Wednesday 18 September 2019

Review: Cold Pursuit

Cert: 16; Now showing

Liam Neeson in 'Cold Pursuit'
Liam Neeson in 'Cold Pursuit'

Given the furore over its lead's remarks about revenge, many reviews of Cold Pursuit contain at least some relevant virtue signalling. I'm just going to run with the film however, which I saw before the remarks were made.

My expectations were not high but it proved to be a pleasant surprise, an often funny, noirish subversion of expectations that works on many levels.

When unassuming snowplough driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) discovers that his son, Kyle (Neeson's eldest son Michael Richardson) was murdered by local crime lord Viking (Tom Bateman), he sets about taking revenge. In so doing he unsettles a delicate peace between Viking's crime gang and the local Native American one under White Bull (Tom Jackson) and it all gets messy in the beautiful snowy surroundings of Colorado. The local police are baffled at the body count in their normally quiet town and new officer Kim Dash (an underused Emmy Rossum) believes there is more to it than her chief chooses to believe.

Director Hans Petter Moland remakes his own Norwegian film from an English screenplay by Frank Baldwin and the overall effect is Taken goes Martin McDonagh via Fargo.

Without straying into parody, it plays with both Neeson's revenge character stereotype and the genre. It is violent, stylised violence with death cards for each victim.

There are too few female characters and it's a section too long - but it packs in quite a lot. Apart from the revenge, it gives us three fathers and their sons, the consequences of violence, plus it manages to flag social, racial, sexual and gender stereotypes, to mixed effect.

It's a violence revenge film that would joke about how its tongue got so firmly in its cheek. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

On the Basis of Sex

Cert: 12A; Now showing

When a person becomes an icon, there is an inevitable tendency to be over reverential. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, US Supreme Court justice, equality battler extraordinaire and octogenarian fitness fanatic is a most reasonable candidate for iconography, and reverence. However, Mimi Leder's biopic of her is, as a result of this reverence, worthy, earnest, enjoyable indeed, but, unlike its subject, unremarkable.

This screenplay by RBG's nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, sees the film open in the 1950s when RBG (Felicity Jones) and her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) are students in Harvard. With a point to prove as one of the first and few women in Harvard, RBG's case is complicated further because not only does she have a baby, but her husband becomes gravely ill. But as the Ginsburgs work together at all times, theirs is a loving and lovely partnership that sees the quietly spoken law professor change US legal history one case at a time.

It's a great story but Jones in the lead, although fine, is outshone by her co-workers. Kathy Bates flits in and Justin Theroux's scene steals as a louder ACLU lawyer and Jack Reynor makes an appearance too. While there are some wonderful scenes and it all works well, I liked the generation gap in feminism between RBG and her teenage daughter (Cailee Spaeny), it lacks oomph. It's solid and good, it's just not excellent.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

Capernaum

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

Hard-hitting, courageous filmmaking arrives courtesy of inspirational Lebanese actor-director Nadine Labaki. Dismayed at the plight of unwanted street and refugee children in Beirut, Labaki and her team went into the slums, put their findings into script form, and cast a 12-year-old Syrian boy in the lead. In the background, her producer husband mortgaged the house (without telling her) to get the project completed.

If this information alone is an indication of what the issue means to these filmmakers, wait until you sit down with Capernaum - this is some of the most unflinching social-realist cinema that 2019 will boast. Already a Prize winner at Cannes and nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, this is a feature drama made with a sense of urgency that goes on to hit all its targets.

Currently doing a five-year stretch for reasons that become clear, Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is simultaneously seeking to sue his good-for-nothing parents for raising him and his siblings without love nor means.

In flashback, we see the streetwise youth running away from home after his 11-year-old sister is sold into marriage.

He meets Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an immigrant single mum who takes him in. Zain has to think on his feet to care for her infant son when she goes missing.

Feel-good fare it most certainly is not - but as an example of cinema's power to face uncomfortable real-life truths, look no further. ★★★★★ Hilary A White

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