*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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*NEW* MONEY MONSTER REVIEW *NEW*

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For a drama tackling financial woe, it came off more as a tame beast BUT still watchable, none the same.

Financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor (Jack O’Connell) takes over their studio.

I originally avoided this at the cinema. The trailers did nothing for me. After the dense but hard hitting arrival of The Big Short, I thought this was going to be a cheap rip off jumping on the band wagon.

BUT old Ma and Pa told Mr Over Critical to give it a go AND . . .

After 15 minutes, I was ready to switch it off. I know there are OTT financial shows like Money Monster in real life BUT watching Clooney strut around a news studio with a golden top hat to a bit of R ‘n’ B did nothing to win me over.

It tried to be like The Newsroom. The script desperate to deliver that quick pitter-patter that only Aaron Sorkin can master.

I know Clooney’s arrogant protagonist was supposed to be smug BUT I really didn’t like him.

Roberts was on the side lines far too much and a gag involving erectile dysfunction cream among the crew almost had me change the channel there and then.

It was all a little too disjointed. The film kept flicking back and forth to random places all over the world with no explanation. I was struggling to keep up.

However . . .

Once Jack O’Connell made his introduction, my interest was finally peaked and what ensued was a highly watchable and engaging little thriller.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Skins star. Don’t ask me why, there’s just something about him. BUT his performance was fantastic. He stole the show and once Lee (Clooney) realised the abuse of his own power, things really got going.

It was quite tense as he tried to negotiate with the volatile Kyle (O’Connell) on live TV. Clad in a vest of Semtex with the world watching. The questions piling up as the news team tried to seek out any information on their captor.

I was relieved when Roberts was brought into the fold. Working that Ocean’s Eleven magic with Clooney yet again.

It wasn’t long before we discovered that Kyle had lost all his money investing in the wrong company. All thanks to a certain TV show. BUT his anger wasn’t just at his own loss. It was at the very corporation who got away with it.

Millions of stockholder’s hard earned cash lost because of a ‘glitch’. No explanation. Nothing.

As the mystery unfolded, Lee faced a crisis of conscience (making Clooney a lot more tolerable and likeable). It was interesting how the tide changed from a single search for answers to a quest for justice.

The supporting cast delivered somewhat of a mixed bag.

Caitriona Balfe’s (Outlander) performance left a little to be desired. Her Irish/American twang didn’t help matters and I’m not sure whether it was the lines or her delivery BUT she made the character a lot flatter than she should have been.

A shame considering how instrumental her character became as the team discovered more than they bargained for.

Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito was completely wasted in his role as Captain Powell. Anyone could have played him. Emily Meade (NERVE) made more of an impression in those five minutes as Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend.

The dumbing down of the financial guff made it easily accessible and understandable BUT still tapped into that Big Short territory. The political speeches aimed at the big wigs were a little hammy in parts.

I say big wigs. The whole of Wall Street personified in the form of McNulty from The Wire. Sorry, Walt Camby. A greedy CEO with no S.O.U.L. Dominic West played the part of the sleazy exec well.

It may have been a little OTT as Lee brought the show right to the ruthless crook’s doorstep BUT it still hit home.

Raising valid points and questioning how these corporations could play with people’s money with such ease. No restrictions, no regulations. Shocking.

Despite a stuttering opener, Money Monster overcome its hurdles to deliver a satisfying and emotional finale as everything came to a head with a long awaited confrontation that pieced together all the disjointed scenes (That were bugging the hell out of me).

Worth a gander if you’ve got 90 minutes to kill.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* SPLIT REVIEW *NEW*

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A return to form from the maestro who brought us The Sixth Sense?

Or another dud to add the ever-growing backlog from that guy who gave us The Happening?

In a nutshell, meh.

BUT one thing can be agreed, James McAvoy was excellent.

Three girls are kidnapped by a man diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities. They must escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

I think it’s fair to say that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie have . . . split audiences. Ba-dum-tssh. I read that somewhere and had to put it.

I’ve always loved the premises BUT his execution? Well . . .

Desperate to be the next modern Hitchcock (The opening title sequence for Split resembled something out of Psycho!)

His big “twists” and mad endings have failed to impress of late; The Visit (Laughable), After Earth (Jaden Smith, say no more!), The Lady in the Water (Apart from that breaking of the 4th wall moment, woeful) and The Happening . . .

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How could I forget?!

What do you mean, where’s Signs and The Village? I *shuffles collar* actually enjoyed those movies. Yes, I know. Aliens attack Earth and their sole weakness is water. I know! BUT Mel Gibson and Johnny Cash, man!

I digress. I was actually excited by all the trailers to see Shyamalan’s latest thriller and I didn’t mind it. It was alright BUT it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The opening didn’t mess about. An air of unease established straight from the get go as McAvoy’s “Dennis” made his introduction to the unsuspecting trio.

Funny that I was praising Anya Taylor-Joy in another mediocre movie (Morgan). She played the withdrawn but resourceful Casey well.

I didn’t expect to see Grace from Skins (Jessica Sula) in the troubled party either.

Their initial captivity felt like something from Kiss the Girls with a hint of Misery. 

The first half hour set a slow burning atmospheric thriller with all sorts of questions flying around. 

Every time I could feel my patience wading, McAvoy’s Dennis would introduce another personality.

McAvoy continues to impress yet again. I don’t think I would have been half as interested if he wasn’t at the helm. 

He stole the show with everybody else playing second fiddle.

And that was part of the problem, every time the action was taken away from him, I lost interest.

Betty Buckley (Carrie) didn’t do a bad turn as Dr Fletcher, the therapist desperate to help the troubled mad man. Fighting for “their” cause. Playing a very dangerous game. 

There were genuine moments where I felt tense. Especially when she worked out that she wasn’t talking to the “right person”.

The girls played their parts well and were quite resilient.

I expected more cliched horror movie gaffs with three teenage girls at the centre of the chaos BUT they were fairly strong characters. Not bad, Mr Shyamalan.

BUT one thing that bugged me the most was the film’s actual premise. 23 personalities?

All those trailers, billboards, posters. 23 personalities. Did we actually get 23 personalities?

*POSSIBLE SPOILER*

For the majority of the film, we only had 4. Great performance from Professor X but a measly number that increased to maybe 7 by the end? Come on now.

It was great how with a twitch in the face and a burrow of the brow; McAvoy’s infantile nine year old Hedwig could transform into the meticulous and obsessive compulsive Dennis. 

His Patricia could easily have bordered on a parody of Mrs Doubtfire.

Thankfully, it didn’t.

BUT this could have been done in 90 minutes and been better for it. 

The pacing hammered the piece for me and the final act dragged.

There was so many meandering flashbacks into Casey’s past, I kept wondering what the relevance of them were? 

They killed the tension and annoyed the hell out of me.

All the talk of a Beast. This new and vicious 24th personality. Those crazy descriptions and the big reveal, the “What a twist” moment didn’t quite deliver.

It was certainly creepy and unsettling with Shyamalan teasing the die hards BUT it didn’t quite pan out the way I hoped.

Different. Watchable. BUT thriller of the year? Meh.

Certainly worth a view for one stellar performance from the super Scot.

A return of sorts. Not his best. BUT certainly NOT his worst by a country mile.

3/5 (Just)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD REVIEW

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Mad doesn’t even come close.

Feel the fury of the merciless car chases. The Road Warrior is back. But badder and better?

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max (Tom Hardy), a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

George Miller brings his Road Warrior to the 21st Century. Rebooted, rejuvenated and relentless.

Hardy was the perfect choice. On paper. I felt his performance was a little shaky. His interpretation was a little disjointed. I’m not sure whether it was down to Miller’s direction or what?

Hardy seemed too mechanical. He barely said a word. Which wasn’t a problem but when he spoke, it was drivel. I preferred Mel Gibson. He may have played the mystery man but he did have some charm and charisma.

It didn’t help that Hardy had that metal mask on his face for the first 45 minutes. Badass, yes! BUT he looked like a post-apocalyptic Bane. He must be born into these roles 😉

John Seale’s cinematography was something else. Absolutely breathtaking. He really brought Miller’s dream apocalypse to life. Miller made full use of that mega million budget to make his future apocalyptic wasteland.

It’s great watching the original Mad Max trilogy before hand. Fans will know that it was all building up to this. I was still debating whether it was a reboot or a sequel.

If you are unfamiliar with the original films then it isn’t essential at all. But for MM fans, the car was there? So was it a reboot? The voices and the vision of the child asking Max to save them felt like a reference to the trilogy? So a sequel?

Either way, not a MUST!

The set pieces were intense. I was impressed by what Miller had done with the original trilogy. Proper cars, proper chases. For the majority of the action, it was still in that vein BUT on a biblical scale.

However, as with all blockbusters CGI inevitably makes an appearance. I only saw this in 2D. You could tell what bits would have been in 3D and to be honest, I’m a little miffed that I missed my chance.

BUT it also made everything look way too cartoony. The CGI in the sandstorm sequence was too much and killed the intensity of the chase. It was worse than the dated props and dummies of the 80s.

The Mad Max franchise may have been starting to show its age and what do you expect after 30 years?! It was always strange. I loved the nihilistic undertones. Dark, brooding, haunting with the right level of silliness.

Miller just cranks it up to 11 and revs the engines for sheer balls craziness. From the off, it’s fast, frantic and violent. I was hooked. Merely because it doesn’t give you a chance to take in all the quick-cut editing and sweeping shots.

Hugh Keays-Byrne was brilliant as the demented Immortan Joe. The patriarchal leader that rules all. Controlling the water supply. Turning it on at small intervals to watch the slaves fight for thirst.

And of course, in typical Mad Max fashion, he sends tankards out on quests to seek . . . that most precious of substances, gasoline!

Nicholas Hoult was superb as Nux. The ailing obedient servant hell bent on earning Immortan Joe’s respect. He really has excelled from About A Boy and Skins. Delivering another scene stealing performance.

There were a couple of angles that did intrigue me. The idea that this strange colony abduct people from the road and use them as blood bags was messed up. The weird mythology that Immortan Joe enforced about Valhalla was laughable.

I felt like I was on drugs watching the thing. His servants getting pumped before a gasoline siege by spraying some weird chrome stuff over their mouths while praying to the Gods of V8? What a lovel- strange film! And that dude with the guitar? WTF?! To remind you. Un pic below:

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Que?

I know the film has sparked debates with its feminist context. I merely review films but the idea of women against the patriarchy certainly made this installment stand out a little more. And let’s be honest Mad Max fans, it had been heading that way.

Let’s not forget Tina Turner’s surprising turn in Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome and maybe forget the Hook Neverland kids vibe in the last part.

If anyone could play a strong female defying the odds and breaking free, I couldn’t think of anybody better than Charlize Theron. She was very good as Furiosa. Immortan Joe’s most valued servant. Or so he thought.

My main issue was that the supporting ladies had such unmemorable characters. Zoe Kravitz was very weak. I think the only one that stood out was Rosie Huntington-Whitely (No, not because she’s the model. Although . . . NO! Focus) BUT because she was the only one who had a teeny tiny piece of back story to support the rather weak story line.

There were a few twists along the way. Miller may have lost it with the OTT demented silliness BUT he still wasn’t afraid to shake things up when the pace seemed to lumber. And unfortunately, it did in parts.

For MM fans, I felt that Fury Road was a revamped Mad Max 2. One of the best installments in my opinion. Immortan Joe felt like he had been torn from the same cloth of Lord Humungus. He even had a stupid and memorable mask as well!

The musical score by Junkie XL was incredible. I don’t normally commend movie soundtracks but it really made the chases that much more dramatic and engaging. Exhilarating and frantic. Very much like the movie.

I just wish there were more memorable supporting characters. The endless visions, hallucinations and flashbacks that Max experienced were really annoying. The more they popped up with that annoying kid, the more I could feel my patience wading.

Max only really got to shine in the last 20 minutes. I’m sure that was the point but Max was always the one you were routing for. The underdog. This time, you have Furiosa. Max just seemed so bland. He got lost in the mix. BUT how could he not with this demented wasteland?

Mad. Not at all. I was hooked. The action was intense. BUT Miller could tone down the craziness and crank up some plot and characters for the next post-apocalyptic western. Maybe.

3/5

UNBROKEN REVIEW

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This didn’t break my top movies list BUT there is still an engaging account of one’s man incredible story.

So what’s it all about? After a near-fatal plane crash in WW2, Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Angelina Jolie takes the directing seat again and delivers a riveting (if overlong) re-telling of fear, hardship and endurance.

O’Connell has certainly cracked the big leagues and with a performance like this, he will continue to do so. It’s great to see the transition he has made since his role as Cook in Skins. His accent seemed a little muddled in the opening sequence but that soon subsided as the film continued.

The main thing I had to get over with was his badly dyed hair.

The opening air battle sequence certainly got things going. It was fast, frantic and . . . really loud. A good action set piece.

In between the air battles, the film flicks back and forth showing Zamperini’s childhood. A little hoodlum that refused to back down but was heading down the wrong path.

That was until his brother drew Louis’ attention to the track team. Their relationship was captured perfectly. Both sets of actors who played young and (older) Louis and Pete were very good.

To be honest, I wanted more of that. It seemed to flash through Zamperini’s childhood and Olympic campaign a little too quickly. I mean arguably it was just right. It wasn’t too corny and certainly didn’t linger too much.

The Olympic race may have been predictable for those who know about Zamperini. Unfortunately I didn’t know a thing. A mistake now amended. BUT you were still rooting for him. A typical underdog story. A promising talent . . . that is until the war.

The flashbacks subside when Zamperini is left stranded on a lifeboat with two of his comrades; Domhnall Green (About Time) and Finn Wittrock (Noah). Green had an impeccable accent and played the role very well. Another up and coming star to keep an eye on.

The ocean raft scenes were tense. The shark fins swarming around their prey. If not the sharks, it was the hunger, the blistering heat or the very fear that the plane you’re trying to flag down is the enemy. The threat of death ever constant.

The trio were fantastic and the first hour or so, I was engrossed in their struggle. Watching them as they tried to hunt and eat whatever they could to survive. There was one moment that rivalled Jaws in the scare factor.

Unexpected for the cinema spectator next to me (Mum) who nearly elbowed me in the face. Certainly got the pulse racing.

I couldn’t imagine being in a situation like that. BUT for 47 days! Unbelievable.

And if that wasn’t enough, the soldiers are then captured by the enemy and sent to a Japanese POW camp under the horrific treatment of Wantanabe or The Bird. The Bird because he sees all.

Takamara Ishihara was outstanding as Wantanabe. A sterling debut performance. I expect to see more from him. Hopefully not typecast as the bad guy but he played the part so well.

Zamperini’s treatment was tough viewing. The only problem is that the second half of this 137 minute length is literally just watching him being beaten endlessly with kendo sticks and by his own comrades.

I say, own comrades. They were all ordered to punch Zamperini in the face or let their injured face more torture. Harrowing stuff.

I hate to say this but once you’ve seen Louis being beaten about for five minutes, you realise there isn’t much else.

There were a couple of actors that popped up. Jai Courtney (Divergent), Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) did as well as they could but their characters were so far in the background that it was hard to pull them out of it to make more memorable impressions.

The emphasis was always going to be on Zamperini. I understand that this is his experience but the length didn’t justify the means. The punching scene was mental. If it is true and not exaggerated for the film, how did that man survive?

The radio broadcast sequence was interesting as Zamperini is bribed by his captors. Good food and clean living for his denouncement of America and their involvement in the war.

BUT of course, this man will not be broken. There were moments where I was rooting for him, especially in his “crucifixion”. Forced to lift a railway sleeper above his head. If dropped, he would be shot.

However, I felt that it was all a little too similar to The Railway Man that was released last year. It may be unfair to compare (Did that rhyme? Totally rhymed) but Unbroken did fall slightly short.

Jolie wasn’t afraid to show both sides at their worst. As the prisoners are transferred from one camp to another, they are forced to walk through a town that had been destroyed by the American B-bombers.

There were some revelations in the closing minutes. But it would have been nicer to see them in the film than just read about it. The fact we didn’t know what had happened to Zamperini’s comrades after they were sent to different POW camps until the end credits was a little disappointing.

But it was still a fitting and uplifting footnote to a dreadfully visceral and tough journey.

Certainly worth a gander and O’Connell’s performance cannot be broken.

BUT the pace and the story line could have been a little bit more.

3/5

’71 REVIEW

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A bold, visceral debut with another charismatic performance from a rising star.

BUT not without its imperfections.

Firstly, it helps to have some insight into the Troubles of ’71. Now my knowledge is sparse but despite not being alive at the time, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the conflict that ensued between England and Ireland.

Now writer Gregory Burke and director Yann Demange (Dead Set) leave little explanation throwing you and our protagonist into the heated confusing mess that was the conflict in Belfast. All that is established is a map highlighting the areas to avoid at all costs. The areas seized by the Irish nationalists who were perceived by the British as the enemy.

The confusion is merely one of a number of revelations. So what’s it all about? A young and disoriented British soldier (Jack O’Connell) is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971.

We start with a slow opening as O’Connell visits his son while awaiting his next mission. At first, I was a little unsure with O’Connell’s delivery. He seemed to mumble and mope around. But as the scene progressed, O’Connell excelled. I was afraid that O’Connell would be typecast as the cocky hot head after Skins and Starred Up but the character of Gary Cook was a complete change of tempo.

The treatment of the British soldiers as they entered Belfast was harrowing and unsettling. The children swearing and throwing excrement was an unpleasant sight. The women grabbing saucepans and dustbin lids to warn the men of the incoming troops was tense and . . . irritating as hell (What?)

The slow build up as the masses continue to grow around the military vehicles was excruciating. Excruciating in the sense that all you can do is wait for it all to go up in smoke. The suspense brewing more and more as the tension reaches boiling point. As the orders became more and more misconstrued by the inexperienced Lieutenant Armitage (played perfectly by Sam Reid – The Riot Club), you find your loyalties divided.

However, the one who are routing for is Gary as he attempts to evade capture and get home. The chase sequences were intense and frantic. At times, the shaky camerawork was a little unsettling as you couldn’t see who was where.

It’s slow burning, at times tense and suspenseful. But for a 99 minute film, it felt a lot longer. The parts in which Gary is hiding (Several in fact) seemed to hit lulls. Where I was originally engrossed and held in suspense on Gary’s fate, I felt my mind wandering as the ongoing conversations between the nationalists and the Military Reaction Force seemed to run down familiar lines.

Despite being eerily realistic, it was also very predictable with the inevitable backstabbing. A sign of the times in this current day and age with paranoia, suspicions and backroom dealing ever present in politics. One thing that I can commend Burke and Demange for is capturing the dilapidated wasteland of the captured areas in Belfast and providing the opportunity for a talented cast to bring such characters to life.

The Military Reaction Force certainly didn’t portray Britain in the best of lights but with questionable motives and hidden agendas, I wasn’t surprised. Sean Harris (Prometheus) was perfectly cast as the shady Captain Browning. If anyone can play a creepy double crosser, it’s him.

There were surprises along the way with people you wouldn’t expect coming to Gary’s aid. Corey McKinley made a memorable impression as the loyalist kid. His acting was superb and quite comical, lightening the tone. It was great to see a talented cast of British actors and actresses, who have been popping up on the telly, get the opportunity to shine; Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders), Sam Hazeldine (Resurrection) and Charlie Murphy (Happy Valley).

The final 15 minutes came out of nowhere. Nail-bitingly tense with more ‘shoot em ups and backstabbing than The Departed and the conclusion certainly made for sombre viewing. Burke and Demange were not afraid to hold back the punches in commenting on a political minefield.

A bold, if a little drawn out, screen debut from a promising director and a stellar performance from a rising star.

O’Connell will certainly be one to look out for in the foreseeable future.

3/5

THE MAZE RUNNER REVIEW

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AMAZE-ING?! Hardly but it did do something I didn’t expect. It surprised me.

In case that sounded familiar, I think I might have nicked a Monsters University quote. In fact, I totally did.

Anyway, here we are. Another bestselling teen novel that Hollywood can adapt and churn into a million dollar franchise. Because that’s worked for every one, right?

BUT Hollywood have finally found one that actually intrigued me, caught my attention and kept it (for most of the film). AND for a moment, I actually wanted to see more. After months of complaining about the endless teen novel adaptations overfilling the box office; Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Giver, Mortal Instruments and now The Maze Runner, someone has finally listened.

Thank you, Wes Ball (Beginners).

What helped this; A talented cast, a good story and a director who wanted to try and do something with both. It’s not perfect by any means but not bad. Not bad at all.

So what’s it all about? Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

The opening throws you straight into the mix. We are left just as confused (unless you’ve read the book) and disoriented as our amnesiac protagonist as he tries to piece together everything. Why the maze? Why just boys? Where are the chicks? (What?).

The special effects are fantastic. The Grievers (the creatures that roamed the Maze) were brilliant. A demented mish-mash of the aliens from Signs and the mechanical spiders from Wild Wild West.

The maze running sequences were suspenseful, pacey and brilliantly executed. The drama around the community was a little predictable but with the cast at Ball’s disposal, it made it all a little more bearable and very watchable. The inevitable macho stand-off between O’Brien’s Thomas and Will Poulter’s (We’re The Millers) Gally was cliched as hell with their heated egos clashing in a game of “Let’s see who can push each over”. Manly . . . Okay.

Poulter is certainly developing well and mastering the American accent with aplomb. Funny to think he was the little lad in Son of Rambow.

His constant head-butting with Thomas still made for good viewing. To think, I only remembered O’Brien as that sarcastic guy from The Internship. However, he delivers a charismatic and solid performance as Thomas. Which certainly helps when you are the leading man.

Aml Ameen must have been a little annoyed at how his character Alby was treated. It was almost comical. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (the annoying kid from Love Actually or that annoying kid from Game of Thrones) played his supporting role quite well and didn’t struggle too much with the accent.

The pace generally zipped along quite well. Throwing in a new development from one of the community members or from the maze itself when things seemed to hit a lull.

The alluring Kaya Scodelario (Skins) certainly got tempers rising (Not like that!) and started getting some of our questions answered. However, I felt her inital entry was a little corny with the inevitable “It’s a girl” and “How do we deal with one?” gags being a little tedious. But this is a teen blockbuster and a 12A.

Now I haven’t read the book and can’t say how faithful it was to the source material. But it certainly piqued my interest to have a butcher’s.

Considering the film had that 12A certificate hovering around it, it wasn’t afraid to make some brave choices. The concluding moments were quite dark. A couple of things happened that even the old cynic didn’t anticipate after the reasonably sinister but tame tone that this film first promised.

The finale *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* inevitably leaves it all open for another. The final scenes were baffling and abrupt. At first I thought Patricia Clarkson’s (The Green Mile) talking head scientist was a little nothingy and unnecessary. How wrong was I after those last few moments. BUT for all my questions, I actually wanted to see what the next installment will bring. Something that hasn’t really happened for quite a few of the other “teen bestseller blockbusters”.

Now I hope that the next part will give us more of the same BUT not the exact same (I will keep that as cryptic as possible) or else my patience will be tested. BUT for a first installment, it set the tone, set the characters and hit the ground running (What? Come on).

Suspenseful, well acted, a little corny but a pleasant surprise. Run on down to the nearest cinema and give it a go.

A strong 3/5