The hit man and cur
I watched Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie for the May 2015 issue of Sight & Sound magazine. Blomkamp’s a genuine social commentator with a surprisingly equivocal view of macho posturing — it never occurred to me before how his geographical location alone might land him halfway between George Miller and José Padilha. But the film’s thoughts on matters of consciousness and corporeality are barely worth the margin that Blomkamp presumably used to jot them down at some point during film school.
And also The Face of an Angel for Critic’s Notebook. If Michael Winterbottom was going be properly feted by his home crowd, it would have happened by now; and this film won’t change things. But better two hours with the bottom half of his résumé than ten minutes of some British detective inspector bathed in radioactive cerulean light by a director swooning at the thought of being mistaken for Michael Mann.
John Wick has made a lot of people swoon already, although in the circle of life it’s tough not to recall things said about Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning in some quarters by folks apparently slipping into delirium. The sugar-rush kinetic abandon that stuntman-directors conjure up is rediscovered at regular intervals as an alternative to deathly dull shaky-cam cross-cutting and rightly so; but as a foundation for drama it’s the wrong stuff every time. A couple of John Wick’s quirks are reminders of Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead; but that film was self-aware enough to know that it could discuss masculinity and fealty and decay through verbal crossfire and still be morbid as all hell, while John Wick has to really let its Thanatos hang out and deposit brains over the soft furnishings. It’s a busman’s holiday for jaded action movie devotees; a PlayStation vacation. It’s the hit man and cur.