Saturday 17 November 2018

Film of the week: Crazy Rich Asians

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Henry Golding and Constance Wu in 'Crazy Rich Asians'
Henry Golding and Constance Wu in 'Crazy Rich Asians'

Romcoms are based around two leads and one impediment and while the plot of Crazy Rich Asians, (they are crazy rich as opposed to crazy and rich) sticks to the formula, the setting and tone feels fresh. The all-Asian cast, largely unknown to Irish audiences, add to that freshness, there's no "love 'em or loathe 'em" big name loading - just characters and a story that offers two very entertaining hours.

Rachel (Constance Wu) is an economics professor in New York and her romance with Nick Young (Henry Golding) is moving into a more serious phase. He invites her to his native Singapore for a wedding where she will meet his family for the first time.

Nick hasn't told her much about his family and Rachel hasn't had a chance to Google them - the first inkling she gets that they might be rather well-off is when they're ushered into first-class seats on the flight to Singapore. Sweet, confident and open-hearted, this successful daughter of a single mother who emigrated to the US is looking forward to meeting the extended Young family. She is blissfully unaware of what she's stepping into, especially with Nick's possessive mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).

Her second clue comes from college friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina) who swaps Rachel's chain store dress for a designer gown. The Youngs, you see, are crazy rich.

There is never really a question about the ending in director Jon M Chu's film, it is the sweet and funny journey with its issues around wealth and family honour versus personal happiness and to an extent, nationality after immigration, that give the film a certain newness. The tone is good and the female leads steal the show.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Also showing...

Lucky Cert: TBC; Selected cinemas

There is a moment at the close of Lucky where Harry Dean Stanton looks right into the camera, and connects with each and every one of us, smiling in solace without a word.

It is a beguiling and warming few seconds and a fine way to remember the great Hollywood icon as he takes one of his last major curtain calls.

Aged 90 when filming commenced, Stanton is front and centre as the titular old-timer in a one-horse town in the Deep South.

He moves about with habit and method, between his living room, the local diner and a bar, doing his crossword, smoking American Spirits and ruminating on life and death with the locals who know him.

Familiar faces and contemporaries of Stanton abound. David Lynch plays a dapper barfly. Ed Begley Jr is Lucky's baffled GP. Stanton's Alien co-star Tom Skerritt plays a retired marine.

This is Stanton's monument, however. John Carroll Lynch shoots that hangdog face with the sunset blush of a western hero, even though Lucky's only real mission in these final days is to face into that sunset with dignity and acceptance. Some of the sequences and dialogue are a little stagey, perhaps, but what is more important is that this is an elegant portrayal of a character too often consigned to the role of supporting cast.

That it is being conveyed to us by an actor in the winter of their own life means that so many elusive corners are filled in with added gravity.

★★★★ Hilary A White

The King of Thieves Cert 15A; Now Showing

Sometimes a good story, great cast and interesting director aren't quite enough to make a film zing and this is the case with The King of Thieves. The film is based on a true story about old guys breaking into a safety deposit storage unit in London. Experienced cons, they set about one last big job and despite setbacks and bickering, they managed to steal an uncertain amount of millions from Hatton Garden in 2015.

After the death of his wife (Francesca Annis), retired con Brian Reader (Michael Caine) is lonely and aimless. This drives him to break his promise to stay out of trouble and agree to join young former accomplice (Charlie Cox) in the diamond heist. Reader knows his gems and he puts together a team of former accomplices (Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Michael Gambon).

Director James Marsh is in charge of this third film about the heist, and while it is the best, it should be better than it is. The problem lies mostly in the way it's written, it tries to get in too much and in so doing, doesn't really hit the mark and ironically, ends up feeling wanting. Parts of the film certainly work, the heist is played as anti-Ocean's 11 and that is good, and the inter-personal stuff between the cons is good. I felt Broadbent was miscast as the threatening Terry Perkins and the spliced-in scenes of the actors in other older films were odd. Overall, it is certainly watchable and entertaining at times, just a bit plodding.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

The Predator Cert: 16: Now showing

Again I am the bearer of bad news and have to tell you it's been 31 years since John McTiernan's original, Arnie-starring Predator. This fourth instalment arrives in the capable hands of Shane Black who co-wrote with Fred Dekker. As a result, it is a ridiculous, self-aware and entertaining film with mostly dudes, a high body count, lots of swearing and surprisingly bad CGI. And, somewhat incongruously, Alfie Allen doing a pretty good Dublin accent.

Ace sniper Quinn MacKenna (Boyd Holbrook) sees the alien Predator but is dismissed as unstable in order to silence him. His insurance policy of sending evidence to his 12-year-old autistic son (Jacob Tremblay), unwittingly makes the boy a target for the second wave of predators. It falls to MacKenna and his band of psych patient brothers (including Trevante Rhodes and Allen) to work with rogue scientist Casey (Olivia Munn) against government forces and the new upgraded Predator. There is no suspense, plenty of irreverence, including a character who smokes - when was the last time you saw that? It's violent and enjoyably daft.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot Cert: 15A; Now showing

Sinead O'Shea set about making a TV news feature about a story she had heard from Derry. The news feature grew to become a documentary, shot over five years and broadening from the story of one family, to an entire community stuck in the limbo caused by a past with no closure.

Being an informant was considered the ultimate taboo in nationalist communities for many years, and although the Troubles ended officially in 1998, that taboo lingers as a refusal to engage with the PSNI. It is a breach into which paramilitary organisations have stepped, offering what is considered to be local justice.

O'Shea's story of Majella O'Donnell, a mother who brought her son to be shot, describes why Majella felt that was the best decision for Philip, her 19-year-old son accused of drug-dealing, the aftermath for the entire family and the context of the wider community.

It is not an uplifting watch - but it is an interesting study of what happens when the past remains unprocessed.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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