Destroyer 2018 ***

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Karyn Kusama’s tough crime flick was hailed as an awards –front runner by dint of Nicole Kidman’s dramatic change of appearance for the title role of Erin Bell, an LA cop who goes deep undercover in an attempt to bust a bank-robbing gang. Awards-voters aren’t known for their appreciation of noir, and Destroyer fell by the wayside in terms of attention and box-office. Kidman, seen enjoying good health in the flashback scenes, looks haggard and exhausted in the modern-day storyline of Destroyer as she shakes-down various low-lives to get to the source of some dyed-bank notes which connect her to a disastrous heist. Toby Kebbell makes an impression as the gang’s leader Silas, and the big action scene has a real punch. The script isn’t always convincing, and the plot-holes work do against Destroyer, but as a terse thriller in the vein of Michael Mann, Destroyer has a lot to offer the discerning noir fan.

 

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Blackhat 2015 ***

o-blackhat-facebookMichael Mann’s misfires are more interesting than most director’s home-runs; his 2015 techno-thriller starts with a dive through the circuitry of a computer, and sets a tone of visual abstraction that never quite meshes with some of the conventional plotting. Chris Hemsworth looks improbably buff for a master-hacker, forced to join forces with an international counter-cyber terrorism movement. The technology is superbly handled, together with operatic visual flourishes that disguise the fact Blackhat feels like a Steven Segal movie in disguise.  If Blackhat adds up to little that’s new, the glossy surface has a hypnotic power in its depiction of a world hard-wired with justified paranoia.

The Keep 1983 ***

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Michael Mann’s name is synonymous with hard-boiled cop cinema, from Miami Vice to Heat, so it’s something of a departure to see him tackle full-blown horror in his troubled 1984 production of The Keep. Set during WWII, and based on a novel by F Paul Wilson, The Keep sees Gabriel Byrne’s Nazi officer awakening a dormant force from a sealed tomb, only to see it decimate his officers. Scott Glenn puts in a strange turn as some kind of messianic soldier summoned to balance out the forces of evil, and Sir Ian McKellern is a Jewish professor summoned to analyse the markings found in the crypt. Although the suspense is lacking, the general atmosphere, and the erudition of the characters, make this a curio well worth seeking out.

Thief 1981 ****

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Michael Mann established himself with a series of tight genre films in the early eighties including the articulate but butchered horror film The Keep. But his 1981 thriller Thief marks itself as a template for the hard-nosed, detailed character driven crime movie that led to Miami Vice, Heat and Public Enemies. James Caan is the hard-nosed safe-cracker, his job portrayed with such detail as a metallurgist’s dream. Rising to a dynamically films shootout, Thief has elements rare in modern thrillers; driven, professional blue collar hero, Robert Prosky (Hill Street Blues) in an unexpectedy sinister role, and yes, a throbbing Tangerine Dream score.