Thursday 20 October 2016

Movie reviews: We Are Your Friends, 45 Years, Hitman: Agent 47

Paul Whitington

Published 28/08/2015 | 07:00

On the Up: Zac Effron and Wes Benley star in 'We Are Your Friends'
On the Up: Zac Effron and Wes Benley star in 'We Are Your Friends'

Reviews of this week's other big releases - We Are Your Friends, 45 Years, Hitman: Agent 47 - by Paul Whitington

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The début feature from Max Joseph, co-creator of the fiendishly clever MTV series Catfish, We Are Your Friends (3*, 16, 96mins) stars Zac Efron as a young DJ trying to make his name in LA. It's slick and smooth, well made and nice to look at, and has all the emotional depth of an episode of Entourage. Mr Efron is Cole Carter, a 23-year-old who works odd jobs to make ends meet and spends his free time trying to mix an electronic dance hit.

One night he meets a girl called Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) on the dance floor: she turns out to be the girlfriend of legendary DJ and mixer James (Wes Bentley), who lives in splendour in the Hollywood hills and takes a shine to Cole. Under his tutelage, Cole's music begins to thrive, but things are about to get messy because Cole and Sophie are falling in love.

Underneath all the urban cool and glamorised drug use, We Are Your Friends is a very conventional coming-of-age drama with little substance and few surprises. Zac Efron is a decent actor, but his character here is bland beyond words. Model Emily Ratajkowski devotes most of her energy to pouting (she's really good at it), and the only character you really care about is James, the addled and flawed DJ played with real conviction by Wes Bentley.

In terms of subtlety and veracity, the acting in 45 Years (5*, 15A, 95mins) sails way higher than anything else I've seen this year. Andrew Haigh's beautifully crafted drama moves slowly but inexorably towards an emotional crescendo, and is full of a kind of suppressed dread that keeps you riveted till the bitter end. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are Geoff and Kate Mercer, an ordinary and seemingly happy middle-class couple enjoying their golden years in the Norfolk countryside.

They're about to throw a party celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary when a letter arrives from Switzerland, changing everything. When Geoff was young he'd tramped the Alps in the company of his first love, who died tragically in an accident. Now her body has been found, trapped and preserved in an Alpine glacier. It's old history, but as she watches Geoff grieve Kate begins to question the whole nature of their relationship.

45 Years plays out the themes of old age, the passage of time and the opaqueness of others with real skill and authority. Courtenay and Rampling are outstanding as the embattled couple, and Haigh's film has the careful construction and telling rhythms of a haunting concerto.

From the sublime to the ludicrous. Made so badly, and so long ago that I'd almost managed to forget about it, Hitman (2007) was a tacky thriller based on a video game and starring Timothy Olyphant as a nattily dressed, genetically modified killer. It was terrible, but in 21st-century Hollywood even a bad, old idea is better than a new, financially risky one, and so we have Hitman: Agent 47 (2*, 15A, 96mins).

Fast & Furious star Paul Walker was originally due to star, and after his death in a car crash, Rupert Friend took over: he may now be wishing he hadn't. Agent 47 works for a sinister outfit called the International Contracts Agency, and tours the world killing chosen targets. When he's asked to track down a girl called Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware), he soon figures out she's the daughter of Dr. Livenko (Ciaran Hinds), the missing scientist who founded the program that created him.

47 also reckons Katia can help him find Livenko, but he's not the only one after her, and soon the bodies are piling up as rival assassins chase each other across Europe and Asia. It's a dreadful film, woefully bereft of the wit that might have made it bearable, and so clumsily hacked together that even good actors like Ciaran Hinds and Zachary Quinto come across as hammy.

Irish Independent

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