Out on Friday 14 April
Park Chan-wook returns with a ravishing period piece. David Lynch’s masterpiece returns to cinemas. Ritesh Batra delivers a chronicle of lost love.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Fast and Furious 8, The Handmaiden, Mulholland Drive, The Sense of an Ending, Cezanne et Moi, The Hatton Garden’s Job, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
Fast and Furious 8
The Fast & Furious franchise is nothing if not adaptive. Beginning life in 2001 as a souped-up B-movie set in the subculture of LA’s underground street racers, it morphed into an explosive heist movie for the fifth instalment and, come 2015’s seventh outing, the action-packed crime series was now ransacking superhero territory with its skydiving cars, leaps between skyscrapers and Vin Diesel and Jason Statham smacking seven bells out of each other with gigantic wrenches as concrete collapsed all about.
But how do you adapt to the loss of Paul Walker? Playing fan favourite Brian O’Conner in all but third instalment Tokyo Drift, the hugely likeable star died, off set, in a single-vehicle collision in November 2013. As all who contributed to Fast & Furious 7’s $1.5bn box office will know, that film made it to the finish line by drafting in Walker’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, for a few final shots, and by re-writing the script to award O’Conner a fond farewell. Trouble being, so elegantly and sincerely did it deal with Walker’s passing, it felt like a natural endpoint to a franchise that had long made ‘family’ its key theme.
Well, Fast & Furious 8 doesn’t so much adapt as erupt, doing the unthinkable by turning Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a man so dependably loyal he makes guide dogs look callous, against the very family he extols with such frequency it should be a drinking game (and probably is).
The architect of his volte-face is cyber terrorist Cipher (a hypnotically steely Charlize Theron - cue Fast and Furiosa gags), who persuades Dom to nab first an electromagnetic pulse gizmo in Berlin, and then some nuclear launch codes in New York – both strategic steps en route to an explosive endgame that takes place in the frozen wastelands of Russia (but was filmed in Iceland).
Just what Cipher has on Dom shall not be revealed here, but safe to say her Machiavellian machinations link back to previous F&F movies, with old names and faces coming into play. What can be said is that the Dom-vs-Family set-pieces are gargantuan, with new-to-the-franchise director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) proving he really can handle car carnage after his backfiring remake of The Italian Job.
Keeping his camera close to the flying fists and colliding cars (no conspicuous CGI here, thank you very much), he seeks maximum impact while repeating the series’ knack of each time supersizing the action. A wrecking ball plays skittles with a fleet of speeding vehicles.
Hundred of prisoners and guards do their best impression of The Raid in a riotous prison-break sequence that sees Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs bounce rubber bullets off his pecs. Hundreds of cars are hacked in Manhattan and remote-controlled to charge down a motorcade, even raining off the rooftop of a multi-storey car park.
All, however, are small-fry compared to the kamikaze finale involving muscle cars, tanks, snowmobiles, jets and the submarine spotted in the trailer. Hell, if there was ever any doubt that Dom, Hobbs, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tey (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, the Big Bad last time out but now forced by Kurt Russell’s government spook Mr. Nobody to aid the good guys) are the Avengers with power cars instead of superpowers, the proof here smacks us full in the face. “Man up and save the entire goddamn world,” growls Hobbs – yes, the stakes really are that high, the tone that ludicrous.
Truth be told, what’s missing here is Walker’s Zen calm and sea-blue eyes to bring a breath of fresh air to all this hyperventilation. Although just when it seems he’s been too readily forgotten by the F&F family, a lovely grace note honours his memory.
Anyone requiring even a shred of authenticity or gravitas, meanwhile, will have to make do with the faint real-world chimes sounded by a plot that involves hacking, Russia and the shadow of World War 3; add it to the ethnically diverse cast that has always been the franchise’s engine and you might even argue it’s a blockbuster for the Trump era.
But that’s stretching it. Better to buckle up and enjoy the ride for what it is: an OMG, OTT, WTF action movie that ricochets fast and furiously with banter and put-downs. “I’m gonna knock your teeth so far down your throat you’ll have to shove a toothbrush up your ass to brush 'em,” spits Hobbs. At least they’ll be fixed in a grin.
THE VERDICT: A very big, exceedingly dumb thrill ride. Live your life a movie at a time; for 136 minutes, you’ll be free.
Director: F. Gary Gray; Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
Already a festival favourite, Park Chan-wook’s (Oldboy, Stoker) lusty potboiler is the provocative writer/director’s best film in a decade. An opulent period piece, its themes of female empowerment and liberation sit comfortably alongside wincing violence, sexual perversity and, of course, an ominous octopus.
Inspired by Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, Park relocates the story from Victorian England to 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea. A conman (Ha Jung-woo) posing as a count recruits pickpocket Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) as part of an elaborate scheme to marry wealthy heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). Sook-Hee is there to assuage Hideko’s doubts, but in doing so, the pair develop intimate feelings for each other.
Told over three acts, the narrative jumps backwards and forwards to colour our understanding of the characters. Betrayals abound, but the tricksy tale is only half the story. Eroticism permeates every sumptuous frame, not least the ones featuring explicit lesbian sex. Far from gratuitous, these sweaty encounters are intensely character-driven. What’s more, when the men get involved, the results are grotesque.
It’s indulgently long, with a few too many repeated scenes. But otherwise this is the work of a modern master finding a fascinating new groove.
THE VERDICT: A ravishing period piece that simmers with sexual tension while pulling off some dazzling narrative gymnastics.
Director: Park Chan-wook; Starring Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Jo Jin-woong; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
After the sun-dappled forward roll of 1999’s The Straight Story, David Lynch revisited blacker, wonkier strips for 2001’s Mulholland Drive (re-released in a new restoration of a 4K transfer). He still looks right at home there. Although Lynch’s defiantly surreal remix of a rejected TV series leaves us grasping for meaning, stuck without road signs, its immediacy affirms there’s method in its mysteries: he just won’t hold our hands as we navigate them.
Foremost among its hooks is Naomi Watts’ breakout as Betty, the perky would-be star who discovers an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring’s Rita/Camilla) and plays detective to help uncover her story. But is Betty a broken woman’s dream persona? Is Rita for real? What’s up with the coffee-fixated moguls? And WTF’s hiding behind Winkie’s diner?
Questions mount, but Lynch, who bagged his third Best Director Oscar nom for Mulholland Drive, makes his enigmas accessible. From the best audition scene ever (sorry, La La Land) to the heart-rending Club Silencio set-piece, Lynch flaunts his intuitive power to unsettle and move. Sixteen years after they first darkened our vision, Mulholland’s deep shadows still tempt sustained inquiry.
THE VERDICT: Alluring and unnerving, Lynch’s horror-show reminds us how much cinema misses him. Watts is electric, too.
Director: David Lynch; Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
The Sense of an Ending
A retired divorcé gets a blast from the past in this sluggish adap of Julian Barnes’ Booker-winning novel, a chronicle of lost love and errors of judgement whose secrets remain frustratingly elusive.
A classy ensemble (Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter) supports Jim Broadbent’s amusingly tetchy lead, while youthful flashbacks evoke a mood of romantic yearning.
Director: Ritesh Batra; Starring: Michelle Dockery, Charlotte Rampling, Emily Mortimer; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
Cezanne et Moi
Danièle Thompson’s biopic charts the bromance between aristocratic painter Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) and impoverished writer Emile Zola (Guillaume Canet), as the pair’s 19th Century fortunes wax and wane.
The cinematography’s sumptuous, but pacing is very stop-start. Worse, there’s an aura of male entitlement, fuelled by the script’s uncritical reverence of its flawed philanderers.
Director: Daniele Thompson; Starring: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
The Hatton Garden’s Job
Inspired by the true-life 2015 heist, in which a bunch of old geezers stole £200 million worth of jewellery, Ronnie Thompson’s likeable caper sees Larry Lamb and Phil Daniels lead these lumbago-suffering lads as they plot their way to riches.
Matthew Goode, a shady contact who sets up the job, stands out, while Thompson never tries to go too Guy Ritchie on us.
Director: Ronnie Thompson; Starring: Matthew Goode, Larry Lamb, Stephen Moyer, Clive Russel, David Calder, Phil Daniels; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Milos Forman’s tragicomedy, re-released to mark Jack Nicholson’s eightieth, is a fitting tribute to the wily old sunglasses-wearer, showcasing his mercurial charisma and pathos.
Playing the mental-hospital firebrand who rebels against monstrous Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), Nicholson seduces in an anti-establishment classic with a gut-punch exit.
Director: Milos Forman; Starring: Jack Nicholson, Kouise Fletcher, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd; Theatrical release: April 14, 2017