May 02, 2006 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight 2006: April

Given recent form, this will seem like a relatively light month in terms of cinema. That is because, since the return of the classic Tuesday night film, I’ve been going to that a fair bit more than seeing new fodder. Anyway…

First up is the dreadful Hostel, a film that gets virtually nothing right. The premise is a reasonable starting point for a horror film: tourists off the beaten path get captured and tortured. The problem is everything else. The writer gives us protagonists we can’t like and certainly don’t care about, the director gives us sloppy cuts and gets a woeful acting performance out of the cast, and the sound director does an unbelievably heavy handed job on even the simplest of moments. It’s not often that scene-setting music jars so horribly with the set-up that undermines the little dramatic tension present, but Hostel has this effect in nearly every scene. Even if you’re just in it for the gore, it is, for the most part, timid.

Pierrepoint is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s rare that you see a thorough and detailed character examination that is more than just superficial, that gets inside the head of the character and pulls out every dark synapse, but this film does it with style. Timothy Spall (previously best known for his role in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet”) pulls off one of the finest performances I have even see as Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last chief executioner. Starting from humble beginnings, we see the complexities of the man as he rises to fame and descends into a broken shell. A stunning, faultless work.

Tipping away from the seriouss drama is Scary Movie 4. If you’ve seen any other chapter in the series, you will know exactly what to expect: crude references to well known films, slapstick and some awful jokes. It’s been so long since we had a good parody film (think Hot Shots, think Naked Gun) that an endless stream of toilet humour can pass. That’s not to say this is a worthless film, just don’t expect anything above simple and juvenile.

American Dreamz is surprising; it manages to fit some pretty sharp satire into a fairly clumsy mould. A take on both Middle Eastern politics and Pop Idol style tv shows, it’s not an obvious spoof. While much of the film is painful to watch, you know there are some good jokes been steam-rollered by bad pace, trashy caricatures and actors out of their depth (Hugh Grant being prime candidate). Probably not worth the time to go and see it, but if you get dragged along it’s not the end of the world.

Finally, Paradise Now is the story of two men, good friends, who are selected to be martyrs for the Palestinean cause. While this could be viewed as propaganda, it gives a reasonable view of what one side of the fight is thinking, without ever pretending that violence is justified. Indeed that is the real conflict in the film: whether or not the ends justify the means. As indie films go, it holds itself well, reasonable competence and confidence being shown. It just misses some real depth.

And the winner? Clearly, Pierrepoint. Early candidate for film of the year.