Film Review – Jade, Species, Crimson Tide


Simple-Minded

(Originally published in L:Scene, November 1995)

Good cast, great director, legendary producer (Robert Evans). What a shame that Jade is written by Joe Eszterhas, a man seemingly incapable of expanding on a good idea. Jade comes with pretensions but deep down it’s nothing more than an after-11pm-on-Sky erotic thriller. It’s an unresolved war between a hackneyed, artless script and a real return to form for dear old William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

A San Franciscan Stephen Ward-a-like is messily murdered and public prosecutor David Caruso is called in to give the verdict. “This was rage,” he says and he’s possibly right. He’s also right to think of possible career advancement since the victim had some pictures of compromising positions between the Governor and a prostitute in his safe. Could he have killed him? Could she? Or could it be the mysterious Jade, a woman with an almost legendary sexual appetite who seems to have screwed her way through most of San Francisco and enjoyed it as well?

So, Jagged Edge meets Basic Instinct then – Joe Eszterhas wrote them all. Both of those films, whilst successful, were decidedly overrated and Eszterhas clearly has no desire to do anything new with these formulas. Plus the actual plot has more holes than Bikini Atoll; you always know you’re onto a real dog when a character has his brakes cut early on and the incident is never mentioned again.

So three cheers for wily old canine Friedkin, who manages to make this mess almost bearable. The whole thing is superbly shot and he manages to get a good performance from Caruso as the only man around actually to have never slept with Jade, despite being in love with her. Linda Fiorentino fares less well in a cipher of a role. She is also required to shed clothes with much abandon; something she is far too good an actress to need to do.

It’s fitting that the most memorable scene should be that old Friedkin stand by, the car chase. Here, a hell-for-leather vertical descent down the oft-filmed San Francisco streets, in which you can physically feel every bump and hole along the way then makes a left turn into a gaudy and crowded Chinese celebration with the chase suddenly pitched at an agonizing snail’s pace. Wonder if Eszterhas wrote that into the script?

The first scene of Species is a killer. A young girl, kept in a scientific observation cell, is gassed with cyanide. Grim but tearful Ben Kingsley looks on. But the little girl improbably survives and escapes. Right from the start you’re interested but Species can’t help but let you down, enjoyable rubbish though it is.

For a start it’s a poor man’s Jurassic Park. There’s a lot of nonsense about alien DNA being spliced with humans and there’s a team of disparate B-list actors on the hunt for the monster. For Sir Dickie, Sam Neill, Laura Dern et al, here read grizzly Ben, Michael Madsen (as the action man hero!), Marg Helgenberger, Alfred Molina and Forest Whitaker. But whereas with Steven Spielberg you get his elegantly simple plot structures, here we have a lot of hopeless running around and ineffectual character studies worthy of Doctor Who.

With our ‘team’ tepidly on her heels, the little girl escapes on a train and changes via cocoon – the one genuinely disturbing scene in the film – into Natasha Henstridge. And because she’s now past puberty her biological clock is ticking like a timebomb late for a conference. She’s not the only one. Biologist Helgenberger is getting the hots for Madsen, despite the fact that he “hunts men”.

“So what do you do out in the Valley?” asks Madsen with all the charm of a recently mugged pork chop.

“Pine for guys like you?” she replies hopefully. Like the rest of the script it’s about as convincing as Eddie Large’s Cliff Richard.

But enough of this soap opera stuff, where’s the gore? It’s portentously announced in the opening title that H.R. Giger, designer of the alien in Alien designed the alien. Finally we get to see it. Henstridge shags an oblivious Molina. “Oh I enjoyed that immensely” pants Molina in the most British way ever, his mind clearly on Jill Gascoine. Henstridge kills him and turns into… the alien from Alien. Oh well, it’s good to see Giger didn’t tax his fevered mind too much.

The rest is predictable: The Brits die, the survivors chase the alien down a sewer, Madsen kills it with the immortal cry “let go you motherfucker”… there is even a little scene in case anyone fancies a sequel. There is much that isn’t explained but that isn’t the point. Like Hitchcock’s regular McGuffin the message being sent here is, ‘never mind sense, don’t you want to a really good looking woman in the buff and lots of stylised gore?’ Hmm… recommended.

If you want a properly visceral film try Crimson Tide, a claustrophobic and smokily intense mainstream thriller. Sweatily chewing up all the submarine cliches there are it delivers excitement by the ballast tank-load.

The Cold War film doesn’t exist anymore but then it hardly needed to exist in the first place. Hollywood didn’t need a load of commies to rail against; just about anybody would’ve done. Nowadays of course, everybody does.

Gene Hackman is the captain of a nuclear submarine eager and ready to fight against any enemy his commander-in-chief points him at. “As of now we are back in business,” he delightedly tells his new Executive Officer Denzel Washington when Russian Nationalists seize control of nuclear warheads. Denzel isn’t so eager and this is where the true conflict arises.

These days, Tony Scott is a fantastic director. After The Last Boy Scout and True Romance his films, whilst still retaining that polished, commercial sheen, have miraculously turned into gripping, jaw-dropping slabs of cinema. Against the contrasting wail of a male voice choir Denzel and Gene’s slight differences are exaggerated by the conflict. Denzel is tight-lipped over Gene’s “simple-minded” ways but his tight lips are pissing Gene off.

Aside from some glaring rewriting from a certain Mr. Tarantino (“I’m Captain Kirk and you’re Scotty”, metaphors Denzel to his bemused communications officer, “if you don’t give me warp power a billion people are going to die”) and a inappropriately jolly and upbeat ending (well it was either that or a nuclear holocaust) this is a super-cool, militaristic thriller with more twists and turns than a corkscrew rollercoaster. Cold War, shmold war – all thrillers should be this good, regardless of the filmic enemy.

Film Review – A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære)


Enlightenment Entertainment

You’d have to be mad to marry King Christian of Denmark, but then that’s because he’s a bit bonkers himself. An infantile muppet who likes whoring, drinking and pushing snow in the faces of people he doesn’t like, he seems entirely unsuited to the job of governing a country.

Hold on. Since when did it matter what kind of lunatic the king is? Looking into the history of the monarchy all over the world, most of them seem to be venal morons. Their subjects just smile, back away and get on with their lives and that’s largely what is happening in 18th century Denmark. When soon-to-be Queen Caroline is shipped over from an idyllic-looking Britain (well done us)  to take up the exalted position of heir-birther, she soon realises her husband is a bit of a tool. But then she would think this, being as she’s a huge fan of a recent cult trend called the Enlightenment. She’s got the books and everything, although most are taken away by a stern governess who equates them to Justin Bieber posters. The Queen should have grown out of that stuff.

But Her Majesty hasn’t and, the job of supplying the male descendant out of the way, she shows about as much interest in her husband as he shows in her. So, a typically unhappy royal life with naught but all the peasants you could eat, but wait! Over in Austria, a doctor named Struensee with similar Enlightenment leanings is being pressured into taking up the vacant post of King Christian’s personal doctor/nanny/partner-in-whoremongering in order to get ‘one of us’ on the inside. Despite being played by the movie bad guy du jour at the moment Mads Mikkelson (soon to be playing Hannibal Lecter, no less, on TV) the doctor quickly wins over the reluctant King by the seemingly revolutionary act of pointing out that he’s doing nothing wrong. You’d think being King you’d be surrounded by yes men, but apparently this was rare in 18th century Denmark.

Quickly becoming invaluable, Struensee attempts to guide the easily suggestible King towards reforms that include not treating the people as less-flammable firewood. Inevitably, there are powerful people who see the King’s new right hand man as a menace and want to be rid of him, and an opportunity arises to strike at this uppity doctor.

You’ll notice the lack, so far, of any reference to the Royal Affair of the title. This is because it’s the least interesting thing in the film. Queen Caroline is portrayed as a servile drip at first and then a revolutionary drip, without an ounce of passion. It doesn’t help that the actress playing her is so young (of necessity; the real Caroline died at 23) and there’s a gulf between her and Mikkelson, both in age and in charisma. Plus, it’s hard to get hooked into a romance stoked by the fiery passion of wide scale reforms of intellectual and scientific thought.

A Royal Affair is a good-looking production and most of the story is fascinating, but it’s hard to see how it won its awards, especially in this country when the BBC tends to knock out stuff like this every other weekend. And don’t look up the real story unless you want to know that the real Struensee was a bit of a dictator and was probably closer to Rasputin than the nice guy presented here. A Royal Affair is a fairy tale. Treat it as that and you’ll enjoy it far more.

Film Review – Prometheus


Big Horrible Alien Things (warning: spoilers)

(There’s a bit at the beginning with this tall ugly alien dude but I haven’t got a clue what it means. Is he killing himself, transforming himself…? Nah, forget it. I have.)

So there’s these two archaeologists right. One of them’s the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo though not the James Bond one. Dunno who the bloke is. And they’re in the future but it looks like today because they’re in Scotland and that place never changes. They discover this cave that has this Arthur C. Clarke shit in it. Turns out there’s loads of caves all over the world and they all depict the same stars. Handy they were discovered at the same time.

Bang, next thing you know they’re in space on a spaceship called Prometheus. I think they thought we wouldn’t know who Prometheus was and how things ended badly for him, like it wasn’t on the internet or something. And there’s loads of other people there, including her from Aeon Flux and a robot played by that guy who really likes shagging in Shame. Of course there’s loads of British character actors, cos someone’s got to die. Not that they would know this seeing as how it’s a prequel and they haven’t seen the other films. There’s that woman from Game of Thrones who got ‘em out for that way-too-old boy, Stringer from The Wire, Ian Curtis and Timothy Spall’s lad with the posh name.

Weirdly, they only get told what they’re there for when they get there, despite it taking two years cos it’s space and that. Aeon Flux is the boss, but not really cos thingy out of Memento is really in charge. He’s playing an old man with loads of make up. Think they couldn’t get an actual old man. He explains via hologram because he’s old and dead that they’re looking for the origins of life, which freaks them out a bit because they’re all scientists and that and thought that life started just because it, like, did. What’s weirder is that Dragon Tattoo girl (she doesn’t have it in this, I know cos you see a lot of her) is freaky religious and none of this is sitting well with Genesis exactly.

So they land on this moon, which must be really small cos they spot a temple straight away. Everyone tools up but the archaeologists insist they take no weapons with them. As I say it’s a prequel so they don’t know about the other films. Or indeed any film ever. They drive over to the temple cos they’ve all got cars and wander round these scary caves which have got oxygen. They all take off their helmets cos that’s what anyone would do. The cave has lots of metal cans in them. And loads of dead bodies. No-one immediately runs back to the spaceship to get tooled up because they’ve been dead for ages and what killed them must be long gone. Obvious.

They do all race back to the spaceship when a storm arrives, but Spall’s lad and Ian Curtis get left behind because they couldn’t find the way out. Ian Curtis is the expert in mapping the caves. They come across this black stuff leaking out of the cans and they’ve never seen The X Files. The black stuff creates a big horrible alien thing out of a small horrible alien thing. Spall’s lad, being an expert in alien life, tries to pat it. It breaks his arm. They both get killed.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Fluxy proves she’s not a cold fish by shagging Stringer and Dragon Tattoo is still arguing there is a god, despite the evidence of these dead ‘Engineer’ guys (they’re not called Creators or anything silly like that). Then creepy robot sex addict spikes the other archaeologist boy with that black stuff that came out the cans. Not sure why, but he is a creepy robot.

Then Ian Curtis comes back from the dead as a mutant but is killed again. Then archaeologist boy goes all veiny and dies. But not after he’s shagged Dragon Tattoo lady, who gets pregnant really quick. Then Shaggy the Robot discovers that dead alien that’s not an alien from Alien which is actually an Engineer and works out another Engineer is still alive but frozen. This pleases Mr Memento who isn’t dead but is still old and who is Aeon Flux’s dad and been hiding in the spaceship all along. Dunno why as he’s paying for all this.

Dragon Tattoo has to cut the horrible alien thing out of her belly. She’s running around two minutes later because of some super space staples holding her stomach together and finds old Memento dude, who wants to meet the frozen Engineer because he thinks he’ll cure him of death and shit. But when they get back to the temple the Engineer doesn’t say anything and just kills everyone in his way and launches this spaceship that looks like the other spaceship in Alien.

Turns out the temple is a weapons factory and the black stuff is the equivalent of ICBMs and the engineer wants to kill everyone on Earth. Er, why did they want us to find this moon again? Anyway, Dragon Tattoo escapes as the thing that came out of her stomach kills the Engineer, Stringer stops the spaceship by ramming it with his spaceship, the alien spaceship falls on Aeon Flux and Dragon Tattoo is left on her own with Robo-Sex Addict, who has been torn in two by, er, was it the monster from her stomach, the Engineer or the thing that comes out of the Engineer’s stomach that look a bit like a proper Alien? Can’t remember now.

Can’t wait for Ridley Scott’s director’s cut. It’ll explain everything.

Film Review – Desperado

The Guy We’ve Heard Stories About

(Originally published in L:Scene magazine, March 1996)

A remake/remodel of Robert Rodriguez’s debut film El Mariachi, this should have a lot more going for it than the famously cheap first effort. The presence of Antonio Banderas and Quentin Tarantino, more money to spend on explosions and more time to get things right should have added up to a better film. But not only does Desperado fail to satisfy it also casts serious doubts about the supposed wonderfulness of the ‘stunning’ first film.

Banderas is a loner, officially known as “that guy I’ve heard stories about”, who wanders into a moustache-obsessed Mexican dirt town, TARDIS-like guitar case full of guns in hand. He’s after Bucho, a splendidly King Herod-like villain, who’s impressed enough by Banderas’s entrance to order his gang to “shoot anyone you don’t recognise”.

The bar talk opening, in which Steve Buscemi (playing himself) relays a tale about a mysterious stranger with a guitar case, is easily the best thing in the film, even overshadowing Tarantino’s messy and inevitable death. But when Banderas saunters in and slaughters everyone in blam-o-cam style things go downhill.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a bit of mindless mayhem, especially when it’s not happening in the real world, but there’s a good reason why Quent makes films where the gangsters talk lots about killing and leave the killing itself as an afterthought. A good shoot out can be done easily – good talk is more difficult to achieve.

Things look up with the entrance of Salma Hayek. She is sexy and witty in equal measures and manages to act the supposedly tortured Banderas off the screen. Banderas undoes all the good work he did in sexing up the remorselessly unsexy Interview With the Vampire; here he is supposed to carry the entire film and since he seems incapable of doing anything beyond smouldering a lot while shooting people he falls flat on his finely boned ass.

Film Review – Being John Malkovich, Man on the Moon, Magnolia, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Joan of Arc, The Hurricane, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, Lake Placid

Outta Left Field

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, March 2000)

Is it just me or are films great at the moment? It isn’t just me? Good. It seems that the major studios have sharpened up their acts recently – maybe they’ve flushed all their coke down the toilet – and are actually concentrating on making films any bloody good, rather than relying on lazy demographics to get their hits. Even when you get a big budget mega film, it has the quality of something like Toy Story 2 or Three Kings.

Not that budget seems to be where it’s at right now. Being John Malkovich took a lot of people by surprise although it’s hard to see why. Every bit as good as you’ve heard, this directorial debut from music video director par excellence Spike Jonze features a concept so outrageously out of kilter that it couldn’t help but succeed. Originality in Hollywood is as rare as a funny ITV sitcom, so the idea of a man who discovers a doorway into the mind of John Malkovich and subsequently charges admission, wins every time with this reviewer. The chief delights, however, are reserved for Jonzes’s idiosyncratic direction and the performance of Malkovich, who sends himself up so convincingly you’re left wondering how much of this onscreen personality is real. The scene where Malkovich himself enters the doorway is worth the entire filmic output of 1994.

Meanwhile Hollywood’s biggest, and most expensive, stars are playing at silly buggers. Jim Carrey may have made a career out of this, but recently the surprise is how much he’s trying to be an actor, darling. In Man In The Moon, Carrey pieces together a wonderful impersonation of comedian Andy Kaufman that, aside from the off-kilter beginning (the credits run and Carrey/Kaufman urges everyone to go home), is let down by being a boring biography of a man who was far from boring.

Another $20 million plus star is also messing around. Tom Cruise says “cunt” a lot in his latest movie Magnolia. Even Stanley Kurbrick didn’t make him do that. Paul Thomas Anderson’s last film Boogie Nights was severely over-rated but fun nonetheless. Magnolia even manages to outweird Being John Malkovich – for 190 minutes. You heard, three and a bit hours.

Now, no film should make you sit on your arse for that long but Anderson almost pulls it off (the achievement that is, not the arse). Taking the plotlessness of Boogie Nights one step further the film revolves around a series of disparate characters who are revealed to be connected by more than their loneliness. There are some extraordinarily bizarre sequences, such as the moment when all the characters stop and sing a song to camera (very Dennis Potter) or the final surreal sequence involving more frogs than the mind can comfortably conceive. It ain’t enough to justify the running time but it will make a great ‘spread over a few nights’ video.

Ordinary Decent Criminal is yet another re-telling of the ‘legend’ of Martin Cahill. Whatever Mr. Cahill did to deserve three films and a TV drama is hard to credit, although he does have a nice line in amoral violence. This time he’s played by Kevin Spacey who, it has to be said, is somewhat less Irish than Brendan Gleeson and not as guttural as Scot Ken Stott. Still, Spacey’s got a fair amount of charisma and Cahill, a Dublin gangster who somehow managed to win out over both the police and the IRA, seemed to have that by the bucketload. Ordinary Decent Criminal is probably the worst of the Cahill biopics, but that’s more because the others were so good – particularly John Boorman’s The General.

Joan of Arc is weird in a very Gallic way, summed up by the unbelievably sexy Russian-American Milla Jovovich playing the Maid of Orleans, a woman whose looks are reported to have resembled Mollie Sugden eating pies. In The Hurricane nothing weird happens. This boxing drama starring a bulked-up Denzel Washington seems so old-fashioned that it’s barely worth talking about in such a time. As is Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, which does try the occasional shot at startling weirdness, not least its thoroughly British take on seventies fashions.

Save the pennies for Lake Placid, a horror film that actually tries to be funny – and succeeds. Now that’s weird.

Film Review – Drop Dead Gorgeous, Election, Instinct, The Haunting

Sad and Lame

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, September 1999)

Mount Rose, Minnesota is the sort of the small town (pop. 560) that has been successfully screwing up Americans for years. Normality and decency are strictly adhered to and, as self-proclaimed queen of town Kirstie Alley points out, “you won’t find a bathroom in our video stores.” Alley is particularly proud of the local ‘Annual Miss Teen Princess America Pageant’, which she ruthlessly organises and was a previous winner. This year she is quietly confident that her unnaturally perfect daughter Denise Richards will win. She is captain of the Young Lutherian Gun Club (after the previous incumbent fell victim to an exploding thresher) and she deserves to win far more than dirt-poor, tap dancing apprentice embalmer Kirsten Dunst, at least according to Alley, and is glad to do anything to make sure her daughter wins. As the death toll rises it’s fortunate for us that there’s a camera crew making a documentary.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is the result. Imagine John Waters directing This Is Spinal Tap. Done that? Good. Although the decidedly uneven battle between Richards and Dunst forms the main narrative, it’s the details that really stand out: last year’s winner cheerfully expiring in an anorexic ward; one of the judges is called John Dough and he’s never been near young girls, sorry contestants, before; the grand prize of $500 in beauty products; Richards’s boyfriend getting a bullet in the head for daring to look at another woman; Dunst’s white trash mother, played by Ellen Barkin, spending most of the film with her hand welded to a beer can – literally, as she was the victim of an exploding trailer home. And this is before we get to the horrors of the pageant itself, complete with with an exhibition of the various contestants’ ‘talents’, such as line-dancing, singing a song to a life-size mannequin of Jesus and soliloquising a scene from Soylent Green.

It’s a camply sick delight, revelling in the tastelessness of its subject matter. You may find yourself watching it through hand-covered eyes but then you might miss the glorious spectacle of another previous winner doing a TV advert for Mount Rose Pork Products. As Dunst says, after an unexpectedly twisted victory, “the whole thing’s kinda sad and lame at the same time.” Add hilarious as well.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a good high school comedy, and Election is another. It stars Matthew Broderick, who somehow manages to star in really great films like this as well as crap like Godzilla and Inspector Gadget. He plays a teacher obsessed with destroying the ambitions of queen-bitch-o-the-school Reese Witherspoon. This, Drop Dead Gorgeous and the recently released Rushmore make three classily comic films on the same subject matter in six months.

Comical for different reasons, Instinct was, according to its credits, “suggested by the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.” One hopes that Quinn now regrets making the suggestion. Cuba Gooding Jr. – a man who can really furrow his brow – is a top psychologist who gets put on the dreaded ‘Powell Case’. “Only if you can handle it,” warns his boss, Donald Sutherland.

“I can handle it,” avers Gooding.

The dreaded Powell turns out to be Anthony Hopkins, who has been doing a Tarzan; chumming with the chimps in Africa for the last two years. “They said he walked amongst them,” is the bizarrely put prognosis. Whilst walking amongst them, Hopkins murdered three people, so he’s now been sent to a particularly nasty American mental hospital. Hopkins clearly doesn’t like this and refuses to say anything. Gooding sees a chance to Make A Difference.

“What if I can get him to speak?” says Gooding to his wife, who is only there to listen to his guff.

Hopkins spills his guts, but he’s not making much sense. “There’s more at stake here than your book,” he gloats. Everyone in the film talks in daft epigrams; suggesting emotional weight but conveying cornball ribaldry.

“He’s leading me into the jungle,” confides Gooding to Mrs. Cypher, his brow now so furrowed you could grow root vegetables in it. He brazenly confronts Hopkins. “Are you afraid to go back there?”

“Are you afraid to follow?”

“Try me.”

And so this achingly metaphorical journey begins. “It’s not about a career.” Hopkins slowly opens up, changing the lives of all those around him.

“It’s not a case anymore.”

Occasionally Hopkins attacks people, but only the absurdly nasty guards. His punches coincide with a supermarket trolley being smashed into a wall just off camera.

“Freedom is not a dream.” Gooding is becoming a worry. His hairline is now touching his eyebrows.

“You got involved – emotionally.”

Eventually, Hopkins’s secret is revealed. He killed the three men because they were killing the chimps. This revelation is presented like it were Rosebud. Gooding breaks down at the life-affirming wonderfulness of everything.

“Thank you for sharing this journey with me.”

He stands in the rain and raises his arms. The end.

Now I’ve spoiled all the good bits you won’t need to see this polished turd of a movie. Aren’t I good to you? Another movie you could spend quality time avoiding is The Haunting. Unlike the stupidly uncategorizable Instinct, this latest from Jan de Bont is supposed to be a horror film – but isn’t. It’s like pornography with no sex scenes.

Film Review – Millions, It’s All Gone Pete Tong, The Pacifier

Forging It

(Originally Published in Inform Magazine, June 2005)

The posters for Millions announce that this is “a Danny Boyle film you can take your family to see”, which seems a bit presumptuous since there are Danny Boyle films I wouldn’t take my tax inspector to see. A Life Less Ordinary, for example, was a film you really wish they could invent a mind rubber for, and featured Ewen McGregor being even worse than he is in Star Wars.

The hype for Danny Boyle came from his first two films, Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, the derivation from his open worshipping of the style of Martin Scorsese if not his storytelling ability, and the disappointment came in the form of The Beach, upon which a lot of hopes were pinned and which ended up looking like an Emmanuelle film without the porn. Since then, he has licked his wounds with necessarily smaller fair like 28 Days Later and, now, Millions.

No longer able to command stars like Leonardo Di Caprio (unlike, say, Martin Scorsese) or even his old mate McGregor, Boyle is trying his best to grit his teeth and do what he does on a budget. Millions is set in the cosmopolitan city of Warrington and stars TV stalwarts James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan and a couple of kids he picked up from a local Comprehensive.

We probably shouldn’t laugh at Boyle’s straightened circumstances, but look through some of his old interviews and tell me he wasn’t asking for it. Such are the cutbacks he’s been forced to make, it’s now Michael Winterbottom he is emulating rather than Scorsese and after the Hi-8 video look of 28 Days Later, he’s turned to Winterbottom’s screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who has fashioned a typically Catholic script for him; despite another tagline reading “from the imagination of Danny Boyle” – as if the marketing people are trying to humiliate the poor sod as well.

In Millions, one of the kids discovered in the aforementioned Comprehensive finds a suitcase of cash. Because this is a Cottrell Boyce script, the boy naturally thinks it came from God, being as he tends to collect trivia about saints the way other boys collect uh-gi-oh cards. In one of those inevitable movie twists, he only has a week to spend it, so he ropes in his older brother, who seems far more interested in spending it on the sort of worthless capitalist trinkets that only looks bad in feel-good (or in this case feel-God) movies.

Despite Boyle’s best efforts to distract us with the odd sweeping camera move that only seems to be there to remind us that the director has been sitting with the script for months, planning such things, a lot of this film hinges on its youthful star. And, as with all such films, the child in question is hopelessly cute in a way that will make him a very ugly adult, and prone to SHOUTING his lines a lot.

“I thought it was from GOD!” he Lancashirely squeaks at the top of his little lungs. All kids tend to shout like this in films, because such premature confidence only increases their cuteness factor, but when, in this case, the boy is supposed to be introverted, it tends to undermine the entire film somewhat.

So let us leave the lad going up to homeless people in Warrington Town Centre and bellowing “Excuse me, are you POOR? BRILLIANT!” like a minipops Brian Blessed and move on to It’s All Gone Pete Tong, another British film, this time made by Canadian Michael Dowse. This is probably the sort of film Danny Boyle would like to think his audience should expect of him (rather than 2 out of 3 of his films being unwatchable, which is what they actually expect), seeing as it features drugs, vomiting and a general hedonistic vibe that Boyle didn’t quite capture in his Inspector Morse ‘rave’ episode.

Paul Kaye plays a DJ in Ibiza who, like a lot of premiership stars, has a small amount of talent and a disproportionate amount of money, sex and worship from the masses. If this all sound a bit 10 years ago then you’re right, but films like this aren’t easy to get off the ground, despite being shot on video in patented Spinal Tap ‘mockumentary’ style. Up on his bullshitting lingo (“We’re bending the sounds. I’ve been forging it. We’ve a lyrical smelter.”) Kaye is forced to take stock of his obviously ridiculous lifestyle when he goes deaf, although it really isn’t long before he works out he can do the same thing through vibrations, rather than those automatic BPM counters that most DJs use these days.

A film about the Ibiza scene was inevitable although far from wanted, and this one tries its best to portray the whole madness realistically (sometimes a little too realistically); but it’s still a film about something that you don’t want to examine too closely, starring a thoroughly unlikeable character and featuring things you really didn’t want to see. And yet it’s still a better watch than Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier, which makes A Life Less Ordinary look like The Aviator.

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