For February’s instalment I’ve gone all out to squeeze in a poor pun in the shape of St. VIOLENTines Day. Some people like romance, some people like hardcore violence.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (★★★★) & Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (★★★★) – Vincent Cassel fills the screen in every single frame he’s in while playing infamous French criminal Jacques Mesrine – and that’s saying a lot because he’s pretty much ever present onscreen over the two films.
The first film deals with a young Mesrine coming home from fighting in Algeria and setting out on his life of crime and deals with his most prolific phase of his “career” which gives the movie its breakneck pace but also means it can feel a bit episodic, but that’s also a structural flaw of all biopics.
The second film allows you to immerse more in his personality and skewed personal ethics and morals (or lack there of). Cast includes some of the best talent French Cinema has to offer, Gerard Depardieu, Cécile de France, Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Almaric among others.
Starship Troopers (★★★½) – With recent Paul Verhoeven remakes proving disappointing (Total Recall, Robocop), why not check out this one before its planned remake.
On the surface, its a straight forward violent sci-fi b-movie, humans vs aliens, the cast not looking too different to what you’d find in a tv soap opera and a lead charatcer called Johnny Rico. But scratch just a little bit deeper and you’ll find more going on, particularly Verhoeven’s use of propaganda and fascist imagery to suggest war can force people to become overly nationalistic or jingoistic, learning to hate their enemy while not questioning why they’re actually at war.
The special effects, particularly the Arachnids or bugs, still look quite impressive.
Pusher (1996) (★★★½) – Here you can find out where Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) kicked off his career.
Pusher deals with a low level drug dealer who ends up getting in way over his head when a deal goes bad. Shot with plenty of verve and a pounding soundtrack that lends the film an intensity alongside the performances – in particular from Kim Bodnia in the lead, who BBC FOUR heads will recognise as Martin Rohde from The Bridge.
…and finally Punch-Drunk Love (★★★★½) – while not as overly violent as the films above, it does deal with a man prone to massive bouts of rage and anger.
Basically an art house Adam Sandler romantic comedy but much better than that sounds, Sandler plays Barry Egan (not the guy from the Sunday Indo), an awkward and intensely uptight man, cursed with 7 overbearing sisters and struggling with most aspects of normal life, particularly relationships, who suddenly finds he has an admirer in the shape of Emily Watson. Egan also has to deal with the Mattress Man played by the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman who is blackmailing him and also lots and lots and lots of pudding.
Beautifully shot with and blessed with an amazing score by Jon Brion also makes this a must see. I’d also like to add that this film also provided me with one of my favourite cimema going experiences ever, starting off the movie with a full house but then two thirds of the people left before the end (as I said an art house Adam Sandler comedy) but hey, their loss….