Saturday, 16 September 2017
Friday, 8 September 2017
Takashi Miike brings his breathless V-Cinema flair to a video game adaptation, transforming Sega's long-running Yakuza series into a one-crazy-night movie set in a sweltering red-light district. Kazuki Kitamura plays Kiryu, an indefatigable brawler who has set himself the task of reuniting a street waif with her absent, possibly mobbed up, mother. This search forms the backbone of the film, allowing Kiryu to cross paths with a variety of strange people on their own discursive adventures.
It's not often a video game movie even attempts to translate its originator's mechanical make-up but Miike is happy to engage here, successfully tapping into the side-quest system of the PlayStation releases to power his own street-level Short Cuts. This anthology approach keeps Kiryu present but once-removed, a force of nature who briefly disrupts and even alters the trajectory of people's lives - a young couple who witness Kiryu's louche, expert violence are inspired to turn to criminality themselves.
The real fun in Like A Dragon though are the film's fight scenes. Miike and editor Yasushi Shimamura combine the propulsive, hand-held energy of a genre classic like Kinji Fukasaku's Street Mobster with the engorged, eye-catching visual language of interactive games. An early to-do in an overstocked discount store stands out thanks to Kitamura's ability to convincingly roll from opponent to opponent, trashing both his assailants and the towering bargains that encircle them. Kitamura's got a great look, decked out in a fitted grey suit with slicked back hair, the actor is able to convey both the noble centre of a do-gooder like Kiryu as well as the bullying, venomous streak that keeps him mired in this shady profession.
Friday, 1 September 2017
Unlike the plodding superhero serials Netflix is famous for, Adam Wingard's Death Note adaptation really moves, quickly churning through several successive stages of dramatic possibility offered by a dusty old book that allows its owner to instantly kill anyone, anywhere in the world. After taking delivery of the tome and chatting with Willem Dafoe's cackling demon, Nat Wolff's Light Turner uses this power over life and death to settle a number of personal scores, beginning with a recent slight from an oversized grade repeater then progressing to the ignominious destruction of the man who killed Light's mother.
These early passages of Death Note delight thanks to their aggressive lack of moral dimension. Aside from a weak, barely communicated plea for Christian forgiveness from Light's father, revenge (and then cosmic capital punishment) are organised using the petty principles of the high school loner. The film's deaths are gooey and amusing, using the sudden, Mouse Trap style mini-disasters seen in Richard Donner's The Omen or the Final Destination series to smuggle in the film's otherwise alarming extermination conceit whilst also presenting the incidents as an opportunity for a well-constructed, luridly shot gag.
Rather than tread water constructing increasingly elaborate murders, Death Note uses Margaret Qualley's Mia and Lakeith Stanfield's L to expand the film's conceptual boundaries. Mia pushes Light to broaden his horizons by aggressively punishing every level of human criminality. The resulting carnage is pointedly sloppy, the aftermaths woven in and around the film's eradication montages include all manner of bystanders, be they bunny girl sex workers or just hapless commuters. The couple are drunk on their power, delighting in not so much the mission but the way in which their actions are understood as those of a powerful, vengeful God.
Death Note uses these images of overseas destruction to draw a nagging visual connection between the impersonal violence of America's drone program and these two vengeful high-schoolers. Both are evidence of a stunning application of force coupled with spotty, perhaps even disinterested on-ground intelligence. Mia, in particular, relishes the slaughter, viewing it as something on-going and sustainable rather than Light's short but explosive fix. Stanfield's L is even better again, the actor deftly combining a combative physical fluidity with the pained, knowing expression of someone magnificent confronting the disappointingly messy patterns of his intellectual inferiors.
Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Friday, 25 August 2017
Blue Steel gives Kathryn Bigelow and Jamie Lee Curtis the opportunity to deliver a fresh take on the kind of wild card policing popular in the big deal action films of the 1980s. Instead of exploring something typical, like how a well-trained killing machine might fit into day-to-day law enforcement, Bigelow and co-writer Eric Red use gender identity to power their conflict. Curtis plays Megan Turner a rookie cop surrounded by men who make repeated, verbal objections to her mere existence.
This conflict is an ever-present stress on Turner. At home, Turner's oafish father beats her peacemaker mother whenever his daughter isn't around. When she is he swills cheap beer and rants about the shame her career has brought on the family. At work, even would-be allies like Clancy Brown's Detective Nick Mann make it their business to comment on her attractiveness and spin ribald tales about severed manhoods. Bigelow frames these situations in terms of territorial markers, established men communicating their indifference to Turner's presence and any attendant (or expected) social niceties by being deliberately vulgar. There will be no concessions for Turner based on her sex, she is treated as an interloper who must do all the adjusting in this new, hostile environment.
After gunning down Tom Sizemore's wild-eyed armed robber, Turner is unable to locate the criminal's pistol. It's been pocketed by Eugene Hunt, a gibbering commodities trader played by Ron Silver. Hunt becomes obsessed with Turner, he talks about her and her act of violence in terms of revelation. She has, quite accidentally, revealed something mind-blowing to this maniac. He attempts to court her as a civilian, taking her to expensive restaurants and charting impromptu helicopter rides, then emulates her in private by blasting holes through the hapless citizens of New York City.
Blue Steel staggers a number of conclusions, each detailing how Turner copes with the bizarre responsibilities that have been thrust upon her. Hunt looms large come the finale but Turner also finds time and space to resolve the situation at home. After another bruise appears on her mother's arm Turner beats her father prone then threatens to turn him in. He repents and communicates his failings - he feels weak sometimes. Although she has overpowered her father physically Turner is still able to listen to and understand his flawed emotional needs. Unlike similar scenes in umpteen other, male dominated, action films the act of intervention is soothing and corrective rather than just nakedly assertive. Bigelow and Red are able to breath new life into a stale genre by using their female lead as a perspective (rather than a cheap device) that informs then reconfigures every aspect of their plotting.
Monday, 7 August 2017
Does the idea of laying your hands on dozens of 8-bit video games quicken your pulse? Would you like to simulate the experience of owning a NES Classic beamed in from an alternative dimension where Mario and pals never really took off? Derek Yu, Eirik Suhrke, Jon Perry, Paul Hubans and Ojiro Fumoto have got you covered! UFO 50 is an instant library of flickering, game jammed gems, courtesy of the developers and musicians behind Spelunky, Downwell, The Indie Game Legend and card game Time Barons.
Friday, 4 August 2017
Monday, 31 July 2017
Friday, 21 July 2017
Thursday, 20 July 2017
George Romero's pointedly unromantic take on the vampire myth drops any semblance of Eurotrash sophistication to recast the central bloodsucker as a prowling, sweaty home invader. John Amplas' Martin, who's either a directionless youth emblematic of inner-city rot or a hundred year old creature, resists being completely deciphered. His crimes are cowardly and opportunistic, often involving people that have either been kind to him or those who are simply down on their luck. His motives are selfish, hinging on supernatural details that the film, wisely, chooses not to clarify.
The rush of full-blooded sexual excitement usually associated with the amorous undead is replaced by clinical encounters in which Martin dopes and abuses his victims. Romero (who writes, directs and edits) uses an early encounter on a train to establish Martin as both dangerous and repulsive. After attacking a woman in her carriage room with a syringe full of tranquilizers, he lulls her to sleep with soothing baby talk before staging her suicide, drinking and bathing in the gushing blood. Despite the sudden and alarming violence done to the woman's wrist, it's Martin's lies that linger.
Most screen monsters, especially in their moment of victory, would allow delight to creep into their demeanor, to gloat over their prey. Romero and Amplas never permit their creation that kind of power. Martin is always pathetic, pleading even. He isn't strong enough to overwhelm, nor alluring enough to seduce. He sedates and supplicates, a methodology that slowly seeps out into the film itself. Scattered throughout are brief black and white interludes depicting Martin drifting around billowing, Hammer Horror situations. These clips are layered into the film at crucial moments, representing either memories that clash with Martin's current, depressing reality or juvenile justification dreamt up to protect the killer's fragile sense of identity.
A short extract from an Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers tournament that shows off, among other things, how utterly broken the new Violent Ken character is.