Tuesday 21 November 2017

Movie review - Sleepless: workmanlike but entirely forgettable

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx in Sleepless
Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx in Sleepless
Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall as Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley Snr

The same mysterious post-Oscar curse that halted the momentum of Halle Berry and (temporarily, at least) Charlize Theron looks to have infected Jamie Foxx, whose lead turn in Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) is his only work of note since that Best Actor gong for Ray eight years earlier. Foxx seems unaware of his dip in critical credibility if this workmanlike but entirely forgettable internal affairs thriller is anything to go by.

He plays Vincent Downs, a supposedly crooked Las Vegas cop involved in a drug pick-up that goes wrong. Soon, his son is kidnapped by local casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), who wants the merchandise lost in the botched handover returned. Closing in on Vincent as he attempts to placate Rubino and the Novak crime family whose feathers he has ruffled, are Michelle Monaghan's steely internal affairs agent and a particularly unsavoury heir to the Novak empire, played by Scoot McNairy.

Before long, we are knocking out unsuspecting janitors to swipe their uniforms and crawling through ventilation shafts as Swiss director Baran bo Odar looks to cram the cliches into this remake of the 2011 Franco-Belgian thriller Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche).

Being charitable, you could say Sleepless hits its cues without ever complicating things with mould-breaking or innovation. But fun and all as such genre outings can be - some of the preposterous action set pieces provide a giggle or two - the over-arching flatness and lack of inspiration in its climax leave you feeling as if Odar and screenwriter Andrea Berloff are similarly unenthused. Foxx, Monaghan and McNairy keep their heads down and soldier on. ★★ Hilary A White

Mindhorn

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Over the decade they took to think up, write and deliver Mindhorn, Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby were determined to make it laugh-out-loud funny.

Clearly one person's laugh-out-loud funny is another's anaesthetic-free dental work but I am going to suggest that Mindhorn will manage to make most people laugh at least some of the time.

Richard Thorncroft (played by Barratt) is the star of 1980s detective series Mindhorn where he plays a cop with a bionic eye who is the saviour of the Isle of Man. He is now a washed up and essentially unemployable actor whose agent (Harriet Walter) despairs.

Having alienated old friends and the entire Manx population when he thought he was going to make it in Hollywood, he is desperate enough to be unabashed when called back to reprise his role as Mindhorn to deal with a criminal who believes the character is real. While Richard can slip easily back into a world he never really left, everyone else has moved on. His ex (Essie Davis) has married his arch enemy stuntman Clive (Farnaby), the police (David Schofield and Andrea Riseborough) think he's an idiot and his once minion Peter (Steve Coogan) has achieved the life Richard expected.

But there is real crime afoot.

It's very well observed, Barratt is perfect in the role and the film will especially (but not exclusively) amuse people familiar with 1980s cop shows, via Alan Partridge.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Without Name

Cert: 15A; In selected cinemas

Already showing vague traces of being psychologically ill-at-ease, the very last thing Eric (Alan McKenna) probably needs is to go to a creaky house in the Wicklow woods for a weekend of surveying work ahead of a building project. The crumbling homestead is decrepit, with little in the way of electricity or insulation, so he and assistant (and away-from-home lover) Olivia (Niamh Algar) are essentially camping.

Very quickly, however, Eric becomes aware of a presence sharing the woodlands with him. It is causing the light to play tricks on him and visions to appear. It may or may not have something to do with the historical occupants of the house frowning at him from mouldy picture frames.

Feature debutant Lorcan Finnegan surrounds himself with a plethora of talent on this maiden outing, particularly in cinematography (Piers McGrail has Irish-horror pedigree with his work on 2014's The Canal) and sound design, and the results are plain to see. Without Name is undoubtedly one of the most synaptically arresting horror films in some time (a strobe warning is even provided for one particularly jarring sequence). What works against the piece is that this visual verve sometimes comes at the expense of the narrative, which starts to become something of a sideshow to the sensory extravaganza Finnegan immerses Eric in.

Regardless, the big story here is that a bold new Irish talent has been unearthed. ★★★ Hilary A White

Harmonium

Cert: Club; Now showing in IFI

Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and his wife Akie (a show-stealing Mariko Tsutsui) live a hum-drum, bourgeois life. He runs a metal works out of his garage and she makes sure that their daughter Hotaru keeps up with her harmonium practice. Then one day, Yasaka, a mysterious old friend of Toshio's, turns up out of the blue and things are never the same again.

In classic movie-interloper style, the dapper, helpful and communicative Yasaka is everything Toshio ain't, and soon has Hotaru - and more particular Akie - utterly charmed. He is just odd enough, however, to ring alarm bells, and needless to say he has a backstory that will throw a big fly in the family ointment.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes last year, Harmonium sees Japanese writer-director Koji Fukada flex his Hitchcock muscle to rather brilliant effect for the delicious first 90 minutes. Out-of-shot elements eat away at you, while Tsutsui leads a superb cast. The final scenes may be too indulgent and fatalistic for everyone, however. ★★★★ Hilary A White

The Journey

Cert: 12A; Now showing

2017-05-07_ent_30841842_I1.JPG
Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall as Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley Snr
 

The Good Friday Agreement was "Sunningdale for slow learners". By the time Republicans and Unionists went to negotiate in 2006 the hatred was entrenched - but after three decades of being wrong, they had to find a solution.

Not only did sworn enemies learn to work together but Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) and Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) became known as the Chuckle Brothers. How? In a contrived but effective conceit Colin Bateman's script places them in the back of a car moving from silence to dialogue.

In places the backroom script feels too like a history lesson, perhaps inevitably, but overall it is good, balanced and raises all the important issues. Difficult roles are played well in this unlikely reluctant buddy road movie. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

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