‘Cinematic Dogmatic’ brings you all the latest films in one place! This week: Bone Tomahawk, Hail, Caesar!, High-Rise, London has Fallen, Secret in their Eyes and Triple 9. Tom brings you quick-fire opinions on the hottest new releases.
The latest entry into the posse of revisionist, post-modern, feminist, parodic, or mash-up takes on that most American of genres. Bone Tomahawk isn’t a wink wink nudge nudge metamodern vision in country and western. It’s as expansive, brutal and brittle as The Revenant (with which this shares a more tolerable propensity for frontiersfolk pains) and as literate as The Hateful Eight (with which this shares Russell’s mightily moustachioed moniker). Splattering the dustbowl with blood and gristle, ramping up the visceral qualities of its horror elements to counter the pared down, oft-lyrical bleakness of contemporary westerns, the Tomahawk is never derailed or subsumed by its disparate elements, instead proving a rewarding, terse, tense, incisive and a standout example of genre cinema at its most potent.
Something about the Coens’ recent MO means every heralded modern classic must be succeeded by an excursion into genre cinema (Burn After Reading’s screwball comedy, True Grit’s western). Hail, Caesar! is definitely a genre piece, but who knows which genre. Set in Golden Age Hollywood, the semi-fictional Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a fixer at the entirely-fictional Capitol Pictures, on a quest to find meaning in a plot involving a missing Roman A-lister, a second-tier cowboy, a pregnant mermaid, a Busby Berkley musical number, a Gene Kelly musical number, twin prying bottom-feeder columnists, an effete Brit director, a Rabbi, a priest, a cabal of communists and the encroaching uncertainty that The Movies mean anything in this world. I’m not entirely sure that he succeeds. I’m not entirely sure that’s the point.
For my money Ben Wheatley’s films have always had something of an ending problem, only sticking the landing half the time for every film which takes a leftfield turn, which is every film. High-Rise, a long-gestating adaptation of Ballard’s class-warfare-in-a-tower-block novel, is arthouse Carpenter, pseud-meets-exploitation, Drive with more concrete. This probably sounds dismissive – it’s really not. My lingering reticence to trumpet the film probably comes from a desire for the simmering powder keg to full-on blow into surrealist, primitive insanity, which it doesn’t, and is likely a consequence of the unread source material rather than a reluctance to go for broke (Keeley Hawes’ entering on horseback and asking a debauched party “which of you is going to fuck me in the ass” ensures that broke is definitely gone for). Regardless, it’s singular, large-scale Brit filmmaking poised to be a mainstream multiplex smash without concessions, which is undeniably worth supporting.
London Has Fallen
Surprisingly pleasantly violent, unsurprisingly unpleasantly jingoistic and exactly what you’d expect for an icon-obliterating terrorist-disaster film (at one point it proudly acknowledges nearly all London’s landmarks have been razed). When London Has Fallen isn’t espousing terminable one-liners (“I always hated funerals”, really?) it’s bearing a gritted-teeth aggression beneath its b-movie premise reminiscent of the first Taken, a sensibility so rarely strove for – or at least achieved – that any attempt at such an adult popcorn film instantly earns a few points. The one-take climactic siege also deserves credit for switching between over-the-shoulder verisimilitude and third-person establishment without losing comprehension or feeling video-game derivative.
Secret in Their Eyes
A remake of the Argentinian thriller, seven years after it was last relevant, featuring Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman, at least ten years since either was last relevant, induces the urge to steer clear or steel oneself for disappointment. It doesn’t require the latter, but I’m not sure it refutes the former; less a thriller than an oak-brown study of the obliterating, echoing nature of grief, Secret resonates because of an affecting, hollowed performance from Roberts as the suddenly-childless cop. Without her, it’s a fairly by the numbers narrative unbolstered by heavy performances. With her, it’s all that, just with an aching, lonely heart.
Not stylistically singular enough to enable the film to clamber free from under the corpses of its flashier, grittier, worthier, junkier brethren, Triple 9 has the written credentials of a stellar heist/bent cop flick but engages rarely during the emotional beats, and only twice during the action ones (a significant debt of gratitude owed to Narc’s headrush viscerality and Sicario’s functional oppressiveness). A lack of engagement could’ve been easily made to be the point, but one doubts that was the intention of director John Hillcoat or the commendably diverse and substantial cast.
Image sourced from ‘High-Rise’, StudioCanal