Joyride Two stars In cinemas; Cert 15A
Emer Reynolds, acclaimed documentarian, has handled weighty topics. Her vibrant analysis of the Voyager programme (2017’s The Farthest) won her an Emmy. A well-received Thin Lizzy documentary, Songs for While I’m Away, provided a cosy, respectful portrait of the inimitable Phil Lynott.
So her feature drama debut, about a hazardous Irish road trip, could have been something special. The set-up is persuasive – the travellers are strangers to one another. They do not get along. One of them is an adolescent runaway, the other is Olivia Colman.
What’s not to like? Too much, as it turns out. With Joyride, Reynolds settles for a story that provides few and infrequent challenges. And we haven’t yet arrived at Colman’s wayward Irish accent.
Reynolds directs, but she is not entirely to blame for the clumsy missteps of this awkward, puzzling film. Working with a knotty screenplay by Ailbhe Keogan, Reynolds does what she can with such rickety and, occasionally, confusing plot mechanics.
A hazily sketched opener sets the tone. It’s in a pub in rural Ireland that we meet 12-year-old Mully (newcomer Charlie Reid), a confident and capable young man performing songs at a fundraising do for his late mum.
The locals love him. The lad can hold a tune. Dad James (Lochlann Ó Mearáin) watches from the bar and wears the distinctive look (dusty leather jacket, knotted brow, pursed lips) of a bloke who’s clearly up to something.
Sure enough, James disappears out the back door with the funds, followed swiftly by innocent Mully, who begs his lousy old man not to steal charity dough.
Conveniently for Mully, the cash has already been rolled up into a handy, pocket-sized ball. Guess what happens next.
Yep, Mully grabs the money and scarpers. A chase ensues, and our breathless protagonist ends up hijacking a taxi with Olivia Colman in the back.
Colman, we’ll learn, is Joy, and she’s carrying a newborn baby on board. Joyride (now you fully understand the title) unravels at a bumpy pace, but all you need to know is this: she is a solicitor who has arranged to give her baby away to a family on the other side of Bally-God-knows-where – and he is eager to get as far from his old man as possible. Cue a shenanigan-fuelled road trip.
Yes, they wreck one another’s heads. No, she hasn’t a clue how to look after a baby (but he does). Yes, they eventually figure out a way to communicate. You know how these things go.
To be fair, there are at least some qualities to admire in Joyride’s comical, crowd-pleasing premise. Less so in its broad and frustratingly hammy execution.
The problems begin on the page. For a start, this is the sort of silly Oirish feature we used to be famous for, and you know what? I thought we’d put those days behind us. Keogan’s story is intentionally cute and admirably big-hearted, but it is in desperate need of a polish.
Joyride isn’t just wildly implausible or tonally disobedient – it’s practically a cartoon; a perilous, underdeveloped and annoyingly untidy caper that struggles to find its feet.
The jokes are creaky. The occasionally unlikeable Joy and Mully tear into one another in ways that ensure a tricky path to redemption. At one point, Tommy Tiernan shows up as a wise ferry captain. He carries spare jackets for our dysfunctional runaways and performs the Home and Away theme on his tin whistle. I am not making this up.
Later, a woman selling chips by the pier criticises Joy’s mothering skills. She says Joy should have, erm… taken the ferry months ago (just think about that one for a minute).
The oddities roll on. David Pearse shows up as a yappy musician in a van. The ubiquitous Olwen Fouéré portrays a beer-guzzling wisdom keeper of sorts. Later, a pagan festival fills the screen. Do any of these factors contribute to story or plot? Don’t be silly.
The always reliable Colman works hard; Reid sinks his teeth into a role that often sounds as though it was designed for an older performer. Together, they almost make for a workable match. Alas, her discombobulated accent is a distraction, and Keogan’s over-written dialogue requires our unfortunate male lead to come out with things that no real-life 12-year-old would say.
Joyride equips itself with all the ideas in the world but struggles to sustain a story strong enough to hold them. Everyone involved can – and should – do better.
Prime Video; Cert TBC
Nothing grips the world like a child-trapped-down-well story. So it proved in 2018 when 12 junior soccer players and their coach got waylaid 4km inside a flooded cave system in Northern Thailand. As one, we held our breath during the two-and-a-half weeks of intensely complicated rescue attempts which saw thousands of volunteers from some 17 nations muck in.
The feel-good factor of a world coming together and eventually bringing the youngsters back above land felt primed for a celluloid retelling. Who better to tell of such real-life derring-do than Ron Howard?
While it may be his natural habitat, this is a highly effective retelling from the Apollo 13 director, who keeps a sober hand on the tiller so that no Hollywood bluster is allowed to infringe on a forensic detailing of events. This matter-of-fact tenor makes the unfolding feat feel that bit more astounding.
Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen (both eschewing stunt doubles) are the everyman Brits lending cave-diving know-how. Sahajak Boonthanakit is the governor on whom the blame will rest if the seemingly impossible isn’t pulled off. Hilary White
Apple TV+; Cert TBC
Begorrah and bejaysus, what went wrong here? A quick Google reminds us that this is the film Emma Thompson departed following Skydance Animation’s hiring of disgraced Disney Pixar chief, John Lasseter.
After Thompson left, so too did Luck’s original director, Alessandro Carloni (replaced here by Peggy Holmes). Lasseter then brought in someone new to rewrite the screenplay. Messy stuff, and this scrappy, convoluted offering is proof of that.
Sam Greenfield (voiced by Eva Noblezada) is in a bit of a rut. She’s spent her whole life in foster care, and never did find her forever family.
It all changes after Sam encounters a yappy Scottish street cat named Bob (Simon Pegg). Bob, it would appear, is here to help and soon our downtrodden protagonist ends up smack-bang in the middle of the ‘Land of Luck’. Whimsical chaos ensues.
Think Inside Out, but without the charm, wit and ingenuity. Nice voice cast (Jane Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg lend a hand), but this rusty, rigid display spends most of its time trying to explain itself – and the diabolical leprechaun characters will do your head in. Chris Wasser
In cinemas; Cert 16
There’s a killer for everyone aboard Bullet Train – the sensitive Ladybug (Brad Pitt), Japanese murderer (Andrew Koji), the bickering Brit siblings (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry), a Latino slasher (Benito A Martínez Ocasio), a conniving assassin posing as a schoolgirl (Joey King), even an escaped poisonous snake. Take your pick.
Amid frequent bouts of incongruous quipping and comic duelling, these and various other nasties joust their way up and down a hurtling train bound for Kyoto. Naturally, the calamitous dominoes are triggered by the customary “suitcase of cash” that Ladybug has been charged with tracking down. The hands holding the entire murderous cat’s cradle, meanwhile, are that of a dreaded crime boss known only as White Death. There will be blood, if you hadn’t guessed.
David Leitch’s action-comedy – based on Zak Olkewicz’s adaptation of the Japanese thriller by author Kōtarō Isaka – is a decent enough hoot if you miss the days of the verbose Tarantino/Guy Ritchie crime romps. Just don’t expect it to live with you very long, such is its fanciful, throwaway tone.