Angel Has Fallen 2019 ****


Mike Banning (Gerry Butler) is a burnt-out case. His health is failing, his emotional range is narrowing, he barely recognises his own wife. Of course, that could be because she’s not played by the same actress (Radha Mitchell) as in the first two films, Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen, but Banning’s loyalty to the President is unshakable. Aaron Eckhart clearly didn’t fancy a third outing either, so Morgan Freeman is hurriedly sworn in as Commander In Chief Allan Trumbull for Ric Roman Waugh’s cheeky and entertaining film. Trumbull comes under attack from an airborne army of explosive drones, and in the eyes of the authorities, Banning is linked to this treasonous act of terrorism. Fleeing the scene, Banning hides out with his estranged dad, played by Nick Nolte in a full Yosemite Sam/Dirty Santa/prospector peeing–through-his-knee length beard get-up (‘I don’t do medication,’ says Nolte, in a knowing wink to the audience). Banning and his dad set out to find out who was responsible, while FBI agent Jada Pinkett Smith is in hot pursuit in the style of The Fugitive. Although various personnel have jumped ship, Angel Has Fallen is easily the best of the trilogy, and arguably Butler’s best action film yet. Decent support (Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson) and improved action scenes including a truck chase through a forest, and a slam-bang shoot-out in a high-tech hospital climax that really deliver the goods. And hewn-from-granite leading man Butler is the happy centre that a straight-forward action movie requires; lily-livered liberal film critics may scoff, but a big man, a big gun and instant justice will make Angel Has Fallen a guilty pleasure for all sides of the political spectrum.


Q & A 1990 ****

Sidney Lumet’s feel for New York veracity led to blistering cinema including Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon; the best of his later work, including Before The Devil Knows Your Dead, has a more static feel but is no less savvy. 1990’s Q & A was not popular at the time, but it’s a meaty, substantial film that deals with genuine issues. Fresh-faced assistant DA Al Reilly (Timothy Hutton) has his first case to deal with, and dirty cop Mike Brennan (Nick Nolte) has lots to hide. A self-defence shooting is revealed as a cold-blooded execution in the opening scene, and Reilly’s unravelling of the truth is the main thrust of the story. A second thread, involving Reilly’s romantic feelings towards to wife of drag baron Bobby Tex (Armand Assante) feels a bit more contrived, but the way Lumet details corruption, from a book by Supreme Court judge Edwin Torres (Carlito’s Way), is unflinching and absorbing for every minute of the 132 here.

Hateship Loveship 2013 ***


The full title of Alice Munro’s short story is Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, and that provides a useful guide to the contents of Lisa Johnson’s drama, which manages to capture the nuances of Munro’s prose. Kristen Wiig plays down her comic abilities and plays up her downtrodden side as Johanna Parry, introduced on her final day as carer to an elderly lady. Johanna gets on a bus and starts a new job, taking care of a teenage girl Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld) whose mother has been killed in a speedboat accident. Sabitha has two paternal figures, her largely absent coke-head father Ken (Guy Pearce) and her mother’s dad, played by Nick Nolte. When Sabitha allows a school friend to make mischief between Johanna and Ken by faking an email correspondence that raises Johanna’s hopes of a relationship, the family gets pulled in unexpected directions when a tentative romance blooms between Johanna and Ken. Hateship Loveship is a decidedly low-key drama, well played and managing to dodge contrivance at every stage; Wiig does a good job of suggesting Johanna’s dogged determination, using cleaning and caring as a way of working her way into a substance abuser’s heart.

The Deep 1977 ***


Adapting a Peter Benchley novel in the aftermath of Jaws was always going be a difficult prospect; the lack of a killer shark stopped The Deep from reaching such iconic status, although Peter Yates’s film is a good-looking thriller with personable leads. Gail and David (Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte) are holidaying in Bermuda when they meet up with adventurer Romer Treese (Robert Shaw) who is on the trail of sunken treasure. There’s plenty of danger, from a Haitian drug cartel to a deadly Moray eel that guards the treasure, and Shaw is always good value as a similar grizzled sea-soak to the one he played in Jaws. The Deep is likably old-school in its traditional adventure plotting, but Yates brings excellent production values to the fore, with impressive underwater photography that catches his photogenic leads at their youthful best.