A Most Violent Year – 6.5/10

A mostly dull film…

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The clamour for the upcoming Star Wars sequel has put the films of Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo and the rest of the cast of The Force Awakens into sharp focus. A Most Violent Year contains both Isaac and Oyelowo and once again it is Isaac that takes all the plaudits.

Despite being around for years it wasn’t until 2013’s Inside LLewyn Davis that Isaac started to receive attention. Since then Isaac has wowed people with his stunning performance in Ex Machina as well as signing up for both the Star Wars and the X-Men franchise.

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Oscar Isaac sports this incredibly sharp coat throughout.

It is easy to see why Isaac is so in demand on the evidence of A Most Violent Year. Despite having valiant support from a better than usual Jessica Chastain and a solid David Oyelowo, it is Isaac that carries the film and makes it more than just a feature length Sopranos episode.

The problem with A Most Violent Year is the antagonist isn’t revealed until near the end of the film and so little has happened up until that point that the big reveal doesn’t really have much of an impact.

For Isaac completists (and you get the feeling it wont be long before such a thing exists) A Most Violent Year is worth watching for a good performance. For everyone else there are much better films available that cover similar subject matter.

In Bruges – 8.5/10

Film Title: In Bruges

It is so easy to say ‘the real star of In Bruges is Bruges itself’ but… you know… the real star of In Bruges IS Bruges itself. The Venice of the North is such a picturesque and eye catching place that every scene pops off the screen. The cast are also on sparkling form. Colin Farrell, thankfully not asked to put on an accent, is hilarious as the bewildered and grief stricken Ray handling both the humour and the heavier scenes with aplomb. This is the other main strength of In Bruges. Many other films struggle to shift gears from comedy to more serious fare, often losing focus but director Martin McDonagh does a great job holding things together. Brendan Gleeson is cuddly and enjoyable as ever but it is Ralph Fiennes who impresses most as menacing cockney gangster Harry (or ‘Arry to use the parlance of our times).

In Bruges is another one of those films that doesn’t look anything special on paper but is a surprising gem if you give it a chance. You can’t really argue with *SPOILER* Colin Farrell karate chopping a dwarf can you?

Prisoners – 7/10

The abduction of two young children leads to catastrophic results for everyone involved.

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Prisoners takes elements from many similar films in this genre (Law Abiding Citizen, Seven, Zodiac, The Silence Of The Lambs etc etc) and blends them all together mostly successfully. Hugh Jackman is powerful enough I suppose as one of the abducted girls fathers but his total lack of charisma and watchability always leaves me feeling distracted. Jake Gylenhaal fares better as the lead detective investigating the case but he has been much better in other, similar roles. His low key character doesn’t give JG many opportunities for his weird personality to shine. Paul Dano is excellent in early scenes as a man child suspect but he is given little to do after the first half an hour.

I found Prisoners to be excellent in parts but also overly complicated and quite unrealistic at times. Nowhere near as good as zenith of the genre Zodiac, nor as good as very similar film Gone Baby Gone, Prisoners was rightly almost completely overlooked at the Oscars this year. It also seems quite muddled about the messages of morality and religion that it is trying to convey. Definitely a good film but not great by any means.

Dog Day Afternoon – 8/10.

Al Pacino stars in this bank robbery/kidnapping drama from legendary director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network).

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Lumet perfectly captures the tension and stress of being in a hostage situation (I imagine) and this tension is palpable throughout.
All the many many plaudits this film has received are well deserved and Dog Day Afternoon still feels fresh and captivating forty years on. A more vulnerable and human Al Pac on show as well and Dog Day Afternoon is all the better for it. Vital viewing.

WON 1 OSCAR (SIX NOMINATIONS)

IMDB TOP 250 #220