Movie reviews: Grimsby, The Forest, The Truth Commissioner, King Jack
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - Grimsby, The Forest, The Truth Commissioner, King Jack.
The release of Borat transformed Sacha Baron Cohen from a minor British TV celebrity to a Hollywood superstar overnight. That 2006 box office smash cleverly expanded Baron Cohen's crude satire onto an international canvas: suddenly, the world was his oyster, and he had carte blanche to make any kind of film he pleased.
Unfortunately, he has made bad ones: Bruno was a bit like Zoolander without the charm, and The Dictator was so poor it might as well have starred Adam Sandler. But in Grimsby (1*, 16, 84mins) Mr Baron Cohen outdoes himself with a film so offensively bad it's hard to imagine him being financed to make another one.
Like his hero, Peter Sellers, Baron Cohen likes to work behind broad caricatures, and they don't get much broader than Nobby, a northern, working-class lout with a hefty wife, no job and 11 kids.
Nobby's a beer-swilling, tattooed moron, but holds a torch for his brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), whom he hasn't seen since they were separated as kids. Sebastian is now a Bond-like secret agent, and when Nobby tracks him down in London an international incident ensues.
In Grimsby, Mr Baron Cohen's Wildean script revolves around faeces, mass drunkenness, embarrassing sex acts and criminal stupidity, and reaches its nadir when the two brothers hide in an elephant's uterus and are assaulted by a giant, invading penis. This is formless, idea-less comedy, and in fact I'm not even sure it can accurately be described as comedy at all.
The Forest (3*, 15A, 93mins) is not the first film to be inspired by the Aokigahara, a lonely wood on the edge of Mount Fuji that's a favoured haunt of Japanese suicides. Up to 50 poor souls end their lives up there each year, and this rather creepy premise is expanded by director Jason Zada and producer David S Goyer into a watchable but entirely unremarkable horror film. Natalie Dormer's pretty good though, playing an American woman who comes to Japan to search for her identical twin.
Sara Price has been told that her sister Jess is dead after disappearing in the Aokigahara, but instinctively feels she's still alive. After meeting an American journalist called Aidan, she persuades him and a local guide to take her into the forest, but this turns out to be not such a terrific plan. The Forest plunders the J-horror vocabulary to muster what jumps it can, and is pretty nice to look at. But only the really good horror films know how to end on a high note, and this isn't one of them.
The difficulties of dealing with our island's violent sectarian past are explored with reasonable success by The Truth Commissioner (3*, 12A, 100mins), Declan Recks and Eoin O'Callaghan's solid and efficient thriller. Roger Allam (he of the golden voice) is Henry Stanfield, a high-flying British lawyer who's sent to Belfast to head the new Truth Commission. He's barely landed when he's plunged into the middle of a major headache: a top Sinn Fein politician (Sean McGinley) and leading light of the peace process has been implicated in the murder of a supposed informer, and Stanfield is under pressure to brush it under the table. Recks builds his tension nicely, and Allam and McGinley are very good in the leads, but Truth Commissioner feels like a film that's missing a final act.
Small and slight but very nicely photographed, Felix Thompson's King Jack (3*, No Cert, IFI, 81mins) is a coming-of-age indie drama set in a depressed American town. A failure at school, neglected at home, Jack (Charlie Plummer) is making his first tentative steps towards romance when his taciturn 12-year-old cousin Ben (Cory Nichols) arrives for a visit.
The boy seems like a pest, but will prove a resourceful ally. It's an elegiac, dreamy little film, and catches perfectly the passing madness of the teenage state.
Coming soon... Hail Caesar! (George Clooney, Josh Brolin); Truth (Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett); The Other Side of the Door (Sarah Wayne Callies); Hitchcock/Truffaut.