Monday 11 December 2017

Drunken eejits? You're having a laugh


Padraic McKiernan, Aine O’Connor

There was a time when it would have been considered an act of patriotism to boycott a movie such as the latest Irish comedy, Zonad. Culturally dubious, borderline xenophobic and, with its depiction of the Irish race as a collection of booze-sodden simpletons, it's guaranteed to damage our hard-earned reputation as a people synonymous with refinement and exalted erudition. It's also worth saying that it works rather brilliantly.

The backdrop for this tongue-in-cheek tour de force is the rural backwater of Ballymoran where a mysterious light in the sky at the annual stargazers festival has the collective imagination of the knuckle-scraping locals running riot.

The local Cassidy family believe they've discovered an authentic extraterrestrial when they find a sozzled and spacesuit-wearing Simon Delaney on their sitting-room floor. He's actually a runaway from the local rehab but he's not about to sweat the small stuff when free booze, lodging and rockstar status with the ladies is on offer.

Zonad, as he comes to be known, is eventually rumbled by the arrival of fellow rehab-refusenik Bonad (David Pearse), but not before Donna Dent, Brian de Salvo and an exemplary ensemble cast make their contribution to this bona fide hootathon. Delaney isn't found wanting in the central role and there's a star-is-born quality to Janice Byrne as the hottie caught in a lust-triangle between Zonad and the hilarious Rory Keegan as an American blow-in.

Great credit is also due to the co-writing/directing team of Kieran Carney and (Once director) John Carney for delivering a spectacle that does have the odd moment of profound lameness but is much more hit than miss. Drawing on the diddley-eye template that was a feature of so many Oirish films from yesteryear, it proceeds to gently subvert it. Cerebral comedy? Er, no. But it is right on the funny.


Zonad is now showing

The Spy Next Door

Cert PG

This film sees martial-arts maestro Jackie Chan displaying a reckless disregard for that old acting adage that warns about working with children or animals. Not only does this Brian Levant-directed action comedy deliver starring roles to a couple of tykes and a disaffected teen, there is also significant screentime to be shared with a cat, a turtle and a pot-bellied pig.

And if that isn't enough to raise a red flag for readers with a mental age in the double digits, news of a plot involving central casting "Russkies" who talkz likz thiz a lotz should do the er... trickz.

Chan stars as Bob Ho, an undercover CIA agent who stands between the pesky Russkies and their plans for world domination. His cover involves living as a pen salesman in a New Mexico suburb where he's fallen for his next-door neighbour Gilian, supermodel Amber Valletta.

They plan to be married, but unfortunately her three kids are less enamoured of his charms when their mother's sudden departure to care for a sick relative sets up a scenario that sees Bob moving in as emergency cover.

Chaos ensues, as Bob's plans for a charm offensive are compromised by his domestic deficiencies and a computer glitch that has the kids getting caught up in the crossfire between good guys and the aforementioned badskis.

Anyone who has seen Kindergarten Cop or The Pacifier will recognise this as a derivative and formulaic affair, but it works for the most part. Production values can't be faulted, and while Chan isn't the physical force he once was, his proven capacity for playing it for laughs remains undiminished. The key to this is the PG classification. Kids will have a blast.


The Spy Next Door is now showing

Perrier's Bounty

Cert 16

Touted as being spawned by the same crew who made Intermission, Perrier's Bounty has the same writer in Mark O'Rowe but a different director in Ian Fitzgibbon, who made A Film With Me in It. Set in Dublin, Perrier's Bounty has been pitched as a "contemporary western". It opens well, with a hungover Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy) waking in his dingy flat to two goons, Don Wycherley and Michael McElhatton, who give him a day to repay his debt or face consequences.

He owes Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson) but seeks out Mutt (Liam Cunningham) to borrow in order to pay. Along the way, he meets his estranged father (Jim Broadbent) who claims to be dying and, between the jigs and the reels, father, son and downstairs neighbour Brenda (Jodie Whittaker) go on the run after the unscheduled demise of one goon and with a selection of others in pursuit.

Where Intermission pulled a Tarantino with interlocking vignettes and enough humour to paste over the cracks, at least on a first viewing, Perrier's Bounty is attempting to pull a Guy Ritchie. Unfortunately, however, this becomes a Lock, Stock and No Smoking Farrells because although it is funny in places, it doesn't quite work.

Broadbent's accent is terrible, but the performances all round are fine, it's the story which proves the weakest element. The plot is thin, what backstory there is comes too little, too late, and the script feels unpolished, as if there wasn't enough time. Thugs with soliloquies are not new so need to be good. There were some continuity issues, Michael's car miraculously loses a few years in age depending on the shot and none of the characters is that appealing.

I wanted to like this and it isn't unbearable, it's always interesting to see the familiar on screen and there are good lines but it really needed more work.


Perrier's Bounty opens on Friday

The Bounty Hunter

Cert 12A

The abundant hype for The Bounty Hunter has been based around its stars, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. The "are they or aren't they a couple in real life" conveniently coinciding with the marketing campaign that focuses on the chemistry such a pairing would bring to their movie. Neither Nicole Hurley (Aniston) nor Milo Boyd (Butler) have managed to get over their divorce. Neither will admit it, of course, but when ambitious journalist Hurley skips a court appearance to follow a lead, it is her ex who is sent to bring her to jail.

That the marketing strategy relied on convincing chemistry is one thing, but that all of the key players in the film seem to have relied on it as well is quite another. Badly written in a series of implausible set pieces, the film feels contrived and predictable. Aniston runs around showing off her fabulous figure in a tight skirt and low support bra, playing the smart-assed version of Rachel from Friends. I'll allow that Butler is getting better as an actor, but there was ample room for improvement and he is still one of the hammiest actors out there.

Most worryingly, there was no real chemistry between Aniston and Butler. They seemed to like each other fine but that was it. The script is average, the humour levels nowhere near where they were intended and the jaunty score plays up the farce element, while the odd European dance fluff soundtrack adds little to the film.

Director Andy Tennant's past work would not be what drew his stars to the project, and from the script, etc, it's hard to know what did. If daft romances or Aniston/Butler are your thing, you could do worse than see this. Otherwise, steer clear.


The Bounty Hunter is now showing

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