Category Archives: Best of

Reviews of highly rated films will appear here

Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Kristen Connolly in The Cabin in the Woods

The lambs have passed through the gate…they have come to the killing floor

I’ll start off with a disclaimer: I’m not a fan of horror. It’s a genre mired in a bloody sludge of body parts, characters who consistently do dim things and few genuine scares. If horror is a genre that terrifies and excites viewers simultaneously, then it’s a feeling I’ve rarely had. The Cabin in the Woods is not the most terrifying experience but it is a lot of fun.

Delayed after its studio encountered financial difficulties, The Cabin in the Woods is a clever, entertaining film that playfully subverts expectations. Hollywood has recycled torture porn and nondescript ghost stories so many times, that they’ve forgotten that the genre can be fun and strange; disorientating and hilarious.

Five friends go to a remote cabin for a weekend getaway and end up getting far more than they expected. That’s it. The rules of the game are simple: make it out alive. The Cabin in the Woods works better if you go in knowing relatively little about it other than there’s a cabin and it’s in the woods. Anything more and the surprises are spoiled.

The script by Drew Goddard and Josh Whedon is a slow drip of information, spooling the plot and dishing out information in token amounts leaving the viewer relatively confused as to how everything comes together. What everything is, is better left to watching the film.

There are surprises; there are moments that are scarcely believable and they’re all sprinkled with moments of comedy that takes the accumulated knowledge of horror films and spins it in a way that’s consistently funny. Ever wanted to know why smoke appears from the ground? Or have you ever wanted to know why there’s always nudity in these films? The concept behind The Cabin in the Woods makes those answers all part of the fun.

Does the story make much sense when you start to untangle it? No. Scratch at the surface of it and there’s not much depth to it. The characters are shallow and the logic can be fuzzy but that’s the point. From scene to scene, moment to moment, you’re absolutely invested in seeing what happens next, if only to see what kind of tricks Goddard and Whedon have up their sleeves. The last half hour or so features some of the most inventive film-making I’ve seen this year.

A film that’s as bloody as it is funny, The Cabin in the Woods is a crowdpleaser. I’ve never been a huge fan of Whedon but this film has put me on the road of being a convert. The real star here is Goddard and how he assembles everything he has at his disposal, from the effective cinematography to David Julyan’s perfectly modulated score, The Cabin in the Woods is a lot like Sam Raimi’s horror films The Evil Dead: fun, gory and absolutely worth your time.

8/10

Review: Shame

Michael Fassbender in Shame

We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.

Shame feels like the forgotten child of the awards season and a forgotten film in general. It’s a shame as Steve McQueen’s second film is an intelligent, emotional drama that pulls few punches in its exploration of sex addiction.

Fassebender’s Brandon (with another strangely fluctuating accent) is a successful, outwardly confident worker who has sex with any lady that sidles up to him. When his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) stays over over his carefully controlled private life is thrown into turmoil as he contemplates whether he can have relationship with her while keeping his addiction under control.

The immediate problem of Shame is its content. How do you take a taboo subject like sex addiction and make it palatable? The film doesn’t downplay Brandon’s desire for shallow relationships or his preoccupation with meaningless pursuits.

Brandon’s wants and desires cripple him and the appearance of his Sissy speeds up his descent into the abyss. Fassbender is fearless in the role, portraying Brandon as a person who’s uneasy in his skin. His confidence in attracting women belies his hopelessness in having a relationship that isn’t based on sex.

Shame’s only failing, if it really is one, is that it’s not a film you’d want to revisit again. It may be artful and graceful in some aspects, but it also has its fair share of misery. A challenge to watch, but one a worthwhile challenge.

8/10

Review: Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Tell me how I should be. Just tell me. I’ll do it.

What happens when the love is gone? According to Blue Valentine it’s arguments, breakdowns in communication and a heart-rending attempt to fix a marriage. Derek Cianfrance’s drama plays a bit like (500) Days of Summer except it’s packing a devastating punch to the gut.

Blue Valentine offers an unflinchingly raw look into modern relationships as hopes and aspirations are derailed by reality. Where romcoms opt for fantasy as truth Valentine gets into the nitty gritty, looking at two flawed characters who struggle to do what came so easily to them when they first met.

Ryan Gosling plays Dean, a once charming and good looking man who’s slipped into mediocrity. His wife Cindy, played by Michelle Williams, is a nurse struggling to keep up a convincing facade to their marriage. The film shifts between the past (when they first meet) and the present (their subsequent marriage), and showing the physical and emotional changes both have undergone, leaving the audience to wonder what happened to a relationship that had so much promise.

It’s definitely not what you’d call optimistic, favouring a harsh look at love and taking the characters into territory that’s hard to watch (one “sex scene” in particular is as far away from love as you can get). What’s most affecting is Dean’s attempt to salvage the marriage by taking Cindy to a couple’s motel, but it comes across as a failure to accept that their marriage is in ruins.

Like the motel room where they stay (the future room), the marriage is staid and artificial, their tender moments replaced by animosity. Gosling and Williams are both excellent and the low rent look of the film adds to the realism, encasing their honest performances in a reality that completely bypasses more mainstream (re. artificial) films.

Blue Valentine is about missed opportunities, disappointments and responsibility to each other, revolving around finding love that works. There’s one  scene with Williams and her character’s grandmother where she admits she never found love and it’s reflected in Cindy’s own parents, a partnership that’s fractious and untenable. Cianfrance delves into the things people don’t want to hear or admit. Love is an intangible, ephemeral thing; if it falls apart it could end up wrecking you.

9/10

Review: Memories of Murder

But… is wanking a crime?

With the emergence of South Korean cinema in the last ten years or so stemming from its striking ‘revenge’ films, violent episodes where people commit deplorable crimes and are duly punished for them; Memories of Murder is decidedly not as barbaric as the Vengeance trilogy with director Joon-Ho Bong creating a murder mystery that’s full of oddities but is a consuming whodunit.

When a beautiful young woman is found dead, raped and gagged with underwear in the province of Gyunggi, Detective Park Doo-Man (Kang-ho Song) and Detective Cho Yong-koo (Roe-ha Kim) set about investigating the crime with little finesse and an alarming lack of sense, trying to solve the case in an unorthodox manner (Song’s Park Doo-Man believes he can tell if a suspect is lying by looking in his eyes). When Detective Seo Tae-Yoon (Sang-kyung Kim) arrives from Seoul he is convinced that there is a pattern and that a serial-killer is carrying out the murders.

Sometimes funny, other times harrowing, Memories of Murder isn’t a typical murder mystery. The characters are idiosyncratic, especially Song’s Park and Kim’s Yong-koo who intimidate suspects and in some cases brutally beat them up, forcing futile confessions. When Sang arrives there’s a little more reason and guile to how the cases are handled which creates a friction between the characters as the police department finds itself under pressure to capture the killer and reassure the public.

Complications ensue; breadcrumbs to the killer are revealed slowly (a postcard to a radio station asking for a certain song that plays before a woman is murdered) and red herrings are revealed that show that the town and its inhabitants are slightly depraved when it comes to sex, leavening ten tension created by the serial killer plot. The murders are disgusting (and based on real life) but what sticks in the mind is the film’s ending; a tense standoff that’s desperate, bleak and crushingly demoralising, a cracking finish that has you wishing the outcome would turn out different.

8/10

Review: I Am Love

Unsurprisingly, I Am Love’s score on IMDb ranks at 6.9 (contrasting with its 79 Metacritic score) indicating users had a tougher time grappling with the film than critics did, a response that’s expected with a film that appears to be so abstract and rooted in style over substance.

Peeking beneath the sumptuous style there’s a fascinating tale of an Italian family in Milan, ruled by patriarchs and involving several characters who resist what’s expected of them and journey into uncharted territory.

Tilda Swinton’s Emma Recchi (speaking in Italian) left Russia twenty years ago when proposed to by Tancredi Recchi (Pippo Delbono). Now living in a powerful family that own an industrial plant creating garments, there’s upheaval in the family when Emma has a love affair with her son’s friend (Edoardo Gabbriellini).

I Am Love’s major theme revolves around identity (the title of the film taking on a greater resonance as it goes on). Swinton’s Emma is searching for who she is, lost in a family that takes her for granted and without a purpose in her life. She’s moved to act on her own feelings when she finds out her daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) has dumped her boyfriend and started a lesbian relationship.

Her husband neglects her and her him as they barely have a conversation with each other in the whole film resulting in a stilted, dull marriage that lacks interest from both sides. With the family’s business being sold against the wishes of son Edoardo (Flavio Parenti), director Luca Guadagnino depicts a sense of transitioning and redefining of things that once had a comfortable and definable identity.

What the film says about identity through its many through-lines I’m not completely sure, it’s a film that lingers rather than explicitly informs you of a character’s state of mind, but it does seem to be that once you’ve found ‘yourself’ (as it were) then you are in a way freed from expectation and duty; of having to perform or act to please others. Tragedy strikes but when it happens it marks the moment of no return as the family plunges into a depression and Swinton emerges with a performance that’s thoroughly watchable as she loses and finds herself in the midst of great melancholy.

8/10

Review: The King of Comedy

Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy

Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime

Scorsese, like Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and the rest of the so called “Movie Brats” from the seventies is recognized for a small collection of his titles and less his sprawling body of work. Spielberg has E.T, and Indiana Jones, Lucas Star Wars and Coppola The Godfather trilogy and in all cases it does the director a disservice.

Narrowing Scorsese to his gangster movies is reductive and simplistic, not taking into account that his attempts in different genres with emphatic (and sometimes not so emphatic) results. The King of Comedy is a film that if viewed through the prism of Scorsese’s work would look and feel distinctly unlike him. There’s little of the whirlwind-like energy he’s known for or a look at familial relationships. Take a peak beneath the surface and it does feel more like the director on a filmic and personal level.

The King of Comedy is about Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pubkin, an aspiring comedian who looks to gain the support of talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). At first what appears out to a series of amicable meetings soon devolves into a morass of obsession, ambition and fanaticism that takes both characters to strange places.

The title may imply a comedc tone but it absolutely is not. De Niro’s Pubkin is a desperate man, walking the New York streets in his smart suit and briefcase, constantly on the lookout for Langford. It’s apparent that something is not right with him, whether it’s his insistence on meeting Langford or that he lives in his mother’s basement (was he cinema’s first fanboy?). The film exposes his delusion, a man with no social skills and who’s may not even have a job. De Niro brings a fanaticism to the role, a character with the blinkers who can’t see that the world isn’t how he imagines it.

The film’s final reel provides is a fertile bed for discussion, playing with reality and fantasy and ending on an ambiguous note as to whether Pubkin has achieved his ambitions. It’s a fascinating end that could be viewed as a parable on fame. An ordinary person’s wish-fulfillment fantasy combined with a lack of talent makes you wonder if Scorsese was damming society’s relentless need to consume every detail about those who entertain us for a living.

8/10

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you touch me I’ll more than alarm you

The original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo boasted an impressive performance from Noomi Rapace as the titular character, though the film itself came across as a rather dour and slow murder mystery.

With a Hollywood remake fast-tracked into production and Se7en and Fight Club director David Fincher at the helm, you’d think it’d have all the ingredients to be an amazing film given Fincher’s past reputation with stories that centre on obsessive characters.

It’s effectively the same story with a few more twists. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is given the opportunity clear his name when he’s asked to investigate the Vanger family by their patriarch Henrik (Christopher Plummer). He’s helped in his search by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young, socially disruptive hacker.

The mystery at the heart of the film is unsatisfying, though this approach feels deliberate. The film is not wholly concerned about the mystery and the identity of the killer is fairly obvious. The mystery itself is conceivably misdirection on Fincher’s part who’s more interested in the story of Salander and Blomkvist’s relationship.

Craig is understated as Blomkvist who’s a bit of a wimp, the kind of man who’s too polite to say no. Rooney’s Salander on the other hand is a feral presence and the film’s highlight. Together they form the fulcrum and the film wouldn’t be as good without those two performances.

Unlike the original, Salander is more of a girl (a child even), who’s socially awkward and tucks into McDonald’s Happy Meals. Mara’s tiny frame gives her Salander a fragile feel and like Heath Ledger’s Joker she fully inhabits the role, making of the most of this punk-styled character.

Fincher brings his meticulous approach, upping the tempo and slowing it down (the first five minutes are like an extended trailer). With bursts of violence and a less than cheerful look (memories are coated with a sepia tinged haze), it’s identifiably a Fincher film but that central mystery is a lacklustre one that even he doesn’t seem all that interested in.

Regardless The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a film with an absorbing performance and is the far superior of the Dragon Tattoo adaptations. For Rooney’s performance and the atmosphere Fincher creates it should be seen.

8/10

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Ð PART 2

He’s after you, Mr. Potter. You really don’t stand a chance

Let’s get to it. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two is a confident, engaging and emphatic end to a very consistent franchise.

Picking up where Part One ended, Harry, Ron and Hermione are searching for the last remaining Horcruxes in the hope of destroying these object and defeating Voldemort once and for all. Knowledge of the Part One or indeed the series as whole is helpful since Part Two doesn’t offer a catch up. If Part One was the slow build-up, Part Two is the thunderous climax that gives the series the send-off it deserves.

The film revolves around the Siege of Hogwarts, a visually fantastic spectacle involving almost everyone who’s appeared in franchise. It’s frantic, explosive, producing the sense that this wizarding world is finally clashing in a meaningful way is apparent as explosions rock the school and characters we’ve known since the very start meet their fates.

It’s dramatic, tying the story up with a finality that series has lacked. It doesn’t lose sight of what’s important either, giving the characters their due, with some like Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and McGonagall (Maggie Smith) shining amongst the rubble of Hogwarts.

Some of the fringe characters never get their due with several events happening off-screen. Perhaps it adds to the shock of the moment but it also takes something away too. It turns these deaths into a footnote when seeing what happened to these characters could have elicited a stronger response. Perhaps there are too many characters to adequately show.

All the actors, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint in particular, handle the material with aplomb with their best performances to date. Radcliffe especially looks more confident and assured when he’s not throwing tantrums or looking like he’s a little confused. As it’s the climax, everyone has a purpose and that drives the film and the performances in it towards its resolution.

Even the epilogue, with some odd makeup had me feeling a little sad. It really is the end. A fitting send-off then, to a terrific franchise.

8/10

Review: Bridesmaids

Film Title: Bridesmaids

 

This is the first time I’ve seen you look ugly, and that makes me happy!

For years Hollywood’s comedic output has revolved based men, comedies from the female perspective are few and far between. You only have to look at the number of films with female leads in recent years to see that yawning chasm.

This brings us to Bridesmaids, a film that features women as the principal characters and is a very, very funny film. In a market where The Hangover Part II can come out and recycle most of its jokes from the first film and be successful, it’s good to see a film create a bunch of characters that aren’t dim-witted repulsive fools.

After her cake business closes thanks to the recession, Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) life veers into a downward spiral. She’s seeing a man who doesn’t respect her (John Hamm’s in an uncredited role), she shares an apartment with odd British siblings Gil and Brynn (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson) and, to top it all off, her best friend Lillian, (Maya Rudolph) is about to get married

It’s a classic comedy setup where a character’s life is in such a mess and they have to battle for the smallest of victories. Wiig’s Annie keeps battling and her attempts at organising pre-wedding arrangements is where a lot of humour comes from. Two scenes in particular – one where she’s yelling at a teenager in a jewellery shop and her display of impotent rage at Lillian’s pre-wedding party – are very funny as she lashes out in an hysterically disproportionate manner.

Wiig is not the only standout performer, Rudolph is good as the friend about to get married and Melissa McCarthy shows that Mike and Molly must a blip in playing the rough and tumble Megan.

Other cast members are fine although I do wish that the trio of Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey had more to do. Their roles are thin with Kemper and Covey providing comedic relief when necessary and Byrne the antagonist to Annie. The moment where Byrne’s Helen bares her insecurities feels a touch forced and predictable. Kemper and Covey simply disappear after an incident on a plane which is a shame.

It’s the final act where minor issues flare and where Bridesmaids shows that while it’s funny, it’s also a very conventional comedy. Whether it’s the use of a montage, characters breaking up and reuniting or the last-minute pep talks, Bridesmaids at the very least handles these moments well.

The best comedy of the year? It’s certainly full of laughs, with one of the year’s most memorable. One that should be remembered in the years to come.

8/10

Review: Rango

rango_e27049f8

Believe in that there sign. For as long as it hangs there we’ve got hope.

Well that was unexpected.

Animation is tagged with a “just for kids” label and more often that not it’s a justified one. Pixar has bridged the gap in entertainment that can be consumed by both adults and children and Rango is another example of that.

Rango – a chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp – aspires to be a swashbuckling hero who, when he falls out of a car on the highway, finds himself in a town called Dirt that’s plagued by bandits and running out of a precious resource – water. Rango is forced to become the Sheriff to protect the city and find out what happened to the water that’s disappeared.

Rango is a lonely, delusional chameleon whose can count among his friends a Barbie doll without a head and a plastic fish, with which he acts out various fantasies where he is the star of the story.

With nods to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, Leaving Las Vegas and Chinatown, it’s not atypical of the animated genre and doesn’t resort to lazy jokes or references popular culture. The film has fun with the Western genre, the story essentially about the need for a hero and the idea of a community banding together. Despite not being the cleverest chameleon around, Rango keeps it together until he’s exposed as a fraud.

It is a wonderfully  created world thanks to ILM, a world full of interesting and unique looking characters. The action sequences are excellent, visceral with some inspired comedic touches.

The voice acting is uniformly fantastic and kudos should go to Bill Nighy who gives his Rattlesnake Jake.

An inventive and immensely entertaining film, Rango upends the expectations what an animated film for children should be.

8/10

Review: True Grit

TRUE GRIT

You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another.

If ever there was an example of a bait and switch, True Grit is it.

The trailers for the Coen Brother’s remake True Grit made it look like a serious Western filled with character and danger. Even the title echoed a sentiment of a violent, hard-bitten revenge film with craggy rocks and even craggier faces. What’s surprising is True Grit is often as funny as it is violent,a film as straightforward and enjoyable as the Coen Brothers have made in some time.

There’s always been an eccentricity to Coen Brothers, whether it’s Intolerable Cruelty’s screwball nature or the strangeness of A Serious Man, their films don’t reveal much or explain the why, what or how. It just is, and it’s an approach that leaves their films open for debate. Hewing closer to No Country for Old Men than Burn after Reading, True Grit is weird, strange, compelling mix of Coen Bros. styles.

The story follows Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who seeks revenge for her father’s death. She’s young and wants the help of a Jeff Bridge’s federal marshal Rooster Cogburn. They’re joined by a Texas Ranger called LaBeouf (pronounced la-beef, played by Matt Damon), to track down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed Mattie’s father.

There’s something genuinely affecting in the relationships formed between these characters, and combined with the Coen’s sense of comedy, it’s a film that slyly subverts expectations.

Mattie Ross is a child who shouldn’t even be in the situation she’s in. Inexperienced and out of her depth, Steinfeld is excellent; exuding the brashness and desire to see her father’s killer strung up. Grit never forgets to remind the audience that she’s a child, whether it’s LaBeouf spanking her or when she puts on clothes that are too big for her. True Grit is very much Mattie’s story and Steinfeld’s performance.

Jeff Bridges plays a cantankerous curmudgeon, always drinking and unhappy with his affairs. At times he’s more at home in the wilderness than he living in civilisation and he and LaBeouf share more of the comedic exchanges (‘that is to say the sun was in your eyes…’) and Bridges’ choice to enunciate with indiscernible sentences are hilarious. The look on his face and the delivery of his dialogue when he says “I do not know this man” is priceless.

Matt Damon as LaBeouf has the least attractive character and the most thankless part – an arrogant officer with the utmost belief in his abilities. His arrogance makes him a great source of fun as he makes a fool out himself or has others make a fool out of him. Damon is dependable and when he gets the chance to talk he takes it.

The film is uncompromising in its depiction of violence. One scene at a cottage will make you reel at how impactful it is. The violence that punctuates the film is uncomfortable (deliberately so), stark and realistic, which grounds the film and its characters. It never revels in violence. Punishment really does come one way or another.

One of Coens more notable quirks revolves around language and its use and it’s no more evident here. It’s fast, often incomprehensible and can be distancing, often making it hard to get a foothold a scene when you’re not sure what’s being said.

The ending is likely to divide but it’s perfect for the film and purposefully underwhelming. It’s not out of the blue, though it does feel a touch anti-climatic and inconclusive but is fitting all the same with respect to the characters and the journey they go on.

What is True Grit about? There’s an element of loss of innocence with the Ross character. Themes of justice and violence abound, the eye for an eye view on punishment. There’s a nebulous view of justice in the film that Grit never comes down on one side – is it for judicial punishment or not? Perhaps that’s the lasting appeal of this Coen film. Its ability to linger an let you make up your own mind.

True Grit is a very good one with a deft hand for character and action. It’s remarkably well-done with everyone performing to the kind of levels expeced from a Coen brothers production. The dialogue can be impenetrable but it’s also wonderful (“Fill your hands you son of a bitch!”). Full of excellent performances, this is consistently enjoyable Western.

8/10

Review: The Fighter

the-fighter_93663589

I’m the one who’s fighting. Not you, not you, and not you

The “best boxing film since Rocky” the adverts proclaimed (have they forgotten about Raging Bull or The Hurricane?) but this true to life story (or as much as a Hollywood narrative would allow), came to UK cinemas on a wave of critical and financial success following its release in the US late last year.

Despite the syrupy nature of the storyline (underdog overcomes problems to triumph), the clichéd aspect of some characters (crack addled brother, domineering mother, heckling family members), The Fighter manages to overcome its inherent familiarity to tell a story that despite the lack of surprising developments is funny, engaging and emotional.

Guised in the familiar trappings of the rags to riches story, each of the principal characters has something to gain from Walhberg’s Ward who’s torn between the people who matter most to him. The story centres on the relationships between Mark Walhberg’s Micky Ward, Christian Bale as his half-brother Dicky Edlund, Melissa Leo’s domineering matriarch Alice Ward and Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming (Micky’s girlfriend). To say they have problems co-existing with each other would be an understatement.

Ward wants to emerge from his brother’s shadow who’s considered a favourite in Lowell, Massachusetts as he ‘knocked down’ Sugar Ray Leonard (who makes a cameo appearance during the film’s opening). His mother Leo favours Dicky always referring to him in matters such as training and never appearing to show the same level of affection in Micky as she does with Dicky. It’s when Adam’s Charlene enters the frame that Micky starts to develop a personality of his own, a sense of independence from his family causing ructions between “the family”, Micky and Charlene.

It helps that in these moments O Russell displays some astute direction. The more histrionic elements, surprisingly, never feeling too out of place with perhaps the exception of one moment that manages to turn the sisters into a gang of clowns (which admittedly is funny to watch).

Each character has a point of view, each character tries to protect Micky rather than let him speak for himself which causes Micky to doubt his ability to not only to talk but to fight for himself. Walhberg puts in a very good performance, his understated manner and general lack of confidence is quiet and un-showy.

I’ve heard it allows other people with more scene stealing performances to take the limelight and that would be true. Walhberg is playing a character that’s dominated by others and it’s his drive in coming out of his brother’s shadow that makes his character as compelling as his more showy counterparts.

The performances all round are generally excellent, Bale especially as he displays a sense of comedy and playfulness combined with a sort of self loathing that he never lets on until near the end. It’s no surprise that he has to change and become a better person but such is Bale’s performance that any qualms about whether he’s too edgy fade away as you hope the best for him (and others).

Adams is as foul mouthed as I’ve seen her (a long way away from Disney Princesses or her more timid characters). As Micky’s support she pushes him to do what he wants and not be controlled by others (in a sense doing the exact same thing). Leo’s performance (along with her bouffant hair) is also excellent especially in the manner in which she can turn on a person within seconds and invoke the fear of God. She’s knowledgeable but also very judgemental and protective, always thinking of what’s best for Micky but never asking him what’s best.

It’s a slight shame (a very, very minor and ultimately forgettable one) that other elements contrive to lessen the impact of the story and remind you of how familiar this story is. At times you wonder at how excessive some moments can be whether it’s the amount of montages (four by my count) or the sisters who are amusing and add to the sense of this crazy, dysfunctional family but can be a distraction.

The fight scenes are a mixture of the rawness of Raging Bull and the drama of Rocky with punches reverberating with a mighty thud. They convince as pugilistic spectacles, even more so when framed within the look and style of the televised ESPN boxing fights from the mid-nineties (replete with commentators re-enacting their lines).

If there is a way in which they falter it’s the need to adhere to the script to generate some tension. It feels mandatory for boxing finales to feature the fighter get knocked down and then get back up. No matter how many times this might actually happen in real life it still feels a little manipulative in generating suspense.

The Fighter is a very good film, it’s already been nominated and won a few awards and there is no doubt in my mind that it deserves these mentions. It never really attempts to escape the trappings of the boxing genre but it succeeds in telling a story with genuine emotion with some great acting to boot.

8/10

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