Deadly Illusions

Brief synopsis: A semi-retired writer hires a nanny-cum-help to look after her children when a business deal her husband invested in goes bad and she feels forced to accept a lucrative deal from her publisher. She takes on a nanny to help with household chores and looking after her children.

Suffering from writer’s block, she is unsure whether her mind is playing tricks on her or if the nanny is too wonderful to be true. 

Is it any good?: Um, no, not really. With a standard made-for-tv-esque title, Deadly Illusions is lazy and uninspired. It also does not seem to know what kind of film it is supposed to be. With echoes of Shutter Island, Misery and every made-for-television thriller ever made, Deadly Illusions mistakes a meandering pace for tension, tacking on a bonkers ending that is as confusing and underwhelming as the rest of the film. 

Spoiler territory: picturesque family, semi-retired author, Mary (Kristin Davis), husband, Tom (Dermot Mulroney) and their twins, Sam (Shylo Molina) and Alex (Marie Wagenman), are having breakfast before Tom leaves to go and do an unspecified job and the twins head to school. 

Mary, alone in the house, makes a great show of getting dressed, matching her outfit, shoes, jewellery and even spectacles. All very professional. She has a meeting with her agent, Kioki (Shawn Wu), in her house. She got spruced up for a meeting in her own home and does not even fancy her agent! 

Kioki turns up at the home with his new associate, Darlene (Abella Bala), who it turns out is the backbone Kioki does not have. They want Mary to write a sequel to her bestseller. Mary is happy to let a ghostwriter do it and just collect the cheques. Kioki takes out a contract offer that he hopes she will be interested in. 

The publishing company is going through a difficult period and need Mary to come to their rescue. Right. Mary feels blindsided. Kioki mislead her. She does not want to write, regardless of the offer. Just keep sending the cheques! 

Mary shows them the door. Kioki, the suck-up, bids her farewell with a peck on the cheek and assures her the cheques will keep coming. The ballsy and, frankly, couldn’t-give-a-shit about Mary’s reputation Darlene, tells her, with a few choice words, that she should help the little people, considering that there was a time when she was a struggling writer. 

Mary, heartless superstar and above such things, suggests she should be fired. She doesn’t get her fired, so she is not that powerful. Later, the picture-perfect family are sitting down to dinner as Tom returns from work. 

He sees the contract from Mary’s meeting and asks her about it. The advance is substantial and Tom thinks she should consider it. Mary thinks they should have dinner. Later, Tom shows her he is still a stud between the sheets, satisfying her to such an extent that she has to have a cigar on the balcony post-coital. 

On the balcony, Tom’s true reasoning for his exemplary efforts comes to light. He made a bad deal six months before and wiped out half of their savings. Mary is pissed. He promised he would never do it again. He promised! Tom goes back to bed. 

The next day, Mary is at the gym with her best friend, Elaine (Shanola Hampton). She is telling her about the deal she has been offered. Elaine asks if she is going to take up the deal? Mary is not sure. She turns into a different person when she is writing. The Hulk? Mrs Hyde? 

Elaine tells her it can help her take her life in a different direction, to do stuff she wants to do – whatever the heck that means. Elaine tells her she needs a full-time sitter. What? Why? Her kids are at school during the day…anyhoo, Mary is not so sure. 

She did not spend thousands of dollars to have them – she is a little bit beyond child-rearing age so one assumes she is referring to IVF treatments, though she could be talking about buying them. It’s not clear. – so as someone else could bring them up. Elaine is insistent, giving her a battered business card, one would think she was getting a commission. 

Mary asks why she does not use them. Mary tells she cannot afford them and they only take on certain types of client. Elaine is a black woman, so that could be definitely interpreted as…classist? Anyhoo, broke-ass Elaine only works three days a week but if she worked full-time, she would use them. If they would take her. 

Elaine, saleswoman of the year, carries on pushing the notion of a sitter, telling Mary that the girls they recruit come from the best Ivy League schools and speak multiple languages. Sounds all-white – sorry – alright to me! Mary is sold.

Mary goes to the highly recommended – by Elaine – Huntsman Enterprises services and meets Angela (Ellen Humphreys), the owner of the business. Angela carries on the sales pitch, assuring Mary of the quality of her charges and their services. She offers to send over some potential candidates. Mary agrees. 

The next day, Mary interviews a slew of unsuitable candidates. If all of these girls are supposedly of high calibre, one shudders to think what the average nanny must be like. Mary contacts Tom to bemoan the quality of the interviewees. He thinks she might be being a little too picky but also, remembering that all of this shit is his fault, butters her up a bit, telling her she is the best mother and it would be impossible to replace her. 

Mary ends the call because she sees another girl arriving on a bicycle. Looking like a cross between a schoolgirl and bible student, with an above the knee A-line skirt, pop socks and pumps, Grace (Greer Grammer), sits reading as Mary prepares tea. Just a thought – did she prepare tea for every interviewee? That is a lot of tea! 

Mary and Grace bond over her love of books. Though Grace loves books, she has no idea who Mary is. Mary gets a call and excuses herself. Whilst she is on the phone, the children return from school. They are arguing. Grace pacifies them by telling them a story based on a drawing Sam has done. The drawing is kind of crappy. 

Mary ends her call and sends the children off to play as she concludes her meeting with Grace. Grace picks up another book and remarks about how she would borrow it if she saw it in a library. Mary says she thinks that she has another book that she would really like and takes her to another room.

Grace belatedly notices that Mary is quite an accomplished writer herself and is suitably overcome with the thought of being in the house of a famous author. Mary’s ego soothed by the recognition and fawning, immediately employs her, telling her she can start next week. Grace is giddy with happiness at being employed. Oh, to be young again…

The next week, Grace is looking after the children and some other random kid who I think is meant to be Elaine’s child but he looks Latin-American. Maybe he’s adopted? The kids want to go swimming and excitedly ask if they can. Grace says she will look after them. Mary tells Grace she can borrow one of her swimsuits. The pool, by the by, is in the back garden. Not so much going swimming as…swimming. 

By the pool, Elaine and Mary are cleaning…windows, yes, really, whilst Grace frolics in the pool with the children. Elaine notes the youthful Grace’s figure in the swimsuit. Mary, an attractive woman but in this harsh world, the wrong side of forty-five, dismisses Elaine’s comments. Tom returns from work and introduces himself to Grace, who is now smuggling peanuts in her swimsuit. 

Later, as Grace looks after the children, Tom takes advantage of her presence to grab a little naughty time with his spouse in the larder. Tom is a beast! 

As Grace puts the children to bed, Tom prepares dinner. He invites her to join them for dinner as she is leaving but Grace tells them that she thinks dinner is family time and leaves. 

The next day, Grace brings Mary tea – you would think this film was British with the amount of tea that gets served – she is still dressed like a naughty schoolgirl-cum-bible student. Mary turns her attention to writing. In the kitchen, Grace hears a crash and Mary screams out. She has broken a glass and cut her foot in the bathroom.

Grace takes care of her foot, putting a plaster on it. It is a supremely awkward watch. Mary, suffering from writer’s block after looking at a blank page for thirty seconds and slightly discombobulated by a glimpse of Grace’s raggedy bra, decides to take her shopping, because one would. They go shopping for bras. 

As Grace tries on different bras, Mary remarks on the perkiness of her breast and Grace espouses the fact that anyone would want bigger breasts. She places Mary’s hand on her breast. The store assistant pops her head into the changing room and disrupts the moment. Thank god! The two women return home with bags of clothing for Grace. Mary also tells her she can look at her old clothing. Very generous. 

After ogling Grace’s youthful body all day, Mary asks Tom if he thinks she should get plastic surgery. Tom, a man who has obviously played the Russian roulette of stupid questions that women ask, avoids the subject like a champ. The two begin to get amorous but are interrupted by the now ever-present Grace. 

It is the next day, Mary is still struggling with writer’s block. She lights a cigar and goes for a walk around her garden and pool area. She daydreams about Grace. Later in the day, she is having a meeting with suck up Kioki, Darlene the bitch and some other suit who remains nameless. They all have ideas about what direction the book should be heading in. Mary daydreams about Grace being provocative. 

The nameless suit guy yammers on about exploring darkness and taking the book in a new direction. Could they not have told the same shit to a ghostwriter? Mary meets up with Elaine at the gym. Elaine, who it turns out is her therapist, listens as she tells her about her feelings towards Grace. Elaine, possibly the world’s worst therapist, tells her to use her as her muse. 

Mary returns home and suggests to Tom they go out to dinner. The only problem is they did not book a sitter. Grace, of course, offers to stay late and look after the children. Tom and Mary go out. They meet up with Elaine and her partner, Rick (Cajardo Lindsey) at a charity dinner. Rick asks about the book. Mary tells him that she is having a hard time writing it.

He mentions that the fourth book in the series was his favourite, something Mary acknowledges is common amongst the readership. The only problem is she wrote it at a very dark time in her life and now her life is sunshine and roses. Rick, ignoring everything she has just told him, tells her she needs to lean into the darkness more. Everyone’s a writer and critic it seems…

Around the pool, Mary is writing and getting some sun. Ever the bringer of tea, Grace comes with a tray laden with the magical brew. Mary asks her to put some suncream on her back. Moments after Grace has put cream on her back – at her request – Mary jumps in the pool! How rude! Naked in the pool, Mary invites Grace to join her. 

After their tomfoolery by the pool, Mary takes them both into the house and gives the girl, who she has looking after her children, a drink whilst the two jump around to some pop-rock music. Mary falls asleep and awakens with dreams of Grace sucking her breast. 

Grace goes to a musical recital with the family. Mary takes her aside and tells her that they cannot repeat the antics of their day by the pool. Grace does not know what she is talking about. Mary takes her ignorance as understanding and says no more. Mary has a bath and another vivid dream. She imagines Grace pleasuring her in the bath. 

The next day, Mary is writing furiously, her writer’s block lifted. Grace and Tom keep the children occupied so as she can work. Tom takes the kids to school and Grace out for a bite to eat. Elaine sees him with Grace. At a diner, Grace surprises Tom with a different facet of her personality, mysterious and a little seductive. 

Back in the house, Mary is smoking a cigar. Grace dances in the car as Tom drives them back. Another day rolls around, Mary decides to take Grace out on a bike ride to celebrate completing her first draft. The two find a quiet spot by a lake and eat lunch. Mary reads poetry to Grace. Grace caresses her leg. 

The two kiss passionately but Mary stops them from going further. They return home and Elaine is with Tom waiting. She takes Mary aside and asks if their love life is okay. She does not trust Grace. Mary accuses Elaine of wanting Tom. A bit out of left field but okay…Elaine rightly tells her she is being ridiculous. 

Grace and Mary are in the kitchen together. Mary tells her that her wedding anniversary is coming up. Grace tries to seduce her. As she is about to succumb, they are interrupted by the rest of the family. Mary, lightheaded from Grace’s advances, takes to her bed. She wakes up some time late and makes her way down to the kitchen. 

She sees Tom and Grace enjoying a perverse sex game. Mary collapses. She wakes later and comes to find Tom preparing dinner. Grace joins them at the table. Mary asks Grace why she is there and tells them what she saw. Sam, the little twerp, says mommy is scaring him. Later, Mary has a meltdown, accusing Tom of destroying their lives. Tom apologises. I have no idea what they are going on about. 

Mary calls the agency to ask about payment. They tell her she never employed anybody. Grace is pottering about the house. Mary decides to find out more about Grace, finding out her full name by going to the library she uses. So she employed a woman without knowing her full name or anything else about her. Mother of the year right there. 

Mary goes to see Elaine. Elaine has been killed with a scissors in her neck. She is the only major black character and she dies! I mean….! Mary calls the police and is held as the prime suspect, all evidence pointing to her somehow. Fingerprints on the scissors, random woman filmed walking into the office building, her book notes…yeah, it’s flimsy and bollocks. 

Tom turns up with their lawyer. He gets her out but he wants to know where she disappeared to for three hours the night Elaine was killed. Mary is perplexed. She thinks she was gone for minutes – none of this is shown in the film by the way. Mary sneaks out of THE POLICE STATION and heads to an address she found somehow – the film is really falling apart now. 

Mary goes to an old house where Grace grew up. The woman in the house, aunty Lotty (Melissa Chambers), tells Mary about Grace’s dark past. Lotty has a split personality, speaking with two distinct voices. No idea why. Grace grew up in a large family with many siblings all of whom were treated horribly by their parents. 

Mary imagines how Grace, overhearing her and Elaine’s conversation at the gym, might have tricked her way into her life. Back at her house, Tom is taking a shower. Grace, dressed like a dominatrix, grabs a kitchen knife and confronts him in the bathroom. Tom tells her he does not want to play their sex games anymore and throws a flower pot at her. 

He misses and gets sliced across the stomach for his troubles, he tries to fight her off and suffers many more cuts for his efforts. Mary returns home and calls to him. Hearing Mary, Grace runs from the bathroom and changes faster than Christopher Reeves’ Superman back into her schoolgirl-cum-bible student get up. Mary finds Tom whining and apologising in a bloody heap in the shower.

Grace comes into the bathroom and starts clearing up the blood. Mary tells her to call 911 and asks what happened. Grace says she tried to stop her. Who? Grace turns into Margaret, a homicidal maniac. Grace tells Mary to run. Margaret pursues her. They fight in the kitchen. Grace talks to her alter-ego, Margaret, telling her she would never have survived without her. 

Mary hits her with a vase. A semi-conscious Grace cries. A year later, Mary is in a good place again with her family. She goes and visits Elaine’s grave and then onto see Grace in a mental institution. Grace is overjoyed to see her. A woman leaves the hospital, her identity disguised by a scarf and sunglasses. The end. 

Final thoughts: Deadly Illusions is confusing nonsense. Written and directed by Anna Elizabeth James, the film is even more wretched on a second viewing. With a runtime of nearly two hours, the film spends most of its runtime building to the highly underwhelming conclusion. 

The actors are fine, considering the material but I can only think they read a different script or filmed a different one and are as confused by the finished product as the rest of us. It as though the film was stuck between two ideas and could not commit to either. 

Davis’ Mary is apparently affected by her writing process but we never see it or even get enough exposition to explain how it might manifest. Grammer’s Grace came from a large family and was mistreated but so what? The split personality is seemingly explained in a piss poor scene, flashback, to her childhood, when her ‘Margaret’ persona saved her. 

There was no rhyme or reason given for Grace’s attachment to Mary or why she would pursue a job in childcare. Mulroney’s Tom succumbing to Grace’s youthful charms was a story as old as time and even though it made very little sense in the context of the story, it could easily be overlooked. 

Mary’s sudden lusting for the nubile Grace felt like bandwagon jumping, shoeing in a lesbian element just for the sake of modernity. Admittedly, their relationship in the film was closer than that of Tom and Grace but the sexual side, with both characters seemingly actively pursuing it, made no sense. 

The film did look good and was edited competently. Musically, it was just a standard foreboding soundtrack, the only break being for the rock-pop interludes that added nothing extra to the film. Deadly Illusions is an over thought out, underwhelming mess of a film and not worth nearly two hours of your time. Give it a miss.

Just In Time

Brief synopsis: A self-improvement embracing book shop manager’s life is thrown into confusion when the daughter of the bookshop’s late owner turns up in the store and informs her that it is closing and all the staff will be let go. 

The woman is set on taking a trip to reevaluate her life but postpones the trip when her cousin asks her to look after her eleven-year-old daughter because she is going through a divorce. 

Is it any good?: A Nollywood film, Just In Time is a pleasant enough, made-for-television level, rom-com that is not too taxing or offensive. Not a great film, the story a bit too messy. The acting is good and engaging for a brain in neutral ninety-minute watch. 

Spoiler territory: Muthoni (Sarah Hassan) sits on her sofa listening to a life coach who is encouraging viewers of his videos to destroy their goals. A little while later, she is heading to work at the bookstore she manages. 

Elsewhere, Ashley (Stycie Waweru) is looking forward to her family holiday. Next door her mother, Nieri (Pierra Makena), is talking to her husband. They are getting divorced and she does not want to join him, with Ashley, for a holiday. He tries to coerce her into meeting up with him, telling her he has already purchased the tickets. 

Njeri tells him that they are not meeting up. Ashley comes into the room as her mother is ending the call. She hears the tail end of the conversation and asks if they are not going on holiday. Her mother tells her the trip is cancelled but lies about the reason, telling Ashley her father is on a work trip. 

Back at the bookstore, Muthoni is helping a customer and stops a young boy from stealing a book, shooing him out of the store. A moment later a woman calls to her, addressing her by her full name. She asks if she is the manager. Muthoni tells her she is. 

The woman introduces herself, Aditi (Eve D’Souza) and points to a man just behind her. He is an interior designer and is there to remodel the store. Aditi tells Muthoni that she is the daughter of the store owner. Muthoni offers her condolences, Aditi’s father having died. Aditi explains that she has returned to Nairobi to help her brothers get the family affairs in order. That includes the bookstore. 

They have decided to close the bookstore. Muthoni is to clear the store with immediate effect. The family are turning it into a spa. She tells Muthoni that she can have a position in the new set up because her father held her in high regard. Muthoni argues against closing the store but is told it is not up for debate. She declines the offer of a role in the spa. 

Muthoni breaks the bad news to her two-man staff. The next day, Muthoni is speaking to her brother, Brian (Kagwe Mungai), on a video call, bemoaning her lack of life progress as she approaches thirty. 

Brian suggests she come to Canada and start a new life. She does not think that is a good idea, she wants to stay in Nairobi. He asks her if she has spoken to their cousin, Njeri. The question irritates Muthoni as he knows they have not spoken in years. Brian ends the call.

The next morning, Muthoni is woken by a call from an event she signed up for, a workshop about empowering women. Muthoni asks if she can get a refund and is told she cannot. she attends the seminar. At there seminar, the talker tells how, when at her lowest point, she decided to take a holiday to Dubai. 

Muthoni returns home and looks to buy a ticket to Dubai. As she is about to book it, she gets a call from Njeri. The conversation is awkward, Muthoni mistakenly thinking Njeri has rung her out of pity, Brian had told her about the bookstore being closed. Njeri is not calling about her job. She needs her help. 

She tells her she is getting a divorce and needs her to look after Ashley for a couple of weeks. Muthoni wrestles with the notion of refusing her request over the next day. She is woken by her neighbour, Anthony (Blessing Lung’ Aho), ringing her doorbell. 

He has a friend coming to stay in his apartment but he is going away for work. He wants to leave the keys to his apartment with her for his friend, Kobena (Mawuli Gavor), to pick up. Muthoni is happy to help and takes the keys. 

Ashley is protesting her mother’s decision to leave her with a stranger. Njeri explains that she is her auntie. Ashley argues semantics but her mother tells her to go and have a shower. Muthoni goes into town to get her resumé printed. She leaves the keys to Anthony’s apartment in the printing store. 

Returning home, Muthoni meets her young cousin. Ashley is less than impressed by a smiling but total stranger, cousin. Muthoni runs through some house rules that she has typed up. Ashley tells her she can just give her the paper. She will read them. She wants to go to her room. Muthoni tells her that there is only one bedroom, they will have to share. 

The doorbell rings. Kobena has come to collect the keys that Anthony left. After making him show her identification, Muthoni leaves him on the doorstep as she goes to search for the keys. She realises that she has misplaced the keys. She allows Anthony to come into her apartment and wait whilst she tries to locate them. 

Searching her car, Muthoni remembers she went to the print store. In the apartment, a tired Kobena falls asleep on the sofa. Muthoni returns shortly to find him sleeping and shushes Ashley as she comes into the living room, indicating the sleeping Kobena. 

Hours later, Kobena is still sleeping. Ashley wants to wake him up but Muthoni feels it is her fault for not having had the keys. She sends Ashley to bed. Muthoni tries to gently wake him. She eventually wakes him by making a loud noise. 

An embarrassed Kobena apologises for having fallen asleep. She gives him the keys and he leaves. Muthoni goes to the bedroom and finds Ashley sprawled across the bed. After trying to move her and getting slapped by the sleeping child fro her troubles, Muthoni decamps to the live room sofa. 

The next morning, Muthoni tells Ashley that she can have the bed as she will take the sofa. Ashley asks about wifi and Muthoni wants to know why she needs wifi. She tells her it is for Netflix and that they use iPads at school. Muthoni rants that technology is what is ruining the world. Ashley points out that her pancakes are burning. 

Muthoni finishes cooking pancakes for breakfast. Ashley tells her she does not like them. Muthoni takes the pancakes to her new temporary neighbour, Kobena. She apologises for the mix-up. Returning to her apartment, she finds Ashley on her iPad watching a movie. She thought she was going to read a book? Ashley tells her she cannot as the wifi is so poor. 

Muthoni suggests they talk. She asks her what her purpose is. Ashley is perplexed. Muthoni asks the question differently; what is her favourite thing in the world? Ashley tells her, watching movies. Later, Ashley complains to her mother that it is boring and the wifi is too slow. 

Muthoni texts her brother for advice. He suggests taking her out and asking where she would like to go. She asks Ashley where she would like to go. Ashley wants to go to an ice cream parlour. The next day, as they get ready to go to the ice cream parlour, Kobena comes to talk to Muthoni and return the plate the pancakes were on. 

Ashley opens the door. Kobena smiles at her and asks for Muthoni, saying he has brought back the plate. Ashley does not smile back. She takes the plate and shuts the door in his face. Muthoni takes Ashley to the ice cream parlour. 

Muthoni gets a call from Kobena. He wants to buy lunch for her as a thank you for the pancakes. Muthoni says she is with her niece. Kobena tells her he will buy lunch for both of them. He comes and finds them in the city. Ashley is not happy to see him. Muthoni and Kobena chat, her asking him about his camera. 

Kobena tells her he is a photographer. Muthoni gets a call and leaves the table. Kobena begins to talk to Ashley but she stops him, telling him they do not have to chat. Muthoni’s call is from Aditi. She wants her to come to her home for a meeting the next day. Muthoni agrees but realises she will need someone to look after Ashley. 

Ashley argues against it but, even though they speak Swahili, Kobena realises that is the issue. He agrees to look after her. Later, in the evening, Ashley asks why Muthoni never visits them. Muthoni tells her it is complicated. Muthoni tells Ashley about her love of books and storytelling. She recounts a bedtime story to her. 

The next day, Muthoni waits for Aditi in her living room. Back at the apartment, Ashley is in the bedroom away from the Kobena. She comes into the living room to admonish him for the loudness of his music. He tries to make peace by offering to buy her pizza. Ashley thinks it is just a bribe so as he can look good to Muthoni. 

She softens a bit when he tells her she can pick where they order from. After lunch, the two play a game. If Kobena wins, Ashley has to do chores. If Ashley wins, he must read her a bedtime story. 

At Aditi’s, Muthoni is eventually seen. Aditi tells her that she is the secret buyer of the bookstore and wants to save it, even though her brothers want it closed. She wants to hear Muthoni’s ideas to keep the business going. 

Back in the apartment, Kobena has lost the game and has to read to Ashley. He does not like reading because he is dyslexic and tells Ashley so. He explains the affliction to her and tells her he has lived with it all his life. Ashley reads to him instead. 

Muthoni returns home to find Ashley sleeping on Kobena. He takes her to bed. Muthoni and Kobena chat about how difficult it was to get Ashley to warm to them. Muthoni tells him about Ashley’s parents’ situation. He invites them out on his photo tour. 

The three go out, Kobena working whilst the two women enjoy the safari. Back home, Muthoni is surprised by a visit from Njeri. They get into a disagreement when Njeri tells her that she is moving to Mombasa but lies to Ashley, telling her that they are going on holiday to Zanzibar. Njeri leaves with Ashley. 

Muthoni meets up with Kobena. She tells him about growing up with Njeri and how she disagreed with her relationship and did not think her future husband was a good man. Kobena tells her that he has to travel. He wants to go on a date with her before he leaves. 

Back home, Muthoni works on a children’s book idea for Aditi. The next day, Kobena waits for Muthoni at their appointed meeting place. Muthoni goes to see her cousin but sees her estranged husband instead. He tells her that they have left. He wants Muthoni to help him get them back. She refuses. Kobena is still waiting. Muthoni stands him up. 

Muthoni goes home and calls her brother. She tells him that she thinks her book idea will work. There is someone at her door. She opens the door and sees Ashley. Njeri is with her. Njeri asks her to join them on a trip. They are going to stay in Nairobi. The three go on a trip. 

Months later, they are preparing to celebrate Ashley’s twelfth birthday. Muthoni and Brian arrive at the house and find Njeri in the dining room. Muthoni asks where Ashley is, Njeri tells her she can find her in her bedroom. As Muthoni heads to the bedroom, Ashley appears from under the dining room table, where she had been hiding 

In the bedroom, Kobena is waiting. He asks her if she stopped thinking about him and tells her he always thinks about her. She also owes him a date. She tells him she was scared. They join the birthday party. The end. 

Final thoughts: Written and directed by Dolapo Adeleke, Just In Time is an okay romcom. Hassan, who also produced the film, is a likeable lead and her chemistry with Gavor’s Kobena is good. Young Waweru is great as the precocious Ashley and works well given the paucity of the role. 

The film is pleasant and the characters engaging but the story does not quite hold together. It is not a bad story but the central premise is somewhat fuzzy. It is difficult to know if the film is a rom-com or coming-of-age story predominantly, with neither given a fully fleshed out story. 

The book store angle is only in the film to lengthen the runtime and does not add anything to the film. The same can be said of the positive thinking aspects, the positive thinking coach only in the film for weak comic effect. 

At ninety-minutes long, Just In Time is the perfect length for a romcom. There is a delightful soundtrack and the film is well shot. Unfortunately, Adeleke’s inability to bring the romcom to the fore is the real weakness of the film. Not terrible but not good either.

Crazy About Her – review

Brief synopsis: a confident playboy, journalist meets a young woman whilst on a night out with friends. They have a wild night and he is smitten with her but does not know her name or anything about her. He finds out that she is in a mental institution and gets himself admitted to the same facility just to meet her again. 

Is it any good? Crazy About Her (Loco Por Ella – original Spanish title) is an enjoyable quirky romcom. With many similarities to 2019’s No Estoy Loco. Crazy About Her sees most of the central cast situated in a mental health institution. 

Moving at a good pace and with good acting from all on show, Crazy About Her is an amusing and touching rom-com. 

Spoiler territory: In a bar, Adri (Álvaro Cervantes) is telling Laura (Paula Malia), a friend and a struggling actress and Sergio (Eduardo Auntuña) how to get what they want in life. Sergio points out to him that his father gave him a job straight out of university. Adri is unfazed by their arguments. 

He tells them that he can pick up any woman in the bar if he wants to and challenges them to pick a target for him. They point to a blonde woman at the bar. Adri, bulletproof confidence in abundance, immediately heads towards the woman they pointed out. 

Halfway across the bar, a woman (Susana Abaitua) bumps into him. She apologises profusely, thinking she has caused him to spill his drink. Adri tells her that he does not have a drink. She offers to buy him one. He hesitates, looking at the blonde at the bar. She asks him if he was planning to hit on her. Adri tells her about his wager with his friends. 

The woman tells him that she has a similar wager with her friends, pointing to a table of women across the bar. She goes to the bar. She asks Adri if he wants to spend the night with her, no strings, just a night of fun. He is reluctant but when she challenges his bravery, he agrees. 

She takes him to a hotel and sees that there is a wedding in attendance. She decides to crash the wedding to get free food and drink. At the wedding, it is obvious that they are not meant to be there as they are the only white people in an all-black wedding. Unperturbed, the woman even dares to make a speech at the wedding. 

They party with the guest and later retire to a hotel suite to make love. The room is the bridal suite and they are caught by the shocked newlyweds. They make a quick exit. Outside of the hotel, the woman leaves Adri, driving off on the motorcycle they came on. She drops her jacket. 

The next day, Adri calls Laura. He tells her that he had the best night of his life but does not know anything about the woman he was with; not her name nor where she lives. He ends the call as he arrives for a meeting at work. The magazine editor, Andrés (Alberto San Juan) wants to hear some ideas. As Andrés dismisses and bullies the staff, he favours Adri, even telling another writer, Ana (Rocío León) to give her article to him. 

Adri begins to struggle with his existence, pining for the woman he had the fantastical night with. He tells Laura and Sergio about his woes. Laura tells him that he is in love. She asks him if he checked her jacket. Adri dismisses the notion; of course he checked her jacket.

Laura checks the jacket. She finds a name and address. The woman’s name is Carla. Adri heads to the address immediately. He finds out that the place is a mental institution. He glimpses a drugged up Carla and calls to her. She looks up and smiles at him. The staff throw him out. 

Laura takes Adri to see an old acting friend of hers, Rodri (Ferran Rañé), who is a doctor. He gets a certificate saying he is suffering from depression and other ailments. He tells Andrés that he going do an article on the psychiatric centre. 

Adri gets booked into the centre after meeting the centre director (Clara Segura). The doctor shows him around the facility and tells him the monthly rate. He can have one visitor and one phone call per month. He is roomed with a longtime resident, Saúl (Luis Zahera). 

As Saúl shows him around again, Adri asks about Carla. He finds her in a room painting with other residents. She does not recognise him. She is distressed when he explains who he is. She tells him that it was only meant to be one night. She does not want to see him. Adri, realising she is serious, tries to leave. 

He is stopped by the centre staff. He is told he can only be released by the director. He goes to see her again and tells her he was lying and that everything he told her was a lie. She does not believe him. He tells her to call the magazine. She calls the magazine and the disgruntled Ana picks up. She tells the doctor that Adri does not work there. Adri is forced to start.

Back in the room, he is sharing, Adri tells Saúl he needs to get out. He is told the only way to get out is to jump out of a three-storey window. Adri decides against it. He calls Laura and gets her to come and pose as a doctor to try and get him released. She fails. 

Adri sees Laura leaving. She tells him that he has to get his article in on that day or he will be fired. Adri dictates an article to her. Adri reluctantly moves around the centre, refusing to take medication whilst still protesting his right to be released. He is told that it is the other patients who decide when a is patient released.

As the days pass, Adri begins to fall into the routine, pretending to take the medication and avoiding Carla. Saúl tells him there is a way he can get out. He needs to get on with the other patients and he has a way to help him do it. He gives him a vial of tablets. 

Later that evening, Adri meets Saúl and is taken to a secret poker game between some of the patients. The tablets are currency. At the game are; Marta (Aixa Villagrán) a Tourette’s sufferer, Tina (Tell Aixendri) who believes she is royalty, Victor (Nil Cardoner), a germaphobe and Carla. 

Adri tries to sell the idea of them giving each other good scores so they can all get released. Carla tells him that some of them need to be there. Victor goes to the bathroom and Carla and Tina tease Marta for fancying him. Adri asks why does she not just tell him that she likes him. Marta thinks he is mad. Adri says if he helps her to asks Victor out, they must all vote for him in the next meeting. 

The next day, Saúl asks Adri to help him. He is to pretend to be a doctor. Saúl’s young daughter, Sara (Iris Vallés) comes to see him, brought by Saúl’s ex (Mireia Portas) and her new husband (Edu Gibert). They are not visiting for very long. Adri leaves them alone. 

He sees Carla talking to her parents (Jordi Bosch and Laura Conejero). She is distressed and wants to return to her room but her parents do not want to leave. Adri poses as a doctor once more and gets her away from them. 

Adri begins to work with Marta, helping her memorise a phrase so she can talk to Victor. Adri asks why she is in the centre if she only suffers from Tourette’s. Marta tells him that she also suffered from depression. The next day, he encourages her to go and speak to Victor. Marta loses her nerve on the first encounter and runs away. 

Carla, who along with the others has been watching, persuades her to go and have another try. Marta tells Victor that she likes him and he responds positively, the two of them getting together. Carla is enamoured by his feat and invites him to meet up with her later. Adri returns to his room to find a distressed Saúl.

Saúl has been told that his ex-wife’s husband does not want him to see Sara anymore, that it is dangerous. Later, Adri finds out from Carla why she is there. She tells him she is bipolar, her moods going from extreme depression to manic euphoria. She never knows when the moods will hit or how. 

She tells him that their relationship cannot work. Adri will not give up and tells her he is sure she can overcome her illness. Carla reiterates that they cannot carry on. Adri returns to his room and finds that Saúl has jumped out of the window and escaped the centre. He gets Carla to help him sneak out of the centre to go and look for Saúl. 

Carla steals a car and the two go looking for Saúl. Saúl has gone to find his daughter and they catch up with him limping along the road on his way to his ex-wife’s home. Carla tells him that they will do something to make him feel better. She has no idea what. Adri has an idea. 

They go to wreck the stepfather’s car. As they are destroying the car outside of the house, Saúl tells them that he does not think that he has a car. They leave and return to the centre. Adri has an opportunity to escape the centre but decides to stay. 

Carla takes Adri to her favourite spot in the centre, the roof. Adri is still convinced that Carla can overcome her illness if she really wants to. He tells her that he likes her the more he knows her. The two get together. Carla is happy. They spend a lot of time together and with the group. 

Adri has persuaded Carla that she does not need medication. Her mania starts to manifest. At one of their evening poker games, Carla does not show up. Adri goes looking for her and finds her on the roof, her mania raging out of control. Adri grabs her and tells the centre director. Carla gets sedated. 

The next day, Carla feels betrayed, especially as he encouraged her to stop taking her medication. Adri’s article comes out. The group shun him. Adri goes to the director who, realising he was telling the truth about lying, signs his release. She tells him that too many people think they know how to help the mentally ill. 

Saúl’s ex-wife brings Sara to see him. Adri bids him farewell. Adri writes another article for the magazine, countering his initial article. The group read it but Carla is offended by its sentiments and decides that they need to break out and confront him. Victor creates a diversion and the rest of the group steal a van. 

The director and Rosa (Maria Ribera) pursue them. The group manage to lose them. They get to the magazine headquarters and Carla confronts Adri. She wants to know if he is prepared to fight for their love. He tells her that he wants to be with her come what may. They get back together. The end. 

Final thoughts: Crazy About You is a lovely film with great performances from the whole cast. Written by Natalia Durán and Eric Navarro and directed by Dani de la Orden, Crazy About Her whizzes through its one-hundred-and-two minute runtime. 

Like the aforementioned No Estoy Loco, where this film really works is in the ensemble parts, with the other characters giving the film real heart. The fact that there is no easy route given to the central pairing is a nice touch, the film and writers embracing the fact that what is thought of as normal for the majority is not something that can be forced on everyone. 

By no means a perfect film, it still manages to be both emotive and amusing and engaging, whilst tackling a subject that many find difficult to talk about. Abaitua is riveting as the bipolar Carla, making it a little heartbreaking when she explained that it is something that she will always have to live with. 

Zahera’s Saúl is similarly touching with his issues preventing him from being with his young daughter. The film is competently lensed by Orden, the wedding scenes being particularly funny. Crazy About You is an enjoyable film and worth a look on a lazy Sunday.

Sentinelle – review

Brief synopsis: after suffering a traumatic incident whilst on combat duty in Syria, a soldier returns home to France. Out clubbing with her sister, they get separated, her sister going off with a Russian playboy. The sister reappears the next day. She is in hospital and has been beaten and raped. The soldier decides to hunt down the man who she believes raped her sister. 

Is it any good?: No. Sentinelle is ponderous and atmospheric but unbearably slow. The film looks good, if a little too dark, and has some nice visual flourishes but the central story takes nearly forty minutes to get going and the film is only eighty minutes long. 

The acting is okay, not bad nor particularly good but that is mostly because the only person we properly meet in the film is the central protagonist. Every other person in the film is a cliched stereotype. 

Spoiler territory: in a Syrian war zone, a soldier has a gun pointed at a local woman’s head. He wants to know where her husband is. The woman is terrified. Klara (Olga Kurylenko), an interpreter, relays the question. She persuades the woman to give up his location, telling her that it would help her son. They only want to question her husband. 

A team of soldiers go to try and capture the husband. After a brief standoff, they find their target. Klara is watching the operation unfold from a neighbouring building. She feels uneasy. Something is not right. She leaves her vantage point and moves closer to the operation. 

There is an ambush but the team manage to repel it. They split up the family and one of the team takes the young son to check him for weapons. His father is screaming, telling his son to “do it!”. Klara sees, too late, that the boy is wearing explosives. The boy detonates the bomb. 

Klara returns to France. Traumatised by the incident, she is transferred to the Sentinelle peacekeeping force, a military presence employed to react to potential, domestic, terrorist threats. She returns to her family, mother and her sister, Tania (Marilyn Lima). Klara is not happy about her transfer. 

Klara has a mild addiction to opioids, having been prescribed drugs because of her trauma. She joins up with the patrol. As they patrol the streets, Klara seems a little fraught, her experiences a constant filter. The team come across a domestic altercation on the beach. 

Klara goes to break it up, shouting at the man to stop hitting his girlfriend. When the man does not heed her words, she takes him down and drags him into the ocean. One of the other soldiers stops her drowning him. 

Back at home, a struggling Klara is hugged by her mother in the kitchen, who tells her that she will be fine. Tania comes in and tells her they are going out on Saturday. 

Klara returns to patrolling. She is triggered by a father tying his son’s shoelaces, the boy reminding her of the incident. Later, in the evening, she goes to meet a drug dealer to get some codeine. 

Saturday night comes around and the two sisters go clubbing. At the club, the two ladies dance away happily. Tania spots a man she likes the look of. Tania sees a friend, Aurélien (Michel Biel), a club regular. She asks him who the mysterious man is. He tells her he is Russian. Does she want an introduction? He takes her over to meet him. 

Klara, alone on the dance floor now, meets another woman. She looks to where her sister is. Tania indicates to her that she is going with the Russian and that she will call her. Klara goes home with the woman. The next morning, she texts her sister. There is no reply. 

Back at work, she ends up chasing a suspected drug dealer. She catches up with him. It is the same dealer she bought from. She lets him go. She gets a call, the news prompting her to go to the hospital. 

Tania is in a coma. Police Captain Catherine Muller (Carole Weyers) tells Klara that her sister was found on the beach and that she had been raped and beaten. 

Klara returns to work and uses her position to return to the club and review the footage of the night she and Tania were there. She gets a photo of the man that her sister met. 

She goes and sees captain Muller, showing her the image of the man who was with her sister. Muller tells her that it is Yvan Kadnikov (Andrey Gorienko), son of a tech billionaire, Leonod (Michel Nabokoff). He is well connected and has diplomatic protection. 

Muller tells her that Yvan is hiding out at his father’s villa. Klara goes and checks out the villa. She sees Yvan there. She goes to visit her sister and comforts her mother. 

The next day, she finds herself patrolling near the villa. She walks into the grounds and searches for Yvan. One of her colleagues comes and leads her out. she should not be there. 

She returns to the club looking for Yvan. She sees him go to the bathroom and follows him in there. She threatens him with a knife. He denies attacking her sister. Yvan’s friends come into the bathroom. She ends up fighting with them and beats them all up. The club’s security finds her in the bathroom and throw her out. 

At work, Klara steals a gun. She sneaks into the villa, looking for Yvan. She gets knocked out. She is nearly drowned by one of Leonod’s guards. Leonod wants to know why she is in his home. She tells him that his son raped her sister.

Leonod tells her that is son has left the country. Besides, he had nothing to do with the rape or attack. He does not like women. Leonod boasts about having her himself. Leonod’s boasting is interrupted by a phone call. He leaves the room, telling his goons to take care of Klara. She promptly escapes. 

Tania wakes from her coma. She tells Klara that Yvan did not attack her. She knows. Tania does not want to press charges, she just wants to forget. Klara urges her to press charges but Tania refuses. Klara leaves the room and sees Leonod on the news. He evades questions about his son’s alleged sexual attack. 

Someone tries to kill Tania in the hospital. Klara goes looking for the person and fights with her in a hospital equipment room. Klara bests her. She returns home to get her passport. She leaves just before the police arrive at her place looking for her. 

Klara rents a van goes to her workplace and steals some guns from requisitions. She heads to the villa. Inside the villa, she kills her way through Leonod’s security as she looks for him. She finds him hiding in one of his upstairs rooms. She kicks him over a balcony when he offers her money. 

Before she can check whether he is dead or not, she gets stabbed by Yvan. She shoots him dead. She is forced to hide as special forces police converge on and search the house. They find Leonod. He is not dead. 

Three months later, a recovered Leonod is in Dubai. After a morning swim, he asks the hotel staff to send him up some breakfast. Oblivious to any danger, he pays no attention to the woman who brings his breakfast. It is Klara and she stabs him to death with a fork. Klara returns to France and checks on her sister’s progress. The end. 

Final thoughts: Sentinelle is no better on second viewing. It is molasses-slow and lacks emotion making it very difficult to care about anything happening on the screen. Written and directed by Julien Leclercq, with an additional writing credit for Matthieu Serveau, Sentinelle is a film stuck between drama and action and failing on both. 

Because the antagonist in Nabokoff’s Leonod is so weak and underwritten, the film lacks urgency. He is supposedly a tech billionaire but they put him in an old-world mansion villa and his security is old school manpower. Not a security camera, motion sensor or laser beam in sight. 

The weakest McGuffin ever is used for Lima’s Tania to find herself as the victim of a vicious rape and beating, as well as a target for assassination. Yes, we have all seen an attractive person we want to meet but having met the son of an oligarch for all of five minutes, she decides to follow him to his mansion on her own? Bullshit. 

They lazily throw in some lesbian action to lengthen the runtime I assume because it does not add anything to proceedings at all. I love naked women but if the scene had not been in the film I would not have missed it. 

The film is shot in dour tones, a brownish, depressing hue over proceedings, with most scenes looking as though they were lit with forty-watt bulbs. There is zero humour in the script and character interactions, aside from getting punched or shot or stabbed, are kept to a minimum, making it difficult to gauge the personality of any of the people in the film. 

Kurylenko is very watchable but is only required to scowl her way through the film and shake a bit. Sentinelle is only eighty minutes long but feels longer and, in truth, should have been longer. Had the two writers taken the time to flesh out the characters a little it might have been a moderately entertaining film. Unfortunately, it is not, it is eighty minutes of boredom. Avoid.

Coming 2 America

Sequels have always been seen as an easy way to make money in Hollywood. Even before the seventies penchant for adding a number to the end of a title to denote it being a sequel, Hollywood and the wider film industry were producing sequels, rehashing and reusing the same characters of a successful story in another film. 

It is a rare thing, the sequel that is as good or better than the original, especially if the original film is regarded as a good film. The better sequels tend to be made shortly after the original. The Godfather two, one of cinemas most lauded sequels, was released two years after its predecessor. 

Rocky two came three years after its parent film and The Empire Strikes Back, named in the old style of sequels where the title did not just gain a numbered appendage, also came three years after a genre-defining Star Wars. 

Some sequels have worked with a larger gap between films. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released seven years after its epic originator. However, the intervening years saw such technological advances in film that the sequel proved to be an impressive spectacle. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts in the series have seen not only diminishing returns but also a definite lessening in quality. 

In terms of genre, dramatic action films tend to be easier to make sequels or series of. The characters are set and the story tends to be good versus evil, a relatively easy premise to work with. The comedy genre is not, generally, a good genre for sequels, especially if the film is a hit or classic. 

Scary Movie was amusing but was followed by increasingly wretched sequels. Similarly, the Police Academy films stretched a silly idea to the point of punishment for the eyes and mind. Great comedies are even harder to make sequels of. The likes of Airplane, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Ghostbusters have all spawned underwhelming sequels.

That is not to say they were bad sequels or not funny, it is just that trying to recreate funny is a difficult skill. Thirty-three years on from its classic originator, Coming to America, stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, plus many of the original cast, reprised their roles to make a sequel, Coming 2 America. 

Like many fans of the original film, I was not thrilled to hear about a sequel to one of the most quotable comedies of my life. Coming to America is, rightly, thought of as a comedy classic and probably Eddie Murphy’s best film. Playing multiple roles, as does Hall, Murphy was at the height of his powers, having made his name on 48 hrs, Trading Places and two films in the Beverly Hills Cop series. 

Directed by John Landis, who was mostly known for directing Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller, even though he had directed many films before that including Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places, starring Murphy, and An American Werewolf in London, the film that would get him the Thriller gig, Coming to America is gold. 

With a story by Murphy, Coming to America had an almost entirely black cast and was a comedy that contained very little of the comedy staples laid down in the previous decade’s blaxploitation era comedies. There was no hoes, no drugs, no thugs, no shucking and jiving, none of the expected staples of ‘black’ comedy. 

Set in the fictional land of Zamunda – think Wakanda without the technological advancements – Coming to America was a very different black comedy. Whereas before, Eddie had been the funny, wisecracking, black guy in a white world, in Coming to America he was still a funny black guy but he was displaced in a black world. 

Coming to America was a hit both domestically and worldwide, with the humour in the film still bearing up more than three decades on. So, what about the sequel? Unsurprisingly, it is not as good as the original. Many have quickly come out to deride it as being a poor, money-grabbing, unfunny effort. That is not true. 

Coming 2 America, whilst not been as funny as the original, is better than one could have hoped for with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi is a great addition and Leslie Jones as Mary Junson, mother of Murphy’s Akeem’s illegitimate son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), plays to her stereotype but it works well within the context of the film. 

The film keeps the laughs coming but still manages to fashion a pleasant story, romcom, in amongst the silliness. Fowler’s role as the would-be heir to Zamunda is a difficult role for any actor to undertake, especially as he was always going to be in Murphy’s shadow. Fowler bears the burden well, with the story split between him and Murphy’s Akeem. 

There are some clever nods to the original film with one particularly funny reprise coming from Vanessa Bell Calloway. The barbershop is back, even though all of the patrons of the shop were old men in the first film! And, for me, the return of Sexual Chocolate is a real boon. 

Like many sequels, Coming 2 America will always suffer when compared to its predecessor, the original being such an unknown quantity at the time but becoming a classic over time. If one can watch the film in isolation, something made easier by the fact that one does not need to have seen the first film to understand this one, it is an amusing comedy in its own right. 

With a one-hundred-and-eight minutes runtime, Coming 2 America is slightly over the rom-com standard ninety minutes but is about ten minutes shorter than its predecessor. The film moves at a good pace with the only dips being when the story strays into rom-com territory, though the dips are slight and do not detract from the comedy too much. 

It was always going to be a herculean task to match the magic of the first film or to even make a film that does not offend or alienate the rose-tinted vision of the original’s many fans. Coming 2 America just about manages it.

Legacy of Lies

Brief synopsis: An MI6 is tasked with collecting a piece of information whilst in Russia posing as a journalist. The information can expose Russian double agents working in America. The night he goes to retrieve the information, the mission goes awry and the love of his life is killed. 

Twelve years later, the now ex-agent and single father, finds himself pulled back into the world of espionage when he is tasked with retrieving the same information once again to save his daughter’s life. 

Is it any good?: Legacy of Lies is utter rubbish. Worse still, it is boring rubbish. The film lacks pace and the acting is so wooden one would think you were watching wardrobes speak. Scott Adkins has never been a particularly impressive thespian but his films are generally entertaining. Not this one. 

Spoiler territory: MI6 agent Martin Baxter (Scott Adkins) is in Kyiv in an old bus garage. He is there with a team to oversee an exchange. He watches as a woman, code-named Red Star (Anna Siettarova) makes her way to the centre of the garage. 

Red Star is met by a car. In the car are Egor Stepanenko (Andrey Say) and Olga (Tetiana Nosenko). Martin informs his team that Egor is not alone. Red Star talks to Olga at the car window. Egor gets shot and killed. Red Star is shot in the back by a sniper and then again by another shooter. 

Martin returns fire belatedly and then runs to get a better vantage point to kill the sniper. He calls to his team, wanting to know where his back up is. They are all dead. He sees the shooter of Red Star grab the package he had come to retrieve. Martin tries to stop him but seems unable to shoot straight because….it would end the film. 

He goes over to Olga in the car. She is understandably frightened but he tells her to stay put whilst he goes looking for the shooter with the package. The shooter sneaks up on him from ten metres away but is also a terrible shot, so misses him. Martin gets up on top of the derelict buses to get a better vantage point. 

He does not use the vantage point at all but does manage to get the drop on the shooter, killing him and retrieving the package. End of the film? Nope. Martin goes to get Olga. She is gone and shots ring out at Martin. 

Another shooter has Olga. He wants the package. He threatens, unsurprisingly, to kill Olga. Martin tells him to let her go because that always works. The shooter instead decides to prove he is not joking around and shoots Olga in the hip. For her part, she whimpers a bit. Quite impressive considering she just had hot lead explode through her hip. 

Martin drops his gun and takes the bag off to give to the shooter. As he throws the bag, he pulls another gun from his back and shoots. He wakes up to the memory twelve years later, on a rainy night in Peckham in his car. The years have been kind to him, as he does not look a day older. His daughter, Lisa (Honor Kneafsey) comes to the car. 

She is an irritatingly, precocious twelve-year-old and after boring him – and us – with her new diet, tells him about the opponent he is about to face in an unlicensed cage fight. Martin does not want to hear her advice. He gives her money to go and put a bet on him. She puts a bet on the other fighter. Martin fights and gets his ass whooped, having completely ignored his daughter’s advice. 

The bookie comes and gives Lisa the money. Martin realises that she bet against him and…well, there is not much he can do except take the ego crush and be glad for the money. Back home, dad of the year candidate Martin has got a prostitute (Viktoriia Retivova) to waste some of the money getting his face beat in earned him. 

Lisa is next door with a colouring book. Back in the bedroom, the prostitute wants to see Martin’s face whilst she works, okay…she switches on a bedside lamp. Martin sees a vision of Olga and freaks out. He kicks the prostitute out. Should have left the lights off. 

The next day, Martin is teaching Lisa how to use a handgun. – okay, full disclosure. I watched this film in three sittings as it was too awful to get through all at once, so the significance of this scene is almost forgotten by the time it becomes relevant. – He tells her she needs to use the sights to focus. 

Lisa tells him she wants to go to school, settle down. Martin, ever the agent and still coveting that dad of the year award, is all about the nomad life and moving every few months. Later, Martin leaves her alone as he goes to work. He works in a club as part of the security team. Breaking up a fight in the club, he starts beating on a patron who has the temerity to fight back.

The head bouncer (Sami Karim) comes and calms him down, throwing out the battered patron. Martin goes to the front desk and is doing bag checks. A young woman talks to him. She tells him they are in the same business and need to talk. Would that be the fight business? Anyhoo, Martin’s interest is piqued. Elsewhere, a lowly employee is putting the rubbish out. He gets bashed in the head by a gunman, who uses the entrance to get him and his fellow gunmen into the club. 

Back in the main club, Martin finds the girl. Her name is Sasha Stepanenko (Yuliia Sobol). She tells him that he knew her father. Martin says she must have him mixed up. Yeah, right. Sasha takes out her phone and shows him a photo of her father with him and Olga. 

She tells him she is a journalist and wants to get the files – it’s always bloody files – as they talk, the gunmen burst into the club and open fire, supposedly trying to kill Sasha but in truth just spraying bullets around indiscriminately and causing panic. Martin drags Sasha out of there, running to the kitchen.

They run through the kitchen and push kitchen staff out of the way and throw pans around in an effort to slow down the men with guns. The kitchen is huge and the two disappear into a room. Martin takes out the gunmen. Sasha, ungrateful wretch that she is, runs off. 

Martin returns home. He finds a couple of old faces in his kitchen. Trevor (Martin McDougall) and Edwards (Leon Sua), both CIA, have come to chat. They are there to warn him. He is not to get involved with the espionage game again. Trevor wants to know if Sasha mentioned the file. Of course he does. Martin tells him the Russians have it. 

Apparently, they don’t and they are looking for it, using nerve gas to get to it. What that has to do with anything is anyone’s guess. Lisa comes into the kitchen. Trevor lets on that the files probably contain information about her mother’s death. Lisa believes her mother died in a car accident. Thanks, Trevor and your big mouth! 

Martin kicks them out. He goes to try and console Lisa, who is crying at the revelation, feeling betrayed by her father’s lies. Martin sits in the dark remembering Olga and playing with the lamplight because….moody?

The next day, he tells Lisa to get packed. They are leaving. As he goes to pack the car, he gets knocked out by a Russian. In a warehouse, a blonde, Russian stereotype (Anna Butkevich), shoots a man hanging upside down in the head. Martin, who is tied to a chair and has a gag over his mouth is dragged into the room. 

The woman sits in front of him with a file. Different file, not the one everyone is after. One of her henchmen milks his moment, as she lights a cigarette, maintaining the stereotype, and rips the gag off of Martin’s mouth. She gives Martin the cigarette, which he promptly spits out. The henchman gets another chance to shine, giving him a gut punch for his brazen disrespect. 

She gets up and tells him she wants the files. Martin says he does not know about the files. She smashes his hand with a hammer. He tells her that the Russians have it, which is a bit stupid considering she is Russian. She smashes his hand again. She shows him a video feed of Lisa colouring in – the child loves a colouring book – Martin tells her he can get the file. 

Blonde stereotype contacts her superior (Anatolii Antoniuk). He tells her that he has twenty-four hours. She relays the information to Martin. She wants the file and the journalist, dead or alive. The journalist, not the file. They take him back to his car and throw him out. Edwards is watching. 

Martin drives off, followed by Edwards. Blonde stereotype talks to Lisa. Edwards contacts Trevor to update him on Martin’s movements. Martin goes to see Maxim (Victor Solé). He wants to know where Sasha is. Maxim is a little reticent. Martin pulls a gun. He wants his phone. Maxim hands over his phone and sounds a silent alarm. 

Unfortunately for Maxim, Martin has seen John Wick and budget versions his way out of the club, killing not only Maxim but multiple bouncers along the way. Back with Lisa and the stereotype Russian, they are watching boxing and Lisa is impressing her with her knowledge of the fight game. 

Martin finds Sasha. He is going to protect her. Sasha is determined to publish the files to avenge her father’s death. They need to go to a bank. The files’ codes are in a safety deposit box. Anything to make the McGuffin more important and interesting. Doesn’t work. Martin finds Trevor’s IT man (Tom Ashley) and forces him to show him the files from twelve years before. 

There are photographs of the entire scene from his failed mission – don’t know how – and Olga has the address of the bank in her hand having been given it by Red Star. Not convoluted at all…

Trevor comes back to the makeshift headquarters with a group of soldiers, realising Martin would be there. Martin manages to evade them but ends up fighting Edwards long enough for Trevor to return with the troops. 

Bested by Edwards temporarily, Martin kicks them both out of a window. The fall kills Edwards. Martin gets up and gets into the car Sasha is waiting in. They drive off. At a dilapidated house, Martin and Sasha hideout. Martin finds the codes have been changed. Trevor finds them. 

Sasha threatens to blow her own brains out if they do not let them leave. Trevor lets them escape. Sasha and Martin head to the airport. Trevor has one of his men following them but Martin manages to lose him. At the airport, he steals a passport off of a woman who looks like Sasha. 

He contacts the stereotype blonde, whose name is Tatyana, to try and get more time. They need to fly to Kyiv to retrieve the files. Tatyana gives the phones to Lisa in an attempt to remind Martin what is at stake. IT guy spots Martin and Sasha and tells Trevor they are going to Kyiv. Trevor’s people are watching at the airport. 

Martin and Sasha go to Sasha’s old family home. They watch a news broadcast about some cold war bollocks that does not move the plot along at all. Back with Tatyana and Lisa, Lisa’s fight prediction has made them both some money. Lisa wants to know the truth about her mother’s death. 

Tatyana tells her that it was an accident. Tatyana arrives in Kyiv with Lisa in tow. She calls and tells Martin she is waiting. Martin and Sasha head to the bank to get the files. Trevor and a group of troops arrive at the bank. Martin, seeing them, goes into the bank first. 

In the vault, Trevor is caught by Martin and forced to put in the code to access the box – yeah, I’m a bit lost as well and I’ve watched this film twice! – Martin uses Trevor as a hostage to escape the bank. They jump into a car and drive off. With gunfire having been in play, the police have turned up and give chase. They are terrible drivers and quickly crash ending their pursuit. 

Away from their pursuers, a shot Martin is fooled by Sasha, who grabs his gun and shoots him again, not believing his story about wanting to save his daughter. A semi-conscious Martin sees visions of Olga. He is roused into consciousness by Tatyana calling. He lies, telling her he has the file. She tells him to meet her later that night. 

Martin calls Trevor, desperate to find Sasha. Trevor is not very helpful or willing to help him get the file to the Russians. Martin sees a clue to Sasha’s whereabouts, she is using a rented car. He finds her through the car tracking. He races to a train station to find her. Martin, who is covered in blood, chases after, the obviously frightened, Sasha through the station. Nobody bats an eyelid. 

He catches up to her and chokes her unconscious. He goes to the meeting with Tatyana. He tells her that Sasha is in a hotel with the codes. He will give her address once Lisa is safe. Tatyana gives Lisa over to her father. He tells one of Tatyana’s henchmen the hotel’s address. 

Sasha is not at the hotel. On Martin’s signal, she shoots one of the henchmen. A shootout ensues. Tatyana takes Sasha hostage and tells Martin to give her the codes. Martin throws the case with the codes and goes to shoot Tatyana. Once again, he proves to be a man of poor judgement and gets shot again. 

Tatyana is about to kill Sasha but gets killed by Lisa – see, told you the lesson earlier was relevant – Trevor and his cronies turn up. They want the codes. Sasha takes the case and jumps into the river – they were on a bridge. 

Sometime later, Martin is recovering in a scummy military hospital, still in Kyiv. Lisa is living with a foster mother. Martin apologises for not telling her about her mother. Lisa goes and tells Trevor that she has information that he does not want getting out if anything happens to her or Martin. 

Sasha publicises the files and there are riots – though, truthfully, I’ve no idea if they are supposed to be related to the files – and she is interviewed on television. So there is that. More time passes, Lisa is in school and Martin is running a country restaurant. Sasha comes to visit them. She is still being watched by the Russians. They report back to the general. He says to proceed with the operation. The end. 

Final thought: Legacy of Lies is awful. Written and directed by Adrian Bol, it is a pedestrian and laboured film that cannot seem to make its mind up as to whether it is an action film or an espionage film and failing on both counts. 

Adkins is usually good value for money when it comes to action but the action scenes are so forgettable and badly paced that his greatest strength – his martial arts prowess – is completely negated. 

The old ‘file’ McGuffin is so overdone that to make it interesting the stakes have to be quite high. The daughter angle is supposedly the high stakes but one never gets the feeling that she is in any danger of not being saved. The dead mother angle did not work particularly well either. We did not know the mother so did not care about her.

The only time we see her was mostly as a ghoulish apparition of Martin’s mind with a gunshot wound in her head. Why everybody was after the file was never properly explained and its sudden importance twelve years after the event was stretching credulity. 

At only one-hundred-minutes long, Legacy of Lies is not an overly long film but due to its pacing, feels longer than it is. The acting, even from the young Honor Kneafsey, is uniformly uninspired. I think that it is probably the mundane script, where no character stands out and the focus is somewhat muddled. 

Legacy of Lies is too ham-fisted an effort to recommend. Give this one a miss.

Outside The Wire – review

Brief synopsis: In a war-torn future, a drone pilot is sent into the field after he disobeys an order, resulting in the death of two soldiers. He finds himself under the command of a top-secret sentient robot chasing after a warlord intent on destroying the world. Or so he is led to believe. 

Is it any good?: Nope. Outside The Wire is a convoluted mess and seems somewhat anti-American, though it proves not to be. Politics aside, Outside The Wire is too smart for its own good, layering red herring exposition upon red herring exposition and throwing in a McGuffin for good measure. 

At nearly two hours long, Outside The Wire is a bit of chore to sit through for a story that was better told back in 1983’s WarGames. 

Spoiler territory: it is the year 2035 and the US military are on a peacekeeping mission to prevent Russia from taking Ukraine back under its sovereignty. Sergeant Miller (Enzo Cilenti) is on the ground in Eastern Europe with a forty strong troop of soldiers. 

A terrorist faction, led by the elusive Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk), is a constant threat. Miller and his men find themselves in a battle with some of the faction. The US has added robot soldiers, called Gumps, to their ranks. 

As the battle rages below, a couple of drone pilots, Harp (Damson Idris) and Bale (Kristina Tonteri-Young) watch the scene unfold from a quiet location in Nevada, controlling their drones from there.

On the ground, one of Miller’s men gets injured. He sends Gomez (Adam Fielding) out to try and rescue him, the rest of the battalion will give covering fire. A truck is approaching the area where Miller’s battalion is. Harp sees the truck and wants to engage believing it to be hostile. 

Miller tells him that two of his men are in the zone, he is not to engage. Harp wants to engage, asking Miller to fall back, reasoning the lives of the majority outweigh the needs of the two probable casualties. He asks Bale to contact their superior, captain Brydon (Henry Garrett) to override Miller’s orders. 

Brydon contacts Miller and is told about the injured soldier that Gomez is trying to rescue. Harp believes the battalion are in imminent danger and locks on to the truck. Miller refuses to give the order for a strike and Brydon agrees telling Harp to stand down. Harp releases his missile, destroying the truck and killing two soldiers. 

Harp faces disciplinary action over his disregard of orders. Having never seen any military action in the field, he is sent to meet captain Leo (Anthony Mackie). Harp finds himself flying to a US base in Eastern Europe to report to Leo. Harp is told by colonel Eckhart (Michael Kelly) where he can find Leo. 

Leo is in a remote part of the encampment, a section where they work on the Gumps. Harp finds Leo in a large library inputting data whilst listening to jazz music. Harp introduces himself to a typing Leo. He ignores Harp as he finishes the task he has at hand. Finishing, Leo looks up and recounts Harp’s life to him. He knows who he is and why he is there. 

Leo gets up and tells Harp to bring some packages from a fridge. He puts the packages in a backpack as he tells Harp what he does there. He delivers vaccines to those who need them ‘outside the wire’; the region of the country the US does not patrol. Harp will be going with him. 

He asks Harp if he has heard of Victor Koval. Harp says he has. Leo enlightens him on the entire picture of Koval, that he has been responsible for thousands of deaths and, more pertinently, he is trying to get hold of the codes for all of Russia’s nuclear warheads. 

He tells him that they are going on the mission immediately and he needs to change out of his military garb. As Leo gets changed Leo sees that he is not human. Leo is an android. A shocked Harp stares at Leo in wonderment. Leo asks him if he thinks he can trust him. Harp says he thinks he can. 

The two go an join a convoy to begin the mission. Before they leave, Leo goes to take care of something else. Harp gets jumped by some soldiers and beat up a little. Miller comes and asks if he recognises his voice. He tells him the two soldiers who died because of him, were only nineteen years old. Leo returns, Miller and the soldiers stand down. 

The convoy head out. Leo warns him that where they are heading is notoriously dangerous and the situation spontaneous. As they drive, Leo asks Harp about his life and his fiancé. He ribs him a bit. They travel through the war-torn regions outside of the military enclosure. The come across a blockade. 

A group of Ukrainians are having food passed out to them by militia from a hijacked food truck. The ragtag militia faces off against the convoy. One of the Gumps shoots one of the Ukrainians. Leo, who had not left his jeep, gets out to calm the situation. He tells Miller to tell his men to lower their weapons and approaches the militia. 

Leo manages to find an accord with the militia and the convoy begins to retreat. Both groups are attacked by a third group. Leo tells Miller that they are going to go ahead on foot. He and Harp grab the vaccines and leave. Away from the firefight, Leo believes Koval is getting closer to his objective. 

As they walk, Leo tells Harp that the reason he looks like he does, the highest possible military-technical representation of US might, is because he expresses neutrality. The enemy will not feel threatened by him. They are heading to a shelter run by the Resistance. As they get to the camp, Leo is beckoned through. 

Inside the camp, a man is watching the two men. Leo delivers the vaccines to a doctor. The man who was watching, trains a gun on them, watching through a scope. He contacts Koval. Koval tells him to kill them both. The man shoots a nurse, causing panic in the hospital. Leo shoots the sniper, wounding him. 

He tortures the sniper, wanting to get information but he refuses to speak. Leo, much to Harp’s horror, leaves the man to be beaten to death by people in the camp. Harp wants to call back to base for back up but Leo tells him it will take too long. Harp thinks Leo is going rogue and threatens to report him.

A reluctant Harp is forced to follow Leo. Harp asks Leo what he is. He is a combat soldier he tells him but can act for himself when required to. Harp thinks that emotion makes people fallible. They reach their destination, a place where Leo is to get intel on Koval’s whereabouts. 

It is an encampment where orphaned children are looked after. The encampment is run by Sofiya (Emily Beecham). Leo wants Koval’s location. She tells them that Koval is close to acquiring the codes he needs for the missiles. The person with the knowledge for the code exchange is an arms dealer, Oshlak (Velibor Topic). Sofiya tells them they will need weapons. 

She can supply them as she is also an arms dealer. Leo tells Sofiya that Harp is a drone-pilot. Harp, who is outside watching the children play, is told by Sofiya that many of the kids he is watching were orphaned by drone bombs. 

They go to meet Oshlak. Oshlak’s men try to stop them. Leo beats up and kills them. He gets information about Koval from Oshlak. Sofiya kills Oshlak. Leo and Harp head to the location. On the drive, Leo has Harp cut out his shutdown switch, telling him that the Russians can track him. 

They arrive at a bank where Koval’s men have taken all the employees’ hostage. The codes are in the bank’s vault. Leo directs Harp to contact Eckhart and get the hostages out of the bank. He goes after Koval. Harp contacts Eckhart and tells him that they are at the bank. Eckhart sends Gumps. Some of Koval’s men come out of the bank with hostages in tow. 

Gumps purchased by Koval join the battle. Eckhart tells Harp that they going to take out Koval. They are sending a drone. Leo pursues one of Koval’s men who has the codes. He kills him and gets the codes back. The drone bombs the building. 

Leo and Harp survive. Harp realises that Leo has a different plan when he says they are not taking the codes back. Leo knocks him unconscious and leaves him. Harp wakes up and is grabbed by some militia. Leo goes to see Koval. 

The militia that grabbed Harp work for Sofiya. She tells him that Koval is alive. He was never in the bank. Leo asks Koval why he tried to kill him. Harp tell Sofiya that she is foolish to trust Leo. Leo wants Koval to give him the location of the Soviet nukes. Sofiya knows Leo’s plan and believes in it. He is going to launch a nuclear strike on the US. 

Leo kills Koval and all of his men. Sofiya releases Harp. Harp is picked up by Eckhart. He tells him that Leo is not destroyed and plans to launch a nuclear strike on the US. With his chip mistakenly disabled by Harp, Harp calls Bale to track Leo’s car by drone. He goes after him. 

Harp gets to the nuclear plant. Leo is already there, multiple bodies of Koval’s men evidence of that. Harp finds him preparing to launch the missiles. Leo chokes him unconscious. He returns to preparing for the launch. Bale has a lock on the silo. Eckhart radios Harp, rousing him. He tells him that the drone is locked on the plant. 

Harp damages Leo with a rocket launcher. He asks why he wants to launch an attack on the US. Leo says it is the only way to stop a war. Eckhart wants to know if Leo is in the silo. They are going to strike the silo. Harp leaves the silo as Bale shoots. 

Harp escapes the explosion and returns to base. He is granted leave to return home. The end. 

Final thoughts: on second viewing, Outside The Wire is worse than I remembered. It is such a mess of a film and elicits scant emotion making it difficult to care about what is going on. The acting is fine from all on show but, as I said, with so little emotional involvement in proceedings it is difficult to appreciate. 

The story by Rob Yescombe, who also wrote the screenplay with input from Rowan Athale, is unnecessarily complex. The villain in Asbæk’s Koval is not introduced until fifteen minutes before the end of the film and is then promptly killed. Sure, his name is bandied about and loads of atrocities are attributed to him, but in the context of the film, it does help one to know who he is. 

The action scenes are surprisingly lacklustre, probably because Mackie’s Leo is an unstoppable android and everyone he attacks, fights or kills is only in the film to increase the body count. The directing by Michael Håfstrõm is competent but pedestrian, the story lacking any sort of urgency. 

Watching the film for a second time was a punishment and not at all enjoyable on any level. Scoring a reasonable five-point-four on IMDB, with a nearly two-hour runtime, I can only put that down as generous. Outside The Wire was outside of my comfort zone but not in a good way. Give it a miss.

Sightless – review

Brief synopsis: After a violinist is blinded in a violent assault, she wakes up in a hospital bed and is told that she will be blind for life. She calls her brother and he arranges an apartment for her and a part-time nurse. When she begins to hear strange sounds and suffer nightmares, she thinks that she might be losing her mind. 

Is it any good?: Not really, no. Sightless takes ideas from far better films – Shutter Island and Misery to name two – and fashions a convoluted story that promises more than it delivers.

Spoiler territory: a young, blind woman, Ellen Ashland (Madelaine Petsch), makes her way across her apartment to a balcony. She climbs over the rail and jumps. A month earlier she was in the hospital, waking after being assaulted and blinded by a chemical being thrown into her face. 

With her eyes still bandaged, a nurse, Omar (Deniz Akdeniz) comes and speaks to her. He takes her bandages off. This is the first time Ellen realises she cannot see. Omar tells her that he will go and get the doctor to speak with her. He knocks twice on the wall as he leaves.

Doctor Katsuro (Mathew Yang King) comes in to examine her. The doctor tells her that the damage to her eyes is irreversible. Ellen speaks to Detective Bryce (Jarrod Crawford) about the assault. She tells him that the only valuable item she had was her violin. She is sure that the assault was personal. 

The detective asks if it could be her ex-husband or a fan, as she is famous. Ellen tells him that she has not been famous for a long time. Bryce tells her that her type of fame never goes away. He assures her that they will catch her assaulter. 

Omar comes to see her later. He has her brother on the phone. He is in Japan but has arranged an apartment for her and a part-time nurse, Clayton (Alexander Koch). The nurse comes highly recommended. 

Ellen moves into her new apartment. She is woken by knocking on her bedroom door. She is in her new apartment and Clayton has come to meet her. He has keys. A reluctant Ellen allows Clayton to enter the bedroom. She tells him that she does not remember coming to the apartment. Clayton looks at her medication and tells her it probably knocked her out. 

He tells her about the layout of the apartment and that he will prepare lunch for her. Ellen leaves her bed and goes into the lounge-cum-dining area. Clayton explains that he will be there on the weekdays from eleven to two. He is there to help her adjust to her new reality. He leaves, telling her he has to go to his next appointment. 

Ellen calls her friend Sasha but gets her answer machine. She goes to sleep and is haunted by the night of the assault. The next day, Clayton brings her a parrot. Ellen asks him what colour it is. He tells her that it can be whatever colour she wants it to be. He explains that she is as free as her mind allows her to be. 

Ellen walks over to the balcony and calls Clayton over. She tells him that she can hear all the street sounds clearly at that window but, she walks over to an adjacent wall’s window, she cannot hear anything at that wall. Clayton tells her that it is because the window has thicker glass. He tells her that she has a phone message. 

It is from the detective. There were no fingerprints and most of the suspects are accounted for. They did find a boot print. Clayton tells her that she is safe in the apartment. Ellen scoffs, telling him that is what her ex-husband always told her; that she was safe with him. 

She asks Clayton if he googled her. Clayton lies but quickly admits that he did. So he knows about her ex-husband’s shady past and financial impropriety. Her husband destroyed a lot of people’s lives, including her friend Sasha’s. Imprisoned for his crimes, Ellen believes that one of the people that he ripped off is targeting her because they cannot get to him. 

Clayton asks her about her music. She had been a child prodigy, her album a bestseller. She does not want to talk about her musical past. Clayton tries to keep talking but she shuts him down. After lunch, Clayton tells her he is leaving but is leaving her a gift. He gives her a cane. 

Alone, Ellen turns on the television but she cannot find a channel, the television just giving off static. She puts on some music and picks up the cane. Later, Ellen lays in bed trying to sleep. She hears footsteps and tries to call security. She gets an answering machine. She gets up and checks the front door. 

Ellen goes into the bathroom. She pauses, a bottle of pills in her hand. She nervously puts the pills down and calls Clayton. As he answers, she ends the call. He calls her back. Ellen tells him it was an accident and ends the call again. She hears a woman crying and a man shouting at her. The voices are coming from the air vent. 

The next day, Ellen tells Clayton about what happened. He tells her that her senses are going into overdrive and fooling her. He asks her if she wants to go out for lunch. No, she does not. Later, she stands by the balcony window listening to the outside world. 

She leaves the apartment and goes to the apartment next door and rings the bell. Nobody answers. She leaves a note on the door. Clayton is over again. He is taking Ellen through some computer commands. She does not want to learn about the computer. 

She asks him how he got into this line of work and why. He tells her it was because his mother was sick growing up. He tells her that because she was bedridden, she would, with his help make ornate birdcages. It is what helped to give him a vivid imagination, something he finds useful in his work, dealing with different personalities. 

Ellen asks him to describe what is happening outside. Clayton tells her what is happening in the outside world. She asks if she can ‘see’ him. He lets her touch his face. Clayton leans in to kiss her but an alarm interrupts him and he loses his nerve. He leaves. 

Alone in her apartment, Ellen is drinking. There is a knock at the door. Lana (December Ensminger), the woman from next door, calls to her. She saw the note. Ellen opens the door. Lana introduces herself and tells her she brought tea. Ellen tells her that she is blind. Lana looks around the apartment. She takes out a cigarette and asks Ellen if she minds her smoking. Ellen tells her she can smoke outside.

Lana lights up anyway, especially on hearing that Ellen’s brother is a smoker. Lana asks about her brother. She then asks her about losing her sight. How does she know that she lost her sight and was not always blind? A panicked Lana tries to leave. Ellen grabs her. She feels her face and feels stitches on it. Lana whispers in her ear, telling her not to trust anyone. 

Lana leaves the apartment. Her husband, Russo (Lee Jones), is back. Ellen calls Clayton and tells him that she thinks Lana’s husband assaults her. Clayton tells her he met the husband and that he is a nice man. She calls detective Bryce. He sends a police officer over. She speaks to him again. He tells her that the neighbour has a bit of a history for histrionics and is not mentally stable.

The next day, Ellen is talking to Clayton and telling him that she hears the same sounds at the same time every day. The next day, she calls him over to the window as she hears the car. There seems to be a pattern. He tells her that the man gets picked up the same time every day when he arrives at the apartment. 

He tells her that she is letting her other senses overwhelm her. Later, Ellen is listening at the air duct. Before she retires, she stands in her bathroom remembering the night of the attack. She contemplates suicide again. 

The next day, Ellen goes to see Lana and encounters Russo instead. He intimidates her, telling her she is paranoid. Clayton comes to see her. He tells her he has feelings for her and thinks it would be better if he gave up his position. He tries to kiss her again and she recoils. Ellen tells him she needs him to be professional and get her through whatever she is going through at that moment. Clayton apologises and leaves.

She calls Sasha again but gets her voicemail. She gets attacked by a masked assailant in her apartment. She passes out after being strangled. She wakes up to the voice of a paramedic, Rafferty (MIkandrew). He tells her that he tended to her wrist wounds. He cannot see any neck marks. He leaves the room. Clayton comes into the bedroom. 

He tells her he is worried about her drinking. Ellen speaks to detective Bryce. He tells her that Sasha has disappeared and the boot print he found is Sasha’s size. He thinks she attacked her. Ellen tells him that a face mask was the last thing she saw. Bryce tells her there are no signs of a break-in and no one was seen on the security cameras. 

A fraught Ellen realises that no one believes her versions of events. Clayton comes to see her the next morning. After he leaves, Ellen dictates a suicide letter to the computer. She goes to her balcony, climbs over and jumps. 

A while later, Ellen wakes up on the floor of a dark room. She can still hear the same sounds but everything around her is different. She feels her way around. Her fingers are met with soundproof cladding. As the outdoor sounds continue, Ellen tries to find an exit. She feels her way back to the balcony and climbs back into the apartment. 

She tries to escape, going out of the apartment to the lift. It does not work. A panicked and confused Ellen knocks on Lana’s door. She tells Lana that she left her lighter in her apartment. In the apartment, Ellen starts the water running and whispers to Lana, asking her why they are there. Lana tells her it is because she saved them. Russo comes to get Lana. 

Clayton turns up after Lana and Russo have left. Ellen confronts him about his lies. He tells her it is to help her acclimatise to her new reality and because she is suffering from PTSD. Ellen relaxes and he prepares dinner for them both. 

At dinner, Clayton gives her a violin. He tells her it can help her get back to her old self. The oven dings. Clayton knocks twice on the table and it triggers memories of the multiple interactions she has had with people since her assault and their commonality. 

Ellen realises that all of her interactions have been with Clayton. She asks him to have a drink with her, telling him to take a seat. She drops the drink she hands to him. As he goes to pick it up, she hits him with a knife block. She takes his keys and leaves the apartment. 

She finds herself in a warehouse. She feels the costumes of all the characters Clayton had inhabited. She finds Lana and tells they need to leave. Lana tells her that she is home. She is his sister. She tells Ellen that she cannot save her like she saved Clayton. She saved him from the dark. 

Ellen hears Clayton. She is still trying to persuade Lana to leave with her. Lana tells her she has to go alone and there is only one way out and it is back in the apartment through the air duct. Ellen leaves the room but is immediately caught by Clayton. He knocks her out and ties her up. 

When she comes to, he tells her that his father abused him by locking him in the same basement that she is in for three and a half years. He only had his imagination to keep him company. His sister snuck music into the basement; Ellen’s music. The only way she could understand how it was for him was if she was blind to everything as well. 

Ellen tells him that she will make his world real but only if he can be himself, not the multiple characters he has been. Clayton is hesitant. She takes the chance of his distraction to grab his taser and shocks him unconscious. She gets to the air duct but realises it is not large enough for her to get out of. All she finds is a vial in it. 

Clayton catches up with her in the apartment and throws her around as she tries to escape. He grabs her, seeing the empty vial in her hand. She spits the contents into his face blinding him. Clayton begins shouting for his sister. Lana comes and lets Ellen out, taking out of the basement. 

Six months later, a still blind Ellen has started playing the violin again and is about to do a concert. The end. 

Final thoughts: Sightless is a moderate, if slightly underwhelming, thriller. Written and directed by the backward named Cooper Karl, it is a film a little too clever for its own good. Karl shows the story mostly through the perspective of the blind Ellen, so before the revelation that her present existence is fabricated, there is no real indication as to where the film is going. 

All the other character that the viewer sees are creations of Ellen’s imagination, in a visual sense, brought to life by Clayton. The PTSD could have been caused by hallucinogens given to Ellen by Clayton but that is left somewhat unclear. 

Because the film is shot entirely within the confines of the apartment and fake building, there is never any sense of the ridiculousness of the story – how come nobody noticed a world-famous violinist had gone missing? – so one is not pulled out of it by those thoughts, which is a good thing. 

The film moves at a good pace, even if nothing seems to really happen. Petsch is very watchable, her performance easily making one forget that she is in Riverdale. Koch is similarly impressive as the not quite trustworthy Clayton. 

The film is well directed by Karl and looks good with the shot selection and constantly keeps the viewer confused as to what is going on. Ensminger is fine as Lana but the character is mostly exposition and has very little else to do. 

Clayton’s reasoning for blinding and kidnapping Ellen is as bad and equally ungrateful as the reasoning of Yashida in 2013’s The Wolverine, repaying a good deed with an extremely horrible one. 

At one-hundred-and-twenty-nine minutes long, Sightless is not a long film and bumps along quite quickly. Unfortunately, it is not as smart as it would like to be. 

Hard Kill – review

Brief synopsis: A billionaire hires a group of special forces mercenaries to protect him from a terrorist that wants to kidnap him and retrieve some codes for a new program he has developed. The terrorist is known to the group. He is a man they had believed dead. The terrorist also has the billionaire’s daughter. 

Is it any good?: Hard Kill is terrible. Of course it is. Bruce Willis is in it and he has not been in a good film since the second Die Hard. Maybe the third. Willis aside, Hard Kill is a mess of a film with a convoluted story, crappy dialogue and awful performances. I would say it is, mercifully, short with a runtime of only ninety-seven minutes, but watching it is such an eye-searing torture, it feels like it is hours long. Avoid. 

Spoiler territory: In a warehouse, filmed in slow motion, a team of mercenaries are up against a small army all clad in black. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Sometime before, Eva Chalmers (Lala Kent), a blonde with too much botox in her face, is meeting in a scary, unspecified, warehouse location, with The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), a terrorist and the bad guy.

We know he is the bad guy because he has a scowl and his beard is not very well tended to. Eva gives him a hard drive. It contains project 725 on it, a miracle A. I technology apparently. The Pardoner – a really stupid name for a character that I am going to have to type multiple times! – is very pleased to receive it. I think he is anyway, can’t really tell. 

As any self-respecting terrorist would be, especially if what he says is true and how it will help him change the world. He is an antagonist with a plan. It is a stupid plan but a plan nonetheless. He is going to change the world. 

The next morning, Derek Miller (Jesse Metcalfe – the pretty boy from Desperate Housewives) is woken from his slumber by his mobile phone’s alarm. He grabs his phone. There is a message. He has a meeting later in the day. For some reason, this prompts him to pray. As he prays, he remembers the conflicts he has seen. He is a soldier, his body marked by war. 

Whilst having a coffee for breakfast, Miller cleans his gun. His apartment is not exactly a palace. He gets dressed and goes to his meeting. He is picked up by a limousine. In the car is Dayton Chalmers (Bruce Willis), after a brief introduction he tells Miller that he is impressed by his service record. 

He himself was in the military – of course he was – and saw a lot of action. Now he is a tech billionaire. Miller wants to know why he switched from going to war zones to becoming a tech billionaire. Chalmers, who for some reason still wants to employ the idiot, tells him it was because of family. Okay then….

Miller wants to know who recommended him to Chalmers. The Limo picks up another passenger. It is Nick Fox (Texas Battle), the man who recommended him and an old colleague of Miller’s. The two men greet one another and Fox gets down to selling the gig to Miller. He tells him about The Pardoner and how he has stolen a piece of dangerous tech. 

There is a failsafe code that can prevent The Pardoner – argh! – using the technology fully. Only Chalmers has the code. Fox wants Miller and his team to look after him until they can retrieve the tech. Chalmers wants to check out an old warehouse site and needs protection whilst doing that. That’s the story they give him anyway. It should be an easy job and it pays well. Really well. Miller agrees to take the job. 

At a bar, Dash Hawkins (Swen Temmel), persuades his drunk buddy (Adam Huel Patter), to hit on a girl at the bar. As he heads towards the woman, Harrison Zindel (Joe Galanis), who had been playing pool and watching the scene unfold, tells Dash he is an arsehole. The drunk grabs the woman at the bar. The woman, Sasha (Natalie Eva Marie), Harrison’s sister, slams the drunk’s head into the bar, twisting his arm behind his back.

As Harrison and Dash giggle, Sasha, noting their glee, scowls at them. Miller comes into the bar and tells her to let go of the drunk. They have business to discuss. The four sit down and Miller tells them about the job that Chalmers’ has offered. Sasha is not so sure, it does not sound right. Miller tells them it is an easy protection job. Alarm bells surely? No? Okay…

Sasha agrees to do the job. Dash, at the thought of a good payday, is all in as well. Harrison does not think it is worth the hassle and wishes them good luck. Sasha, who does not watch shitty B-movie action films, persuades her brother to come along, effectively signing his death warrant. 

The next day, the team accompany Chalmers and Fox to the abandoned warehouse. On the roof of one of the many buildings, a sniper is watching them as they enter the site. Inside the building, Miller asks where the building manager is. Fox tells him there is no building manager. It was a ruse to get him and his team there. 

The Pardoner – nope. Nah. Stupid! – is meeting Chalmers there. He has his daughter – yep, the same one that gave him the tech – and wants the codes in exchange for her. Outside, the antagonist – it’s better than calling him the Pardo..! – has a small battalion of men all clad in black with face coverings, watching the building. 

He has Eva in cuffs. He grabs her by the back of the head telling her that he thought she would understand his methodology. She will understand when it is all over. All I understand is he has watched too many Bond films and is an underwhelming villain. 

Back in the warehouse, Fox is justifying his duplicity by telling Miller that all of them and their ilk, ex-military types, crave action and money. He is offering both. Miller tells him that not only did he bring them there under false pretenses, they are also undermanned and lack firepower. The rest of the team want to beat the smug out of Fox but Bruce, sorry, Chalmers tells them not to. 

They are there because of him and he would do anything to get his daughter back. Maybe he should have employed more people then, it’s not as though he could not afford to. Miller decides to try and find the safest place for Chalmers to stay whilst they try to protect him or get his daughter back or whatever…

Outside, Pardon-Bloke’s team is moving in. Miller threatens Fox, telling him if anything happens to his team he will come for him. Fox is nonplussed, as well he might be. It turns out to be an empty threat. The team heads out to face Pardon-My-French’s henchmen. The henchmen stalk around the grounds and inside the warehouse, guns at the ready. 

The team hide around corners and in alcoves and begin stacking up the bodies. Outside, Lt. Colton (Tyler Jon Olson) radios the scouting team. He gets no response, them being somewhat dead and all. He relays to Pardoned-For-Bad-Acting that Chalmers seems to have a better team than they thought. Scowling happens. He comes up with a new approach. 

In the warehouse, Miller knows that there is a bigger attack coming. The soon to be deceased Harrison bleats about the money being too easy for it to have been such an easy job. Dash, who is a bit of a rat, says they should make a run for it. They already have the money. Miller, a principled man, says he cannot leave Chalmers and his daughter. Besides, they never run from a fight. Sounds a bit punchy. 

Eva is sent to the warehouse on her own. Fox goes out to get her. She asks him if her father is there? He tells her she was the only way to get him there. She thinks he is only there for project 725. Yeah, the film is still about that apparently. Pardon-The-Pun comes out of hiding and points a gun at Eva. He sees Miller. They are old enemies but he does not bear a grudge. 

Miller does bear a grudge. That damn Pardon-Fella shot him in the back. In the back! After Pardon-my-P-and-Q’s talks a lot of bollocks about his plan and mentions project 725, he takes Eva away, his henchmen and the sniper persuading Miller and Fox to retreat to the warehouse. 

The team confront Chalmers and Fox. What is project 725? It is an artificial intelligence program but not just any A. I program. It is a quantum A. I program. Okay. Completely clear then. Eva stole it – well, she created it – and gave it to Pardon-My-Unshaven-Appearance. She wanted to help the world. 

Outside, Eva is feeling like a fool. She thought a man whose first name is ‘The’ and surname ‘Pardoner’ was going to help her solve the world’s problems. Right. He wants to help the world, he tells her, in an egotistical monologue painting himself as a saint, that he wants to reset the world. 

Back in the warehouse, Dash has retrieved weapons from all the henchmen they killed. Miller worries about darkness falling. Unfortunately, after paying Bruce, they could not afford to shoot any night scenes and at no point do we see nighttime. 

The plan, if one can call it a plan, is to hide and pick off the henchmen. So, same as before then. Dash shoots a few from the window and, even though they can see the approach to the front door, one of the henchmen has enough time to blow torch through a lock into the warehouse. 

The fact that the building has multiple entrances and windows galore and, as Pardon-Guy alluded to earlier, is a security nightmare does not dissuade the henchmen from coming through the entrance that is most likely to get them shot. In they come and the bodies fall. Colton is not happy. He asks Pardon-But-I-Don’t-Mean-To-Be-Rude if he is sure about the plan. 

Preacher-Pardon asks him if he is doubting the cause. Colton says he is not but they are losing men. Pardon-The-Lie tells him that he feels their pain. Well, that’s a lie. They’re dead. Anyway, he assures Colton he will not forget their sacrifice. Um, okay. He tells Colton to send more men to their deaths around the side entrances. Colton, the worse leader ever, complies. 

Colton leads a team into one of the rooms in the warehouse. Pardon-My-BS brings Eva and another bunch of targets into the warehouse. In the room, Miller and his team are hiding behind pillars. They have their guns trained on Pardon-Matey and his henchmen. Pardon-If-I-Speak threatens to kill Eva again and wants them to bring Chalmers to him. Eva elbows him in the stomach and runs. Miller’s team opens fire. 

They are all terrible shots and do not kill any of the henchmen before they begin to return fire. Colton’s crew come into the firefight and Harrison gets killed. Oops. Sasha gets mad and tries to shoot everyone with scant regard for her own safety. Dash pulls her out of the firing line. 

Fox gets wounded and Miller pulls him out of the firing line. Pardon-My-Backbone retreats with his henchmen. Chalmers hears the gunfire and leaves his safe room. Eva, who is running around the warehouse aimlessly, is about to get perforated by a couple of henchmen but is saved by her father. 

The team get the wounded Fox back to another room. He cannot help anymore and is bleeding badly. Unsurprisingly, Sasha wants him to die blaming him for getting Harrison killed. She then opens up the argument, making Miller and herself culpable in his death. 

Eva admits to her father that the whole situation is her fault. There really is a lot of guilt going around. They talk about family stuff and other bollocks that does not help the story at all. They hear footsteps. Chalmers gets Eva to hide and is captured by Pardon-I’m-Back. He knows he will not kill him as he needs him for project 725. 

Pardon-My-Mad plan has his henchmen bring in a massive amount of computer equipment as he pushes forward with his masterplan. He knows that Chalmers will not give him the codes and tells him so as he plays with a Rubik’s cube, to make him seem more interesting. It doesn’t work. The fact that it is already completed does not help either. 

He tells Chalmers that he is going to find Eva and torture her to get him to reveal the codes. Disappointingly, he did not follow that with a maniacal laugh. Eva continues to sneak around the warehouses, evading the henchmen. She does a terrible job and is spotted by a couple of them. She runs and hides but is found by Miller. 

The henchmen report back to Pardon-Sir-I’m-An-Idiot, who now has a tech wiz, Gemma (Jacquie Nguyen), has joined him. She is setting up the computers for project 725. Miller returns to the safe room with Eva. Eva tells the team that Pardon-The-Bad-Guy has her father and wants the codes but her father is strong. 

She goes on to bleat about the people she worked for wanting to make money from her invention. Pardon-My-Mad-Plan wants to use it to crash and erase every computer on earth and put everyone back to the Dark Ages. Told you it was convoluted. 

Eva wants them to help her stop him. Miller is up for it, he is the hero after all. Sasha wants to do it for her brother. Dash is in the room so….okay? Eva draws a plan of the warehouse layout from memory, she is a genius after all. The plan is to knock out the power so as they cannot power the….computers. That sounds more stupid the more I read it. 

They begin to execute their plan, shooting cameras on the way because Gemma has hacked into the CCTV feed and killing henchmen. Pardon-But-I-Know-You’re-Out-There comes over the tannoy system and tells Miller to give him Eva and he will let him live. Obviously, Miller does not do that and they carry on their mission. 

They get to the power room and pull the power. The computers go out. All of them. In every other film, the tech expert has a battery-powered laptop. Not in this one. Electricity goes out, everything is out. The warehouse is plunged into darkness. Well, not really. Remember I said they could not afford a night shoot? 

Miller and Sasha sneak around in the daylight – pretend night – lit warehouse, wearing night-vision goggles and shooting henchmen. Dash, who has cat vision and doesn’t need night vision goggles it seems, throws a grenade at a couple of henchmen. 

The team come together. Miller says they need to get Chalmers. Dash has a different idea, he thinks they should sell project 725 on the black market. He grabs Eva, taking her hostage. He takes her to go and find Pardon-Have-You-Seen-My-Codes. Sasha and Miller follow after him. They all run into Pardon-The-Poop-Head and more henchmen.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, Dash tries to make a deal with Pardon-Still-A-Bad-Guy and gets shot for his troubles. Eva is captured once again. Miller and Sasha return fire and kill most of the henchmen. Sasha gets winged by a bullet as she goes to Dash. Dash dies. Sasha, hard as nails, barely reacts to getting shot. 

Eva is dragged back to the computer room and plonked next to her father. Pardon-My-Ego bores them both of them stupid with a philosophical allegory. He makes more threats about project 725 and getting the codes once the generator is on. Miller gets Sasha back to the safe room. He is going it alone now. She and Fox – he has not bled to death – are to escape while he distracts…everybody. 

Miller leaves the room and goes on a killing spree, taking out multiple henchmen with a hunting knife. He even manages to sneak on to the roof and take out the sniper. It really is his fault everyone is dead. They were slowing him down! 

Pardon-My-Masterplan has his computers back online. Gemma has trepidation about the plan to destroy all the world’s data. Pardon-My-Bullying-Attitude asks her if she wants to back out. She does not say anything. He leaves and goes to try and persuade Chalmers to give him the codes, threatening to kill Eva. 

Chalmers refuses. Pardon-My-Ungentlemanly-Conduct smashes Eva in the face. Chalmers still refuses. Gemma has project 725 up and running and wants to know what they are going to destroy first as it is partially operational. Pardon-My-Smugness cannot decide. He hears gunshots. Miller has killed all of his henchmen. 

Gemma, who is only in it for the money, decides that it is time to leave. Pardon-My-Huge-Ego goes to face Miller. They fight as Chalmers and Eva free themselves from the, frankly pathetic, restraints. They go to the computer and Chalmers tells Eva that they have to destroy the program. Miller and Pardon-Beardy-Not-Good are still fighting. 

Miller is winning but Pardon-Slimy-Git gets a gun and is about to shoot him. Chalmers shoots him dead. Miller goes and finds Sasha and Fox. They go for drinks. The end. 

Final thoughts: Wow. Hard Kill is awful. With a story by Clayton Haugen and Nikolai From and a screenplay by Chris Lamont and Joe Russo – not one of the Russo brothers, no – Hard Kill is a hard film to enjoy on any level. The story is rubbish, the acting not much better and the directing, by Matt Eskandari, is borderline experimental. 

There is no sense of urgency in the film and Rizzuto’s The Pardoner is such an underwhelming villain you know he is going to lose. His plan is ludicrous and pointless and madcap. Project 725 – which should probably have been the name of the film – is just a Mcguffin that you do not care about because it is never explained properly. 

The gunplay and action are mundane, with the faceless henchmen in the film just for a body count. At just over ninety-five minutes, Hard Kill is an hour and a half of your life that you will never get back. In this post-lockdown era, there have already been enough wasted hours. Give this film a miss.