The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Carlos, Heart of a Dragon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Aftershock, Inside Job, My Uncle and Saw 3D
Celebrity is a big theme at the movies this week. We have a celebrity terrorist, an artist destroyed by fame and money, Rick Hansen on the Great Wall by wheelchair and of course a fictional punk hacker from Sweden living a last adventure before Hollywood takes her on.
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST: The trilogy comes to a satisfying close. This third film is better than the second even though it is also not as good as the first. It’s not as glossy and, since it was made for TV, it looks lower budget. At times it’s dark, as if they couldn’t afford more lights. The story is strong though, and well-trimmed from the third of the Millennium novels by Stieg Larsson.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is in hospital with the gunshots she took at the end of the last film. She’s also charged with murder while Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is preparing a special edition of his magazine to expose the truth. Except there’s more to be found: a secret security group within government, a “constitutional defense” group and an evil psychiatrist. The details all converge at a particularly low-key trial that’s studded with underplayed malice. There’s also a very tense sequence as Lisbeth’s half brother pursues her into an abandoned warehouse. She’s again eerie and seething, a punk protagonist who has us fascinated. If there’s a negative here it’s in the overly convenient way the various strands in the story are resolved. That lets slip that essentially there’s a potboiler spirit at work in these entertaining films. (Fifth Avenue, Tinseltown and several suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5.
CARLOS: I’m not clear why we needed a biography of the terrorist dubbed “The Jackel” but here it is and it is one terrific film. Speedy, well-staged and featuring a magnetic performance by Edgar Ramirez, a Venezuelan actor who was seen in Che, Part 1 and The Bourne Ultimatum but absolutely inhabits this character. He’s single-minded as a revolutionary, sexy as a ladies man and vain as a celebrity seeker. He shifts easily from English to French, Spanish and a couple of other languages.
What’s not clear is exactly what drives him. The film doesn’t delve into any formative history. It shows him in action, making deals with a Palestinian group, taking hostages at an OPEC meeting (his biggest operation), going solo as a terrorist for hire and later losing his backers after the cold war sputters to an end. There is a lot packed into this 2½ hour film. You’ll never get bored. You will find it a bit choppy since it’s cut down from the original 5½ hours made in France TV version. The edit is good enough that you won’t miss the deleted parts which include a couple of early actions in Paris and about 11 of his slow years before the Berlin wall came down. You might wonder about the claim that Sadaam Hussein ordered the OPEC raid. Even Carlos himself, from prison, has said the film has that wrong. (Tinseltown) 4 out of 5.
HEART OF A DRAGON: It takes a long time for this movie to really arrive. Rick Hansen (as played by Victor Webster) is on the Great Wall of China, in his wheelchair, gasping and insisting he has to go on and reach the highest part. His therapist Amanda (Sarah-Jane Potts) is just as insistent he can’t go on. Paraplegics, she says, take two times the effort to cool off and Rick is in danger of starting a chain reaction. “Your brain will start to fry,” she warns. Two other handlers also get into the intense debate about loyalty, trust and limits. That sequence is where the film finally reaches its potential.
Before that it tries hard but delivers mostly stilted dialogue, musing on around the same themes. Jim Byrnes plays a reporter who asks cynical questions of Hansen and his crew. He’s so tenacious he becomes annoying and that makes it hard to accept his rather fast conversion later on. Webster is convincing as the determined Hansen, but couldn’t they have died his hair? There are clips of the real Rick in the film and he’s light-haired. Actually filming on the Great Wall and at Sun Yat-Sen Gardens added authenticity and a reminder that this is a BC story, worth telling again and better. (Fifth Avenue, Esplanade and six other theatres between here and Mission). 2 out of 5
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD: This film speeds along even faster than the Carlos biography.