If you’d like to be blasted out of your post-holiday complacency, then run don’t walk to see a radically transformed Nicole Kidman in the action thriller Destroyer. Stalking gangsters with heavy weaponry and attitude, she’s a disturbed, driven cop out to right a wrong dating back to a traumatic event. The look in her dead eyes tells the story, and every drop of energy is funneled into the fight. She’s merciless and reptilian, responding to survival and revenge instinct, an all-new, plain faced Kidman. And she doesn’t care if you like her. It’s her bravest performance that shows she’s capable of pure savagery and extending her reach far beyond the Dream Goddess image of the past three decades. It’s an exciting moment. She reveals a wounded, charred heart which makes her will to fight even more impressive. Karen Kusama’s ballsy film may not live up to Kidman’s performance but it’s a great start, gritty as hell and never flags.
Nadine Labaki’s heavily nominated Capharnaüm is an exquisitely intimate film that relies on a cast of very young first-time actors in complex, demanding roles. The leading boy Zein, played by Zain Al Rafeea, a real-life Syrian refugee, lives in poverty and chaos on the streets of the fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. Labaki follows him over a period of time as a neglected child of abusive parents, from pint sized runaway to street urchin to ersatz mother to an infant. He feels the pain an inevitability of deprivation. It shows on his young face and small body and in his movements that indicate he’s also on constant high alert. He’s meant to be twelve but he looks eight or nine. He and the baby starve as he hustles for crumbs; there’s no safety and no grownups offer them a hand. Zein is imprisoned for a violent crime not knowing what has become of the baby. He’s traumatised and realises that his path is going to be impossibly hard, so he sues his parents for giving him life. Capharnaüm is one of the most unsettling films of the year, and its based on the filmmaker’s observations and experiences in the city’s slums. A seismic expression of life for some of the world’s children. Capharnaüm is Lebanon’s entry in Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film category.
Richard Madden, the newly minted Golden Globes Best Actor in the series Bodyguard leads a taut limited series from the UK that will curl your hair; it is INTENSE. If you haven’t seen it, hold a day to devote to six full length episodes on Netflix and expect to be deeply spooked. Madden is David Budd a security specialist and former black ops agent suffering from PTSD, just assigned to protect the Home Secretary (Keeley Hawes) a polarising and ambitious career politician. She has enemies that would like to see her out of office by any means possible – among them thugs, gangsters, rival politicians, exes, you name it. It’s soon clear she’s gunning hard for the PM’s job and intends to blackmail him to step down. It’s no surprise that she is targeted in a bombing, but shocking facts emerge about the protected and the protector that could bring down Parliament.
Britbox has launched the new intriguing, femme-centric police procedural Bancroft, set in Manchester and following the lives and work of police women, including a detective, a detective superintendent and a forensic scientist. It’s a four-parter with more twists and turns than braided bread, including a 27-year-old crime that was covered up by high officials, and the possibility of it breaking open thanks to a keen new hire (Faye Marsay) and her colleague who must search for “lost” evidence. DS Elizabeth Bancroft (Sarah Parish) doesn’t say much about her past but its clear she’s traumatised by something work related. As the case develops, she’s targeted by a local drug ring and her own guilty conscience. I’ll say it again, those Brits certainly know how to make great dramatic television.
The streaming service MHZ Choice is a treasure trove of rarities, new series and films from Nordic noir dramatic series, to comedy and French dramas never before seen in North America. Subtitles are easy to read and it’s so much fun to step outside our North American television viewing habits and experience the talent and imagination of foreign filmmakers and artists and see new cultures and landscapes. MHZ Choice is available on just about any device you can name.
A fourth season of the The Weissensee Saga about life under an authoritarian government premiers April 2019.
The hit Swedish police procedural Beck begins a new season of crime, compromise and ambition.
Welcome to Hindafing, a Fargo-esque black comedy about a small-town Bavarian mayor whose idea for an all organic market sends the citizens into an all-out frenzy of corruption, backstabbing and other fun stuff.
The Sandhamn Murders based on Viveca Sten’s marry crime with beautiful natural landscapes off the coast of Stockholm, like Midsomer Murders with a different accent, while Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves looks at life for a young gay man during the city’s AIDS crisis.
Jared Bentley’s exploitation heist actioner Intensive Care is a salute to powerful women with a side of pain for the creeps who cross them. Martial artist, stunt woman and dancer Tara Macken is Alex, at the centre of the action who faces three violent and crafty criminals. She’s a retired extreme fighter who’s now a personal care worker, looking after a wealthy elderly woman at death’s door. The woman’s grandson (Jai Rodriquez) shows up to grab her money and [perhaps hasten her demise. They get together for a night and his thug co-conspirators show up. They want the money; fists fly in one long bloody brouhaha with a couple of truly impressive action sequences as Bentley neatly raises tension. Alex isn’t having any of their guff. On DVD now.
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