Monday 16 January 2017

The Young Offenders, Anthropoid and My French Film Festival: Your Week In Film (January 16-22)

Teenage kicks: Peter Foott's The Young Offenders

The next seven days in DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and cinema...

I'm sat at my desk writing this on Blue Monday, supposedly the "most depressing day of the year", if you believe the papers and news reports. I'm smiling from ear to ear, though, because I've just finished watching The Young Offenders (cinemas and VOD) WWW, an Irish comedy so silly, funny and flat-out enjoyable, copies of it should be handed out by GPs to anyone brought low by January 16th's doom and gloom.

Writer/director Peter Foott's Cork-set film sees two daft-as-a-brush teenagers, Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley), cycle 100 miles on stolen bikes from their city home to Ireland's beautiful south-west coast, in a bid to locate a missing bail of cocaine, valued at seven million euros and missing after a police operation. They aim to find it and sell it, believing their tender years (both are under 16) make them immune from serious prosecution.

In pursuit of this pair of dingbats is a by-the-book Garda sergeant (Dominic MacHale) and a disabled drug dealer with a nail gun (P.J. Gallagher). The Young Offenders starts off as a buddy comedy-cum-road movie and ends up in pure farce territory as all the various plot strands come crashing down around the boys' heads in front of Conor's long-suffering mum (Hilary Rose). Conor and Jock are a pair of likable pillocks and their friendship is rather touching. Most of the humour comes from the pair's clueless banter and utter ineptitude, although Foott breaks out some nail-gun flavoured slapstick for the finale to eye-watering effect.

I'd be very interested to know what the reaction has been in Ireland to the film's villain being disabled. It's a risky, counterintuitive idea but one that, for me, works rather well, making an interesting change from disabled characters being helpless victims or inspirational figures full of Christ-like virtue and hidden talents. There's nothing inspirational or talented about coke-dealer Ray. He's just a git.

Dumb and dumber: Conor and Jock

One film that is unlikely to chase away those Blue Monday, erm, blues is Anthropoid (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WWW. Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan are soldiers - one Czech, the other Slovak - parachuted into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich's third in command (after Hitler and Himmler) and the architect of the Final Solution. Soon ensconced in the Prague resistance movement - under Toby Jones - they begin relationships with local women, which only makes carrying out their high-risk mission all the harder.

Giving the pair romantic subplots admittedly feels a little shoehorned in, but director Sean Ellis is easily forgiven because he never loses sight of the enormity of the task Murphy and Dornan are in Prague to perform, or the psychological and emotional impact it has on them. Their fear is palpable throughout.

Ellis also mounts two superb action set-pieces - one is the assassination attempt itself, the other a lengthy and intricately staged shootout in a church to close the film. On the face of it, Anthropoid - based on a true story - is a compelling and visceral World War II action thriller, but dig beneath the explosions and espionage, and you'll find a heartfelt paean to bravery and sacrifice.

Suicide squad: Dornan and Murphy on a mission

Online platforms Curzon Home Cinema and MUBI have partnered with UniFrance (the organisation which promotes Gallic cinema worldwide) to showcase "a talented new generation of filmmakers" in the seventh annual My French Film Festival. I remember very much enjoying a couple of selections from last year's programme (namely French Blood and Alleluia) but the two I've seen so far this time are a little underwhelming.

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) WW was released in the UK last year so is hardly new to these shores. It's another of those French films that purports to be about something VERY IMPORTANT (in this case, teenage ennui and nihilism), but is really just an excuse for an attractive cast to show us their tits and other bits. Writer/director Eva Russon's debut feature gets a bit preachy towards the end, too, when STIs, unwanted pregnancy and True Love Forever rear their ugly heads. Newcomer Marilyn Lima as vulnerable George is its saving grace.

Even less
successful is Marguerite & Julien W, Valérie Donzelli's weird fairytale exploring the titular brother and sister's incestuous relationship. I was never really sure what this story of forbidden love was trying to tell me. Is it about the essential selfishness of lust and desire? Is it some cack-handed attempt at saying we should be free to love whom we like? Anyway, it's all rather flat and uninteresting, while director Donzelli makes some baffling choices, including a sequence with a helicopter (even though its supposedly set in the 17th Century). A couple of years ago, Anaïs Demoustier (who plays Marguerite) made my jaw drop in François Ozon's terrific The New Girlfriend, but this feels like a step backwards.

MUBI will be showing six of the 29 films on offer (both features and shorts), while Curzon's selection is a little bigger. For the full experience, though, go here. I shall slowly work my way through some of the other movies and report back in future weeks...

Finally, let's not judge director David Ayer by his limp adaptation of the DC comic-book Suicide Squad but rather by 2012's excellent cop thriller End Of Watch (Film4, Friday, 11.50pm) WWW½. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are Los Angeles police officers, partners and best friends, who get in way over their heads when they are targeted for death by a Mexican drug cartel. Filmed in a faux documentary style, it's raw, smart and full of affecting performances.

Sun's out, gun's out: David Ayer's End Of Watch

What I will be watching this week: I'm going to try to find somewhere showing critical darling Manchester By The Sea, starring Casey Affleck, but will probably have to settle instead for his brother Ben in critical kryptonite, Live By Night.

WWWW - Wonderful
WWW - Worthwhile
WW - Watchable
W - Woeful

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