J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

RFW-London ’17: Attraction

This could be a case of karma coming back around on a galactic scale. After invading Ukraine, Russia just might find itself on the receiving end of a UFO invasion. However, the rebellious daughter of the Colonel in charge of Moscow’s defenses becomes convinced it is all a misunderstanding. In any event, Poland hopes they enjoy the resulting martial law in Fedor Bondarchuk’s Attraction (trailer here), which kicks off this year’s Russian Film Week in London.

So much for all the assurances Yulia Lebedeva’s science teacher made about the safety of meteor storms. Something else invaded Russian airspace—something big. Naturally, the Russian Air Force opens fire, sending it hurtling into Moscow’s heavily populated Chertanovo district. Frankly, there is more self-inflicted home turf destruction in Attraction than even the lame Roland Emmerich Godzilla, but of course Lebedeva’s delinquent boyfriend Artyom and his punky pals still blame the aliens.

Initially, Lebedeva blames them too, but she changes her mind when one saves her life. Instead, it will be the gawky Hekon who is badly wounded and thrown clear of his bionic bio-ware mecha suit (they sort of look like Man-Thing covered in spandex). Lebedeva will hide him from both the military and the low-life vigilantes flocking around Artyom, but he will need to retrieve a glowy thingy called “Shilk” (no articles), before he can safely leave the planet.

According to Bondarchuk, Attraction was inspired by the 2013 anti-immigrant Biryulyovo riots, which is rather surprising, considering Bondarchuk obediently signed a statement endorsing Putin’s military aggression in Ukraine. There is no question Attraction makes the Russian military look reckless and irresponsible, whereas Artyom’s “Earth Power” mob certainly suggests parallels the Pan-Slavic Russian nationalism used to justify invasions of Ukraine and Georgia.

Regardless, Oleg Menshikov is terrific as steely old Col. Lebedev. As Artyom, Alexander Petrov certainly captures the chilling self-righteousness of the hardcore activist class. Unfortunately, Irina Starshenbaum and Rinal Mukhametov have little chemistry or charisma in general as Lebedeva and Hekon. The great Sergei Garmash is also grossly under-employed as the Deputy PM, who seems to be calling all the shots in the government.

There is no question Attraction was greatly “inspired” by The Day the Earth Stood Still. Yet, on a very immediate level, it is rather encouraging to see a Russian event-movie of this scale advocating tolerance and asking questions first before shooting. The spacecraft special effects are also exponentially better than what you might expect. Unfortunately, the uneven cast gives us too many embarrassing moments worthy of the 1998 Godzilla. Still, they cannot complain, because cinematographer Mikhail Khasaya gives it a sense of scope and grandeur, while also keeping it relatively “real” looking.

Apparently, if there was a Russian Film Week this year in New York, it was drastically scaled back. Perhaps this is another way Putin’s lackeys hope to punish us for the Magnitsky Act, but it is really emerging Russian filmmakers who will suffer, without a sympathetic showcase in the media capital of the world. Interestingly, London, the home of the “Steele Dossier” was deemed A-Okay. Regardless, Attraction is a fascinating example of how genre films reflect the prevailing social neuroses, but as a viewing experience in its own right, it is a rather messy and often klutzy affair. Recommended solely as a curiosity piece, Attraction screens tomorrow (11/19), launching this year’s Russian Film Week in London.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Destined: Blind Chance, Detroit-Style

Rasheed Smith lives in Detroit, so his destiny is pretty set. However, there could be slight variations, depending on whether he becomes an architect or a drug lord. Either way, Detroit is still Detroit. Qasim Basir follows both parallel lives in the Blind Chance-like (in terms of narrative) Destined (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

In one strand of fate, Rasheed the aspiring drug dealer is busted and goes straight. In the other, the more fleet of foot Sheed escapes to master his trade and work his way up the ladder. In both versions, he is good to his mother, but she is more crack-prostitute-ish in the drug kingpin storyline, even though Sheed is the one who could afford to move her out of the projects.

In both narratives, Ra/Sheed is poised to reach the big time in their respective careers, by making Faustian bargains. Sheed the dealer is about to strike a deal with a dodgy South American cartel to supply an expected influx of new gentrification residents, whereas Rasheed has been tapped to serve as the figurehead on a redevelopment project that would turn his old housing project into luxury condos. In each storyline, characters seem bizarrely confident swarms of yuppies are eager to colonize the most blighted block of inner city Detroit.

Naturally, certain characters reappear in each respective branch of fate, including the extraordinary underwhelming Mayor Jones, played with slimy obsequiousness by CSI New York’s Hill Harper. However, there are times when the duality does not make sense, such as Jesse Metcalfe’s Dylan Holder, who is the narc dogging Sheed in one possible destiny and the entitled son of Rasheed’s real estate developer boss in the other.

Frankly, Destined is more like Star Trekian alternate universes than Blind Chance-istic diverging tributaries of fate. In any event, the fatalism of Kieswloski’s film perfectly suited Martial Law-era Poland. Indeed, there are obvious reasons why the Polish masterpiece was withheld from public release since its completion in 1981 until early 1987. In the case of Destined, Basir’s determination to bring the two strands together feels like hollow pretentiousness. As a further frustration, the two alternate timelines are not clearly stylistically delineated, which frequently causes confusion.

Still, Cory Hardrict is appropriately moody as Ra/Sheed and Paula Devicq has some nice moments as his mom. That’s right, the nanny on Party of Five plays the mother of a grown son. Admittedly, this is an ambitious format to tackle, but Kieslowski managed to do it perfectly the first time. Ultimately just sort of okay, but nothing special, Destined opens today (11/17) in LA, at the Arena CineLounge.

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Angelica: Tragically, Supernaturally Victorian

Constance Barton might just be the world’s first germaphobe. It was her husband who introduced her to germ theory and also to sex, both of which she will feel compelled to avoid. That naturally strains the Bartons’ marital union, as does her hyper-over-protectiveness of their daughter. Perhaps she is also haunted, but it might just be Dr. Barton’s sexual id lashing out for vengeance (no joke) in Mitchell Lictenstein’s hothouse gothic yarn, Angelica (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Constance Barton has summoned her daughter to make a deathbed confession while he still has the time. It involves the disappearance of her father, who maybe did not up and abscond, as she had been led to believe. Why, Barton can remember it all, like it was just yesterday—cue the dissolve.

Young Constance, who looks exactly like her grown daughter, is a shopgirl and Dr. Joseph Barton (formerly Bartoli) is a well-heeled naturalized Italian immigrant, but neither of them can ever be fully accepted in Victorian society. At least, they have each other—initially. It is a passionate nine-month honeymoon, but a touch-and-go delivery leads to a bizarre doctor’s prescription: no more marital relations.

Obviously, that makes things awkward. Being a lusty Italian, Dr. Barton is always trying to cheat with his own wife (he is not the unfaithful type, but ironically, that might have avoided some problems), whereas Ms. Barton funnels all her energy into protecting/smothering the daughter who almost did not make it. She is already somewhat paranoid and overwrought, even before the so-called “Flying Man” starts stalking Angelica. Essentially, he is a hive-creature made up of thousands of giant-sized bacteria creepy-crawlies. His ill sexual intentions are clear from his enlarged appendage. He doesn’t have a face per se, but he still seems hazily reminiscent of the good doctor.

Lictenstein, son of the famous pop artist, is a one-man justification for Freudian analysis. His first film Teeth told the tale of an Evangelical teen with teeth in her very private parts, whereas his straight drama, Happy Tears, features the resentful son of a famous painter, whose daddy issues result in a nervous breakdown. Here, blue balls lead to a giant, predatory germ monster. Your patient, Dr. Freud.

Obviously, this is all rather silly, to put it mildly, but you to give Jena Malone and Ed Stoppard credit for constantly doubling and tripling down as the Bartons. By the time they reach the third act, they look like they haven’t had a good night’s sleep or released their pent-up nervous tensions in years. They both play it scrupulously straight, never remotely winking at the audience or smirking at the irony. The late Charles Keating also adds some terrific Peter Cushing-esque genre presence as old Dr. Miles, dispatched from the looney bin to diagnose Madame Barton in her home environment.

Angelica is a weird film, because it takes itself strictly and completely seriously, but the stuff it shows viewers is just totally off-the-rails nuts. There is a wide and profound disconnect between the tony tone and the looney narrative. The classy period production values just make it all the more conspicuous. A great deal of craftsmanship went into Angelica, but the end-product is the goofiest Hammer Horror film ever. Admittedly, that is sort of a recommendation. Indeed, Lictenstein’s film will probably have a long life with camp connoisseurs, so trust your instincts when Angelica opens today (11/17) in New York, at the Village East.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Abertoir ’17: Top Knot Detective

Sheimasu Tentai was no Zenigata Heiji, that’s for sure. Supposedly, the ronin detective was a champion of deductive reasoning, but it is hard to prove it from the cheesy clips drawn from his short-lived early 1990s Japanese TV Show. Apparently, it was subsequently suppressed, for murky, conspiratorial reasons, but enough bootleg VHS tapes were circulated in Australia to earn it a small but loyal cosplaying following. The short rise and long fall of Ronin Suirei Tentai is chronicled in Aaron McCann & Dominic Pearce’s mockumentary, Top Knot Detective (trailer here), which screens at this year’s Abertoir: The International Horror Festival of Wales.

When the powerful Sutaffu Corporation decided to get into the television production business, they were unable to sign their first choice of talent, so they settled for Takashi Takamoto. His primary merit was the Ronin Suirei Tentai treatment he already had ready to go. It was clumsy and campy, but it still became a minor hit anyway, because the early nineties were apparently not a golden age of Japanese television.

Ronin Suirei really started to comparatively take off when former j-pop idol Mia Matsumoto joined the show as Tentai’s rival and love interest, Saku. Inevitably, Takamoto’s arrogance and hedonism started to sabotage the show. Yet, it was his scandalous relationship with Matsumoto that really hastened its demise. However, Takamoto and Tentai would mount at least one highly unlikely comeback bid.

Although Takamoto was the showrunner, producer, and star of RST, his absence from Top Knot, aside from some faux archival interviews, is suspiciously conspicuous. Indeed, McCann and Pearce slyly and subtly reveal his post-show fate, implying some pretty sinister machinations went on behind the scenes. In many ways, Top Knot directly compares with the sardonic Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein, but it is not as shy when it comes to revealing its scandalous secrets.

Too many cult cinema spoofs think they can get away with building some cheap retro-looking sequences around a goofy premise and call it a day (looking at you, VelociPastor). However, McCann and Pearce create a richly detailed backstory for both the fictional show and its ill-fated cast-members. As Takamoto/Tentai, Toshi Okuzaki truly thrives on ridiculous situations and humiliating circumstances. Believe it or not, Mayu Iwasaki is weirdly poignant as Matsumoto/Saku, the sensitive starlet done wrong by the media and Sutaffu. However, Masa Yamaguchi ultimately steals the picture with his droll attitude and finely turned pivots as Haruto Kioke and Kurosaki Itto, Takamoto’s nemesis in real life and on the RST show.

You can’t fillet low-budget jidaigeki TV shows with such razor-sharp precision if you don’t love the genre to begin with. McCann & Pearce earn a lot of laughs because they really understand what they are spoofing. Yet, they constantly unwrap more surprises throughout the course of the film. Highly recommended for cult cinema fans, Top Knot Detective closes the 2017 Abertoir this Sunday night (11/19), in Wales.

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Stuff MX ’17: Samurai Rauni

Rauni Reposaarelainen is sort of like Popeye, if Popeye were a mean Finnish drunk. The hard-drinking head of a provincial Finnish samurai clan bullies just about anyone who crosses his path. He has more enemies than teeth, yet he is still surprised when someone hires a band of ninjas to assassinate him. The Bushido way sort of gets a Scandinavian send-up in Mika Rättö’s Samurai Rauni (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Stuff MX Film Festival.

Reposaarelainen is caught flat-footed by the ninjas’ attack, but he is still too strong and ill-tempered for them to handle. Learning the hit was contracted by the mysterious “Shame Tear,” Reposaarelainen starts visiting all his old enemies, which consist of pretty much everyone he ever knew, who he hasn’t killed yet. However, his investigation will ultimately hit distressingly close to home.

There are several samurai spoofs currently making the festival rounds, but the one really worth waiting for is the mockumentary Top Knot Detective (review coming in two hours). In contrast, Rauni is more about skewering the small town Finnish booboisie, with little apparent affection. Frankly, there is not a lot of hack-and-slash action in Rauni, either played straight or for slapstick laughs. Instead, lead actor-director Rättö revels in Reposaarelainen’s dissolute behavior.

Still, you have to give Rättö credit for looking the part. He is a fierce, wild-eyed, knuckle-dragging presence as Reposaarelainen. Yet, we definitely start to root for the outclassed ninjas rather than cheering for his anti-social antics.

Rauni was adapted from a hipster theater group’s stage production—and its avant-garde roots often show. Despite some stylishly rendered scenes in the third act, it just doesn’t connect emotionally. Nor will it hit international viewers on a mirthful gut-level. Not recommended, Samurai Rauni screens this Saturday (11/18) during Stuff MX, but patrons should check out the inventive Laplace’s Demon instead.

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Revolt: Aliens Invade Kenya

Many terrorism and infrastructure experts worry about the potential damage an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack could wreak on our power grid. However, an EMP could be the best hope for humanity in the dark days following the alien invasion. Despite his scrambled brains, a U.S. Special Forces amnesiac intends to be part of the last stand in Joe Miale’s Revolt (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

The last thing he remembers was fighting the metallic spider-like aliens—poorly. Coming to in a provincial jail cell, the mystery soldier is now a sitting duck for unsavory local and galactic elements alike. However, the French NGO doctor in the cell next to his is probably in an even worse position. Nadia is pretty cynical for an aide worker, but she is somewhat impressed when he escapes from a smalltime warlord’s gang and returns to rescue her. Henceforth, Nadia will call him “Bo,” based on the two remaining letters stitched on his uniform.

Bo and Nadia decide to team up and head towards a series of radio telescopes a hundred miles or so from the current battle zone. They seem to be the only man-made structures in Kenya that have not been damaged by the aliens, so Bo hopes they can rendezvous with the American military there. It is not a great plan, but it is better than standing around waiting to be killed or abducted.

Revolt is not exactly the most original or spectacular science fiction film to land in theaters, but it is sturdily effective. There is no question the key to the film’s success is the chemistry and charisma of the co-leads, Lee Pace and Bérénice Marlohe. Pace, the Halt and Catch Fire actor (who was excellent in City Center’s production of Terrence McNally’s The Golden Age) makes a credible and compelling action figure, while Marlohe has successfully transitioned from Bond Girl-victim (in Skyfall) to a take-no-prisoners sf butt-kicker, here in Revolt and Kill Switch before it. Frankly, they are only cast-members who get character development arcs to speak of, but they handle them rather dexterously, between all the running and shooting and crashing.

Revolt is definitely red meat science fiction for meatheads, but the plain truth is we would like to see a sequel with both these principle characters. Nobody will confuse it for Tarkovsky’s Solaris, but it works on its own terms—quite nicely. Recommended for fans of action-driven alien invasion movies, Revolt opens this Friday (11/17) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Breadwinner, Another GKIDS Masterwork

Girls passing for boys was a staple of Shakespeare’s comedies, but the stakes were never so precariously high as they are for young Parvana. In Taliban-dominated Kabul, the arrest of her father, the male head of household, effectively imposes house-arrest on his wife and daughters. For their continued subsistence survival, Parvana must pass herself off as a boy, but the consequences will be unspeakably brutal if she is discovered. Islamist misogyny and intolerance have dire consequences in Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner (trailer here), an animated GKIDS release, which opens this Friday in New York.

Parvana’s father Nurullah is a former schoolteacher, but the former Soviet occupiers cost him a leg and the current Taliban oppressors left him unemployed. Books and photos are now forbidden and women can only leave their homes accompanied by a senior family member. When a former pupil has Nurullah arrested out of spite and fundamentalist fervor, there is no one left at home to shop for food or earn money. As their supplies dwindle, Parvana tries to make purchases at the market, but no vendor will risk incurring the Taliban’s wrath by selling to her.

Out of desperation, Parvana disguises herself as a boy, donning the clothes of a brother killed by a Soviet booby-trap. In the short term, Parvana develops the survival skills necessary for day-to-day survival. She also rekindles a friendship with Shauzia, a former classmate in very much the same situation. However, her long-term goal of securing her father’s freedom remains elusive. Thus far, she only has a beating to show for her efforts.

Frankly, the punch to the solar plexus she takes from a prison guard is far from the most brutal attack on women viewers witness in Breadwinner. GKIDS has often pushed the envelope of animation sophistication, perhaps mostly notably with the urbane and elegiac Chico & Rita, but Breadwinner is easily their toughest film yet. Its PG-13 rating is debatable, but there is no question Twomey shows the violent, intolerant realities of life under the Taliban, in uncompromisingly vivid terms. There is also a messiness to the conclusion that will frustrate naïve viewers, but it stays admirably true to reality.

Twomey co-directed The Secret of the Kells and served as “voice director” of Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea, which are certainly credits that inspire confidence, but Breadwinner is still a shockingly powerful cinematic statement. Arguably, Deborah Ellis’s YA novel could only be adapted as an animated film, because a live-action feature would place its primary lead in grave danger, much like the young actor in The Kite Runner, except it would be even worse for a girl. Regardless, Twomey and screenwriter Anita Doron do right by Ellis’s characters and the real-life girls and women they represent.

Despite the desperate circumstances Parvana faces, Twomey’s animated is often quite lovely. Yet, there is more truth in Breadwinner than most “adult” films released this year. Thanks to this film and Loving Vincent, 2017 has already proved itself as an exceptional year for animation. If one of them does not win an Oscar, it will be time to seriously consider abolishing the Academy. Very highly recommended, The Breadwinner opens this Friday (11/17) in New York, at the IFC Center downtown and the Landmark 57 in Midtown way west.

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DOC NYC ’17: 6 Weeks to Mother’s Day

In his influential memoir Summerhill, A.S. Neill offers up more dubious snap diagnoses than a full season of Dr. Phil, but it is a weirdly compelling snapshot of the early days of the radical education movement. The last place you would expect his egalitarian no-rules-schools concept to catch on would be the Thai rainforest, but Rajani Dongchai, a.k.a. “Mother Aew,” has taught and sheltered under-privileged children for thirty-five years in her Children’s Village, a Summerhill-inspired school-nursery-orphanage in the rugged Kanchanaburi jungle. The students and faculty plan to give Mother Aew a fitting 35th Mother’s Day celebration in Marvin Blunte’s 6 Weeks to Mother’s Day (trailer here), which screens during DOC NYC 2017.

Thai Mother’s Day is in August, but the principle remains the same. For most of the residents of Children’s Village, Mother Aew is the closest thing to a mom they have ever known. She has sacrificed much for them, essentially conducting a long-distance relationship with her husband, who assumed direct oversight responsibility for the nursery several miles away, while she oversees primary and secondary education at their core facilities.

Mother Aew is always willing to offer advice (fortunately), but policies are set by the children themselves in town hall-style meetings that look like a cross between French Revolutionary Tribunals and the kiddie gangster musical, Bugsy Malone. Fortunately, Mother Aew convinces them not to punish littering with thumb-screws and the rack, but to settle for some quick water-boarding instead.

In all seriousness, Children’s Village might sound a little hippy-dippy, but it looks like a sheltering environment, which is what most of the residents desperately need. If she can provide safety, stability, and some degree of education, she and her husband have made a considerable difference in many lives. Clearly, Blunte takes an almost evangelical interest in Mother Aew and her kids, capturing them in all their earnest compassion and progressiveness, in the hope of generating Western grant money, which is a totally worthy goal.

Blunte gives viewers a tactile feel for life in the Kanchanaburi school compound. Mother Aew and many of her students are rather charismatic and the Mother’s Day tribute skit they stage is surprisingly funny. It is not exactly a documentary classic, but it is a very nice film. (Still, when it comes to stories of educational heroics, it remains tough to beat Journey from Zanskar). Recommended for A.S. Neill disciples and fans of uplifting docs, 6 Weeks to Mother’s Day screens tomorrow (11/16), as part of this year’s DOC NYC.

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Chopso: Visas and Virtue (short)

Chiune “Sempo” Sugihara proved paperwork could be heroic. As the ranking Japanese diplomat in Lithuania, he issued thousands of visas to Jewish refugees that his government did not want issued. Throughout it all, his wife Yukiko was right there beside him. If you think this sounds like Oscar bait, you are probably more right than you know. The Sugihara story was dramatized in Chris Tashima’s Academy Award winning short film Visas and Virtue (trailer here), which marks its twentieth anniversary with its streaming release today on Chopso.

Sugihara’s rocky diplomatic career had a fascinating third act in Berlin, after he was summarily reassigned from Kaunas, but it is the visas that earned him a place in the Righteous Among Nations, so that is what Tashima logically focuses on. As the film opens, Sugihara’s hand is literally cramping from writing visas. He has also received another cease-and-desist cable from the foreign ministry, causing him great concern for his family’s future. Fortunately, the compassionate Yukiko is there to bolster his spirits and not so subtly coach the applicants before their interviews.

Despite his weariness, Sugihara and his wife will form an especially deep bond with Nathan and Helena Rosen, due to the particular circumstances of each couple. In fact, the encounter spurs Sugihara to redouble his efforts, writing many, many more visas for the applicants seen in montage, one of whom is portrayed by Hanni Vogelweid, a surviving Sugihara visa-holder and technical advisor on the film.

It is easy to see why Virtue won the Oscar, but it is hard to understand how it did not lead to high profile feature work for Tashima, who also starred as Sugihara. Adapted by Tashima and Tom Donaldson from Tim Toyoma’s stage play, Virtue is sensitive and humane, but it never drags. Tashima and Susan Fukuda are terrific together as the Sugiharas. Hiro Narita’s mostly black-and-white cinematography is also absolutely beautiful. It is a shame nobody thought to package it with revival screenings of Schindler’s List, but its never too late.

Tashima has made several short films of considerable cultural and historical significance and starred in several more. Unfortunately, distribution challenges and feature-prejudices conspire against short form cinema, preventing work like Virtue from establishing the place they deserve in our collective cinematic consciousness. If Chopso can bring more films like this to a wider audience that would be a happy development. Highly recommended, Visas and Virtue is now available on Chopso.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Abertoir ’17: The Sleep Curse

Heather Langenkamp and Freddy Krueger’s other victims would be jealous of Dr. Lam Sik-ka and his latest patient, because no matter what they do, they cannot drift off to sleep. Yet, they still manage to have nightmares in Herman Yau’s The Sleep Curse (trailer here), which screens at this year’s Abertoir: The International Horror Festival of Wales.

Dr. Lam is a man of science, but not exclusively. He has seen uncanny things and visited his share of mediums. Neither he or his former girlfriend Monique want to end up like her older brother, whose mental collapse due to supernatural sleep deprivation takes place during the prologue. It turns out their respective fathers met the same fate, but it isn’t a hereditary condition. It is a curse dating back to the Japanese occupation.

Quite inconveniently (for a host of reasons), Lam’s decent but passive father Lam Sing was involuntarily recruited to serve as a clerk and translator to the Japanese commander. Part of his duties involve coordinating with Chow Fook, the collaborator managing the local so-called “comfort station.” Lam’s heart aches for the women enslaved there, but when his Japanese masters force him to make a pseudo-Sophie’s Choice, it sets off a chain of very bad karma, which unfolds in a series of flashbacks.

The prospect of using war crimes committed against comfort women as the catalyst for a horror film is admittedly dicey, but it certainly reflects still potent (and officially sanctioned) anti-Japanese prejudices. Intriguingly, the film is also set in 1990, pre-handover, at a time when many Hong Kongers were having nightmares. It is therefore easy to sense ghosts from two eras haunting the film. Initially, Yau seems more inclined to evoke feelings of uneasiness while maintaining a general sense of mystery, until total bedlam breaks in in the third act. We’re talking totally nuts here.

Regardless, in a dual role, Anthony Wong makes a credible Peter Cushing figure as Dr. Lam and is aptly tragic as the ill-fated Lam Sing. Likewise, Michelle Wai also shows tremendous range as both Man Ching and Man Woon, two twins of drastically differing temperaments, separated by cruel fate and Lam Sing. Jojo Goh only has one role, but she still makes an impression playing Monique partly as a femme fatale and partly as an increasingly vulnerable and agitated patient.

Herman Yau is maybe not quite as prolific as Takeshi Miike, but he certainly does not lack for a work ethic or ready financing. Despite turning out a steady stream of hit action movies and comedies, he still exhibits a distinctive touch for supernatural fare. Perfect for fans of the Nightmare Detective franchise, The Sleep Curse screens Thursday night (11/16), as part of Abertoir 2017.

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Michael Apted’s Unlocked

During the Cold War, there were a number of traitors who did indeed betray America and the UK for ideological or pecuniary reasons. In the current War on Terror era, the prospect of living large as a hero of the Caliphate has thus far been far less tempting. Yet, cynical thrillers need turncoats, so now we have the highly placed official who is so disgusted with Western softness, he or she secretly pulls strings to help the Islamists detonate a nuke in the Earth’s core that will send the remaining fragments of our planet hurtling into the sun, all for the sake of waking us up to the dangers of terrorism. This is one of those. It is a shame Peter O’Brien’s CIA-disparaging screenplay bends over backwards to equate Western intelligence services with Islamist terrorism, because it wastes some jolly nice supporting performances in Michael Apted’s Unlocked (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.

Alice Racine is a highly trained CIA interrogator, but she has been slumming in a low-level cover position after she “unlocked” her last subject slightly too late to prevent a terrorist attack in Paris. However, when a courier is intercepted ferrying a verbal message to a major U.S.-born terrorist from his London-based spiritual advisor, she reluctantly swings back into action. However, halfway through the unlocking process, she gets a call from her Langley handler, telling her to sit tight, because they have this courier they need her to unlock.

Obviously, there is a high-placed traitor in the agency, but with eye-rolling predictability, Racine is assumed to be in league with the shadowy squad that intercepted the now deceased courier. Racine goes on the run to ferret out the traitor with the wink-wink encouragement of her MI5 colleague Emily Knowles and back-up provided by Jack Alcott, an ex-military cat burglar, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or should that be the right time?).

Aside from the moral equivalency, O’Brien’s screenplay is also ridiculously predictable. If someone looks like they have a treasonous haircut, you can bet they will be doing some third act back-stabbing. However, there are two reasons to possibly consider soldiering through Unlocked, should all your other entertainment options fail: John Malkovich and Toni Collette. Malkovich is laugh-out-loud hilarious as the wickedly snide CIA operations director Bob Hunter. We can only hope there is someone with that kind of take-no-prisoners attitude protecting our country. However, Collette totally hangs with him as the incisive and sophisticated Knowles. When they spar, the film becomes a thing of beauty. In contrast, Noomi Rapace basically punches the clock as Racine, while Orlando Bloom telegraphs his character’s secrets from a mile away.

Still, Apted keeps it all chugging along smoothly enough. As a director, he is hard to classify, landing somewhere on the spectrum between journeyman and auteur. Besides the Up series of documentaries, Apted has helmed a Narnia film, episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, a Bond movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Sting’s “I Burn for You” video, so it is safe to say nearly everyone has seen his work. Unfortunately, Unlocked is no Gorky Park, but it is not really Apted’s fault—and Malkovich and Collette certainly are not to blame. The fundamental premise is simply too unlikely and too stilted. Not recommended, Unlocked is now available on DVD.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

DOC NYC ’17: The Iconoclast

Michel van Rijn is sort of a cross between Elmyr de Hory, the notorious art forger profiled in Orson Welles’ F for Fake and Red Reddington from The Blacklist. For years, he was considered the world’s most successful art smuggler and purveyor of dubious provenances. He did business with a lot of dirty parties, but he has also subsequently cooperated with nearly every intelligence service and law enforcement agency. Van Rijn (supposedly a distant relation) comes clean—partially—maybe, in King Adz’s misleadingly titled The Iconoclast, which screens during DOC NYC 2017.

The 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum theft remains the greatest unsolved art heist. The FBI received nineteen tips claiming van Rijn was the mastermind. Van Rijn assures us it wasn’t so, in a way that inspires little confidence. Still, the things he is willing to cop to are nothing less than astonishing, if true. Old van Rijn just chuckles over some of his early exploits, when he essentially built a pipeline for stolen art through countries with highly bribable authorities, like Turkey and Cypress. He did business with some nasty characters, which eventually caught up with him.

Van Rijn advised a veritable alphabet soup of agencies, but his closest association was with the Mossad, for whom he helped assassinate Dr. Josef Mengele. Um, what? Yep, that was no drowning accident, it was van Rijn and his partner. Or so he says. Seriously, it is hard to believe the Mossad would try to pass his death off as an accident (foregoing a major propaganda coup). It is even harder to believe they would settle for a quick death instead of an Eichmann-style trial, when van Rijn reportedly had him well in hand. The whole story smells like a fabulation, but van Rijn could have very well convinced himself it is true.

There is no question van Rijn is a questionable witness, which is how Adz intentionally presents him. Yet, if he is telling the truth twenty-percent of the time, it is enough to make you lose all faith in what is on the walls of the most prestigious museums, especially if Iconoclast is considered in tandem with previous art forgery documentaries, like Art and Craft and Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery, along with Welles’ game-playing classic. That would probably be good enough for van Rijn, even if he did kill Mengele.

If only one percent of it all is true, van Rijn still spins quite a globe-trotting, double-dealing yarn. Indeed, the slippery nature of truth throughout the doc makes it a fitting modern companion piece to F for Fake. You shouldn’t believe it, but it will never bore you. Recommended for skeptical and sophisticated viewers, The Iconoclast screens Thursday (11/16), as part of this year’s DOC NYC.

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DOC NYC ’17: Rodents of Unusual Size

Thanks to animal rights activists, Hurricane Katrina was more severe than it could have and should have been. It is a story that sounds so crazy, it could only happen in the Louisiana bayou country, but it is inevitably spreading along America’s coastal wetlands. The direct culprit is the burrowing, grass-inhaling mega-swamp rat called the nutria, but it has been aided and abetted by clueless people. However, viewers will meet some of the hardy Louisianans who are rising to the nutria challenge in Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler & Jeff Springer’s Rodents of Unusual Size (trailer here), which screens during DOC NYC 2017.

Essentially, Nutria are just plain varmints. They are an invasive species that was deliberately imported to Louisiana during the Depression to provide jobs on fur farms. However, during one dark and stormy night, a colony of nutria escaped their cages into the swamps—an environment perfectly suited to them. For decades, this was not a problem, because their pelts were valuable to fur trappers. Hence, their population remained in check. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out of the market in the 1980s, thanks to the anti-fur campaign.

There was no longer an incentive to trap nutria, but the nutria continued doing what rodents do best. As a result, they have literally chewed up the coastal marshlands, leaving the soil fragile and infertile due to their massive tunneling networks. Of course, the lush wetlands were a prime defense against serious hurricanes, but tragically, they were appreciably depleted when Katrina hit.

On one level, Rodents is an object lesson in the unintended consequences of cheap, feel-good activism. Yet, it is also a tribute to Louisiana resiliency. In recent years, the once-exploding nutria population has actually decreased dramatically, thanks to the $5 bounty U.S. Fish & Wildlife now pays for every nutria tale. Clearly, there is no limit to what well-armed and highly-motivated Cajun bounty-hunters can accomplish, when they put their mind to it.

In addition, various New Orleanians are working to create sustainable demand for nutria products. Righteous Fur markets nutria as a guilt-free fur with its hipster-friendly accessories, while some New Orleans celebrity chefs promote nutria as a local cuisine. In fact, there is no bigger celebrity chef than Kermit Ruffins, who fixes up some nutria barbeque for a skeptical audience at his Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge.

Rodents is a terrific documentary. It illuminates a fascinating case study, while showing plenty of sensitivity to local customs and culture. The doc also sounds great, featuring the music of Ruffins and the Lost Bayou Ramblers. There is even a sly animated history lesson, narrated by Wendell Pierce that is totally in keeping with the attitude and sensibilities of the Crescent City and Pelican State. Plus, we meet a service dog named “George W. Bush” and the title is a Princess Bride reference, so what more could you ask for?

Maybe more Ruffins. At a whisker under seventy-minutes, just hits it and quits it, without any wasted time. Yet, it is an important and informative film, especially given the spread of the nutria population. Very highly recommended, Rodents of Unusual Size screens this Wednesday (11/15) as part of this year’s DOC NYC.

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Renoir’s The Crime of Monsieur Lange

It might be a film peculiarly of its time, but it was certainly a historic time. Pablo Picasso met Dora Maar during a shoot, while she was working as the set photographer. Arguably, it was the greatest commercial triumph (if such a thing is not a contradiction in terms) for the Groupe Octobre, including screenwriter Jacques Prévert, and it firmly established director Jean Renoir’s Popular Front bonafides. Eighty years later (post-Vichy), it looks like an idealized picture of a France that never really was. There will be many injustices perpetrated, but the titular act will not be one of them in Renoir’s restored The Crime of Monsieur Lange (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

The rustic locals drinking swill in an inn on the Belgian border recognize the exhausted guest is the fugitive wanted for murder. However, before they drop a dime, they give his brassy blonde lover Valentine Cardès time to plead his case while he sleeps. She is the laundress who works across the courtyard from the publishing company where Amédée Lange was employed. The pulp serial enterprise was owned and mismanaged by Monsieur Batala, a sexual predator, who once had an encounter with Valentine. She was tough enough to survive relatively intact, but such may not be true for his latest conquest Estelle, who happens to be the reluctant ex of Lange’s younger brother.

We learn in the extended flashback, Batala started publishing Lange’s western serial, featuring the paragon of virtue, Arizona Jim, to forestall his creditors. Of course, he first cons Lange into signing away all his rights. Before he can fully exploit them, Batala disappears as one of the presumed victims of a train derailment. Initially, his workers, creditors, and heir are left holding a bag full of debt, but they forge a collective agreement. All seems to be going swimmingly well in a Paris Commune sort of way. Yet, something will shortly drive Lange to commit murder.

In retrospect, the politics of Crime now look quaint, almost to the point of childishness. Yet, in light of recent events, it is suddenly topical again. As revelations involving The Weinstein Company and other studios continue to come to light, we can now understand Hollywood better. For years, their villain of choice has been the business executive, even though tens of millions of their customers safely worked in corporate America without ever being asked to help cover-up a murder or release a patently unsafe product. It is obvious filmmakers have just been projecting the predatory nature of Hollywood on other industries they have had little or no contact with. Indeed, Batala is a clear archetypal forerunner to the disgraced mini-moguls currently getting pilloried on Twitter. He is even an entertainment exec (publishing—it sort of counts).

As dated as Crime is in many respects, Renoir restless camera and Florelle’s endearingly energetic portrayal of Valentine (both actress and character preferred to be known by a single name) make the film quite lively. As Batala, Jules Berry is also spectacularly slimy and lecherous. He makes Batala a classic screen villain, who has been imitated and ripped off in hundreds of thousands of subsequent films, most of which probably did not even realize it.

Even though René Lefèvre plays the title role, it is really more of a supporting turn (in his own story). Still, he is convincingly guileless and almost childlike in his enthusiasm for the pulp action and values of the American west. It is definitely more of a curiosity than a grand cinematic statement, but Crime has a distinctly wistful charm. If you only see one Renoir film, it should absolutely, positively be Rules of the Game, but The Crime of Monsieur Lange is still worth seeing as a time capsule from another era when it opens this Friday (11/17) in New York, at Film Forum.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

SDAFF ’17: Paradox

What makes a series a series? In the case of Wilson Yip’s thematic, in-name only martial arts thriller franchise, it is the consistently superior fight choreography. It is known as Sha Po Lang (a Chinese Zodiac reference) in the Asian market, but it goes by SPL or sometimes Kill Zone in the West, but apparently the latest film has dropped the series prefix altogether for the international festival circuit. There are no overlapping characters or story arcs, but Yip returns to the director’s chair after assuming a producing role on Kill Zone 2 (a.k.a. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences). No matter what you call it, the series maintains a well-earned rep for high-octane action with Yip’s Paradox (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 San Diego Asian Film Festival.

As a police negotiator, you maybe would not expect Lee Chung-chi to Liam Neeson’s very particular set of skills, but when his daughter Wing-chi disappears in Thailand, all bets are off. Fortunately, one of the few honest coppers in Bangkok is assigned to the case. Lee and Tsui will follow the trail to an organ harvesting ring, but eventually Lee goes rogue after receiving a tip implicating the blatantly corrupt Det. Ban. Tsui’s compromised police chief father-in-law pressures him to relent, because the intended beneficiary of Wing-chi’s abduction is the secretly ailing mayor, but obviously that is not going to happen.

Although there is no narrative continuity, Paradox continues the tradition of bringing back prior cast members in completely different roles. Serious martial arts fans will be happy to know this includes Tony Jaa, now appearing as Tak the devout Buddhist cop, but frustrated to learn it is a “special appearance.” He will not be around for the third act, but he definitely makes his limited screen time count.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how hardcore Louis Koo (another holdover from 2) gets as Lee. He has made plenty of cop and gangster movies before, but often the more demanding work has been assigned to a partner, like Nick Cheung in Line Walker. He earns mucho credit for really upping his game for Paradox.

Likewise, Yue Wu hangs with both of them, going toe-to-toe with the flamboyantly villainous Chris Collins as the organ harvesting ring-leader. Gordon Lam effectively counterbalances him as the icily ruthless political fixer, Cheng Hon-sau. Unfortunately, Vithaya Pansringarm is under-employed as the problematic Commish (he is not really evil, just weak), but Ken Lo takes sleazy repulsiveness to a new level as Ban. This is definitely a testosterone kind of film, but Jacky Cai manages to make a strong impression as Siu-man, the prostitute who informs on Ban.

Even though Master Sammo Hung never appears in Paradox, he still counts as one of the stars, thanks to his bone-crushing action direction. This isn’t pretty Crouching Tiger aerial work. It is hard knees and elbows, in the Muay Thai tradition. Frankly, the combination of the tough but hugely cinematic fight scenes with the all-star cast firing on all cylinders is tough to beat. Highly recommended for action fans, Paradox screens this Tuesday (11/14) and Thursday (11/16), as part of this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival. 

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Shopping for Fangs, on Chopso

It is the late 1990s, but Trinh is still down with the “sunglasses at night” style statement of the 1980s. At that time, independent film still had a rep for very personal passion projections, whereas today it is considered just as much an industry as the studio system. This lowkey quasi-horror comedy was very much a film of its time, but it is fondly remembered by many as one of several Asian American indie releases that have recently been dubbed the “Class of 1997.” Even without the zeitgeisty context, it would still be notable as co-director Justin Lin and co-star John Cho’s first features. Take a nostalgic trip back to the post-Pulp Fiction indie glory years when Quentin Lee & Justin Lin’s freshly restored Shopping for Fangs (trailer herepremieres on Chopso, the brand-new English-language Asian-interest streaming service.

Clarance idylls away a great deal of time in a Southern California coffeeshop, partly because it is comfortable looking and partly because he enjoys the company of the ditzy, blonde-wigged waitress, Trinh. It is strictly platonic. He pines for his long-distance boyfriend in Taipei, while she has developed a weird crush on Katherine, a mousy housewife, whose wallet and Gordon Gekko-style cell phone she swiped from a ladies’ room. Trinh seems to live in another world, so she has no reservations about sending Katherine flirting notes and photos of herself. Yet, much to her surprise, Katherine finds herself fascinated by this free spirit.

Meanwhile, the sexually and professionally frustrated Phil starts to suspect he is becoming a werewolf, due to the alarming increase in the volume and rate of growth of his facial hair. As fate would have it, his bossy sister has just shacked up with lycanthropy expert, so perhaps it is just the power of suggestion. In any event, poor Phil is getting a lot stronger and physically resilient, but also starting to develop anger management issues.

Like so many indie films of the era, the various characters and story arcs crisscross at key junctures, to demonstrate what an ironic little world we live in. However, the two main strands are more stylistically delineated, because Lee helmed Katherine’s sequences, while Lin handled those focusing on Phil. Even though Lin would become the industry powerhouse (Fast and the Furious installments 3-6, Star Trek Beyond), Lee’s Katherine/Trinh story arc has more zip. Frankly, Fangs could have been a rather intriguing (albeit idiosyncratic) little De Palma-esque psychological thriller without the lycanthropy storyline.

Lin and Cho became famous and Lee has built a reputation as a crossover indie-LGBT filmmaker (he also directed the bizarrely under-appreciated The Unbidden), but the real discovery here is Jeanne Chin’s amazing performance as Katherine. Initially, she seems almost distressingly passive, but when you least expect it, she reveals her extraordinary range. The young, fresh-faced Cho also exhibits the smart presence and on-screen charm that would lead to the Star Trek reboot (and the excellent sf series, Flashforward, which ABC inexplicably sabotaged, by giving it the NewsRadio treatment).

It is funny how innocent the late 1990s now seem in retrospect. In many ways, Fangs is a product of its time. You could argue, it works as well as it does, because the unhurried pace lulls viewers into its own rhythm. If a similar film were produced today, it would be expected to be louder, busier, bloodier, and more political. That is a shame, because it is rather pleasant to relax with a cup of coffee in the company of Clarance and Trinh. Recommended as a nostalgic indie throwback, distinguished by a dynamite turn from Chin, Shopping for Fangs is now available on Chopso.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

DOC NYC ’17: King Cohen

It is mind-blowing, but true: both Bernard Hermann and Miklos Rozsa composed scores for Larry Cohen films. Reportedly, they got along with the exploitation auteur like a house on fire. Heck, even Cohen’s first wife has good things to say about him, so he must be quite a guy. Of course, his body of work is also something else. The horror legend and blaxploitation pioneer gets his due in Steve Mitchell’s King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (trailer here), which screens during DOC NYC 2017.

Those who know Cohen probably had their impressions formed by cult classics like It’s Alive (the killer baby horror movie scored by Rozsa) and Q (the winger-serpent monster movie that would be his first collaboration with the great Michael Moriarty), but he had quite a bit of initial success in television. He was even an uncredited creator of the show N.Y.P.D., which would later be the primary inspiration for Leslie Nielsen’s spoof series, Police Squad! However, Cohen wanted creative control and autonomy, so he became an indie filmmaker before that was an acknowledged thing.

Ironically, Cohen started with one of his most serious films, Bone, an edgy comedy about interracial relationships. He then jump-started the blaxploitation genre with Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. Those films really established his practice of “stealing shots” in public places, without any kind of license or permissions. There are a lot of crazy stories about his guerilla filmmaking practices and Fred Williamson is not shy about telling him. Indeed, King Cohen is laugh out loud funny when Mitchell contrasts the very different recollections of Cohen and Williamson (who still looks like he can throw down like the old days).

Of course, Cohen worked with Eric Roberts, who naturally notches another screen credit talking about the experience. Filmmakers Mick Garris, Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, and J.J. Abrams all show their respect, as does makeup artist Rick Baker. However, Cohen’s reminiscences of working with legends like Hermann, Rozsa, and Sam Fuller will genuinely deepen viewers’ respect for the taste-challenging auteur.

Cohen emerges as a rather inspiring figure. He is a survivor, who has sold way more produced screenplays than even his fans probably realize (Phone Booth, Cellular, and Guilty as Sin were all his). Mitchell keeps the vibe breezy and upbeat, while incorporating many wonderfully illustrative films clips. King Cohen will definitely put viewers in the mood to revisit or catch-up with Cohen’s films, so many genre festivals have shrewdly programmed it as part of a retrospective tribute sidebar. Alas, DOC NYC will not be screening Original Gangstas or The Stuff. King Cohen is still the most fun you will have during the doc fest. Very highly recommended, it screens this coming Monday night (11/13) at the Cinepolis Chelsea.

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Santa & Andres: Dissident Friendship in Cuba

Film festivals should want to showcase good films. That is why it is so disappointing the maybe not-so independent Havana Film Festival New York downgraded this tale of a gay dissident writer’s unlikely friendship with his temporary minder to an out-of-competition slot. Of course, the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana just completely caved to government pressure, reversing its initial acceptance of the film. These craven fests will really look foolish when audience see how sensitive and mature Carlos Lechuga’s Santa & Andrés really is when it opens today in New York (trailer here).

Life and Cuba has not changed very much since 1983, the year S&A is set. The infrastructure is more decrepit and it is more difficult to attain political asylum in America, but censorship is obviously just as high as it was then. Right now, average Cubans have no hope of ever seeing this film. Likewise, Andrés has no hope of ever seeing his work published in his native land. Out of his circle of literary friends, he is the last that remains. The others have defected or committed suicide. However, Andrés has been unusually difficult. He caused an international scandal by crashing the last “peace conference,” so Jesus, the local party boss (thug), has recruited Santa to babysit Andrés during this year’s propaganda fest.

Santa is a naïve rural woman, who has never questioned Party orthodoxy. She also probably doesn’t fully understand it when Andrés assures her he really is gay. However, she is naturally compassionate and instinctively cares for the dissident when he is beaten by a crude, self-loathing lover. Despite Andrés’s prickly personality, a friendship develops between the two outsiders. As a result, she finally starts to question the Party’s legitimacy and the ruthlessness of its tactics.

There is no mistaking the censorship and strongarm brutality exercised by Castro’s enforcers in S&A, so it is easy to understand why it gave panic attacks to the apparatchiks. Yet, the film itself is really defined by the connection forged by these gentle, put-upon souls. Most people who would have seen it would have remembered it for the platonic relationship, but by censoring it, the Castro regime ironically calls attention to its indictment of human rights violations. Awesome, great work people.

Lola Amores gives one of the year’s best performances as Santa. She is rough around the edges, but poignantly lonely and alienated. Arguably, Eduardo Martinez’s portrayal of Andrés is even more complicated, ranging from resentful to mournful to resigned hopelessness, yet still forging such a resonant connection with his counterpart.

Lechuga definitely captures that stifling hot Caribbean vibe of ennui as well as the hardscrabble realities of rural Cuba. Admittedly, it is a bit slow out of the blocks, but it amply rewards patient viewers. It is most likely the most touching platonic friendship you will see on film all year—and perhaps the most notable since Gregg Araki’s radically different Kaboom. Very highly recommended, Santa & Andrés opens today (11/10) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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Radius: Proximity Kills

It turns out Liam Hartwell really will use geometry in his post-high school life. Estimating diameters is suddenly critically important to him, when for unknown reasons, all animal life that comes within fifty feet of him starts to mysteriously die. However, there is one woman who is inexplicably immune to his lethal effects in Caroline Labrèche & Steeve Léonard’s Radius (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

As Hartwell regains consciousness from an apparent auto accident, he quickly discovers he has a classic movie case of amnesia. It takes him a little longer to realize he is the cause of all the people collapsing dead around him, but to be fair, he is still groggy. Hoping to limit the death toll, Hartwell tries to sequester himself in his work shed, but a mystery woman comes calling—without keeling over dead.

The woman temporarily calling herself Jane Doe was picked up by the police not far from Hartwell’s wrecked pickup. Rather than gleaning a clue to her identity, Doe learns she is the only thing that counteracts Hartwell’s horrific powers. From that point on, they will be joined at the hip as they search for answers and evade law enforcement, who will inevitably start to suspect Hartwell is a terrorist.

Radius is jolly good science fiction thriller that explores questions of personality and memory, while also dropping some pretty wicked surprises. It is fleet of foot, but decidedly character driven, like a puree of The Fugitive and The X-Files. Yet, the macabre nature of Hartwell’s unwelcome power should also appeal to horror fans.

Without question, the chemistry between the two co-leads is what really makes Radius hum and crackle, especially considering the way it evolves as the two amnesiacs start to understand who they really are. Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan are both terrific as Hartwell and Doe, convincingly portraying them as mature, resourceful, and completely baffled fugitives, in the 39 Steps tradition.

There is a third act development that could have easily played as an audience betrayal, but Labrèche and Léonard elevate it to the level of high tragedy instead. They helm Radius with such assured hands, it makes you wonder why there is such a disappointingly long gap between it and their first feature, Lost Cause, from 2009. Radius is so smart, slick, and inventive, we can only hope it ushers in a period of prolific productivity for them. Very highly recommended, Radius is now available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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