Saturday 31 December 2011


At the end of last year I moaned about people’s attitudes to remakes and sequels and unfortunately due to the abundance of such films that flowed through this year, it seems that once again I’m  bitching about such things once more. Sorry.

The ever excellent MAMO podcast made the amusing point this year that all these people whining about remakes of foreign films are talking about movies that have already been adapted for them. Getting on your soapbox about the latest remake is one thing but the fact that they haven’t realised that said foreign film has been adapted to make sense for them in the way of subtitles anyway, helps make the argument moot.

 It seems that even the makers of the original features are now even above such talk. To find out that director Tomas Alfredson thought that his reaction towards American remake Let me in was childish, speaks volumes to a tinterweb brigade who are quick to yell BOYCOTT and ORIGINAL MOVIES when the next upcoming remake is announced but a quick to step in line when the next book/comic/graphic novel to film adaptation launches. It hasn’t escaped me that despite all this “Hollywood is so unoriginal” talk, the highest ranking film based on an original idea (Bridesmaids) lies 12 in worldwide box office gross.  Closer to home in the U.K. we see that yet again despite some fine features making appearances and friends not only on these shores but in the U.S, you’d be hard pressed to find the likes of Attack the Block making even a dent in the top U.K 30, let alone the top ten. This makes the homegrown antics of The Inbetweeners Movie quite an achievement, whether based on a T.V program or not.

The final entry of the Harry Potter series speaks much of the cinematic landscape. Based on a book, brand awareness in heaps, bankrolled by Warner Bros yet filmed here with British talent. Yes, lavish praise was once again heaped on the wizard franchise by muggles. And while I agree that such films like Potter and Bond are around and keep highly skilled crew in jobs in our world famous studios. The amount of profit made by these ventures don’t appear to putting as money into our fledging British film industry as one would like. It does however help allow mediocre films like Clash of the Titans sequels to get funded.

This brings me to the problematic area of distribution in which our mainstream cinemas still don’t believe in a fair fight. When I first worked in a cinema; I remember discovering that two major studios owned it. Much may have changed since I’ve left but I’m sure that the major studios still have the biggest stake in our cinemas and the ultimate decisions in what get shown. I’m constantly frustrated that movies seem to only be slanted towards an ignorant 15-24 male demographic whose only concerns are Robots hitting each other but this is something one must grin and bear until I move closer to London again and allowed to wallow in the glorious glow of the Curzon Cinema in Soho. As a lover of cinema, I will still try and seek out smaller gems when I can. The problem is of course, it’s most likely to be a home with microwave popcorn. Away from cinema screens filled with noisy, iphoning, dingbats.

Such talk explains why things don’t appear to be changing. If people are waiting to watch certain types of cinema at home, online or on blu-ray with massive screens then why would cinemas try and alter the viewing choices? The major budget films are all about those first three days (or more depending on those advanced screenings) in as many screens as possible, and it seems to be working still (despite falling viewership) Smaller films (particularly overseas markets) seem to be happy with the long game with the knowledge that it could find the audience it desires on the smaller screen. It’s all good asking for change, but even when the likes of Jonathan Rosenbaum have decided to set up shop at home than the cinema then many must be asking “what’s all the fuss about?”

With all this said I still watch as many movies as I can. It’s easy to bemoan many aspects of modern viewing (and I do at length), but the love of sitting in a dark room watching a movie still bewitches me. My only ask is that film should be viewed more importantly, as an art form and as a way we shape our culture. With the ability to capture motion being so easy for us these days, we take for granted how powerful the medium can be. Yes, entertainment does and will always be a factor when I pick up something to watch but one of the things that makes warm is when a film as the ability to teach, spark thought or debate, and of course move you. This year has been one in which such aspects have made that mark.

My favourite ten of the year (as always in no order):

Grubby crime cinema from Australia. More in line with Greek Tragedy than Goodfellas. Michôd's feature debut is may have a low key feel, but the tension is ratcheted to its highest. It’s opening scene hooked me. It’s final moments left me on the ropes.

Melancholia is at times just as visually arresting as Von Trier's Antichrist, but is a far more precise being. Von Trier is far more accurate here and one of the reasons seems to be that the subject matter is closer to his heart. The dark clouds of depression loom large over both Antichrist and Melancholia but the latter shows a director whose far more in the mood to tackle (and even embrace) his demons then letting them run amok. Self absorption and pomp are still abound from the "best director in the world" but this is far more focused, far more at peace.

It slips from action to drama without difficulty, it shrugs off its unoriginality and sketchy plot with well drawn out themes, strong lead character and visual flair. The music is immediate and kept me in the moment and I adored the films quiet loud quiet rhythm. Hanna doesn't say much different, but it has the ability to be more articulate when it's shouting it's message from the hills.

Unrepentant to the end, provocative and just as relevant for now as it is for the era it’s set in. Like it’s lead character it’s tough to watch at times but compelling throughout.

Malick’s film is a celebration of life, a joy in contemplation of us merely existing and how this fact alone can provide resonance in others. That our simply being here can provide happiness to those we touch.  This simple and yet deeply profound and affecting ideal is why I loved the film.

I thought it would be the weakest blockbuster of the year. Turns out was the most exhilarating one and one of the only summer flicks that actually wanted to tell a story. The film also featured one of the most fist pumping, barnstorming set pieces of the year, set on the San Francisco Bridge.

If I wanted to act clever; when talking about Drive, I'd say something along the lines of: A brutal symphony, tinged with flecks of 80's nostalgia and machismo.  But I’m better off in stating that Drive is a highly entertaining, stylish piece of trash. A classically tragic anti-hero, a soundtrack that once heard you can’t shake off and a beautifully shot L.A. I was in heaven watching this.

Alfredson's film works so well because it take time over showing how deeply isolated the spy game is. Close relationships are broken, belittled and bargained for, information is called gold dust for good reason and moral compasses are as murky as the films cold, drab colour scheme that Alfredson utilises to enhance the tone of the film. The film is literally as grey as the the shades these characters dwell in.

The GuardIn yet another year in which I found most of the Hollywood comedies waning somewhat, it’s was wonderful to stumble upon this low-fi Irish indie gem. A film I hope find its audience on DVD like it’s kissing cousin In Burges.

Ramsay’s direction as never been so precise, while Swinton simply dominates the screen in this psychological battle of wits. The films draining central relationship  (with Ezar Miller giving a particularly malicious performance) manages to keep it’s ambiguity and tension to the end.

Other Film highlights: Meeting directors Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). The biggest thing for me this year however was meeting one of my idols; Mark Kermode, in Oxford and talking to him about The Ninth Configuration, Thelma Schoonmaker and Shutter Island

Saturday 24 December 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Year: 2011
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Screenplay: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore

Synopsis is here

It's a film that has date movie stamped all over it and I'm sure most twenty something males wouldn't even bother catching this flick, even if they are die hard Carell fans. But whether I'm right or wrong with my gross generalisation I have to say that Crazy, Stupid Love is a very warm and fun loving feature that's enjoyable because it feels like the makers of the movie actually watch similar movies and tried to find out what works and what doesn't.

I'm not surprised that as a rom-com it works, as directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have tried their hand at such endeavours before. Their début feature; I love you Phillip Morris was a film I wasn't completely in love with, but had a decent core relationship at it's core. Crazy, Stupid, Love is equally as smart with it's heart and does well to show these characters as flawed, yet relatable. Where I found Phillip Morris to be pretty bland in terms of how the story plays out, Crazy, Stupid, Love takes a well known track but does well to change the scenery. Where I predicted the end of Phillip Morris from a mile off, with this I still had a good time wondering where these people where going to take me.

It helps that the film spends a fair amount of time with most of it's characters and gives them a certain amount of grounding. As the film switches and swoops between characters with sub-plots at times interconnecting and colliding, we never feel too short changed about someone else, even when the films twists are at their most convoluted. It's unfortunate that twice in the movie however, we get two sequences involving Emma Stone and Julianne Moore that sat awkwardly to me for all the wrong reasons. I won't lie and say that part of this is possibly because I'm a slightly selfish twenty something male who doesn't believe that certain characters honesty at that point shouldn't have amounted to the reactions given. In fact both felt like a screenplay bait and switch in order to forcibly manipulate character affections to the audience. The scene with Stone is particularly cumbersome as the other character involved isn't written as well as he could have been.

However the characters (that matter) are not only well constructed, but also well cast. Carell whom I feel has had a patchy film career, carries the film well and his relationship with Julienne Moore is one you can get behind. You could say Moore is slumming it here considering some of the high class work she is usually known for (I always feel more people have to see Far from Heaven), but she is more than effective here. The film does well to try and make sure that you don't hate either character, although you may finding yourself being less than subjective (very dependant on what I mentioned in the above paragraph). Emma Stone once again shows how much of a likable and charming presence she is one screen while Gosling has a lot of fun as this Hitch-lite character who goes though a slighter more predictable arc than everyone else but still manages to hold his own against Carell at the best of times. The banter between the two (and a great Marisa Tomei in support) bring about the best comic moments.

It is also worth noting that Crazy, Stupid, Love is a film that looks as sharp as one of RyGos' suits. Something which you don't expect from many rom-coms is the filmmakers to really take note at what your taking in visually. The film's not has simple but effective visual motifs to illustrate the distance between characters but it also has a rich colour palette and uses soft focus in a wonderfully dreamy way. Strangely it's use of such a technique, particularly in relation to the sub-plot it appears with, reminds me of a John Hughes feature. I don't even think Hughes ever even used such elements, but the strange mix of the cinematography, the "normal" characters, and the good natured feel of it all for whatever reason invoked such memories.

Much like Extract; Crazy, Stupid, Love works well as a film about communication (or lack there of) and also reminds us that relationships are about not only utilising said communication with the other person, but also allowing ones self to be open to conversation. Simple scenes such as Gosling and Stone staying up all night talking, or the small heartfelt moment involving Carell and Moore outside their sons classroom during parents night are the type of scenes that can sink or swim romantic comedies (some don't even bother with such moments.) but when used well, they make the difference between a screenplay going though the motions, and something worthwhile. Crazy, Stupid, Love feels like a film that spent time revising what went well before to make sure it doesn't get pulled up for lack of interest. Because of this, I invested interest.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Review: Bad Teacher

Year: 2011
Director: Jake Kasdan
Screenplay: Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segal, Lucy Punch

Synopsis is here

I'm sure that there's a few people, who drop by this site, and read my negative reviews on comedies and probably think I have a humoroscopy. My last review on the quite lacklustre Horrible Bosses will probably have way more people disagreeing than agreeing with me but in the blogosphere it's expected. I won't be surprised that the same people who rated Horrible Bosses a high ranking 7.1 (as I write this) on the IMDB, took offence at the Cameron Diaz vehicle Bad Teacher and gave it the 5.7 it has to settle with.

After watching the two pretty much back to back, I've gotta say that at least Bad Teacher doesn't pull it's punches. The subject matter may not be as dark but the subversiveness is there. I laughed and tittered as Diaz revelled in a role she loved playing. I will not try and defend the fact the film is not one note, but there is enough in the performances (particularly Lucy Punch and Justin Timberlake) to keep me watching. The film has just enough brazen energy to keep things ticking.

Most of the energy comes from Diaz who comes across as an evil Dewey Finn. I liked her timing; as I have in the past, and there are small moments throughout the film involving her character I just enjoyed throughout. At one point we see that her also unsavoury flatmate would rather go out elsewhere than sit in and get "shitfaced" with her. The films car wash set piece is something one could see a mile off but still brings a silly giggle. It all seems to be down with how much you dig Diaz in the role. I've seen actresses that could perhaps do more, I know a ton that could do a lot less. However, Diaz did enough to make me want to see what will happen next in the next scene. I liked her interaction with the kids, as well as her drab banter with Jason Segal.

I guess Bad Teacher got me due to low expectations. Maybe I should watch films so late at night. Maybe I should have watched it separately from Horrible Bosses  The arcs are predictable but they function well enough for say, people looking for a throwaway 90 minutes pizza movie. It's mean, but I saw a glint of the characters redemption early enough in the film to plough on ahead. It's a feminist nightmare but in all honesty, unlike some other movies, its clearly in jest and winking at the camera. I can't lie, I didn't think it was as bad as many others said. Maybe I did have a humoroscopy.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Review: Horrible Bosses

Year: 2011
Director: Seth Gordon
Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey

Synopsis is here

As someone who is usually easily amused at pretty much everything, it's a shame that I'm so dismayed at the mainstream American comedy. Sitting through Horrible Bosses only confirmed my fears. Negative grumbling's have stated that the film is racist and homophobic. I didn't think so; and as a dark comedy, I expect a film like this to go down paths that are a little risky. The troubling thing about Horrible Bosses is it's not outrageous enough, from it's pretty bland straight characters to it's lacklustre, quickly hashed out ending, the film just doesn't push the bar high enough. I'm not the biggest Hangover 2 fan, but despite the spitefulness that infiltrates that movie, it gets the point.

Take in case the man eating, boss character of Jennifer Aniston. The film does well to show off how well Aniston looks after herself. In fact at points I found her more attractive here then when she was younger in friends. But her sexiness distracts from her point in the movie. In the same way you're not fooled when Rachel Leigh Cook puts on her hipster glasses and claims nerd, you find it near hard to believe that Day's character is completely turned off by Aniston's advances. It would be more entertaining if we had some one you could consider less attractive. I may be wrong in saying that but I do feel more comedy could be pulled from Charlie Days revulsion if the antagonist wasn't a smoking hot babe. Think Matt Lucas' Bubbles in Little Britain.

In fact I found myself relating Horrible Bosses to some of the brilliant comedies that grace our screens now. Shows that are quicker with the jokes, push the bars of taste and decency further and are generally more amusing than their cinematic counterparts. A barrage of shows including Charlie Day's own It's always sunny in Philadelphia, hit their comedic marks harder than this 9 to 5 update. I pick Day's show not only because of the connection of line crossing comedy, but because Day's Pilot for It's always sunny cost $200 and was far more amusing with it's envelope pushing. 

This isn't to say the film has it's moments. Despite undermining the comedy somewhat, Aniston is clearly game for a laugh, as is Farrell who both make the best out of their somewhat marginalised plots. It's obvious however that it's Spacey who has the most fun however, as he eats up his ignorant, arrogant asshole character with an extra large spoon. The three antagonist are infinitely more entertaining than the straight men who are difficult to even picture as friends let alone anything else. It's not that Bateman, Sudeikis or Day are particularly bad, it's just that they are bland.  Take away some admittedly amusing, awkward scenes involving a certain Oscar winning actor and you realise that there's not that much that the trio take to the party.

Horrible Bosses is underbaked and forgettable and unfortunately comes at a time in which Television is bringing stronger, more outlandish, dark humour which are better with the references and does nasty right. A night in with a good series weighs in far better than this weak entry.    

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Review: Melancholia

Year: 2011
Director: Lars Von Trier
Screenplay: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland

Synopsis is here

From nowhere; this celestial boulder, Melancholia appears from behind the sun and hurtles towards earth. When it connects, all life will be extinguished. Kirsten Dunst's Justine doesn't care, in fact for the most part this seems to be an afterthought. Reason being, it's clearly obvious that she's been dealing with a crushing pressure all her life.

Lars Von Triers' Antichrist was; for me, an excruciating bore. A beautiful; yet hideously unfocused piece, which tried too hard with it's Grand Guignol bloodletting and academic pandering to be involving in anyway. I still stand by my claim that many horror directors get slightest by some of the same things Von Trier placed on the table, and yet because of all the talk about thesis and the gorgeous visuals of the piece, the Dane gets a pass. Many will disagree with me there, but I'm digressing.

Melancholia is at times just as visually arresting as Antichrist, but is a far more precise being. Von Trier is far more accurate here and one of the reasons seems to be that the subject matter is closer to his heart. The dark clouds of depression loom large over both Antichrist and Melancholia but the latter shows a director whose far more in the mood to tackle (and even embrace) his demons then letting them run amok. Self absorption and pomp are still abound from the "best director in the world" but this is far more focused, far more at peace.

If Malick's Tree of Life was about the joy of life and the power of memory, Melancholia is the opposite. Tree of Life had Sean Penn's Jack reflecting on the various ways love was bestowed on him as a child. Here we are given a character in a deep state of depression (a subtle display by Dunst) whose hollowness clearly stems from a strained family relationship. An emasculated father (John Hurt in what appears to be a cameo), a scathingly bitchy and domineering mother (Charlotte Rampling) and a distraught sister Claire (Gainsbourg) who tries to care about her sister but is far too wrapped up by her own life. It is Claire and her husband John (a grumpy Sutherland) that has paid for Justine's wedding. Why isn't she happy? Why does she need to make a scene?

Much like Archipelago, the pain is hidden amongst the undergrowth as the family try and pain through a wedding that slowly detonates due to Justine's lack of well being. Told in two parts (named after the sisters) This half of the film is at times darkly amusing and appears to hark back to Festen (1995) by Domge 95 companion Thomas Vinterberg. Although; while visually more appealing, save for one moment, it's not nearly as scathing.

The second chapter, in which Melancholia becomes a stronger presence and begins to trouble Claire, is the stronger half of the story. As Justine becomes more depressed and yet more complacent about the end of the world, Claire becomes more anxious and worried. Von Trier's (and cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro) visual eye excel here. We watch as Justine lies naked bathed in the glow of the alien planet while Claire frets in the shadows. Another telling visual involves John; a man whose constant denial for nearly everything that's going on be it the idea of Melancholia crashing into earth or his sister in law's illness, wrapping his arm around Claire as they watch the planet come closer. Much like Defoe's character in Antichrist, is controlling and ignorant and fully wishes to dictate the women round him. The simple gesture of the embrace as Justine stand alone speaks volumes when observing his character as a whole.

It is films like this is why I can admire Von Trier at times, even if I do not appreciate everything he does. Here, his use of music (a beautiful prelude from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde) and visual eye combine to make a lavish and dark insight to depression. While the sci-fi hook Melancholia may come across as gimmicky and trite to some, it does help accentuate the themes that Von Trier wishes to place across. I've never been as depressed as Justine within the film but there's an accuracy about it I find hard to deny. We emphasise with her emptiness at the wedding as everyone else only seems to care about the shiny glossy surface of everything. Even the end of the world means nothing to her. As the others realise this and lose their heads, her clam exterior states everything it needs to. She's stared into the abyss long before them and no one cared. Nothing is going to change now.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Review: Hugo

Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: John Logan
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Mortez, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee

Synopsis is here

To many people I know; Martin Scorsese is the "gangster guy". When the name comes up, most think Casino over The Age of innocence or Mean Streets over Kundun. So when Hugo was announced, the film was considered to some a major departure. It's not. In watching Hugo, I realise that this family film has Marty DNA richly ingrained. Those who know Marty from Goodfellas may feel a note get struck when The Great Train Robbery is referenced in the film. The sense of history and that roaming camera betrays the films position. Add to that the themes of film restoration and referencing and anyone whose read at least one interview of the man can see that this is Scorsese in personal mode. There's a lot in here that we've seen from the man before but under different guises. However this is not an ode to "trashy" genre like say Shutter Island, or a glitzy throwback to the golden age ( The Aviator) but a love letter to the very beginnings of cinema.

That Scorsese uses James Cameron's game changer (3D) to help construct this actually quite fascinating. The tool considered to some as the future of cinema (lets not bring up that 3D has been tried before in the past) is being utilised to help try and enrich the past. As a film viewer who doesn't have much time for 3D I will admit that the 3D is a vaguely interesting element of Hugo. Like so many (if not all) these 3D features I'm still not convinced of it's story telling aspects. I don't find putting on those ill fitting plastic glasses to watch a film helps make it a more immersed experience. However the 3D does enhance the Paris landscape somewhat. The thing is, I'd still be invested in the film's visuals, anyway as the film is gorgeous to look from the start. From the beautiful glass house "castle" of George Melies to the visual reference of Harold Lloyds Safety Last, to the set design of the station where most of the action is based. This a film that is beautiful to look at and very reminiscent of the jaunts of Jeunet

It is that beauty that kept me involved as the films first act is uncommonly unfocused and quite not very involving. From the opening prologue the film feels slightly disjointed and it's difficult to get a hold on the material. The film becomes much more comfortable in the second act when the film's plot and talk of silent cinema come into the foreground. This is great from a film student, cinephile, point of view. From a family film perspective however, the wish to combine the history of silent cinema into a film in which children are the main demographic places it in a similar place as fellow movie brat Spielberg with Tintin. We get a film which seems to be intended for children or family but seems to be more in touch with the geek crowd. Critics have given the film high praise and why wouldn't they, the history aspect caters to them. But the films awkward marketing and the U.S release of the film; placing it up against The Muppets when the week after had no wide releases, appears to betray a certain apprehension. In comparison to the opening act of Pixer's Wall-E which manages to combine aspects of early silent cinema, new age tech gimmicky and story and still keeps focus on the intended audience, I wouldn't be surprised if Hugo gets the same mixed response from kids that I saw from Rango this year.

While the film doesn't have as much charm as I expected, there's a sincerity that flows through the film constantly. The film (read Scorsese) is clearly in love with cinema. For someone like me it's hard not feel a chill as Ben Kingsley's Melies explaining a film set as thus: "If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they're made."  Hugo is a film that believes that cinema still has a certain power behind it. A highlight of this is a flashback situated in the middle of the film showing Melies creating one of his features and the ideals behind it. Similar scenes include the reacting of the first viewing of "Train arriving at a station" or when Chloe Mortez's character first witnesses a film for the first time. These moments seem lost and miles away when we now consider that we take the moving image for granted so easily nowadays. Hugo plays out like how those adverts which talk about "cinema only being worth seeing at the big screen" should play out. Scenes in which peoples love of cinema not only gets them to emote but come together are some of the films better moments.

This is fine for someone like me to go on about. Hugo tries to hack into that reason in why I love the cinema the way I do and to be honest I admire Scorsese's approach. The films lavish look, the nostalgic asides to story telling and dream making, the historical aspects that coincide with the story. It all falls into my romantic view of films and filmmaking; that it is more than just a happy go lucky diversion. That's fine for the 27 year old that I am now, but would the 8 year old approve? That I am not sure of.

Monday 5 December 2011

Review: The Devil's Double

Year: 2011
Director: Lee Tamahori
Screenplay: Michael Thomas
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier

Synopsis is here

The main hook of The Devils Double is almost too bizarre to be true but the more you put into consideration the type of tyrants that we follow in throughout the film, the more typical the idea seems. Members of Saddam's family having doubles for certain occasions? Why the hell not? You can't be everywhere at once. It's even more handy when you consider the the high risk of assassination.

Based on the true story of Latif Yahia, The Devil's Double is a mixture of psychotic prince and unfortunate pauper as Latif is forced against his will to become the double for Saddam's Son Uday. Both roles are played by Dominic Cooper (I have only seen him in this and as Tony Stark's Dad in Captain America) a la Parent Trap Trickery (possibly) and yet you will never gain a moments confusion. Latif is stoic, upstanding and decent (although weakly accented by Cooper), while Uday is the type of Satan's gremlin that resides in the campfire stories of lesser villains in the films more showy yet stronger role.

Images and ideas of duality are abound, but no one will be looking at this with the identity struggle that inflicted the likes of Bergman's Persona, as the film plays out more in of the style of "Scarface in Iraq". Uday's world is one of excess over decency. Tyranny roams the landscape and Latif unfortunately must live in it as his likeness has seemingly trapped him in a unique hurt locker. That is keeps his sanity so well is not only a slight weakness of the film. His common decency makes him sympathetic, but almost saintly in consideration. Latif only falls into temptation with the flat female fatale character Sarrab; played by Ludivine Sagnier, whose allure is clear from her sultry looks and curves in the right places. This element of the film is not only typical of the genre the film is rolling in but also the most transparent. Sagnier's Sarrab has little to do apart from get Latif hot under the collar and boy does she. When Sagnier is given more to do the audience will probably not be surprised by what happens. This could be said of most of the narrative which delves into scenes of gory violence, sexual depravity and excess that would make Tony Montana feel slightly enviousness.

However, the film never lets up in terms of entertainment. Much like the little seen The Lincoln Lawyer, The Devil's Double works because it's a straight up crime film. Lee Tamahori has stated that the film is not supposed to be a political statement into the Iraq war and the bunkum idea that the film should completely follow the tracks of the true story, makes sure that the film can concentrate in being an avalanche of excess and madness. Strangely in it's extremity the film help create a particular kind of insight.While everything may not happen as the film states, it highlights the decadence of the regime it follows. Nearly all of the craziness is compiled in Cooper's whiny, buck toothed, bug eyed performance of Uday, who is as vile as he is fascinating. The battle that Cooper manages to instigate with himself is itself the reason to watch this film. If not for journey man Tamahori's assured direction of both action and drama. Nasty images of the invisible car fade have been replaced for a particularly golden palette and neatly crafted set pieces.

The Devils Double has Dominic Cooper fighting himself in more ways than one but it's a shame that the film keeps the polar opposites exactly as they are and refuses to make them merge. It's the seductiveness of the dark side (no matter how chaotic) that is missing from what is an effective and stylish crime film.