THE DEVIL’S KNOT REVIEW

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Knot for me, I’m afraid. What? Bad punnery aside, a star studded cast do their utmost to uplift an initially shocking case that leads nowhere and if not for the studded cast, should have been put on a crime channel as an one hour documentary.

Harsh but true. A slow burning opening leads to an inevitable if shocking murder as, of course, this is based on a true story. The initial murder reveal is haunting and suspenseful. It would be tough for anyone not to imagine that situation in which a loved one, especially a child goes missing. The build up to the event and the aftermath with the search parties and Witherspoon’s sheer fear is very good and very well acted.

However after the murder happens and the initial investigation subsides, it all fizzles out. The first hour is quite watchable, if a little long toothed. Witherspoon plays the manic mother to perfection which does allow for a couple of sad moments. Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off) plays her suspicious husband very well. His erratic behaviour does ponder questions.

The surprise turn for me was Colin Firth as Ron Lax. His southern drawl was nailed to perfection and he applied his charisma yet again to a character you couldn’t stop watching. The only problem is that after the film has finished, you realise Lax didn’t really do anything. Only putting the doubt in a literal witch hunt as the police go out of their way to arrest three lads suspected of dealing in black magic and participating in a cult. Kevin Durand (LOST), for me, played nothing more than a stereotype of a typical southern yokel. Terrible and a waste of a good supporting actor.

This was only the beginning, as the case continued to drag on and all the red herrings were played, it just seemed to go nowhere. The court case scenes that were supposed to be questioning and suspenseful, came off drawn out and long winded. Old Bill Compton himself, Stephen Moyer (True Blood) was bound to play the sly, slick toothed southern prosecutor but it took too long for him to get going. It seemed he and Martin Henderson (The Ring) for a good portion looked more like overacting extras with exaggerated face pulling and exasperated sighs. Bruce Greenwood (The rebooted Star Trek franchise) played the bitter and biased judge with aplomb, even if anyone could have played that part.

And that’s another problem. For most of these parts, anyone could have played them. Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut), Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Michael Gladis (Mad Men) all pop up in this and do their utmost to uplift stocky characters that seemed to have been thrown in to stretch the film’s questionable running length. The finale was also so abrupt and open that I couldn’t help but feel what was the point of it all?

Reese Witherspoon’s character, who you originally felt sorry for, soon acts out of character and becomes a southern simpleton by the end, who is left sitting on the sidelines. Firth with his chiselled drawl complains about the system but again is only sitting from the sidelines and doesn’t really take any proper action. His back story with his wife felt nothing more than filler. Mireille Enos’ (World War Z) character came off so hammy and laughable that it was tough to take her shady character seriously. Her motives were so questionable and double bluffed that I couldn’t tell what was true nor did I care.

The only actor that may come out of this unscathed was James Hamrick. One to watch. His shady suspect who plays on aggravating the misconstrued public did create a little bit of intrigue that this film desperately needed after such a good opening. Hamrick had enough charisma to leave an impression on a subdued supporting role. But to what avail . . .

Now it is truly heart breaking what happened to those three boys that fateful day and the fact that it was never officially solved, despite it being clear that the police doctored findings, fabricated results and withheld crucial evidence and let the real suspects disappear. It is shocking that three suspects, whose only real crime was being a lover of a particular strange field, were innocently incarcerated for years. To be honest, it left everything too open, which is daunting as life can be that horrific. BUT as a film, I seek more closure and the fact the real suspect did get caught further down the line just irritated me.

We didn’t even get to see the arrest or capture just five minutes of credits explaining everything. In all fairness, some events surprised, others did not. To be honest, if you are interested in this, I would suggest watching the first hour then skip to the end credits. However, I would suggest scrapping this altogether and investing in Prisoners, instead. 2/5 for me.

Currently ranks 147 out of 186!

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THE LAST DAYS ON MARS REVIEW

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The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. The next contender for worst film of 2014 and we’re only into April. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better. It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle. They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up. If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it’s only featuring at my cinema for five days says it all.

The premise (if you can it that) is basically; with hours before disembarking back home, a group of astronaut explorers succumb one by one to a mysterious and terrifying force while collecting specimens on Mars.

Liev Schreiber (X Men Origins: Wolverine, The Manchurian Candidate) – a highly underrated actor – grunts and grimaces through the dreadful script, desperately attempting to bring something to his wooden character, only to come off with a panto performance. His face pretty much shows the distaste. He looks like he knew how bad this movie was. Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense and soon to feature in the Swarnie macho movie Sabotage) is the most realistic and interesting character. Only because of the fact she was the only one who had common sense. Scientists trained to endure the conditions of space and creating ecological systems but can’t run away when their mutated colleague is trying to bash them with a hammer.

The opening starts off slow and I expected a tense build up brewing into a crazy finale but no! Every possible scene where a little tension could be created. They crush it. Skimming across or revealing the dark shadow before any suspense. All the clichéd one liners (We’ll be home soon!, You’re not going to die! And so on). The acting varied from bland to OTT. I mean *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* at one point the crew are screaming about their colleague falling down an apparent precipice and declaring him dead. No one checked how deep it was or if he was dead or alive by simply calling out his name. Nope let’s go straight to flimsy scuffs and yelling at each other. Terrific.

Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut, Let Me In) was wasted. Anyone could have played him. Romola Garai (BBC’s The Hour and Legacy) was nice to look at but incredibly dull, which was a shame as there was some chemistry between her and Schreiber. Johnny Harris (The Fades, This is England ’86) was disappointing. Typically shady and dark. An unexpected twist made a momentary shock before realising that it had no point and was completely stupid. Schreiber attempting to fight off the alien zombie things was laughable. “Fucking hell, stay down”. The make up on the aliens were awful. They looked more like those slave zombies from the Mummy movies. The special effects with the space ships and the stations was actually very good and great to look at.

Also *WARNING AGAIN* Schreiber’s character – for those who have had the displeasure of viewing this. The endless flashing back and forth wondering why he freaked out in dark spaces, only to find out something happened on the space station years before and he got locked in a pod. Bearing in mind, he was crammed in a tight space fixing parts and those buggies weren’t spacious. Absolutely stupid and ridiculous.

The last ten minutes brought the violence and a little bit of gore but only kept you intrigued for a minor moment before it’s let down by hammy acting, naff visuals and an inevitable and tragically shit ending. Shoddy acting, naff characters, no tension, throw in some recycled plot lines off naff B movies. The only thing it had going for it was the visual design but no matter how good it looked, it was still dire. AVOID. Even Mission to Mars was miles better than this. If you want to invest in a sci-fi movie involving Mars THEN GET TO THE INTERNET and watch Total Recall. Hell even the remake. Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right. 1/5

Currently ranks #163 out of 163!