Out on Friday 24 February
A manhunt led by Mark Wahlberg. Xavier Dolan’s star-studded family drama. Richard Gordon’s compelling George Best doc.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Patriots Day, A Cure for Wellness, It’s Only the End of the World, The Fits, Sweet Dreams, Southern Fury, and Best.
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Patriots Day ups the ante by dramatising the terrorist attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon and the manhunt that followed. The result is a tense slice of faction that nonetheless raises questions about how, and indeed if, events like these should be presented on screen.
Like , Patriots begins with breakfast. Not just in the home of Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg), a Boston cop tasked with managing crowds at the finish line, but also Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff), Chechen-born siblings who are heading to the race with a far darker purpose.
We also meet a pair of newlyweds, a security guard and a cop from the suburbs (J.K. Simmons) who all have a part to play in the imminent tragedy – one that, when it comes, is staged with a visceral immediacy and harrowing precision that leaves us rightly shaken and appalled.
Establishing a command centre at a vast and vacant cruise-ship terminal, the FBI – led by a no-nonsense Kevin Bacon – sets about analysing evidence and identifying the perpetrators. The trail leads them swiftly to the Tsarnaevs, whose attempts to elude capture take up the rest of the film in a fashion not dissimilar to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
It also introduces an unexpected hero: one Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), a Chinese student who, having had his Merc jacked by the desperate duo, somehow contrives to escape and alert the authorities.
It’s a brilliantly taut episode, matched by another scene in which Tamerlan’s American wife (Melissa Benoist) is mercilessly grilled by a female interrogator. Another stand-out set-piece is the chaotic confrontation on Simmons’ patch that sees pressure-cooker bombs tossed about like firecrackers.
It’s hard to miss, however, how few of these moments feature Wahlberg, for all of the script’s efforts to incorporate his composite character into the action. It’s as if the film knows that Tommy is a fiction, encouraging us to yell “bogus!” when he uses his encyclopaedic CCTV knowledge to assist Bacon’s investigation or miraculously happens to be in the right place at the right time when one of the bombers finds himself cornered.
Berg’s intention is to show how communities come together in the face of atrocities that are both horribly inevitable and largely unpreventable. But Patriots Day also proves something else: that the requirements of a star-led Hollywood vehicle are antithetical to those of factual recreations with multiple spheres of activity.
THE VERDICT: A senseless outrage is handled with sensitivity in a stirring film that doesn’t need an A-list hero.
Director: Peter Berg; Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon; Theatrical release: February 23, 2017
A Cure for Wellness
Dusting himself down after The Lone Ranger ate dirt at the box office, Gore Verbinski returns with another looong, misshapen movie. This one plays like an odd cross between Edgar Allan Poe and such sanatorium-set thrillers as Shock Corridor, Shutter Island and American Horror Story: Asylum.
Hotshot Wall Street exec Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to an exclusive retreat in the Swiss Alps to retrieve CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener). Getting out is a lot harder than getting in, and Lockhart soon finds himself incarcerated with a broken leg, his recovery seemingly only prolonged by the hydrotherapy prescribed by a doctor so evil his name is Volmer (Jason Isaacs).
With Lockhart’s health and sanity draining away as surely as the arresting visuals are leeched of any bright colours, A Cure for Wellness attempts a Lynchian burrow beneath the sanatorium’s placid croquet lawns to diagnose the soul-sickness of modern man, no less. But its message is pompous and murky, only drugging the action.
Still, at least the final act perks up, accelerating into all-out horror territory that’s part Dr. Phibes-style camp and part Hostel-flavoured gore (there’s a reason for that 18 certificate). You might say it’s an insane mix.
THE VERDICT: Plenty of strong images and some effective scenes, but needs an injection of pace and some serious liposuction.
Director: Gore Verbinski; Starring: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs, Celia Imrie; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017
It’s Only the End of the World
A crème de la crème cast (Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux) fuels Xavier Dolan’s (Mommy) Cannes Grand Prix winner. But like the awkward family reunion they gather for, nobody comes out well.
It’s shot mostly in claustrophobic close-up, given the usually good actors nowhere to hide over 97 relentless minutes of spittle-soaked squabbling.
Director: Xavier Dolan; Starring: Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017
Newcomer Royalty Hightower stars as a pre-teen tomboy who forsakes boxing practice with her brother to join a dance troupe, only for the older girls to start suffering mysterious convulsions.
Director Anna Rose Holmer’s narrative debut is eerily strange, grappling with issues of gender, adolescence and conformity. Mood ultimately trumps character, but Holmer’s helming brims with promise.
Director: Anna Rose Holmer; Starring: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Antonio A.B. Grant Jr.; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017
Middle-aged journalist Massimo (Valerio Mastandrea) remains deeply troubled by the mysterious death of his mother when he was aged just nine.
Shifting between Massimo’s sepia-toned ’60s childhood and his ’90s adulthood, this sentimental drama comes undone via the redemptive romance between its emotionally introverted protagonist and Bérénice Bejo’s compassionate female doctor.
Director: Marco Bellocchio; Starring: Berenice Bejo, Valerio Mastandrea, Fabrizio Gifuni; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017
Known in the US by the more apt title Arsenal, this gung-ho crime thriller leaves no generic macho cliché behind. It centres on the brotherly bond between straight-and-narrow JP (Adrian Grenier) and loose cannon Mikey (Johnathan Schaech), who’s kidnapped by Nicolas Cage’s crime boss.
The kind of film that serves only to add to YouTube supercuts of Cage freaking out.
Director: Steven C. Miller; Starring: Adrian Grenier, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017
Richard Gordon’s compelling doc charts the rise and fall of ’70s soccer superstar George Best, who quit in his twenties owing to the pressures of fame and a drink problem that would eventually take a tragic toll.
Blending archive footage, candid interviews with colleagues and narration from the late Best himself, the film reminds us of his genius, without sugar-coating his self-destructive tendencies.
Director: Daniel Gordon; Starring: George Best; Theatrical release: February 24, 2017