Sunday 20 October 2019

Movie reviews: Skyscraper, The Secret of Marrowbone, First Reformed, Lost & Found, The Racer and the Jailbird

  • Skyscraper  (12A, 109mins) - 3 stars
  • The Secret of Marrowbone (15A, 110mins) - 4 stars
  • First Reformed  (15A, 113mins) - 3 stars
  • Lost & Found (12A, 92mins) - 2 stars
  • The Racer and the Jailbird (No Cert, IFI, 130mins) - 3 stars
Hanging out: Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper
Hanging out: Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper

Paul Whitington & Tanya Sweeney

Question: is there anyone more superhuman than a family man with some FBI training? Liam Neeson proved a dab hand at survival in the Taken franchise, yet Dwayne Johnson goes one better in Skyscraper. Here, he's tasked with surveying the security of the Pearl, a Hong Kong skyscraper three times the size of the Empire State Building.

Suffice to say that he gets forced, via fairly malevolent elements, to fully test its rigours. So far, so predictable, yet overall, Skyscraper is pacey and dizzying. It makes excellent use of some smart effects, not to mention the massive scope of the titular skyscraper.

The scenes run into the faintly ludicrous, but despite their video game qualities, are still wild fun nonetheless.

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In The Secret of Marrowbone, something wicked this way comes, but it takes its own sweet time arriving because this is a film entirely concerned with atmosphere. It's 1969 and a harried-looking woman (Nicola Harrison) and her four children have taken shelter in her ramshackle former home in rural north-eastern America. When she dies, her oldest son Jack (George McKay) must care for his siblings alone, and prevent a local lawyer from seizing the property.

Things look up when they're befriended by a neighbour called Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). But all the while there are hints that something supernatural is at work.

Sergio G Sanchez's film shares the mood and visual aesthetic of other Spanish-directed horrors like The Others and The Orphanage, and the creaky old house is as much a character as Jack and his siblings.

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Directed by Paul Schrader, First Reformed follows Ethan Hawke as Reverend Toller, a flawed, troubled and grieving man. Among the few in his congregation is Mary (Amanda Seyfried, in a tragically underwritten role) and her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), an environmental activist. Mary appeals to Rev Toller for guidance and help with a clearly tormented Michael, and this is where things start to derail in Toller's already chaotic life.

The taut, slow-burning intensity of First Reformed, not to mention the astute study of grief and masculinity, occasionally evokes tonal shades of Manchester by the Sea. Yet in trying to bring the story to a powerful climax, Schrader lets things get too hectic and surreal, a final psychedelic scene undoing much of the film's hard work.

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Liam O'Mochain wrote, directs and stars in Lost & Found, a comic drama set in and around a midlands train station. O'Mochain is Daniel, a gormless, affable young man who gets a job in the station's lost and found office, where he meets an assortment of eccentrics.

Meanwhile, in the forecourt, a confused man (Liam Carney) is cadging money off strangers to pay for his train ticket, while Daniel's friend Gabriel (Seamus Hughes) is planning to surprise his princess of a girlfriend (Aoibhín Garrihy) with a marriage proposal. Lost & Found rambles along aimlessly, sometimes sparking to life. But the link between its stories is tenuous and some are wildly implausible.

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Matthias Schoenaerts' bullish charisma is to the fore in The Racer and the Jailbird, a handsome crime drama with echoes of Scorsese. Schoenaerts is Gino, a suave Belgian who says he imports cars.

When he falls in love with Bibi (Adele Exarchopoulos), a beautiful racing driver, he tells it to her straight: "I'm a gangster - I rob banks". The two leads are excellent, and though the film stalls a little in the second half, there are some good heist scenes.

Irish Independent

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