Night Hunter 2018 ****

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Henry Cavill is at something of a cross-roads right now; the substantially framed leading man did a great job in Mission Impossible; Fallout, and that offsets underwhelming outings as Superman and stale thrillers like The Cold Light of Day. In writer/director David Raymond’s thriller, he’s cast as Marshall, a cop in a quandary; he captures Simon (Brendan Fletcher) a paedophile who has locked up a girl at an unknown location. While a psychologist (Alexandra Daddario) attempts to get inside Simon’s head, Marshall has to balance the demands of his boss (Stanley Tucci) with the girl’s father (Ben Kingsley), who has previously used his daughter as bait to trap and castrate sex-offenders. Night Hunter’s plot has echoes of the final scenes of David Fincher’s Se7en, with the police scrambling to understand the complex machinations of a diseased mind; there are issues relating to mental health in the way that Simon is described, although a late twist changes the meaning of his behaviour. Night Hunter has a few issues of its own, with some of the scenes oddly edited and not always landing squarely. But Raymond has assembled a top-notch cast, all of who perform, with Tucci, Kinsley and particularly Daddario racking up the intensity. For Cavill, it’s a welcome change of pace to see him in a more human role that the usual supermen characters that his physique seems to inspire; he manages to ground the narrative, and helps make Night Hunter an absorbing, intense thriller.

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The Informer 2020 ****

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Set for a U.S. release in January 2020, The Informer is a tough, old school crime opus that’s been delayed several times, but is well worth the wait. Andrea di Stefano’s thriller is sold on its connections to Sicario and John Wick, but there’s a down-and-dirty feel about the espionage featured here that’s located somewhere bwteen Homeland and John le Carre. Joel Kinnaman plays Peter Koslow, a special ops undercover agent who is embedded in an FBI mission to shake-down drugs elements in the NYC/Polish community. Koslow has a wife (Blade Runner 2049’s Ana de Armas) and kid to protect, so when a routine pick-up of a diplomatic bag full of drugs goes south, Koslow is forced to witness the death of a cop. This brings in interest from the NYPD’s Grens (rapper Common), who is keen to find out how the cop died and who is responsible; Koslow’s handlers (Rosamund Pike and Clive Owens) seek to contain the mess, but Koslow engineers his own passage out via an audacious prison break. Based on the novel Three Seconds by Roslund/Hellstrom, The Informer’s generic title hides a sober, intensely gripping thriller that’s something of an antidote to much of the silver-screen’s childish fare; the fights are brutal and the stakes are high. Look elsewhere for choreography and stunts, because The Informer makes a virtue of feeling like a real-world story. With a well-known cast well used for once, The Informer’s hard-as-nails attitude makes it one of the best thrillers of the year.

Dragged Across Concrete 2018 ****

Dragged-Across-Concrete-TrailerThere’s a large section of the worldwide film-going audience who have no idea that S Craig Zahler exists. Bone Tomahawk, Riot in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete all made an impact on critics and cult movie fans alike, but that mainstream breakthrough has proved elusive. But it will come; if you know anyone who claims to be bored with CGI, feels that modern films are not tough or realistic, and yearns for the days of Sam Peckinpah or Don Siegel, then advise them to buckle up, because S. Craig Zahler is going to be right up their alley. Dragged Across Concrete is a heist-gone-wrong movie that should leave viewers feeling as if they’ve been dragged across concrete; that 159 minute run-time is gruelling, but also exhilarating. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are two cops who get suspended by boss Lt Calvert (Don Johnson) for police brutality. Ridgeman (Gibson) has financial difficulties, and an armoured car robbery is mooted as one way out of the hole. Meanwhile Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) exits the slammer to find a changed world; unwisely, he signs up to be part of Ridgeman’s crew. Although Dragged Across Concrete is deliberately slow, it locates most of the drama within the action of the heist itself, making the action absorbing and frequently painful to watch; Zahler is clearly fascinated by violence, but he’s alert to the moral decay around it, and links each character in a series of death-grips that extend to the final scene. Udo Kier, Thomas Kretschmann and Fred Melamed contribute some short but telling cameos, and the whole vibe has a bleak, early 70’s vibe. Dragged Across Concrete is a tough, nasty crime-story, a jet-black shot of urban mayhem that should thrill even the most jaded thrill-seeker.

On digital download in the UK from Aug 12th, on DVD from Aug 19th 2019.

Blackkklansman 2018 ****

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Spike Lee’s best film in a couple of decades is a true-life story that’s both weird and wonderful; the story of a black policemen who infiltrates the white enclave of the Klu Klux Klan, Lee’s film would be unbelievable if it didn’t happen to be based on a factual account by ex-cop Ron Stallworth. Played by John David Washington, Stallworth is tired of getting the wrong end of the stick at Colorado Springs Police Department and calls up the KKK membership drive. Stallworth needs a white face to complete his ruse, and Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) is prepared to be his other half. Once the men get close to the Grand Duke (Topher Grace), they discover a bomb plot that makes their cover story all the more risky. While Blackkklansman exaggerates Stallworth’s story for dramatic effect, Lee’s film is a gripping ride, with Washington and Driver both engaging, and the audience’s lack of knowledge about how the story concludes creating considerable tension. A final coda using sobering newsreel footage from Charlottesville hammers the message home, and Blackkklansman takes no prisoners in demonstrating how right-wing ideology can create moral danger.

I Love A Man In Uniform 1993 ****

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Also known as A Man in Uniform, presumably to hide any gay subtext, writer/director David Wellington’s low-budget drama has a strong central idea; bank worker and aspiring actor Henry Adler (Tom McCamus) is bored of his life, but gets a part in a TV show as a cop. Taking his uniform home, he enjoys dressing up as a cop, and starts wearing his uniform on the streets to help him get into the part. But taking on the mantle of a policeman lands Henry in trouble; his encounters with real-life copy Frank (Kevin Tighe) can only lead to disaster. I Love A Man In Uniform is a slow-burning but tense affair, looking at the media’s obsession with police-work and how it impacts on one man’s frazzled psyche; well acted and constructed, it’s a perfect little sleeper.

https://trakt.tv/movies/i-love-a-man-in-uniform-1994