Monday, 23 April 2018

Movie Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

A slick drama thriller, Nightcrawler tackles themes of gutter journalism, unbridled ambition and the relentless pursuit of the American dream.

In Los Angeles, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a scrap metal thief operating exclusively at night and harbouring ambitions of starting a more legitimate career. He stumbles upon a highway car crash scene and meets freelance videographer - or "stringer" - Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Louis decides to enter the business and buys a basic police scanner and video camera. Soon he captures images at a drive-by shooting and displays a cold-blooded talent for videotaping up-close gore.

He finds a buyer in overnight television news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who works at the lowest rated station and is obsessed with stories that evoke fear by demonstrating urban crime creeping into the suburbs. Louis takes on apprentice Rick (Riz Ahmed) and goes on a streak of scooping Loder. The money from Nina flows in, allowing Louis to upgrade his car and equipment. Inspired by lessons learned from online business management courses, Louis' ambition is unleashed, and he starts shaping his career, his relationship with Nina, and the news.

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is an intense profile of the drive for success. Compact, efficient, relentless, and dark literally and figuratively, the film is unblinking, a combination of character study, psychological drama and tense thriller. Gorgeously photographed to illuminate the seductive power of night, every part of the film fits together, from the subtle emotional manipulation moments to the straight excitement of a climax where news, entertainment and personal agendas meld into one wild night.

The story is disturbing and compelling in equal parts, a commentary on a society where everybody can strive to be a somebody, whether deserved or not. Nightcrawler shines a spotlight on what goes on at night and in the deepest recesses of every human mind, as the drive towards something better finds a manifestation within an unlikely character. Gilroy creates a sinister protagonist and proceeds to use him as a mirror to the great human desire for betterment.

Jake Gyllenhaal creates a bug-eyed, sleazy-haired look suitable for a life spent in the dark of night, and delivers a performance filled with macabre fervour. By most definitions Louis Bloom deserves nothing other than prison time, and yet his coldly calculating and methodical approach towards carving out a career can only be admired. Spouting stock business school phrases and vacuous statements about management, leadership and success, Bloom's self-awareness, grit, perseverance and smarmy charm take him a long way in a short time.

Bloom carves his road to success in the world of fear-mongering television journalism where the most important story is the one with the most shocking visuals. Nina Romina is hungry for ratings success and specializes in serving up crap for the breakfast news show, and in Bloom she finds the cockroach who will drag the most disgusting filth from the depths of night and into the morning cereal bowl.

Joe Loder and Rick are the other characters inhabiting this night world. Both are also striving to improve their status but up against Louis, they will learn what ruthless ambition looks like. It's only in the absence of attentive light that degenerate cruelty finds the opportunities to thrive.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Movie Review: Godzilla (1998)

A rampaging monster movie, Godzilla enjoys some moments but is otherwise overlong and underpowered.

Radiation caused by nuclear weapons testing on South Pacific islands causes the mutation of a lizard into a building-sized monster. A Japanese fishing vessel is attacked and sunk, then the creature leaves footprints in Panama and Jamaica. Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an expert in the long term effects of radiation exposure, is recruited to join scientist Dr. Elsie Chapman (Vicki Lewis) and Col. Anthony Hicks (Kevin Dunn) to understand and subdue the beast.

Finally Godzilla emerges onto the docklands of Manhattan causing chaos and carnage before suddenly disappearing. Nick's ex-girlfriend Audrey (Maria Pitillo) is struggling to break into serious journalism, and along with television cameraman Victor (Hank Azaria) they latch onto the story. Meanwhile a group of French intelligence officers led by Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) join the search.

Hollywood's first attempt to adapt the cautionary legend about the dangers of nuclear armament from its Japanese origins to an American context, Godzilla is a misfire. At an astonishing 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film is endless, the bloat evident in a disjointed script devoid of emotion. The monster itself gets bored and disappears for a long stretch from its own movie, replaced by a gaggle of angry and hungry baby Godzillas.

Director Roland Emmerich co-wrote the script with Dean Devlin, and baked in a fundamental weakness in not providing the gigantic creature with a personality. Neither despicably evil as in Alien nor gradually sympathetic such as King Kong, Godzilla just romps around Manhattan every now and then, and then ridiculously disappears. How a high-rise sized creature can hide underground is just one of the film's many jaw-dropping internal inconsistencies.

With most of the budget obviously dedicated to the bloodless, painless and goreless special effects, the film is hampered by a second-rate cast. Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Hank Azaria would have provided terrific support to a couple of bona fide leading stars. Here they are required to carry the film, and are crushed by the load.

Godzilla takes a long detour for an elaborate set-piece at Madison Square Gardens, a hide-and-seek film-within-a-film featuring hundreds of baby (but still large and nimble) monsters besieging the main characters. From a narrative perspective it's an ill-conceived distraction, but ironically provides some of the movie's most entertaining tongue-in-cheek moments. But regardless, no amount of creatures on the loose is going to save this monstrosity of a movie.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

A monster horror movie, A Quiet Place explores themes of survival and family dynamics under extreme pressure.

In the near future, exceptionally strong and fast alien monsters have ravaged Earth, leaving few survivors. Lee (John Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and three children survive on a remote farm and by rummaging in abandoned towns. They need to remain exceptionally quiet all the time, communicating by sign language as the monsters are known to be blind but have exceptional hearing and are attracted to kill by the faintest sound.

After a tragedy besets the family, Lee and Evelyn do their best to look after their deaf teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and younger son Marcus (Noah Jupe). Lee is eager to teach Marcus survival skills, while Regan is going through a moody phase and a strained relationship with her father, although he is doing his best to develop a hearing aid for her. Meanwhile Evelyn is pregnant, and having to plan on giving birth and protecting a newborn without making a sound.

Directed by Krasinski, A Quiet Place is an exceptionally effective exercise in horror. The natural human condition of screaming when danger beckons is suppressed, and the smart screenplay (by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and Krasinski) features hardly any dialogue or human-made sounds of any kind. Survival depends on finding ways to exist silently, a challenge that proves remarkably difficult and involves resisting urges that start literally at the moment of birth.

The film reveals the family's daily routine, actions that are otherwise mundane but made vivid by having to be reinvented in silence. Lee and Evelyn share an intimate dance with music that only they can hear. Cooking involves no cutlery or noisy plates. The board game Monopoly is modified to feature no clacking sounds. What would be loud arguments and expressions of emotion are orchestrated in sign language.

And the domesticity is punctuated by short and sharp moments of pure terror. When mistakes are made and sounds emitted, the monsters pounce to kill in a hurry. Krasinski drops these moments into the first half of the film at regular intervals, reminders as to why there are so few humans left on Earth.

The film's underlying theme is the duress that accompanies the responsibilities of parenthood. The monsters represent whatever the danger is that parents need to protect their children from, and A Quiet Place distills the roles of Lee and Evelyn down to elemental guardians in a new kind of wilderness. Despite the external dangers, internal family dynamics are eternal and imperfect. Mistakes are made, blame is subconsciously assigned, unnecessary rules and restrictions are imposed but life must find a way go on. Evelyn negotiating labour in silence and under extreme hardship is a stunning sequence, viscerally encapsulating a mother's anxiety and the miracle of life's persistence.

Thought-provoking and terrifying, A Quiet Place is an alternative view of the end and the beginning cloaked in a shroud of tense silence.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Movie Review: Escape Plan (2013)

The first on-screen teaming of 1980s muscular action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Escape Plan offers an original but ultimately dispiritingly weak and disjointed plot, plus some rehashed B-grade action.

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a prison escape consultant, hired by the Federal Government to break out of high security prisons and identify their weaknesses. His team includes business partner Lester (Vincent D'Onofrio), technical wizard Hush (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) and strategist Abigail Ross (Amy Ryan). Against the advice of Hush and Abigail, Ray accepts a CIA assignment to test the security features of a top-secret private sector prison holding people the US government wants to make disappear.

Once inside Ray realizes something has gone very wrong. Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his vicious right hand man Drake (Vinnie Jones) have every intention of keeping him incarcerated for ever. Ray teams up with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is harbouring secrets about elusive Robin Hood-type fugitive Victor Mannheim, and they start to develop a daring escape plan.

Directed by Mikael Håfström, Escape Plan deserves credit for conjuring up some decent original ideas. Few action films feature a prison escape consultant as the main protagonist, and fewer still manage to combine prison drama sweatiness with the dirty politics of illegally held detainees. The Miles Chapman story (he also co-wrote the script) also has one ace trick up its sleeve related to the actual location of the secret facility from which Ray Breslin has to escape.

Although pairing Stallone and Schwarzenegger was never going to be about cerebral stimulation, they do develop a basic level of rapport albeit without any edge. Despite the star presence, Escape Plan soon runs into trouble, as none of the two key plot points are adequately explained. Breslin is being betrayed, although the conspiracy against him is poorly developed and it is painfully obvious that trying to get rid of a prison escape consultant by throwing him into prison may have drawbacks. Emil Rottmayer's story is handled even more poorly. His relationship with the mysterious Mannheim becomes central to the escape plan, but is not provided the necessary space to mature.

The problems multiply as the film progresses, the sadistic actions of Warden Hobbes and his henchman Drake occupying far too much time, while the finer details of the attempted breakout get murkier. Sam Neill shows up as an unsure prison doctor and a cavalry-type rescue party gate crashes the climax, and most of the logic surrounding their involvement escapes from the script.

Of course Escape Plan ends with Arnold getting his hands on a massive machine gun and spraying bullets all over the place. The stars may age, but some of their signature moves never get old.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Movie Review: Spectre (2015)

The twenty-fourth installment in the James Bond franchise, Spectre is tired, bloated and devoid of ideas and enthusiasm.

On a rogue mission in Mexico City, Bond (Daniel Craig) destroys a city block but eliminates terrorist leader Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). With the entirety of the 007 program threatened with closure due to the bureaucratic careerism of the Joint Intelligence Service head C (Andrew Scott), M (Ralph Fiennes) grounds Bond. But he anyway gets assistance from Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to continue his investigation.

In Rome Bond seduces Sciarra's widow Lucia (Monica Bellucci), and infiltrates a meeting of a secret terrorist organization chaired by mastermind Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who was thought dead and knows Bond since childhood. Bond tracks down Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who broke away from Oberhauser, and then White's daughter Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). She reveals that Oberhauser is the head of Spectre, a consortium of criminals looking to control the world through terrorist acts and the massive harvesting of information from all the world's leading intelligence agencies.

The second outing for Sam Mendes as Bond director, Spectre finds the series sinking to another unfortunate low point. Despite the usual location hopping and well-staged action set-pieces, the film never kicks into gear, and ambles along with a long yawn. At the heart of the many problems is Daniel Craig exuding stony faced boredom and contributing to an emotionless core. But Spectre's  troubles extend well beyond a disinterested star.

The running time of 148 minutes is inexcusable. There simply is nowhere near enough plot to justify two and half hours of screen time, and the bloat is painfully obvious from the first pre-credit scene. Bond's tussle with Sciarra on board a helicopter takes forever, the two men punching it out for long minutes, sucking the energy out of the sequence. The pattern continues throughout, every chase and every fight prolonged to conceal the scarcity of meaningful content.

Worse still is the lack of any tension, drama or sense of genuine urgency. The worst that the bad guys come up with is sitting around a dark table discussing data breaches. Terrorist explosions take place on background television screens, while Christoph Waltz, first revealed as Oberhauser and then Blofeld, is a toothless bystander under both incarnations, his elaborate base in the desert used for...what, exactly? The shared history of Oberhauser and Bond is a muddled backstory, Mendes committing the cardinal sin of telling rather than showing what is supposed to be the emotional apex of the film.

Monica Belluci is wasted in a couple of scenes, while the sparking Léa Seydoux emerges as one of the film's few sources of energy, almost overcoming the 18 year age difference between her and Craig. The Sam Smith moany and falsetto-hampered theme song Writing's on the Wall is one of the worst in the history of the franchise.

What remains is Bond on an unsanctioned mission to chase down information, his next destination and target barely explained as the film jettisons basic narrative exposition in favour of snazzy visuals. With the evil British intelligence desk jockeys angling to kill the 007 program, Spectre appears to give them a good reason to do so.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Movie Review: Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940)

A B-grade western, Texas Rangers Ride Again provides decent entertainment but never threatens to rise above its lowly status.

Ellen 'Slats' Dangerfield (Ellen Drew) returns to her family's massive Texas ranch after 10 years away and finds her grandma Cecilia (May Robson) dealing with a major crisis. Cattle is disappearing in large numbers with no clues left behind, and none of the family members and foremen appear to have answers. Cecilia turns to the Texas Rangers, and they dispatch undercover agents Jim Kingston (John Howard) and Mace Townsley (Broderick Crawford) to investigate.

Kingston pretends to be wanted outlaw The Pecos Kid and infiltrates the crew of Joe Yuma (Anthony Quinn), a disloyal cowboy supposedly working for the Dangerfields but actually coordinating cattle rustling on a massive scale on behalf of a black market cartel. Jim starts a rocky romantic pursuit of the feisty Ellen and has to find a way to bring the bandits to justice.

Directed by James P. Hogan and a sequel to 1936's The Texas Rangers, this is a lightweight and second-rate programmer, clocking in at 68 minutes. Given the rudimentary budget and constrained production values the film rustles up adequate and undemanding entertainment, mixing basic action with a steady stream of humour and flighty romance.

The setting is actually the modern day of 1940, giving Texas Rangers Ride Again an interesting but still disconcerting past-meets-present dimension. Rural Texas still looks the way it did fifty years past, but in addition to horses and six shooter both the Rangers and the bad guys have cars, trucks and wireless mobile radio transmitters at their disposal to help navigate and communicate across the vast swaths of cattle land.

The plot is standard fare undercover police work, as the Rangers infiltrate Joe Yuma's gang to uncover the impressively industrial-scale cattle rustling operation. The story is peppered by the  playfully romantic tug of war between Ranger Jim and the likeable Ellen, who makes no secret of wanting to be anywhere but Texas.

Anthony Quinn receives ninth billing, but his role is easily among the most prominent in the film. May Robson dominates her scenes as the earthy family matron, raging at the inadequacies of all around her and contributing plenty of humour as she looks for a love of her own. Akim Tamiroff as the loyal housekeeper with embryonic English skills adds to the surprisingly deep talent pool.

Amusing and forgettable, Texas Rangers Ride Again hops over the extremely low bar it sets for itself.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Movie Review: Malone (1987)

A modernization of Shane, Malone features a stoic Burt Reynolds performance but is an otherwise mindless low-budget action flick.

CIA-trained assassin Malone (Reynolds) is tired of killing and attempts to disappear into rural Oregon. At a remote gas station operated by Paul Barlow (Scott Wilson) and his daughter Jo (Cynthia Gibb) Malone learns that the entire nearby town is being intimidated by henchmen working for shady political operative Delaney (Cliff Robertson), who wants to buy and control the valley for nefarious reasons.

Malone tangles with Delaney's goons, including Madrid (Alex Diakun) and dim-witted brothers Calvin and Dan Bollard (Tracey Walter and Dennis Burkley). The local Sheriff Hawkins (Kenneth McMillan) is also on Delaney's payroll. Word of Malone's violent interventions reaches Delaney, who orders Malone killed. Meanwhile, the CIA track down Malone's whereabouts and dispatch agent Jamie (Lauren Hutton) to clean up the mess.

Directed by Harley Cokeliss and based on the book Shotgun by William P. Wingate, Malone is an unashamed but uncredited update of the Alan Ladd western classic. The story of a mysterious man trying to walk away from a violent past finding himself in the middle of a land dispute between settlers and profiteers carries sufficient weight to maintain a basic level of interest. Meanwhile, star Burt Reynolds abandons any remaining vestiges of good ol' boy charm and instead generates solid intensity by sticking closely to steely-eyed assassin mannerisms.

Unfortunately, not much else in Malone works, and the film has a strong whiff of being a decade late and a few dollars short. Malone cannot shake a relatively witless script and utterly predictable Chuck Norris-calibre set-pieces previously seen in better movies, including a barber shop showdown lifted straight from High Plains Drifter.

Although definitely older than Shane's Joey, it's never quite clear how old Malone's Jo is supposed to be (Cynthia Gibb was 24 at the time, but portraying a curious teen). This starts to present a problem, as Jo develops a crush on the assassin and the film edges towards icky and borderline exploitive territory (Reynolds was 51).

Other than the dependable Scott Wilson, the rest of the cast is made up of countless hissing villain and doofus redneck types, all responding to the commands of Cliff Robertson's Delaney. His heinous plot, something about establishing white supremacist enclaves across the country, is half-heartedly explained a couple of times, but still does not make much sense. If the intent is to quietly create command centres through strategic land acquisition, running around and killing people in broad daylight is not the way to avoid attention.

Malone at least often looks great, Vancouver and various small-town rural British Columbia locations (standing in for Oregon) giving the film a scenic shine. The story may be old and the budget limited, but the lush northwest mountains and valleys are always spectacular.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Movie Review: Chappaquiddick (2017)

A drama based on the infamous incident that ended one life and one Presidential campaign, Chappaquiddick is a faithful recreation of the murky story, but remains emotionally stranded.

It's 1969, and Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) is the only surviving Kennedy brother. He is mulling a future run for the presidency and trying to convince Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a secretary who worked on his brother Bobby's campaign, to join his team. With his entourage, including cousin and fixer Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), Ted spends a day on Martha's Vineyard to compete in a yacht race.

After a party that evening in Chappaquiddick, a despondent and slightly inebriated Ted drives with Mary Jo towards the ferry terminal. He takes a wrong turn, drives off the road on a narrow bridge and the car lands upside down in a water channel. Ted somehow extricates himself but Mary Jo drowns. Despite the pleas of his team members Ted is slow to report the incident. With his presidential ambitions in tatters, he turns to his ailing father Joseph Sr. (Bruce Dern) for help, and a massive damage control machine kicks into action.

Directed by John Curran, Chappaquiddick covers familiar ground in workmanlike fashion. The tragedy that cost the life of a young woman and ruined the aspirations of the youngest Kennedy has always been shrouded in controversy thanks in part to the subsequent intense spin unleashed by the Kennedy lawyers, and the film does not try to fill in the unknown blanks.

How Kennedy made it out of the car, why did Mary Jo not escape the same way, how much effort did Kennedy put into rescuing her and why Gargan and others thought that leaving Kennedy on his own after the incident could possibly be a good idea are all questions that remain submerged in the dark waters below the bridge.

The film does try to delve into Kennedy's state of mind, a combination of shock, denial, alcohol, and disorientation presented as a potential explanation for his erratic attempts to first avoid confronting the facts and then try to hide some of the truths in the immediate aftermath. The few brief scenes showing the interaction between Ted, always perceived as the weak son, and his father Joseph, frail and near-death but still carrying frightfully domineering power, emerge as highlights.

The performances are serviceable without scaling any heights. The film's tone is steady, Curran not searching for contrived peaks of emotion, and Jason Clarke is suitably introverted but still revealing flashes of the Kennedy entitlement running through his blood.

Chappaquiddick is a story of the rich and powerful navigating a crisis, seeking an outcome that only the privileged can aspire to. In refusing to condemn or lionize Ted Kennedy the film makes its points, but does it quietly.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Movie Review: 100 Rifles (1969)

A clumsy western, 100 Rifles boasts some decent star power but is otherwise bereft of style, substance and significance.

The setting is Mexico early in the 20th Century. American police officer Lyedecker (Jim Brown) goes looking for half-breed bandit Yaqui Joe Herrera (Burt Reynolds), who stole $6,000 from a Phoenix bank. But Joe has already used the money to purchase 100 rifles he intends to hand over to peasant revolutionaries. Local woman Sarita (Raquel Welch) witnessed her father's hanging by the brutal General Verdugo (Fernando Lamas), and joins the rebels.

Lyedecker just wants to get on with the business of transporting Joe back across the border to face justice, but he cannot avoid getting caught up in the peasants' struggle. An attraction also develops between him and Sarita. Eventually Lyedecker, Sarita and Joe team up to help the rebels launch audacious attacks against the army in the name of freedom from oppression.

Directed and co-written by Tom Gries, 100 Rifles is busy, noisy, and cheap. Unconcerned with characters or any semblance of coherent plot, the film jolts along from one shoot'em-up set piece to the next, linked together by lots of scenes of lots of people riding lots horses across the landscape.

The three main characters share no chemistry. Reynolds struggles to convince as a scrappy rogue, Welch radiates her brand of pouty sex appeal but is given nothing else to work with, and Brown is most let-down by a dead-on-arrival script that creates the character of a strong, black stand-up officer of the law and then just allows events to swamp him. Brown and Welch are thrust into some then-daring interracial sex scenes, but the result is more jousting than lovemaking, validating rumours of rampant on-set tensions between the two.

Dan O'Herlihy hangs around the film as a train company executive not quite sure what his role is supposed to be, while Eric Braeden is a German advisor lurking next to General Verdugo. Nothing better than throwing in a random corporate suit and a menacing Nazi predecessor as distractions from a limp story.

The action scenes are mindless but executed with reasonable panache, Gries carving out some individual space between dominant Spaghetti Western sensibilities and the genre's more familiar traditions. And at least nothing in 100 Rifles lasts for too long. With no patience for any sort of meaningful build-up or artistry, the film lines up the scenes of rebel and army extras exchanging gunfire and mows then down with admirable efficiency.

Humourless and witless, 100 Rifles contains plenty of firepower, but most of it is misdirected.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Movie Review: Topkapi (1964)

A heist thriller with strong comic elements, Topkapi features plenty of exotic style and a memorably eccentric cast of characters.

Professional thieves Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) and Walter Harper (Maximilian Schell) team up to plot the theft of a priceless dagger encrusted with emeralds from the Topkapi museum in Istanbul. To reduce the ability of international police authorities to track the thieves, Harper decides to recruit a crew of amateurs for the job. Security expert and toymaker Cedric Page (Robert Morley), mute gymnast Giulio (Gilles Ségal) and strong man Hans (Jess Hahn) join the team.

Harper and Elizabeth also hire small-time hustler Arthur Simpson (Peter Ustinov) to drive a car full of hidden weapons and equipment from Greece to Turkey. At the border the hidden cache is uncovered, the Turkish police wrongly surmise that an assassination plot is unfolding and Simpson is pressed into service as an unwilling informant. He weasles his way into Harper's crew, where Gerven the Cook (Akim Tamiroff) also proves to be a disruptive influence.

Despite massive plot holes and some jerky transitions, Topkapi has an irresistible joie de vivre.  Directed by Jules Dassin with a sly eye on snazzy visuals and an abundance of smooth style, the film uses an economy of words, relying instead on a bumbling motley crew that threatens to succeed despite itself. Both the thieves and Turkish authorities are experts at getting in the way of their own progress, and the film cleverly celebrates how far a plot can proceed when none of the pieces fit.

Indicative of where Dassin wants to take the film is the character of Arthur Simon Simpson. A sweaty and good-for-nothing tourist swindler, he moves from the margins of the story to somehow find himself in the middle of the action, an unwillingly tipster for the Turks and a last-minute stand-in strong man for the thieves, except that he is not that strong and is terrified of heights while his singular heist role requires him to operate on a roof.

Peter Ustinov deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for bringing Simpson to life, in a film in which all the performers support the eccentric action. The rest of the characters fade in and out of prominence. The instigator Elizabeth Lipp gradually disappears from the film, the mastermind Walter Harper has a marginal presence throughout, and tinkerer Cedric Page has just a couple of highlight scenes.

Topkapi is famous for a final hour featuring minimal dialogue. First the thieves give the Turkish police the slip at a bustling local festival featuring oiled-up professional street wrestlers, then the heist unfolds at a leisurely pace. The ingenious acrobatics of infiltrating an alarmed room from above without touching the walls or the floor set the standard for clever heists infused with silent tension and no shortage of canny humour.

Elsewhere Dassin injects large amounts of local colour and flavour, bringing the Istanbul streets to life with an explosion of hectic, noisy and vivid activity. Topkapi is as much about a theft as it is about the jet-set having fun in the sun, with either untold riches or imprisonment awaiting at the end of the frolic.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...