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Posts Tagged ‘Stellan Skarsgard’

Petr Kotlar as The Boy

“THE PAINTED BIRD”  My rating: B (Streaming July 17 on most digital and cable platforms)

170 minutes | MPAA rating:

As horrifying as “The Painted Bird” is, I don’t regret the three hours spent watching it.

Like a few other films — I’m thinking particularly of the Soviet “Come and See” — Polish filmmaker Vaclav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosiriski’s 1965 novel tests a viewer’s capacity to absorb the terrors of war (in this case World War II on the Eastern Front).

Not that there’s much in the way of battlefield mayhem. The violence here is directed at civilians and, even worse, at one young boy. War or no war, this movie seems to be saying, superstitious, thick-headed humans will go out of their way to torment each other.

The protagonist of the yarn is The Boy (Petr Kotlar), who is presumably Jewish. Separated from his family, he leads a nomadic existence, wandering through fields and forests, barely surviving  thanks to the “kindness” of strangers, who as often as not abuse him physically, sexually and emotionally.

Harvey Keitel

When we first meet him he’s being chased through the woods by three boys who beat him and set fire to his pet ferret. Sort of sets the tone for the whole enterprise.

The boy is living with an old woman he calls “Auntie” (whether they’re actually related is doubtful). Upon her death he stumbles into a village where an old matriarch declares him a “vampire” and orders him  killed. He survives this threat — and all of the others that will test him — less by his wits than by pure luck.

At one point The Boy flees his pursuers by jumping into a river and being carried downstream on a fallen tree branch, only to be delivered into yet another hellish predicament.  This becomes a metaphor for his life; drifting helplessly from one crisis to the next.

All of this is unfolds with a minimum of dialogue and little or no psychological insight into the characters.  That goes as well for The Boy himself, who has been so numbed by his experiences that only acute physical pain can rouse him from his emotional lethargy. (more…)

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Stellan Skarsgard

Stellan Skarsgard

“IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE”  My rating: B-

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Avoid pissing off civil servants. They have so many ways to get even.

In the Norwegian thriller “In Order of Disappearance” a nondescript  snowplow driver  (apparently it’s a year-around gig in parts of that Scandinavian nation) goes on a methodical killing spree to avenge his son’s murder.

As Hans Petter Moland’s film begins, Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard) is being honored as his tiny burg’s Citizen of the Year. He’s a hard-working, inoffensive sort who gets up early every morning to clear the roads in his mountainous district — “Just a guy who keeps a strip of civilization open through the wilderness.”  For fun he reads technical manuals for heavy-duty snow removal equipment.

But when his son is found dead — apparently of a drug overdose — Dickman refuses accept the official police version of events. He discovers that his boy was collateral damage in a drug smuggling conspiracy operating out of the snowbound regional airport where the kid worked maintenance.

So this working stiff nearing retirement saws down his hunting rifle (so that it can be concealed beneath his snow parka) and systematically begins working his way up the food chain of the local drug gang. He dumps the bodies in a scenic waterfall.

Kim Fupz Akeson’s screenplay is a balancing act between genuine outrage/grief and black comedy ala Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. Skarsgard plays it straight — he’s a man on a mission — but the crooks he picks off one by one are flamboyantly offbeat.

The main baddie is The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen), a preening, pony-tailed sociopath art collector who, when he’s not giving orders to have people killed, is advocating for veganism.

(more…)

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Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris

Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris

“OUR KIND OF TRAITOR” My rating: B-

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With “Our Kind of Traitor” Hollywood may have gone to the John le Carré well one too many times.

It’s not that the feature from director Susanna White (“Nanny McPhee Returns” and a whole load of TV)  is bad.

It just feels overly familiar. PBS, cable channels, Amazon and Netflix seem awash in Brit espionage fare, particularly titles with the le Carré pedigree. “Our Kind of Hero” tends to get lost in the mix.

Stellan Skarsgaard

Stellan Skarsgaard

Brit couple Perry (Ewan McGregor), a university lecturer, and his girlfriend Gail (Naomie Harris), an attorney, are vacationing in Marrakesh. Alas, the exotic setting is doing little to alleviate their relationship issues.  Having sex seems like more of a chore than a pleasure.

Soloing at a local restaurant, Perry is befriended by Dima (Stellan Skarsgard), a garrulous Russian accompanied by a bunch of fellow Russkies whose sharp clothes do little to disguise their thuggish demeanors.

Dima drafts the reluctant Perry for a night of clubbing. The next day he schedules a tennis game with his new bud. And Dima introduces Perry and Gail to his family (wife, three or four kids).

Anyone who’s ever seen a spy thriller knows that the unsuspecting Englishman is going to get in way over his head.

(more…)

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