Tuesday 3 December 2013

60 Second Film Reviews #9

Quick movie reviews, without the waffle. 60 Second Film Reviews is a regular feature where I compile together brief reviews of recent films I've watched at home or at the movies - and generally couldn't be arsed didn't find time to write a proper review for. 

This month we have Welcome to the Punch, The Place Beyond the Pines and The Bling Ring.

Welcome to the Punch (2013)

A slick and visually-gorgeous British crime thriller by director Eran Creevy, Welcome to the Punch is a fairly by-the-numbers caper that is elevated in quality by its impressive direction, solid cast and gorgeous cinematography.

Starring James McAvoy as injured cop Max Lewinsky, Welcome to the Punch contains all the recognisable narrative beats from archetypical noir/gritty crime thrillers. Set in London, the film sees Lewinsky on the trail of Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), a former criminal who shot him in the leg three years prior. With his son shot and killed, Sternwood comes out of hiding to track down those responsible. 

However, as you can expect, things are never as straight-forward as they seem; the two begin to uncover a deeper conspiracy between those around them which will lead them to question who they can and can't trust. 

McAvoy is a confident lead and his acting, alongside Strong's, elevates the otherwise humdrum plot to the next level. I also liked Andrea Riseborough's (Oblivion) character Sarah, as her and McAvoy worked well on screen together. David Morrissey (The Walking Dead) is also great here. Visually, Welcome to the Punch is a treat - the atmospheric framing and slo-mo action sequences are well executed and not overdone to death.

Whilst the build-up keeps the plot running along at a steady pace, the final resolution was weak to say the least. Not only is it signposted as clearly as a minefield, but it is also underwhelming and a real anticlimax. This is the kind of film you can read like an open book from the get-go. 

At then end of the day, I only enjoyed Welcome to the Punch enough to recommend it to fans of similar British action flicks; RocknRolla, Harry Brown and so on. Put simply - good-looking mediocrity. 

I give Welcome to the Punch: 5/10

The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious and enticing drama by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) - starring Ryan Gosling (Drive) and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), this is a brilliantly-acted film that spans three separate stories and two generations, whilst dealing with themes of fatherhood, fate and responsibility. 

Without giving too much away (the film works best when you don't know too much about the transitions between the various plot-lines), Cianfrance has split the film up into a distinct three act structure; the idea being that events and actions echo across the separate stories before coming full circle and reverberating back upon our characters once again.  

I really liked the way in which the film dealt with this ideal of fate and destiny, even though I don't believe in it myself. It was an entrancing and thought-provoking message. What starts out as a straight-up crime thriller involving a series of bank robberies becomes a lot more than that later on, with some real curve-balls thrown in along the way.

Also, the acting is great. Gosling is once again a silent indie-flick hero with a penchant for motors whilst Eva Mendes plays an important supporting role well. Cooper was the stand-out for me, his police officer character once again proving he has the acting chops to break out of that goofball Hangover role. 

The film also looks gorgeous, the gloomy rural American setting being complemented by Cianfrance's simplistic but effective direction; only when needed did the director throw in some really visceral action-oriented shots to get the tempo racing. 

I give The Place Beyond the Pines: 9/10 

The Bling Ring (2013) 

The Bling Ring is a film by Sofia Coppola that is based on a true story; throughout 2008 and 2009, a group of seven teenagers broke into and robbed the homes of Hollywood's biggest stars - part drama, part satirical comedy, the film is an uneven and only sometimes effective comment on modern culture. 

Coppola's film shines a light on celebrity culture and Gen Y's obsession with film, music and fashion, especially the latter. Their desire to make it onto the 'A-list' is the driving force behind their crimes. Unfortunately however, the film is only gives us a skin deep of the teens, failing to make them seem anything more than stock MTV-obsessed teens that idolise Hilton and Lohan. 

At the end of the day, they aren't likeable characters so we, the audience, find it hard to sympathise with their inevitable downfall. Are we supposed to be amused by their drug-fuelled raves and thefts? Or hope they get away with it? They don't do anything innately positive or admirable, their 'redemption' at the end feeling hollow, forced and fake. It also takes around 45 minutes for the plot to really get going, with the group only starting to feel the repercussions of their actions until a whole hour into the movie. 

It's when actions meet consequences that things finally come good in The Bling Ring - the final third is where the cocaine and robberies start to come full-circle and the film steps up a couple of notches. 

However, the film still manages to achieve what it set out to do;  Littered with selfies, smartphones, palm trees and noise-pop, The Bling Ring is an unsettling film that has something to say about the topic. It does have a sobering effect on you. I can only hope people read the film as a negative portrayal rather than an aspirational life-goal. 

Watson manages to rise above the lurching narrative with a performance unlike anything she's taken on before - like her role in 2012's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Watson is rapidly distancing herself from Harry Potter with a string of roles that show her range and ambition as an actress. Like Jennifer Lawrence, Chloe Moretz and Emma Stone, Watson is one of those actresses who'll go far in the future. 

Taken on face value, The Bling Ring is a film with something to say which stutters and spins its wheels at first. Coppola's direction is gorgeous and the score is suitably brash and loud. The cast (other than Watson) aren't anything to shout about and it doesn't really find its feet until the final half hour. Worth a go if you like the work of both Watson and Coppola. 

I give The Bling Ring: 6/10 


  1. Really nice blog :) I also loved The Place Beyond the Pines even though the people watching it with me weren't so fussed. I'm also slightly biased towards Ryan Gosling since Drive so that may have helped! Intrigued to see Only God Forgives with such mixed reviews.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yeah, I really liked Drive too so I'm getting round to watching Only God Forgives soon! I reckon Place Beyond the Pines is Gosling's best role so far though. Only God Forgives' did divide people's opinions so I'm interested to see why :) Thanks for all the feedback.



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