A foul mouthed teddy bear, Swedish humour, a Kiwi western and an Indian 'Godfather'

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Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a 16-year-old Scotsman who has come to Colorado in the 1870s to find the woman he says is his girlfriend. Michael Fassbender plays a drifter who helps him out while Ben Mendelsohn, as a bounty hunter, is following out of their sight. The kid gets a prolonged lesson about life out there. He thinks it’s “a land of hope.” We see a stark and continuous fight for survival. Indians are hunted. Immigrants are desperate. Children are abandoned when their parents are shot. It’s too chatty at times for the reality it aspires to and a big shootout ending is overdone.  But the film is presented with such style, edgy atmosphere and strong acting that it’s intensely absorbing. It won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5 

GANGS OF WASSEYPUR: India makes colourful dancing and singing romances we know as Bollywood. It also makes great films about long-running blood feuds which are, as this one is, loosely based on real events — very loosely. For instance, a character who dies in the film is still alive in prison, but don’t let facts stop you from enjoying this sprawling saga that is so long it has been split into two movies. It’s inspired by The Godfather, Tarantino and Scorsese and actually has a character denounce Bollywood for portraying unrealistic role models for criminals.

It starts with a family watching a soap opera on TV. Thugs arrive outside to shoot up the place but it’ll be over three hours before you see the rest of that scene. The film reaches way back to 1941 to show what brought it on. That’s when a feud started up among Muslim families in the coal region in northern India after a father working for a mine owner is killed.


Twenty years later, his son, played ferociously by Manoj Bajpai, obsesses about revenge.  “It hurts to see that dog prosper,” he says. The mine owner is now a politician and the local cops are corrupt and ineffectual. The son has two families, two wives and five sons of his own and when he’s arrested the revenge duty falls to the least likely.


He’s a pothead and slacker played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui but rises to the job while a dense and byzantine storyline advances around him. There’s a first wife, an illegitimate son, a whore, forced marriages and betrayals. It often feels like too much. The story, which started with a history lesson, picks up a frenetic pace towards the end. The violence (including explosions, gun fights, stabbings, point-blank shootings and people run down by jeeps) is remarkable for its realism but that's nothing compared to the language and the music. Songs on the soundtrack often accompany the action with commentary and very smutty lyrics. The characters, even the women, swear like Tarantino creations. I don’t know if that’s progress but it certainly is a different Indian cinema. As a film it is engrossing, like a good long novel.  (The Cinematheque, 6 days only starting July 1. See ) 3 out of 5.

An event to note:

HAIDA PAUL APPRECIATION: And celebration. Haida Paul was a builder in Vancouver’s film industry. She worked in it for over 50 years, mostly as an editor and sometimes as director. Described as “an incisive storyteller,” she worked on My American Cousin (1985), Terminal City Ricochet (1990), pioneering feminist films, animations for children and many others. She died last September.

Saturday the Cinematheque is presenting a tribute. Starting at 4 p.m. they’ll show four films, each under a half-hour long: This Film is About Rape, Street Kids, Horse Drawn Magic and Girls Fitting In. Starting at 7 p.m. they’ll show a montage of her other work followed by a panel discussion about her contribution to film in B.C. For more information visit

Also now playing …

MAX: It’s being offered as a family movie but I wonder about that. Some brutal scenes may be too much for the kids and the story, I’m told, is convoluted. Max is a dog who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder after duty in Afghanistan where his handler died. Back stateside, the man’s family takes him in but his young brother is more interested in the bad crowd he’s getting involved with and a buddy from the marines is dealing stolen guns from Afghanistan to Mexican drug cartels. Looks like Max has a lot to do to correct them and heal himself. (International Village and two suburban theatres)    


More in New Movies

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Women mobsters in The Kitchen, country ways in Honeyland and TV journalism as Mike Wallace did it

Also: stardom as David Crosby endured it, a dystopian tale and a wise dog yarn, both filmed in Vancouver, and two more that I haven’t seen

Big and dumb Hobbs & Shaw; smart Amateurs and a director's story and dreams in animation

And more: a calming Little Forest, a Free Trip to Egypt to connect with Muslims and two Film Noirs by a woman director
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