Crowe in the Hood
ROBIN HOOD is possibly one of the most potent symbols of popular ideals, evolving through time to fit the needs and hopes of his people, from woodland sprite, to cheeky chappy, to wrong-righting outlaw via handsome devil, eco-warrior and great romantic hero. This latest incarnation is, as promised, a different slant, a prequel in the vein of Batman Begins.
It introduces Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), an archer in Richard the Lionheart's army, wreaking havoc through France on their return from a decade of crusading. Richard's death and a French plot sees Robin and a band of merry men pretending to be knights in order to return the crown and get back to England.
Unexpectedly adopted by Loxley (Max Von Sydow), the man whose dead son he has impersonated, Robin gets a new wife, one Marian (Cate Blanchett), and a job as a local politician. This Robin Hood claims to have some basis in history, and both director Ridley Scott and Crowe have been somewhat po-faced in their claims of historical accuracy. It was the 12th Century, lads, so as with all historical drama, a few pinches of salt mightn't go astray.
Overall, however, it's a parade of the generation of British actors kept too long in the shadow of Grant, Thompson et al. A great cast give great performances and, while not suitable for little children, it works.
Robin Hood is now showing
In writer/director Ciaran O'Connor's words, Trafficked is about the "prostitution, degradation and rape of women who are brought to this country". Apparently, he believes the time has come for these issues to be "addressed in a graphic manner and forced into the public domain".
The story focuses on the plight of Taiwo (Ruth Negga), a beautiful African immigrant who arrives in Ireland in the hope of fleeing oppression. Some chance.
Taiwo finds herself penniless on the streets of Dublin after escaping the criminal gang who trafficked her into Ireland. Enter Keely (Karl Shiels) as the Dubbelin-skanger type who befriends Taiwo and sets himself up as her "guardian angel". Unfortunately, angel-wise, Keely is much more resonant of the "fallen" variety.
Taking advantage of Taiwo's innocence, he finds her work in a lap-dancing club and the downward spiral gathers momentum when the hoods who originally trafficked Taiwo arrive back on the scene. A complicated situation is rendered even more implausible when Keely discovers he has feelings for Taiwo. It can only end in tears and no little amount of tedium.
Negga and Jasmine Russell, in the role of a high-class pimp, deliver the stand-out performances, but they're both fighting a rearguard action against an enterprise that never transcends its low-budget limitations.
Trafficked opens on Friday
THE personal takes precedent over the political in Vincere, veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio's compelling consideration of the world's second best-known fascist, Benito Mussolini. This true story is told through the eyes of Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), the mistress he ultimately rejected, the mother of his illegitimate son, and a lifelong casualty of his charisma.
We first encounter Mussolini, played brilliantly by Filippo Timi, at a meeting of fellow socialists. Mussolini calls on God to prove his existence by striking him dead. God is allowed five minutes.
In the audience is the immediately smitten Ida. They embark on a passionate affair that eventually sees Ida selling all her assets as a statement of her devotion to the cash-strapped Mussolini. The First World War intervenes and Mussolini experiences a political road to Damascus. Unfortunately for Ida, it isn't just his socialism that gets jettisoned.
In a devoutly Catholic country, the by-now-married Mussolini can ill afford the scandal caused by the claims of a jilted lover and her illegitimate son, so steps are eventually taken that have tragic consequences for both Ida and her son, the young Benito.
Stunning use of newsreel and actual archival footage bring a fascinating historical authenticity to proceedings, while the operatic nature of the set-ups add a symphonic sense to the spectacle. Memorable performances from Timi and Mezzogiorno greatly enhance an experience that is difficult to fault.
Vincere is now showing
STREETDANCE as an art form has moved from clique and club culture into the mainstream thanks to shows such as Britain's Got Talent. Here is a movie to capitalise on the current popularity, just in time for the school holidays.
In the grand tradition of dance films, there is a rivalry/animosity set up when a street dance crew have to work with a ballet troupe in order to get the rehearsal space they need for a competition. They've lost their leader, and his dumped girlfriend Carly (Nichola Burley) must take over a reluctant and disintegrating group. But they rally, and their desire to win strengthens when the sub-plot hatches and it starts to get personal.
Streetdance 3D is cliche piled upon cliche: snobby French ballet teacher foe; hip older ballet teacher friend (Charlotte Rampling); rivalries and snobberies to be overcome; rich versus poor; a love story. Younger fans of dance should love it. There's no swearing or sex, the dancing is plentiful, there's that nice Ashley from the telly doing a routine with his boys Diversity. Flawless, the other best-known crew also appear. It's very English, very flavour of London.
They're dancers, so the acting isn't great -- in which case Charlotte Rampling must be a dancer too, because hers is a pretty dubious performance, in an admittedly dodgy role. The 3D aspect adds little enough to the film -- it has got cheaper and easier to do, so filmmakers often seem to think, why not? And why not? The audience it's intended for should enjoy it.
Streetdance 3D opens on Friday