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Directed by Tanya Wexler
KATE BECKINSALE steps up to see if she can claim the Theron crown in this latest female-fronted post-John Wick bisexually inflected actioner.
The Underworld star gets her own riff on cult-fave Crank, a rage-powered ball of hyper-violent Wickian chaos kept at bay only by periodic electric shocks. But she tosses the power switch aside when her hunky love interest is killed under dodgy circumstances and the trail to his killer leads all the way through to... The Underworld.
Beckinsale delivers a magnetic performance, effortlessly boosting an otherwise very nuts’n’bolts by-the-numbers female-led shoot ‘em up, not especially indistinguishable from Atomic Blonde, Anna, Lucy or Peppermint.
The macabre lunacy of it all whips up quite the rollicking time, with a few enjoyably daft twists and turns along the way.
It’s not a jolt to the genre but, in contrast to its competition, it’s shockingly fun.
Available on Amazon Prime
Night of the Kings (15)
Directed by Philippe Lacote
THIS riveting and haunting fable is set in the Ivory Coast’s Maca prison, which is ruled by its inmates.
A petty criminal is appointed as the new “Roman” by the jail’s boss who expects his storytelling skills to save both their lives and what follows is a visually arresting, hypnotic masterclass in narrative from writer and director Philippe Lacote, inspired by a childhood memory of him visiting his mother at the prison.
Evocative of Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights, a captivating Bakary Kone as Roman holds court all night as he relates the tale of the legendary outlaw the Zama King to his fellow prisoners, while other inmates illustrate his narration through movement and dance.
It has an almost mystical and supernatural feel — this story within a story is an absolutely gripping prison drama with a twist.
Bye Bye Morons (No cert)
Directed by Albert Dupontel
YOU’D expect that any film opening with a dedication to the late Pythoner Terry Jones might not measure up in comparison but this dark-hearted comedy from actor-director Albert Dupontel more than stands up.
If Spike Jonze had adapted Philomena, the result would have been quite similar to Bye Bye Morons, an unmissable absurdist French tale in which a terminally ill woman takes a city bureaucrat hostage in pursuit of the son she gave up for adoption as a teen.
Riotous fun, with as heavy a focus on character drama and tension as outright comedy, Bye Bye Morons won seven awards at this year’s Cesars, the French Oscars, and it’s easy to see why.
Captivating, charismatic and cleverly capricious, it’s a razor-sharp and hilarious picture that knows how and when to expend its energy and when to engage its heart. Don’t miss it.
Off the Rails (15)
Directed by Jules Williamson
THREE women in their fifties decide to go inter-railing through Europe to Palma to honour their dead friend’s last wishes in this cliche-filled comedy by numbers from first-time director Jules Williamson.
Based on Williamson’s own experiences and written by Jordan Waller, it stars Kelly Preston in her last-ever film performance — she surely she didn’t deserve this — along with Sally Phillips and Jenny Seagrove as the old friends who head to Majorca with the late Anna’s (Andrea Corr) teenage daughter Maddie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips).
They are all fantastic in trying to work miracles with this condescending script, which has Ben Miller and Franco Nero as the token male love interest and Judi Dench in the most poignant scene in the film.
Underscored by Blondie’s greatest hits, what is annoying is a promising premise that doesn’t deliver. While I applaud a female-driven vehicle about 50-plus women — who in 2021 are shamefully still an afterthought in film — the target audience deserves better, as they are neither stupid, deaf or blind.
The World to Come (15)
Directed by Mona Fastvold
COMPARATIVE industry newbies Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby take the stage for this adaptation of co-writer Jim Shepard’s story, in which two married 19th-century farm wives find their previously repressed selves through a forbidden romance that will ultimately sustain them.
Carefully staged to aesthetically and stylistically reflect the warmth of its central romance, the precisely honed performances and great chemistry between Waterston and Kirby nicely stoke an otherwise pretty flat screenplay.
It’s not going to wow multiplex audiences the world over and it’s not the fabled Cold Mountain of LGBT romances. But it’s a captivating romantic drama you’ll care about.
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