Deepwater Horizon 2016 ***

deepwater-horizon-filmLike most true stories, Deepwater Horizon takes liberties with a true life story; BP are painted blackly as baddies here, mainly though John Malkovich’s sneering exec, and the oil-workers are all blue-collar cannon fodder, braving the deadly mistakes foisted on them from upstairs. A quick check of the facts reveals a different story, but it’s hard to blame director Peter Berg for playing to the gallery. Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell are ideally cast as the rig-workers who find the pressure mounting as a drill-operation goes wrong, and the intensity is well developed until the explosive finale. As with The 33, a far more upbeat story, the public stayed away in droves; a shame, because the film’s sympathy with the plight of ordinary people, risking their lives to make a living, shows that it’s heart is in the right place, even if the facts are slightly askew.

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The Art of the Steal 2014 ***

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Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon face of in this lively thriller set in the world of art heists. Russell plays Crunch Calhoun, a motorcycle stunt-driver who utilises his daredevil skills as part of a robbery syndicate, with brother Nicky (Dillon) and Frankie (Jay Baruchel) along for the ride. The Art of the Steal opens with an elaborate con that pushes Crunch into riding his bike through a subway car in Poland, but despite his best efforts, he lands himself in jail. On his return to civilian life, Crunch gets his gang back together for one last job, with Samuel Winter (Terence Stamp) helping the authorities who are keen to bring crunch down. Writer and director Jonathan Sobel gives the dialogue a Tarantino-style lick of irreverence, and while the genre may be stale, The Art of the Steal offers enough flash to keep the narrative drive moving until the twisty-turny pay-off.

The Mean Season 1975 ***

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Kurt Russell plays Malcolm Anderson a prickly reporter who becomes a conduit between a manipulative murderer known as the Numbers Killer in Phillip Borsos’s tight little Miami-set thriller. Andy Garcia is amongst the cops who gather round Anderson’s desk as he fields the calls, but when the killer homes in on the reporter’s girlfriend, played by Mariel Hemingway, the cat and mouse game becomes personal. The Mean Season’s title refers to a tropical storm, and there’[s plenty of sweaty moodiness from the leads, married to a sensibly handled plot. Borsos pushes a little too hard to shoehorn action in, with a scene in which Russell jumps across a highway bridge stretching credulity, but The Mean Season stands up as a decent entry in the serial killer genre.