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Polar – Jonas Åkerlund (2019)

The latest Åkerlund is available on Netflix and he even managed to get Mads Mikkelsen for the leading part and there are more familiar faces.

Mikkelsen plays Duncan Vizla, a contract killer who approaches the age of 50. This means that he can retire, or actually, that he has to. His employer has a business model in which it is better that Vizla is dead though, so he sends a few people after him.

Storywise, “Polar” reminds a bit of “John Wick“, but Åkerlund has made his film both more ‘teen’ and more violent (indeed!). Vizla’s boss and colleagues are hip comic-like youngsters who do not care for a dead more or less (the story is indeed based on a graphic novel). This leads to explicit and very violent scenes. The story has no real surprises and I do not think that was intended. Also known from other Åkerlund films are kaleidoscopic scenes with rapidly changing images, explicit female parts, drugs use, bad language and grim humour.

Pearls Before Swine – Richard Wolstencroft (1999)

This film had been on my wishlist for over a decade. Every once in a while I would see if I could find it. A while ago I found it cheaply at Amazon. The DVD release seems to be from 2005 so I wonder if it just recently came into distribution or if I never paid enough attention.

The box compares the film to “A Clockwork Orange”, but to me it seems to fit perfectly in the “new violence” wave of films started by Quentin Tarantino and co. It contains brutal and meaningless violence and lengthy dialogues and monologues The director said that he had been toying with the idea for the film since 1994/5 and I can hardly imagine that “Pulp Fiction” (1994) has not been one of its sources of inspiration. He does state that he did not want to make a Hollywood or Australian film though and in a way Tarantino presented something new as well.

This film is of course best known for containing people from controversial music scenes. Boy Rice (NON) plays the main part. There is also Douglas P. (Death In June), but you may see other familiar names and faces. Wolstencroft even managed to get filmmaker Kenneth Anger for the film, but he had other occupations around the time of shooting the film, so he had to decline. People familiar with the scene that Rice and P. come from will hear some familiar tunes in the soundtrack too by the way.

There is not too much of a story to the film. A group of contract killers (or are they killers for pleasure) first kill a group of homeless youngsters and two of them are then hired to kill a writer. We mostly follow Daniel (Rice) showing a decadent lifestyle with S&M and intelligent sounding monologues and dialogues about (counter)culture, philosophy, politics, etc. In a way it seems that the film mostly revolves around these controversial scenes and almost two decades after the release of the film most is no longer really controversial than perhaps Daniel’s ideas about things.

Wolstencroft wanted to make an ‘un-Hollywood’ movie, but it is hard to not make comparisons. The acting is not always too strong and the same I can say about the camera work and montage. Still there are some very descent scenes here and there. It is not like this is a completely amateurish film. It is one of these films to just watch some time when you wonder what the controversy is about and discover that in a couple of decades nothing much of it is left. “Pearls Before Swine” is not a high flyer, but an amusing watch with a couple of uneasy scenes.

Bronson * Nicolas Winding Refn (2008)

Somebody knows my taste better than myself! I thought this film was about the film-actor Charles Bronson and therefor was not very high up on my priority list. In fact, “Bronson” is about a man who decided to become famous while being in prison. The larger part of his life, he spent behind bars, the prison he regarded as a hotel where he could optimise his techniques. Assaulting prison personnel (especially the swat teams) he soon got the name of being the most violent inmate in the UK. Bronson decided that this was not enough…
“Bronson” has a unique mix of elements making it a very original film. A Lynchian opening, theatre, a weird surrealistic atmosphere and pitch-black humour. The film is (in my opinion) not as violent as is sometimes suggested. In fact, there is more than one conformity with “Chopper” by Andrew Dominik in story. “Bronson” is more strange though.

Death Proof * Quentin Tarantino * 2007

Death ProofAs you probably know there was actually one production called “Grindhouse” which included both this film and Robert Rodriguez’ “Planet Terror”. The film actually contains titles at the end of the first part and then a new film started. For this (and undoubtely financial) reasons, the films are usually distributed separately, so I had to get both films in order to see “Grindhouse”. I noticed that Tarantino is working on a new film and realised that I hadn’t seen “Grindhouse” yet, so I picked out both DVDs from the rental shop.
“Death Proof” is a film like you can expect from Tarantino. It contains hilarious dialogues, grim humour and fierce violence. Two parties of beautiful, but rather cheap girls with dirty mouths have a good time, but then their good time is interrupted by Stuntman Mike, a great role of Kurt Russell. There may be not too much of a story to the film, but still I noticed that on many places (such as the box or IMDb) give away a bit too much of it and that does not raise the enjoyment of the film. Speaking of enjoyment, like I said, there are beautiful women and great dialogues, but every time I see a Tarantino, I wonder how much further we can go in displaying violence and its gruesome details. Especially when it is no longer (really) meant to be funny, I wonder what the use of it all is. The box of the Dutch version that I got, speaks about “caricatural violence”, but I do not know if I agree with that description. “Pulp Fiction” was funny, but I am not so sure if every scene in “Death Proof” is meant to laugh. Maybe it is, but Tarantino keeps pushing (my) borders, especially in his inventions of new forms of sick sadism. Anyway, safe for a few extreme eruptions, “Death Proof” is another nice Tarantino production.
I hope to review “Planet Terror” tomorrow.

Ex Drummer * Koen Mortier * 2007

Ex DrummerHere we have another Belgian film, but this time spoken in Western Flemish. An extravagant writer thinks it is an interesting experiment to play the drums in a band with three lowlife idiots. He uses his ‘adventures’ to write a book (which later became this film). What you get is “Anyway The Wind Blows”, squared. Antisocial, mouth-filthy morons having fun with metal/punk-like music, beating up eachother, “janets”, women and whoever is in their way. This results in short explosions of bloody violence in the beginning of the film, working towards a very violent end. There are some crazy findings in filming and in the story and if you understand what the actors are saying, the dialogues are very amusing. “Ex Drummer” appears to be a scum version of the earlier works of Tarantino (but bloodier) layered with filthy music and characters that make the youths of “Trainspotting” look like mother’s favourite. “Ex Drummer” is a step further than most comparable films. Is this a path filmmakers should continue? Well, I had a few good laughs here and there, but overall I don’t find it necessary that film directors are trying to find the boundaries of when people actually get shocked (and I think “Ex Drummer” will do the trick for many people).

Thursday * Skip Woods * 1998

Casey (Thomas Jane) is an ex criminal trying to live a normal life with his exigent wife. Then he gets a phonecall of his old partner Nick (Aaron Eckhart) who says to be on the straight path as well and he wants to step by on his way to paris. When Nick arrives on thursday morning, all hell breaks loose.
Casey finds drugs in a suitcase that the two of them used in the old days and decides to flush it down the sink. Obviously other people know about the drugs and first a rasta-man (Glenn Plummer) tries to get it from him, which results in a brilliant Tarantino-like scene. After overpowering the rasta-man and hanging him in the garage, Casey is visited by Nick’s girlfriend Dallas (Pauline Porizcova) who isn’t after the drugs, but “the money”, of which Casey didn’t know yet. Waiting for Nick Dallas decides to rape Casey, but after two orgasms her head is blown off by Billy Hill (James LeGross). He already knows about the drugs and that Casey doesn’t know about the money, so he also decides to wait for Nick to come back. In the meantime he would like to try to saw Casey to pieces but have him live longer than 16 hours (his record). Fortunately Casey manages to overpower Billy Hill as well and also hang him in the garage. The next visitor is a cop (played by Mickey Rourke) and apparently Nick has stolen a lot of money from the cops. Casey gets until 7:00 pm to get the money. When he finds it, he decides to try and have the bad guys shoot up eachother at his house while he flees with his wife.

I hadn’t heard of this film until a friend lent it to me. I found it very funny. It is a rather violent movie with a lot of grim humour. The way we like it, eh?

Natural Born Killers * Oliver Stone (1994)

For a few euros I bought the “director’s cut” DVD with “over an hour of extra footage” and I know what extras. It must have been a long time since I saw this film. I really wonder why it became so popular. It is extremely strange and most of all, extremely violent. Strange in the sense of comics mixed in the film, strange images on the background, unusual colours, rediculous scenes and a vague sense of humour.

As you will know “Natural Born Killers” tells the story of the two lovers Micky (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) who drive across the USA killing people and making love. Heavily drug-influenced and completely insane. The media turns them into heroes and there is major interest in the trial and interviews. In the end of the film the two escape.

Anyway, a great film and if you see the cheap DVD somewhere, don’t hesitate!

Kill Bill vol. 2 * Quentin Tarantino * 2004

A while ago I saw vol. 1. This is an amusing completely over the top martial arts action film that can only come from Tarantino. I had heard that vol. 2 is different. Well, it is, but not as much as I expected. There is more talking, more information than in vol. 1. You get to see what happened around certain scenes of the first film and of course “Beatrix Kiddo”s (Uma Thurman) quest to kill Bill continues. There is still action in vol. 2, but without the ‘Matrix-elements’ and a few thousands litres less of blood. Also there is the grim humour of Tarantino and of course his weird dialogues. However many people will not agree with me, I find the scene in which Kiddo kills Bill great. Of course I am not going to give you the details.
All in all I found “Kill Bill: vol. 1” amusing, but I found vol. 2 even more amusing.

Kill Bill vol. 1 * Quentin Tarantino * 2003

The loudly anounced fourth film of Tarantino after the brilliant “Pulp Fiction”, the alright “Jackie Brown” and the also alright “Reservoir Dogs” (all too old to be reviewed here it seems). “Kill Bill” falls in the same catagory as the the last two film: alright. Uma Thurman is badly threat by a few people and so she goes out to kill them. Not a very original story, but of course you get a Tarantino-touch. Still, there isn’t enough humour to compare “Kill Bill” to “Pulp Fiction”, there isn’t enough grim violence to be a second “Reservoir Dogs” and overall I would say that Tarentino has either too much or too little of the elements that characterise the ‘genre’ that he started. “Kill Bill” could/should have been more over-the-top like “From Dusk Till Dawn”, also it could/should have been more funny (in violence) or there could/should have been more of the silly dialogues that we came to watch his films for. It is funny that when somebody is wounded, blood keeps squirting from the wounds and there are some other funny wounds, but just not over-the-top enough. I do like the Japanese anime parts that is perfectly in the atmosphere of the rest of the film. As you probably heard, “Kill Bill” is Tarantino’s ‘martial arts film’, but it seems that he could chose between real martial arts and “Matrix”/”Crouching Tiger” like elements, which makes the film too credible or too incredible.

All in all not what it could have been. Maybe part 2 is a bit better, this first parts just ends halfway the story.

Four Rooms * Allison Anders + Alexandre Rockwell + Robert Rodriguez + Quentin Tarantino * 1995

So why hadn’t I seen this film before? For years I have known that Quentin Tarantino was involved in this film, but I guess I never found it in a videoshop and it had to take until MTV broadcasted it before I finally saw it. A shame, because this wonderfull film is truely entertaining.

“Four Rooms” refers to four hotelrooms in which four different stories, written and directed by four different directors, take part. The film brings great grim comedy that we are nowadays familiar with, but in 1995 it may have been even more funny than nine years later. There is a bellhop (Tim Roth) who has to run an entire hotel alone on oldyears evening. In the first room a group of witches (including Madonna) stay, trying to turn their leader back from stone to a human being. Only… there is one “missing ingredient” for their soup.
Next Ted the Bellhop runs into the wrong room and gets involved in some SM kind of roleplay.
The third room is a great part in which Ted has to babysit the two children of a maffia-man. Of course things don’t entirely go the way he wants to.
The last part is written and directed by Tarantino and he also plays the main role. Tarantino really does his thing with totally useless dialogues, a strange kind of humour and of course violence.

Should you have missed this film until now too, do your best to see it afterall.