crime

REVIEW: Wind River (2017)

When game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds the dead body of a young Native American girl (Kelsey Asbille) frozen in the snow, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called in to investigate the murder.

Wind River is an atmospheric and haunting film. It’s beautifully shot and has a wonderfully melancholy score. The setting is a character itself and the beautiful yet often desolate snowy landscapes adds to the isolation the characters feel. All these elements bring an extra level of harshness to the story. This is an environment where only the strong survive and the characters you meet are made from the environment they live in.

Jeremy Renner is fantastic and his performance here is one of his best to date. Gil Birmingham plays Martin, the father of murdered Natalie and he is brilliant. There’s a scene when he opens the door to Renner’s Cory and the emotions that play across his face is like an acting masterclass. Olsen’s Jane Banner is a pleasant surprise as while she’s not used to the environment she’s thrust into, she’s competent and smart and can more than hold her own.

The mystery may not be the most complex, nor the most original, but it is the characters that pull you into this film as they fight to discover the truth. Wind River is gripping and eerie and it’s almost uncomfortably gritty and realistic. The final act is heart-pumping stuff but it never becomes outlandish. Wind River is a chilling film and one that will stick with you for a while. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Detroit (2017)

Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion in the summer of 1967, gunshots are heard from the direction of the Algiers Motel. When the police and the National Guard arrive, tensions rise and three young African American men are murdered.

Detroit is based on true events and, as the film states at the end, has been put together from first-hand accounts and what limited official documents there are from the time meaning that some of the events depicted are dramatized. Detroit uses archive news footage and photos to help show what the violence and chaos on the city streets was really like and makes it all feel more real.

The whole cast gives phenomenal performances. Will Poulter as racist police officer Krauss is equal parts terrifying and mesmerising. You end up feeling you can’t take your eyes off him for a second as you don’t know what he’ll do next. John Boyega as security guard Dismukes feels underused at times but that’s mainly because he’s almost like a spectator to these events. That being said, when there’s moments for him to show more than restrained horror and the fear begins to register, Boyega nails it.

The violence the police officers inflict on this group of young people is tough to watch. The psychological torture tactics they use is sickening and the camera never really wavers from it either so you as the viewer, like men like Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) are forced to watch what others are going through.

At almost two and half hours Detroit is a long film and you can start to feel that towards the end of it. the last third is really quite drawn out as you don’t just get the usually text on screen, telling you what happened to these people next, instead you get to see it. This makes their grief and anger hard to take but in a way, it makes it feel like the film is prolonging the people’s pain and the viewers.

Detroit is a tense and powerful film that often makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s shocking that not only did these events take place 50 years ago, but that no one with any real power to change things has learnt from them as events of police brutality is still prevalent today. 4/5.

REVIEW: Message from the King (2016)

South African Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) arrives in Los Angeles to find his missing sister who appears to have gotten involved with the criminal underworld.

Boseman gives a solid performance as a guy who’s more than capable to take on anyone and anything thrown at him on his mission for justice. King is a smart man and has an aura of control that brings him to the attention of pretty much anyone he encounters.

The plot moves slowly in this film as there’s a lot of layers to this criminal underworld King dives into. With a lot of layers comes a lot of characters including major players Wentworth (Luke Evans) and Preston (Alfred Molina). Wentworth is more interesting of the two as he’s the middle man who knows everyone and attempts to deal with any potential problems.

The fight sequences are brutal and on the most part they are well-shot and easy to follow. They are also rather bloody and King is not afraid to be violent to get the information he wants.

Message from the King is an average crime thriller that’s only real notable achievement is having a great lead in Chadwick Boseman. 3/5.

READ THE WORLD – Zimbabwe: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

Memory is an albino woman, serving time in prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. When she was nine she was adopted by Lloyd Hendricks, a wealthy white man. It is his murder she is now convicted of and is facing the death penalty. As she waits for her death she tells the story of the events that brought her here – but is everything as she remembers it?

The Book of Memory is an interesting story but one that I sometimes found hard to get through. It wasn’t till I got to the half way point that I began to like the book more and start reading it more quickly. I think that’s because The Book of Memory is split into three parts, Memory’s childhood with her family, her growing up with Lloyd and her time in prison. Though while the book is labelled like that, she does meander with her storytelling meaning it jumps from the present to various points in the past. I personally found the parts more focussed on her adolescence with Lloyd more compelling than her childhood – though I did like how the story brings those two halves of her together.

Memory’s name is apt as so much of her story is recounted from her memory and she doesn’t have anyone to collaborate what she remembers. It’s an interesting to see how something you see and remember when you were a child changes dramatically when you get more information.

Memory is a likeable character, as are many of her fellow inmates, though naturally the prison guards are the main antagonists Memory’s present situation. That being said, there is one guard whose behaviour towards Memory is so nice and almost kind that it makes both the reader and Memory uncomfortable.

I did like the smattering of Shona language used in the book, as well as how it didn’t give you a crash course in Zimbabwean history. Memory often would go between calling her home country Zimbabwe and Rhodesia, and talk about warring political parties and how white people were seen.

For me, there’s not much memorable about The Book of Memory. While I liked Memory well enough, the other characters weren’t particularly notable and there wasn’t many stand out moments in the story. 2/5.

REVIEW: Baby Driver (2017)

Working for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best in business, that is until he meets waitress Debora (Lily James) and wants to get out of the whole shady business altogether.

Baby Driver is a fun film. I thought it was fine but I did not love it. In part I feel that’s because I’ve come to realise I’m just not a huge Edgar Wright fan, I’ve never hated any of his films but they never really leave a lasting impression and I do not love them like so many other people seem to.

I feel Baby Driver can be summed up by two things – the car chases and the soundtrack. The car chase sequences are thrilling and exhilarating and I liked how they always showed off Baby’s skills in different ways. The soundtrack is full of catchy, recognisable songs and I did like how the film used the soundtrack (and sound in general) however having a film that constantly had a backing song was a bit grating at times.

Baby has tinnitus, meaning he constantly has a ringing in his ears, and he uses music to block it out. It was the way the film showed how Baby heard sounds, like how it got quieter when he took an earbud out so it was like you were in his shoes throughout the film, that I really liked. The whip fast editing that went with the music was cool too.

Baby Driver felt like style over substance to me. This is a film about a getaway driver so naturally there’s heists (one of my favourite things in any type of story ever) but I found myself no really being engaged with it. I think this was down to the characters. All the cast did a fine job but I didn’t get attached to or particularly like any of the characters except for Baby’s foster dad Joseph (CJ Jones).

Baby Driver is a sharp, fast-paced film. It’s full of action and thrills but it lacks that final punch of something great for me. 3/5.

READ THE WORLD – Denmark: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen Detective Inspector Carl Mørck has been taken off Homicide to run a new department for unsolved crimes and he’s not happy about it. Soon things get busy when his first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, a politician who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead, he thinks they’re right. But that might not be the case, and Merete’s time is running out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a detective thriller and The Keeper of Lost Causes did not disappoint. Carl is one of those typical cranky detectives who doesn’t work well with others, his colleagues don’t really like him but they still ask his advice on difficult cases, but he’s still a decent person who’s good at his job. It’s great to see bits of the case come together because as the reader you sometimes know more than Carl but you never get the whole story till the final chapters.

Carl Mørck’s department is in the basement of police headquarters and it’s just him and his assistant Hafez el-Assad. They’re an odd combination and provide some moments of humour. Assad is Syrian so he doesn’t always get how things work in Denmark but he’s never portrayed as stupid, in fact he’s a great help to the case, seeing things others don’t. It was really nice to see how Carl respected Assad’s religion, getting a floorplan of the station so Assad knew which direction to pray – the religious aspect of Assad’s life was so natural and just a part of him and no one made a big deal of it.

Assad is a very likeable character with some hidden talents, I enjoyed seeing him and Carl slowly start getting to know each other, each dealing with each other’s unusual habits and personal traits. Carl is definitely a character I didn’t like to start with but he grew on me, especially because he has a very dry sense of humour and is often brutally honest.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a proper-page turner, there were revelations at the end of most chapters and a sense of desperation as the novel progressed as you learnt more about Merete and the horrible situation she’s in. 5/5.

REVIEW: Coin Heist (2017)

coin-heist-movie-posterWhen the principle of Dennington Prep is arrested for embezzling school funds, his son Jason (Alex Saxon) hatches a plan with three other students to do the impossible and steal from the U.S. Mint in order to save their school.

Coin Heist is a heist film (the title gives it away) but it still has some high school and family drama in it that instead of taking away from the main story, it enriches it. The four unlikely friends who come up with this plan on paper look very much like the usual high school stereotypes, but through good performances and a well-written script, the film slowly shows that they are all more than the reductive labels put on them by the genre.

Benny (Jay Walker) is the footballer whose scholarship goes down the drain when the schools’ funds disappear, Dakota (Sasha Pieterse) is the grade A student who would really rather perform, Jason is often seen as a slacker but he turns out to think quick on his feet, and Alice (Alexis G. Zall) is the hacker who doesn’t want people to see her vulnerability. They are all more than their stereotypes and seeing how their relationship grows is a pleasant surprise.

Coin Heist also has a brilliant soundtrack. It’s almost reminiscent of the 80’s teen movies sometimes, it has some techno tracks and indie music that all fits with the story so incredibly well.

Coin Heist is a fun film, with a solid cast of characters committing a clever heist that you don’t tend to see in the genre. It might be a smaller scale heist but it’s no less fun and still has the usual twists and turns seen in the genre. 4/5.