Out on Friday September 8
Hawkeye hits the spot in Taylor Sheridan's taut thriller. Jay Baruchel’s Goon gets a bawdy sport-quel.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Wind River, It, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, The Work, Insyriated, Belle de Jour, Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast, The Lure, and The Vault.
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Wind River is the name of a Native American reservation in the Wyoming wilds. It’s also a description of the unforgiving terrain, a central character in Taylor Sheridan’s superb mystery. In these sub-zero temperatures, flesh blackens with frostbite in minutes, and hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) dresses like a stormtrooper on Hoth. “It could be sunny for an hour,” he says of the weather. “Then you’re in hell again.” Indeed, we are.
While out on the reservation tracking a mountain lion, Lambert finds the body of local girl Natalie (Kelsey Asbille), raped and battered. Crucially, it was the cold that killed her, after she ran, barefoot, for miles from her assailant. “How do you gauge someone’s will to live, especially in these conditions?” asks Lambert.
He’s been here before – his daughter was found in similar circumstances – but this time he’s drawn into the centre of the investigation. Local police chief Ben (Graham Greene) doesn’t have the manpower to cover such a huge, inhospitable area. “I’m used to no help,” he huffs.
The FBI agent assigned to the case, meanwhile, is the tough but painfully underprepared Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), channelling a touch of Clarice Starling. “The body’s five miles on a snowmobile,” Lambert tells her. “You’ll be dead before you get there.”
Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario, two of the best US thrillers of recent years, and has a powerful sense of how loss and the landscape carve themselves into his characters. In Wind River, everyone is adrift. “Locals” such as Lambert are viewed with suspicion by the Native Americans; Banner is treated with outright contempt by all but our hero; and the younger generation fill the voids of poverty and hopelessness with drink and drugs.
As a limited man wrapped in a grief that won’t pass, Renner is on his best form since The Hurt Locker. “I’d like to tell you it gets easier,” he tells the girl’s grieving father (Gil Birmingham). “It doesn’t.” Olsen and Greene are excellent, as usual; there’s a bold, almost mystical score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; and Sheridan’s script is alternatively tough and tender.
The film may take its time to get going, but each character has an arc, however brutal, and the action scenes, when they come, are spiked with sudden, shocking bloodshed. One raid has Banner, half-blinded by Mace, taking on a trailer full of addicts – as depressing as it is thrilling. A Mexican stand-off is not just a flashpoint, but a metaphor for abject lawlessness: it’s kill or be killed, sometimes both.
In comparison with the merciless violence of the climax, the closing scenes are a touch meandering. But perhaps this is a necessary catharsis, given the intensity of what’s gone before. Despite the parade of predators – mountain lions, wolves, black spiders scuttling across the ice – it’s man that’s the real animal here; raping, killing, taking revenge with grim impunity.
Even the good guys beat confessions from their suspects. Out here, Sheridan seems to be saying, no one has jurisdiction, not even God, and he fled the scene years ago. Who can blame him?
THE VERDICT: Sheridan directs as well as writes for the first time, and delivers a superb thriller with a powerful chill that gets in your bones. Smart, tense and soulful.
Director: Taylor Sheridan; Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Never mind the 1990 miniseries with its cardboard cut-out performances and wobbly spider seemingly fashioned from the BFG’s pipe cleaners. It’s taken 31 years for Stephen King’s doorstep magnum opus to reach the big screen, making It, good or bad, the horror event of the year. Well, the great news is – not least given there was a waft of the sewers during pre-production as True Detective director Cary Fukunaga walked to be replaced by ’s Andres Muschietti – It is worth the wait.
Wisely opting to adapt just the half of the novel that focuses on the seven protagonists as kids – a planned second instalment will revisit them 27 years later – this sees Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff) band together to form The Losers’ Club.
The name fits: variously plagued by abusive or ill-caring parents, poverty, illness, ethnicity, a stutter, grief, obesity and chronic short-sightedness, their misfit-status attracts the vicious attentions of a trio of bullies led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). But now a more urgent terror has invaded their lives: It, a nameless, formless, ageless evil that rises from the sewers and storm drains every 30 years or so to feast on the kids of the township of Derry, Maine.
All of the big decisions made by Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman work, from the aforementioned choice to split the book, to updating the kids’ timeline from 1958 to 1989 (both holdovers from the script by Fukunaga and Chase Palmer), to returning It to the shape-shifter of the book. The miniseries, of course, simply locked in on It’s go-to get-up of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, with Tim Curry capably filling the big shoes (and baggy trousers) of King’s monster.
Here, played by Bill Skarsgard, Pennywise once more plays a vital part, with the Swedish actor’s crackpot, cracked-paint turn reinterpreting the role as thoroughly as Heath Ledger roughed-up Jack Nicholson’s iconic Joker. But there’s more, with some judiciously applied CGI allowing Pennywise to morph into each of The Losers’ greatest fears – which are not, thankfully, a cavalcade of ’80s screen monsters to offer a first-base update of the Universal monsters in the book.
That said, there is something of Freddy Krueger (who built It’s studio, New Line) to the way It reconfigures and adapts his environment to mess with the kids’ heads. The house on Niebolt Street – a pause while fans of the book shudder – is to It what the subterranean boiler room is to Freddy, and when the Losers enter this lair, all rules of time and space are flushed down the toilet. And while we’re peering down the porcelain, let it also be said that It contains an icky set-piece that makes for the best bathroom scene in King-based cinema since the rotting woman lurched from the tub in Kubrick’s .
But the real reason IT works is because it takes time with the kids, revelling in their colourful lingo and comradeship as much as their fears. The young cast is excellent, with special call-outs for Lillis and Lieberher, and praise can’t get any higher than to say their chemistry recalls not just , a show indebted to the novel IT, but the kids’ banter and heartache in the daddy of all King adaptations, . Terrific.
THE VERDICT: Thrilling and haunting, pitching the power of adventure and friendship against the day-to-day horrors of childhood and a chilling Pennywise. An absolute scream.
Director: Andy Muschietti; Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Goon: Last of the Enforcers
In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes’ Blade, “Some motherfuckers are always tryin’ to ice skate uphill.” It’s a visual metaphor that’s strangely appropriate for this belated sequel to 2011’s rough and rude hockey-com Goon, which tries hard but goes nowhere fast.
Seann William Scott returns as Doug Glatt, an enforcer who can barely hit a puck but has no trouble busting skulls. Still loyal to his beloved Halifax Highlanders, Doug receives a brutal beatdown by new kid on the frost Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell). But with a baby on the way, Doug’s loyalties are split between his families at home and on the ice.
Featuring an endearingly watchable Scott, gross-out gags and pulse-quickening fist-flinging, everything that made Goon a cult crowd-pleaser is present. Practically the entire cast returns too, but most are underserved by a script that brings nothing new to the ice, and some flat and uninspired lens-work. Worse is Russell, whose rage-fuelled Cain acts like Anger from Inside Out in human form.
Anyone with a fondness for the first film will find some pleasure in revisiting this band of loveable misfits, but we’re a long way from the hockey hall of fame.
THE VERDICT: Earnest intentions may be behind this bawdy yet heartfelt sport-quel, but it’s a largely unnecessary rematch.
Director: Jay Baruchel; Starring: Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Once a year, members of the public join the inmates of Folsom Prison for four days of intensive group therapy. Somehow, directors Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous, plus doc crew, were given access.
What emerges is as riveting as it is revelatory. As hardened gang members hug and cold-blooded killers show extraordinary kindness, the sense of shared humanity will break the hardest of hearts.
Directors: Gethin Aldous, Jairus McLeary; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Though the Syrian conflict provides the backdrop for this morality thriller, writer/director Philippe Van Leeuw aims more for tense melodrama than topical commentary.
Presenting a Syrian house barricaded against the war outside, this film bites off more narrative peril than it can chew, but effectively explores a troubling dilemma: would you help a neighbour if it meant endangering your own family?
Director: Philippe Van Leeuw; Starring: Hiam Abbass, Diamand Bou Abboud, Juliette Navis; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Belle de Jour
Luis Buñuel’s sly 1967 film gave Catherine Deneuve one of her most iconic roles – a housewife who finds work in a brothel. From the first scene, as Deneuve’s Séverine imagines her husband (Jean Sorel) ordering her to be whipped in a woodland clearing, Buñuel toys with the blackest of comedy.
Full of mystery, his erotically charged, psychologically complex classic elegantly blends fantasy and reality.
Director: Luis Buñuel; Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast
Labour MP Dennis Skinner has a reputation for firebrand principles and ferocious wit. Yet this low-budget doc, the debut of Daniel Draper, paints a gentler picture of Skinner as a nature-lover and singer.
Affectionate yet meandering, it lingers too long on minutiae. Still, Skinner is a funny, fascinating man, explored here with fervency.
Director: Daniel Draper; Starring: Dennis Skinner; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Want to get rich? Then follow the cryptic clues left by art dealer Forrest Fenn, to the fortune he insists lies buried in the Rockies. Tomas Leach’s intriguing doc – a real-life It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World – follows the treasure hunters on the trail.
Despite risking life and sanity, these American Dreamers are surprisingly cheerful, making for a light-hearted study of eccentric hobbyists.
Director: Tomas Leach; Starring: manda Fry, Paulina Longenbaugh; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017
Desperate siblings Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood come unstuck when they rob James Franco’s bank in Dan Bush’s hybrid horror. Unfortunately, so does Bush.
Things get messy as they discover – whoops – they’re in a rubbish fright flick. Last Shift (2014) and The Void (2016) covered similar ground with more finesse, and quite what Franco and his stunt moustache are doing here is anyone’s guess.
Director: Dan Bush; Starring: James Franco, Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood; Theatrical release: September 8, 2017