Home invasion blunders, a singer battling cancer and a Latin American film festival
The film touted to be the big one this week wasn’t even shown to critics here. (See my last item today). On the other hand a film that seemed to be just another brutal genre effort turns out to be worth praising. (See my first item). And there are other worthy new ones.
Here’s the list.
Don’t Breathe: 3 ½ stars
In Order of Disappearance: 3
Miss Sharon Jones: 3 ½
Latin American Films: various
Mechanic Resurrection: --
DON’T BREATHE: Keep your logical thinking under control and you can have a good time watching this tense thriller. There’s imagination around many a corner here and startles and creepy shocks around quite a few. And a cat-and-mouse game in which not only the advantage switches back and forth but also our sympathies.
Three young people think they’ve got an easy mark for a burglary. He’s a blind army vet who lives alone in the only house still occupied in a deserted part of Detroit. He’s got $300,000 in cash that he received after his daughter died in a car accident. He’s got multiple locks on his doors, a snarling Rottweiler and hefty workshop tools but our trio don’t heed those signs. Once inside, they can’t get out. The vet stalks them as they strain to keep silent. The action moves through every part of the house. It’s as if we’re in a maze. He knows every room; they don’t. He’s like a monster, but a real-life one, which is underlined with a shocking discovery in the basement. Some improbable elements, a few unintended laughs and a huge gasping laugh involving a turkey baster disrupt the mood but only occasionally. The staging by director Fede Alvarez, with Sam Raimi producing, is expertly done and caught with a very mobile camera. Stephen Lang, the most recognizable name in the cast, is formidable as the vet. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway, suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE: If you’re in the mood for a black comedy you won’t go wrong with this one. In good Scandinavian tradition the humor is bone dry and somewhat reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ film Fargo. It’s set in Norway where Stellan Skarsgård plays a snow-plow operator who learns his son has died after getting involved with some drug dealers. He sets out to find out who killed him and to inflict revenge.
He hunts his way up from low-level folks to the men at the top. One is called “The Count,” a smooth and vicious crime boss who is also a vegan and doting father. He’s played by the popular Norwegian actor, Pål Sverre Hagen, who we last saw as Thor Hyerdahl in Kon-Tiki. A rival gang of Serbian immigrants is headed by “Papa,” played by the veteran actor Bruno Ganz. Stellan’s search sets them off suspecting each other, kills their truce and ignites a gang war. The escalation is done with droll humor and the film helpfully follows each death by putting the victim’s name on screen. It also gives us an uncommon view of Scandinavia as characters voice anti-immigrant sentiments and gripe over welfare. It’s not deep but it is amusing. VIFF fans may remember it was at the festival two years ago. It’s taken that long to get distribution here. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5
MISS SHARON JONES: Barbara Kopple has made two Oscar-winning documentaries but they were political and hard-hitting. This time she gives us a gentler tale as she takes us to visit a woman battling cancer. Sharon Jones with her band the Dap Kings is a soul and R&B singer who has developed a substantial career without much radio play. She tours widely and has played in Vancouver. Her vibrant energy on stage has had her compared to James Brown. The film has many clips of her shows from over the years.