seen 16-22 Sep : Shoot ‘em Up [5/10]; The Exterminating Angel (’62) [9/10]; Broke Sky [7/10]

Published on: September 17th, 2007

: [5/10] : US 07 : Michael DAVIS : 86 mins (BBFC)
seen at Empire, Newcastle : 16th September : public show ( £6.75)
   Shoot 'em Up (synopsis HERE) aggressively targets the same kind of cartoonish / cultish / hyperkinetic / scuzzily-disreputable vibe as last year's rock-the-house guilty-pleasures Smokin' Aces and Crank - not to mention Tony Scott's wild (and wildly-underrated) Domino from 2005. But this kind of thing is actually much harder to pull off than it seems and – despite some enjoyably ludicrous moments and a cast that includes Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci – writer-director Davis's aim ultimately proves somewhat wobbly.
   Indeed, the classiness of these thespians ends up militating against the picture's success. There's a sense that the trio are "slumming" by appearing in such down-and-dirty nonsense, and that Davis, rather than concentrating on delivering the high-octane, low-plausibility goods required by the action-movie crowd, is also trying to sate the relatively "refined" sensibilities of audiences who know Owen from Closer, Bellucci from Irreversible and Giamatti from a certain Alexander Payne project (it's hard to know why else his character is required at one point to exclaim "Fuck me sideways!")
   His Lone-Wolf-and-Cub-inspired script features repeated set-pieces of spectacular gunplay (with monotonous results), while simultaneously seeking to lecture us about the evils of unrestricted firearm ownership – this via some unneccesarily-convoluted revelations about a corrupt, two-faced politician. And Davis is so eager to freight Owen's anti-hero with angsty psychological backstory that 'Mr Smith' eventually turns into a low-rent cousin of Jason Bourne – when he could and should have retained the timelessly laconic, uber-professional cool of, say, Alain Delon's Samourai. 20.9.07

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL : [9/10] : El angel exterminador : Mex 62 : Luis BUNUEL : 88 mins (BBFC)
seen on DVD in Blackpool : 19th/20th September

    {Neil Young's review of The Exterminating Angel should have appeared here today, but he has communicated to us that, for reasons he cannot quite explain, he regretfully finds that he cannot bring himself to write said review at this particular juncture. – Ed.}

PS… We expect to post the review some time next week – during the…

PPS …. review now online! (1.10.07)

BROKE SKY : [7/10] : US 07 : Thomas L. CALLAWAY : 97 mins (approx)
seen on DVD in Blackpool, 20th September : with thanks to Thomas L Callaway
Broke Sky is a fine, atmospheric-sounding title for what turns out to be a rather fine, atmospheric film – but you do suspect that if John Dahl hadn't gotten there first (with the 2001 movie also known as Joy Ride), writer-director Callaway might well have opted to go with 'Roadkill' instead.
   Because scraping up the bodies of luckless, deceased critters from the tarmacked highways and byways of rural, sun-kissed west Texas is the dirty-job-but-somebody's-got-to-do-it occupation of the picture's chalk-and-cheese central duo: grizzled, ornery veteran Earl (Joe Unger) and his much younger, wide-eyed, relentlessly-upbeat partner Bucky (Will Wallace).
   Though it's hardly the most glamorous type of employment, Earl and Bucky are sufficiently content with their lot – and each other's company – to be stunned when their boss announces that impending automation will revolutionise their working-methods and make one of the pair redundant in the process. This proves to be only the start of their problems, however, as the discovery of a hitchhiker's corpse in a hermit's well leads to the exposure of all manner of long-buried family secrets and exceedingly dark deeds.
   A slickly-executed, confidently-handled, expertly-played example of lowish-budget American independent film-making (as the irrepressibly happy-go-lucky Bucky, Wallace, stepson of no less an eminence than Terrence Malick, is a particular delight) Broke Sky is a rather more successful and tautly-written example of 'Texas noir' than this year's flashier entry into the sub-genre, the Coen brothers' overrated No Country For Old Men.
   Indeed, Callaway's debut – anchored by an admirably economic, consistently character-based script (co-written with Scott Phillips, John Howard, Frank Patterson and Brian Muir) that skilfully combines laugh-out-loud comedy with moments of genuinely disturbing psychological drama – is in many ways a truer heir to Blood Simple than the Coens' own return to this particular geographical and thematic terrain. 8.11.07

Neil Young

1. all films seen in the UK, and all timings approximate, unless stated otherwise
2. timings taken from the BBFC website are rounded to the nearest minute (i.e. 100min 29sec = 100min, but 100min 30sec = 101min)
3. an asterisk [*] in the rating indicates that film is not a feature (i.e. 0-39m = short; 40m-63m = medium-length; 64m+ = feature)