The Summer means that holidays take over. Alas, while I would have liked to have given full review space to both Only God Forgives and The Lone Ranger, time dictates that a different path must be followed. Boo.
Only God Forgives is on it’s way out of many theatres as I type up these brief thoughts on the film. Early word on Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to Drive (alongside his latter-day muse, Ryan Gosling) was mixed, veering closer to the negative than the positive, with early audiences criticising it’s slow pace, and a narrative emphasis that pushes the boundaries of the term “slow burner”. Flying in the face of such criticisms I was actually very impressed with the film. As with the season’s earlier Stoker, it’s a masterclass in formalism. The image is everything. And what an image it is. Refn inverts the blue and pink neon skyline of the L.A. of Drive to present a tale carved in to the seedy underbelly of Thailand’s drug routes. The neon remains, in fact they make up 99% of the lighting code for Only God Forgives, but here they’re downlit and scorching reds, and accompanied by a score that recalls the most affirming moments of Vangelis work on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, that most familiar tale of a neon-soaked dream-world. Dialogue is minimal, with bursts of sound accentuating the mood driven nature of the piece. Comparisons to Lynch have been bandied around, but I didn’t see them myself. Instead I’d propose that it’s that other fringe-Hollywood David Of The Macabre whose influence is most prescient, with D. Cronenberg’s body horror and the insertion politics of his Crash present and correct. This film’s Julian is too reminiscent of another that bears that name, in the form of the central protagonist from Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo. Both are losers in search of an epiphany, Gosling is practically channeling Gere in his prime.
Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger opened in the UK just yesterday (although several IMAX screens were treated to a pre-run week of showings), to a fairly mute response. The Disney film, like it’s stablemate John Carter, was crucified in the run up to release by snarky journo’s intent on seeing the star of Johnny Depp fall, and hoping to see a second major live-action flop from the House Of Mouse. Alas I found The Lone Ranger to be great, GREAT fun. It’s ambitious, equally as well-played as it is constructed, and achieves blockbuster nirvana in that it’s simply hugely enjoyable. The pacing does take some getting used to, with the first hour or so often waining in confused subplots, but that niggle aside there’s nothing to overtly complain about. The film’s closing act, in which duelling runaway trains are rendered in equal parts convincing CGI and physical effects might just be the most satisfying finale of any of 2013’s Summer blockbusters, while the literal horse-play is top-tier comedy.
Surprisingly I found The Lone Ranger to be a more successful comedic endeavour than this week’s big comedy release. Based upon another long-standing character of radio and television, Alan Partridge might not stretch back in to the popular culture quite as far as George W. Trendle and Fran Striker’s masked lawman, but he’s significantly more popular with UK audiences. Alpha Papa marks the character’s big-screen bow, and while it’s no doubt going to be a huge commercial success (raising the question of quite why the film needed BFI funding), I wasn’t terribly impressed. My encounter with the film is in many ways similar to how I approached the Harry Potter franchise; I saw Harry Potter 7.5 having only seen the third film. I was unfamiliar with the material to the extent that I couldn’t fully appreciate it. The same rule applies here. I’m not particularly familiar with the Partridge oeuvre, least not enough to give it a thorough appraisal, although by the same token this is arguably a failing of the film and filmmakers to an extent too (accessibility ought to be a given for the first big-screen outing). The film is a solid, if unremarkable affair.