Saturday 18 November 2017

The Laurel and Hardy of Cork's crime scene

The Young Offenders (15A, 83mins), 3 Stars
* The infiltrator (15A, 127mins), 3 Stars
* The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (12A, 136mins), 4 Stars
* Blair Witch (16, 89mins), 2 Stars

Homegrown: Chris Walley and Alex Murphy star in 'The Young Offenders'
Homegrown: Chris Walley and Alex Murphy star in 'The Young Offenders'

Paul Whitington

In Young Offenders, a salty but warm-hearted comedy from Peter Foott, Chris Walley and Alex Murphy play Jock and Conor, two Cork City friends who embark on a daft criminal endeavour. Jock, who has a screw loose, tells Conor about a recent drug seizure off the West Cork coast in which a large amount of cocaine was lost.

Jock's plan is to cycle down, search the sea for this treasure trove and live high on the proceeds. Though pursued by an obsessive policeman, the boys do manage to find themselves a hefty bag of cocaine, but getting it home proves problematic. Young Offenders' charm lies in the winning crosstalk act between Messrs Murphy and Walley, two talented actors who make their characters shine. Hilary Rose is excellent as Conor's exasperated mother, and though PJ Gallagher overdoes it a bit as an avenging hoodlum, Peter Foott's film has a winning, cartoonish quality and is genuinely hilarious at times.

Bryan Cranston is such a fine actor that the roles he plays sometimes seem too small for him. Since 'Breaking Bad' he's at least been offered better ones, and The Infiltrator presents him with a proper challenge. It's based on the memoirs of Robert Mazur, a US Customs agent who helped bust Pablo Escobar's cartel.

It's the mid-1980s, fashion's bad, the music's worse, and Miami is awash with cheap cocaine flooding in from Colombia. Pablo Escobar is in his pomp, and US authorities are floundering in their attempts to thwart him. Customs agent Bob Mazur (Cranston) decides that instead of chasing shipments of drugs, they could really hurt Escobar by targeting his cash.

To that end, he agrees to pose as 'Bob Musella', a suave Florida businessman who will offer to launder their drug money. Getting close to them isn't easy, and Bob's cover involves a beautiful fiancée, impersonated by his colleague Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). But Bob, a quiet family man, begins to get lost in his role.

The Infiltrator feels like one of those efficient and forgettable thrillers Brian De Palma made in the 80s. But it's well-crafted, its air of menace is palpable, and Mr Cranston brings depth and detail to a tricky role.

Ron Howard is a Beatles fan from way back, and in his compelling new documentary Eight Days a Week, he finds a new way into their story by focusing on their time as a live band. When The Beatles hit it big in 1963, they were already a finely honed live act.

Their record deal was so bad that between 1963 and 1966 they earned most of their money touring, which they did relentlessly. Mr Howard's film unearths startling footage of them performing, and fades out the awful screaming so you can actually hear them play. They were pretty good, it turns out.

Though there was always a touch of the Emperor's New Clothes about the 'Blair Witch' craze that briefly gripped the western world in the late 1990s, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's low-budget horror flick did boast a genuine stylistic innovation - the idea of filmed footage found in the aftermath of a dreadful event.

The found-footage concept led to a lot of really awful films that tried to make a virtue of their shaky framing. It was all very tiresome, and this unexpected reboot proves that the genre is an un-evolvable one-note bore.

Twenty years after his sister's disappearance in a Maryland forest, James Donahue travels to the supposedly cursed Black Hills forest with some friends to find out what happened to her.

Despite the use of various modern technologies - smart phones, drones etc - Blair Witch adds nothing to the original idea, and managed to make me feel simultaneously anxious, and bored.

Irish Independent

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