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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Wheatley’

Left to right: Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley

“FREE FIRE”  My rating: C+

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A dozen tough guys stewing in their own testosterone. A van packed with illegal weapons.  A briefcase full of cash. A closed environment from which there is no easy escape.

What could go wrong?

A streamlined 90 minutes of pumped-up bullet blasting (literally) and wienie waving (metaphorically), “Free Fire” is the latest from Brit action auteur Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”), but its origins are pure Quentin Tarantino, with special nods to “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight.”

In an abandoned umbrella factory in Boston an arms deal is taking place.

Chris (Cillian Murphy) has crossed the pond to buy automatic weapons for the IRA (the time is the mid-‘70s, judging by the dreadful fashions, hairstyles and absence of cell phones).

He’s backed by the grimly efficient hitman Frank (Wheatley regular Michael Smiley), Frank’s screwup brother-in-law Stevo (Sam Riley), and Stevo’s worthless running buddy, Bernie (Enzo Cilenti).

Selling the weapons is Rhodesian gun runner Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a world-class sleazebag whose smarmy mouth keeps writing checks his fists cannot cash.  Good thing his seemingly civilized partner Martin (Babou Ceesay) is there to keep Vernon in check.

Vernon has his own goon squad on hand:  The mountainously hairy Jimmy (Mark Monero) and the wizened Gordon (Noah Taylor).

Supervising the transaction are the two middlemen who set up the deal.  Ord (Armie Hammer) is a superslick dude in a turtleneck and blazer who oozes post-modern irony; Justine (Brie Larson) is a cool beauty sharp enough to verbally emasculate chauvinists like Vernon but willing to use her seductive skills to get what she wants. (more…)

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Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston

“HIGH-RISE” My rating: C+

119 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Duration is the enemy of allegory.

At 50 minutes Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise” would have been a stunning achievement — a vicious, snarling, breathless satire of class warfare and social apocalypse.

At two hours, though, it’s a slog, one that very nearly wears out its welcome and ends up repeating itself like a 33-record with a track-skipping scratch.

Screenwriter Amy Jump’s adaptation of the 1975 novel by J.G. Ballard (Crash) bears more than a few  similarities to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and especially to the the recent cult hit “Snowpiercer.”  Just replace the hermetically sealed high-speed train with an equally isolated high-rise apartment complex.

We are introduced to this modern Tower of Babel through the new tenant, Liang (Tom Hiddleston, who seems to be everywhere nowadays: “I Saw the Light,” TV’s “The Night Manager,” Marvel movies).  An unmarried M.D. with more money than he knows what to do with, Liang takes an apartment about halfway up the 30-plus story edifice.

The tower has all the amenities of a decent-sized town: health spa, swimming pool, school, a traditional English garden on the rooftop complete with livestock. There’s even a grocery store that sells only generic products (“Thank you for shopping on floor 15”). Alas, the place is chilly and sterile, all poured concrete and glass. Which is fine with Liang, who has no furniture and never gets around to unpacking his boxes.

It quickly dawns on the newcomer that the building has a social pecking order.  Towering over everyone else in his penthouse is the symbolically named Royal (Jeremy Irons), the architect who designed the building and is forever tinkering with improvements meant to validate his experiment in social engineering.

Just below Royal are the wealthy aristocrats embodied by the sneering, pompous Pangbourne (James Purfoy).

Then come the mid-level residents like Liang and Charlotte (Sienna Miller), the salacious single mom whose bright young son (Louis Suc) is building what looks like a homemade bomb.

Below Liang are residents like Wilder (“The Hobbit’s” Luke Evans), an aggressive and rabble-rousing documentary film maker, and his ever-pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss). (more…)

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