LFF 2016 reviews: Prevenge, Mindhorn, Christine, Dog Eat Dog, Bleed for This
Ivan Radford | On 12, Oct 2016
From Netflix’s Black Mirror and Amazon’s originals to MUBI’s Cannes acquisitions and Dogwoof’s live-streaming premiere of Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold, the 2016 London Film Festival is embracing VOD like never before. We head to Leicester Square to check out some of the films and TV shows on offer.
Dog Eat Dog
Nic Cage. Willem Dafoe. Paul Scrader. Dog Eat Dog sounds like a crime thriller fan’s dream, but the reality is closer to a nightmare. Getting a day-and-date VOD release in November, the film follows three ex-cons determined to stay out of prison, a mission that they carry out by, naturally, committing crime. The latest offer from a local gangster? Kidnap a baby, an operation that goes inevitably wrong – and, despite the movie’s desperate attempts to make you laugh with its sheer depravity, watching the chaos unfold is never funny or fun. Schrader creates some striking visuals, but not even Nic Cage going slightly over-the-top makes this dog’s dinner worth watching.
Dog Eat Dog is released in cinemas and on VOD on Friday 18th November.
Without a doubt the best pregnant serial killer movie you’ve ever seen, Alice Lowe’s Prevenge (released early near year) is a masterpiece of maternal nightmares – a film that, after collaborating with Steve Oram on Sightseers, announces Lowe as a major talent in her own right. The dark comedy follows Ruth, an expecting mum who’s doing what you’re not expecting: running about murdering people, spurred on by an unseen inner voice. It’s deliciously sick stuff, full of witty observations about antenatal procedures and the pressure of looming motherhood – all mixed up in a hormonal cocktail with gory homicide.
There’s an irresistible glee in knowing that almost ever conversation Ruth has is destined to end in bloodshed, but it’s the understated tragedy gestating below the surface that elevates this from entertaining to excellent. Lowe handles the shift in tone impossibly well, from howling one-liners (“Kids today are so spoiled: Mummy, I want a PlayStation. Mummy, I want you to kill that man…”) to emotional fury, a balance that’s maintained through costume, make-up, editing and acting. Accompanied by the sinister heartbeat of the synth soundtrack, it all unfolds against the fear that something foreign is growing inside of her – something she’s scared might be taking over. Intimate, insightful and intelligent (and made when Lowe was pregnant in real life), this is a brutal, broody tale of the (body) horrors of pregnancy. Immaculately conceived.
Julian Barratt is arguably one of the most underrated performers in the UK. Years after The Mighty Boosh, the eternally moustached actor has spooked in A Field in England, courted tragedy in Channel 4’s Flowers and now, has finally found everyone’s dream role: Mindhorn, a detective with a bionic eyepatch that lets him literally see the truth. Think Midsomer Murders. But with more bionic eyepatches and set on The Isle of Man.
Barratt plays Richard Thorncroft, a washed-up actor who jumps on the chance to relive his glory days as the TV detective, when a serial killer obsessed with Mindhorn demands to speak to him. What follows is 90 minutes of almost constant laughter, as Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s script packs every scene with as many jokes as possible – ranging from well-chosen showbiz cameos and Alan Partridge-esque pathos to slapstick and puns. It’s great to see Andrea Riseborough taking on a comic role as a local Manx copper, while Russell Tovey and Farnaby are clearly having a whale of a time. Barratt, though, relishes the chance to take centre stage, producing the kind of film that made Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright household names almost a decade ago. Hilarious.
Rebecca Hall is remarkable in this drama about Christine Chubbuck, the Florida newsreader who, in 1974, shot herself live on air. A journalist determined to fight for the truth over sensationalist reports, Antonio Campos’ film is a nuanced character study that plays out almost like a horror movie. Hall invests Christine with sympathy and complexity, turning a morbid headline back into a human being, but there’s a gnawing dread of what we know is coming – something that Craig Shilowich’s script deliberately shies away from exploiting, which gives her death even more shocking poignancy. The result makes for a provocative double-bill with the documentary Kate Plays Christine, also screening at the LFF and about to be released in cinemas and on VOD.
Bleed for This
At the age of 29, boxer Vinny Pazienza was told he’d never walk again, let alone step back in the ring. Ben Younger’s biopic is the story of his comeback, an astonishing feat of physical and mental commitment. Unfortunately, though, the underdog sports comeback flick has been done countless times before, which leaves Bleed for This little option but to tick the usual boxes off, one by one. The fights have a convincing wallop, with Miles Teller throwing himself into the role with real dedication – between this and his equally punishing turn in Whiplash, it’s a wonder he can even walk straight, let alone act. Aaron Eckhart as his coach, though, feels like the kind of familiar transformative supporting role designed to attract awards buzz. (Props should go, however, to an unrecognisable Ciarán Hinds as Vinny’s father.) Compared to Warrior, Bleed for This fails to get fire in your blood, and after MUBI’s boxing comedy The Happiest Day in the of Olli Maki (also at the LFF), this is a disappointing conventional affair.