rocky tension captured perfectly during a botched raid at an unlicensed nightclub.

You could have cut the tension with a knife as the white police officers tried to prevent unrest by arresting suspects away from the Main Street.

An attempt that proved pointless as the crowds gathered and the violence began. I loved how director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal looked at both sides to this disheartening affair.

You supported the forces during the initial looting and rioting. BUT by day two, they completely mishandled the situation. Beating and shooting looters for stealing food?

And let’s not forget, the trigger happy military looking for any excuse. Shooting at a child in a fifth storey building after mistaking her for a sniper. Horrendous.

I was really surprised and impressed at the British/Irish talent involved; Jack Reynor (Sing Street), John Boyega (Attack The Block) and Hannah Murray (Skins).

BUT Will Poulter stole the show for me. He played the shady Krauss brilliantly. The Son of Rambow star has come a long way. A complete change in direction from the comedy circuit and a mature performance.

Hell, those brows made him look evil. As a side note, if there is going to be a solo Joker movie (without Leto); this guy deserves a look in, surely?

Krauss’ decision making and inability to accept blame was frustrating, to say the least.

I loved the contrast between Krauss and Dismukes (Boyega). One going out of his way to cause destruction, the other doing his best to keep the peace.

Dismukes was an interesting character. A man just trying to do his job and avoid bloodshed. Branded an “Uncle Tom” of the streets for not rising up.

Crossing between the bordered up store fronts and military barricades to offer assistance where he could. I just wish there was more of that.

As much as I enjoyed the Dramatics’ Motown music and felt for them as they missed the gig of a lifetime due to rioting, the pace did test. The only thing I found Bigelow movies (of late) suffering from.

The middle act was where I could feel my interest wading. Don’t get me wrong. The cast involved with the Dramatics were brilliant and Algee Smith (Earth to Echo) had a fantastic voice!

I just felt the motel mingling, Coltrane talk and white power discussions meandered the piece. That was until a silly prank with a start-up pistol set off so much more.

The next hour, I was shocked and transfixed as Krauss’ team made one gruesome mistake after another.

The pressure mounting as they struggle to find a suspect or a gun. I will always commend Bigelow for delivering nail-biting suspense; Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break (What?)

Regular Bigelow stalwart Barry Ackroyd’s grainy cinematography certainly brought a little more realism to it BUT the shaky cam (Like The Hurt Locker) was incredibly disorienting and erratic in places.

There was only so much yelling, swearing (and dropping of the N bomb) and gospel singing I could take as the hold-up reached breaking point.

The sick interrogation tactics had me on tenterhooks. Putting knives near the “suspects” as a ploy to use the “act of self-defence”. Horrifying.

Hannah Murray was surprisingly good. I’m used to seeing her playing drugged up or gormless protagonist.  You felt for her character as she was accused of being a prostitute for having no standards for sleeping with black men.

I didn’t expect to see Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War) pop up in this as Krauss’ “prime suspect”. A war vet who escaped one war zone to join another. The punishment he received was mortifying. Desperately goading him into reacting.

The pace did test BUT the main thing I was disappointed with was Boyega. He is a great actor BUT his character grew increasingly passive as the film reached its shocking conclusion. His presence fading further into the background.

If not for a gruelling police investigation (A mockery in itself) after the Algiers Motel, I would have deemed his character unnecessary. Another bystander.

BUT the aftermath of The Algiers Motel was where it hit home.

The court scenes were infuriating. The injustice of it all as the cops strolled out the court house smirking. The legal system taking the side of the ones who were supposed to be protecting NOT abusing it. Regardless of the facts and accounts.

The abrupt finale went out with a whimper. BUT that was kind of the point.

I couldn’t believe the post-credit titles at what happened to the people involved. The case never really given true justice.

I can’t say it’s a good film (in the context of what it was about) BUT it delivered an atmospheric thriller with substance that is worth your attention.

3.5/5

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A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES REVIEW

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Or Taken To The Grave? Liam Neeson uses his particular set of skills. No, wait! His acting skills (Remember them?) and his gravelly gravitas for the hardened private eye thrown into the seedy underworld of a 90s New York City.

A return to form for the reformed action hero in a suspenseful, if drawn out, gritty neo-noir. If you’re expecting another Taken, then you may be left disappointed.

Now I loved Taken (the first one) and it was great to see Neeson back in the limelight. But I was afraid that he was going to be typecast in the action role indefinitely. Non-Stop (Taken on a Plane) proves my point. BUT I’ll always commend Neeson for Schindler’s List and Rob Roy.

However, Neeson plays the part to perfection. A grisly Philip Marlowe. To be honest, the 90s setting didn’t really provide anything additional to the film. Other than the fact he uses old computers in libraries and payphones. I don’t really believe in the whole “Based on True Events” spiel. Not since Fargo and every horror film for the last decade.

So what’s it about? Private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is really starting to make a name for himself and plays the part well. But to be honest, his character was a little weak and didn’t really do much until the closing moments.

Astro (Earth to Echo) played Neeson’s homeless sidekick well and the pair worked well together. Some will find his character incredibly irritating and their “bonding” conversations completely unnecessary and unsuited to Scudder’s loner.

At least we won’t be as annoyed as Ruth Wilson (Luther) whose part was completely removed from the film to make Scudder more of a loner. All she has attached to her name is a credit. And yet Astro made the cut? Strange.

However, the real scene stealer and adversary to Neeson’s Marlowe was David Harbour (End of Watch) as the maniacal killer. He was brilliant and sinister as hell. His creepy voice delivery was memorable enough. Olafur Darri Olafsson (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) also made a memorable role as the strange but morally torn middle man.

My main quip with A Walk Among The Tombstones was the length. A zippy opening with Neeson doing what he does best was soon put on a slow boil. The story tries its best to keep you hooked but there isn’t enough to justify the running time.

The story barely scrapes the surface of the sordid underbelly that these dark antagonists lurk from. There are creepy and suspenseful moments and Neeson certainly carries the film but despite all its promise; Mihai Malaimare Jr’s grainy noir-esque cinematography, Neeson’s snappy one liners and Harbour’s menace, it falls short of your expectations.

The story line meanders along with the surprise abduction and punch-em-up from Neeson but it’s all a little by the book. Endless red herrings with leads that go nowhere slowing down and killing what mystery and suspense was brewing.

The finale was certainly tense and made up for the meandering middle act but it was all so predictable. I was little disappointed that it had to go for a big fist fight and shoot em up to keep in and bank on Neeson’s resurged action hero fame.

The first hour was engaging, tense and slow burning but we got to see Neeson do what he does best . . . Act. Don’t get me wrong, there were some decent punch em up moments that Sam Spade would be proud of but it seemed to run out of ideas, go on a bit too long and then end with a big action number to stop bums fidgeting in seats.

If you want Taken, watch . . . Taken. But if you want to see a return (of sorts) for a talented actor and have a taste for noir, then it’s worth a gander.

3/5

EARTH TO ECHO REVIEW

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From the opening shot with our gang of loveable rogues mucking about with a handheld camera, I was dreading what lied in store. However, it’s not all bad. A decent, if virtually unknown, cast help bring some likeable characters to life in a sci-fi rollercoaster ride of a movie. The only problem with the shaky camera work, you feel like you’ve been on one when you come out of the cinema.

To be honest, the found footage or recorded true events movies have died a death for me after the Paranormal Activity franchise managed to resurrect it and exorcise it within a few films. The camera work, at times, is too shaky. I know that it sounds like I’m being picky but as much as I respect realism and the fact kids are supposed to be handling their mobile phone cameras, camcorders (etc), it can get incredibly irritating that you want to yell at them to keep the camera still.

It was a fresh take to have an unknown cast but also a bit of a gamble. However, they play the parts well and make a memorable impression, particularly Reese Hartwig as the eccentric Munch.

What’s it about? After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Now that premise may remind you of a similar 1982 sci-fi classic featuring a little alien that needed to phone home and inevitably comparisons are made from the get go. And that’s a bit of the problem, despite updating the special effects and providing a fresh angle with the handheld concept; you can’t help but feel that Earth to Echo is re-treading old ground from classics that done it much better and still surpass any film that tries to copy it. At it’s core, it’s ET meets the Goonies. A group of kids are spending their last night together before their homes are pulled down for a freeway. And what a last night as it’s a race against time to help a robotic Wall-E-esque alien get home.

The special effects are brilliant. The detail on Echo is fantastic. Even if his little adorable orb-esque (Yeah, I say esque a lot) eyes remind you of it’s Pixar counterpart. The quest in which the gang must find pieces to repair Echo like The Iron Giant is suspenseful, funny and entertaining. The handheld is used to its strengths, especially when they have to break into someone’s home. There is also a fantastic sequence in which an oncoming lorry looks like it’s set to collide into our heroes, only for it to be dissected piece by piece with the driver still hovering around in his seat.

Apart from the camera work (although the Go Pro sequence on the bikes was a nice touch), the pace zips along and keeps it all watchable as it reaches it’s exhilarating frenetic finale. The cast are good, the effects are great. It just falls short of becoming a classic but in terms of keeping the little uns entertained, it’s worth a shot. But if I haven’t sold it for you then I recommend How To Train Your Dragon 2.

3/5 for me.