The Paramedic – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: a narcissistic paramedic, who is struggling to have a child with his partner, life is changed when he is in a tragic traffic accident that results in him ending up in a wheelchair. Jealously and paranoia see him acting in a most dangerous and unpredictable fashion. 

Is it any good?: The Paramedic (El Practicante – in Spanish, original title), is a moderately entertaining chiller that is let down a little by being more atmosphere than execution. The acting is top class and the film looks beautiful and the story and editing are done in such a way not to insult the audience intelligence but, unfortunately, other elements of the film do not live up to the promise. 

Spoiler territory: arriving at the scene of a car crash, paramedics Ángel (Mario Casas) and Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) tend quickly to the wounded and distressed. As Ángel helps a woman from the wreckage of her car, Ricardo goes to check on the passengers of the other car which is flipped on its roof. 

As other paramedics arrive to help, Ángel uses the confusion and activity to steal a pair of sunglasses from one of the cars in the crash. Later, Ángel is aggressively making love to his girlfriend, Vane (Déborah François), before she leaves for work. After she leaves, he goes and hides the sunglasses he took from the scene of the crash in a cupboard. 

Back at work, Ángel and Ricardo take a call. When they arrive at the address, they find an old woman in bed. Ricardo checks her pulse. She is already dead. He calls the coroner, leaving the room as he makes the call. Ángel goes through the woman’s valuables in the room. 

Later, Ángel meets Fermín (Raúl Jiminéz) and looks to sell the items he found in the room. He returns home and is in a foul mood after stepping in the mess created by their neighbour, Vicente’s (Celso Bagallo) dog. Vane tells him that her period has come, meaning she is not pregnant. He suggests she see a gynaecologist. Vane says the problem might not be with her. Ángel, his manhood wounded, says the problem could be psychological. 

He goes to see a doctor the next day. He finds out that he has a low sperm count and getting someone pregnant would be difficult for him. He does not tell Vane. Back at home, whilst Vane is in the shower, Ángel goes through her phone. 

At the hospital, Ángel gets drugs from Andrés (Pol Monen), a young doctor he knows. He and Ricardo go to another accident. They pick up an injured young man and Ricardo is driving as Ángel tends to the man. The man begins to convulse, distracting Ricardo. As Ángel tries to stabilise him, the ambulance gets hit by a truck. 

Ángel ends up wheelchair-bound. Their relationship already strained, Ángel’s condition pushes his jealously and paranoia to another level. As he tries to adapt to his need life, Ángel comes across a spy app that he can use to track Vane. The relationship continues to be strained. 

Ricardo comes to visit Ángel. Ángel is not happy to see him, feeling that it is his fault that he is in a wheelchair. Later, before Vane leave for work, Ángel asks her to go and get him some ice cream. Whilst she is out, he installs the spy app on her phone. 

He bumps into his neighbour, Vicente. Vicente is walking his dog. Ángel remarks how much the dog barks at night. Vicente tells him that he goes to see his sick wife in hospital at night and has to leave the dog alone. Later, in the evening, Vane is nervous as she tells Ángel about a possible work placement. 

Ángel wants to know what they will live on if she is earning less. He is not at all supportive of her pursuit of a veterinary career. Vane goes to work. He uses the spyware to watch her at work. During there night, Ángel is awoken by pain from his injuries. He tries to call Vane but the calls go to her voicemail. 

He finds some painkillers in the kitchen and takes a couple. He hides the rest of them. When Vane returns from work in the morning, he accuses her of leaving him without pain medication. She swears that there were painkillers in the kitchen. Later in the day, he threads needles into a raw piece of meat. 

Ángel goes to the park where Vicente walks his dog. He feeds the meat to the dog. Back in the apartment, Ángel listens in on a conversation Vane is having with a friend. She tells her friend how difficult her relationship is becoming and how she is not sure she can stand much more. Spurred by the conversation, Ángel tries to woo Vane and cooks a romantic dinner for them both. 

He tells her that he will support her dream of becoming a vet. They will also try even harder to have a baby. They make love. Afterwards, Ángel is in the shower and Vane hears his computer chiming. She goes and checks his screen and discovers the spyware. She packs her belongings and leaves. 

Some months later, Ángel decides to go and spy on Vane again. He waits outside of her workplace and sees Ricardo come to pick her up. He follows them and sees them go to a baby shop. They are having a baby. ÁNGEL goes to see Andres and gets some drugs. 

The next day, Ángel goes to meet Vane. He tells her she was right to leave him and intimates that he is going to end his life. She walks him back to his apartment. Retells her that he packed up her belongings and she can collect them. As she is distracted, looking for her things, he tranquillises her. 

Vane wakes up tied to a bed and gagged. Ángel puts on loud music to drown out her muffled cries. He goes and finds her mobile. She has multiple messages from Ricardo on it. He texts Ricardo a message from the phone telling him that she has left him. He throws the phone into a river. Back in the apartment, Ángel tells Vane he saw Ricardo and knows they are having a child. She begs him to release her and starts screaming again. He gags her and tranquillises her again. 

Vicente comes and complains about the music. Ángel gives him short shrift, telling him he had to put up with his dog for months. Vicente says he heard screaming from his apartment. Ángel lies, saying it was a prostitute. 

Ricardo seeks out Ángel. He tells him that Vane is missing and that they are together. Ángel tells him he has not seen her. Back with Vane, she finds that Ángel has given her an epidural making her legs stop working. Ángel receives a voicemail from a desperate Ricardo. He is going to call the police. 

During dinner, Vane smashes a bottle into Ángel’s head and tries to escape, screaming for help. He recovers and tranquillises her again but not before her screaming alerts Vicente. The neighbour comes looking for her. Forced to allow the persistent Vicente into his home, Ángel stabs him to death. He calls Fermin and pays him to get rid of the body. 

The police come to see Ángel. Ricardo has reported Vane missing and he used to live with her. Ángel tells them that she told him she was returning to France. Ángel had used Vane’s keys to go and kill Ricardo, making it look like a drug-related death. 

Ángel continues to plan a life with Vane and Ricardo’s baby, going so far as to tell her he will marry her when he trusts her. Vane gets hold of nail clippers whilst in the bathroom. Later in the night, Ángel goes to the pharmacy to get some medication for Vane, thinking she is sick. She takes the opportunity to escape her bonds using the nail clippers. 

Her legs still weakened from the drugs, she struggles to get out of the room he has her locked in, dragging her self to the door and using a screwdriver to break the lock. She gets out of the apartment and is making her way out when Ángel returns. Vane stumbles to the stairs and falls down them. Ángel goes after her, throw himself down the stairs. The two fight. She stabs him with the screwdriver and pushes him into the stairwell. He falls several storeys, to the ground. 

Sometime later, a tetraplegic Ángel is in a hospital. A heavily pregnant Vane comes to get him. She tells him, somewhat chillingly, that she is going to look after him. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Paramedic is an okay chiller mostly because of Casas’ central performance. He oozes unease throughout the entire film, an air of disdain for all around him never far from his face. François’ Vane is perfectly cast, a woman in the wrong relationship even before the accident pushes Ángel further into his neurosis. 

Written by David Desola, Héctor Hernández Vicens and Carles Torras, with Torras also on directing duties, The Paramedic does at least treat its viewers like adults. After the accident, we move straight to the difficulties of Ángel’s new reality. There are no scenes of him being told he is not going to walk again or discovering he has to give up his work. They are not necessary. 

Torras lets the actors do the work and they reward him with great performances. The strength of Cosas’ performance certainly helps with covering the script’s deficiencies and shortcomings, with some characters not given enough screen time to allow one to realise their necessity to the plot. 

The film does move quite quickly through its ninety-four-minute runtime and the sense of foreboding builds quite nicely as Ángel implements his mad plan. The only thing that lets the film down is the slightly psychological ending, with Vane deciding to become a sort of jailer/helper for the tetraplegic Ángel. It seemed, to me at least, as though she was setting herself up for a lifetime of punishment. With an impending birth as well to contend with. 

The Paramedic is, nonetheless, quite entertaining and well made. It worth a watch for the two central performances and the almost great story. 

Dark Light – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: After her divorce, a woman takes her young daughter and moves into her old vacant family home in rural Mississippi. When strange things start happening and her daughter disappears, she is the local sheriff’s number one suspect. The woman fights to not only clear her name but also to find her daughter.

Is it any good?: In a word, no. Dark Light flatters to deceive. It is visually well made and edited but the acting is poor and the script absolutely wretched. A film that just gets worse over its runtime. It is bloody awful.

Spoiler territory: Annie Knox (Jessica Madsen) is looking for her daughter. She moves quietly around her home, shotgun at the ready with a flashlight attached to the barrel, shouting for her daughter Emily (Opal Littleton). Around the house, Annie hears noises and footsteps. Doors close without warning and she is anxious at every sound.

She sees Emily in the elevator and goes to grab her. Emily starts screaming as Annie scoops her up. Annie hears a noise behind her and puts her daughter down, turning and shooting without looking for the target. She sees her ex-husband, Paul (Ed Brody) lying on the floor. A still tense Annie turns back towards her daughter and raises the gun once more. She shoots.

Annie gets taken away by the police for shooting Paul. A wounded Paul wants to know where their daughter is. The police take Annie away. The story goes back to Annie and Emily moving into the old house. Annie tells her daughter that this was where she grew up. Emily sees the elevator and asks what it is. Annie tells her its an elevator but no longer works.

Emily asks if her dad is going to live with them. Annie tells her no but he will visit. Later that night, Annie hears noises and goes to check around the house. She finds the front door open and shuts it. She checks the gap under the basement door. Something moving spooks her and then the door opens behind her again.

Back in the present, sheriff Dickerson (Kristine Clifford) is questioning Annie about her missing child. Annie is perplexed as to why she is being held, saying she would never harm her daughter. The sheriff points out that having shot her ex-husband, they cannot be sure of that.

Before Emily’s disappearance, Paul had turned up at the house unannounced to see his daughter. Annie is not best pleased to see him but she reluctantly lets him into the house to see Emily. He comes into the house and Emily rushes off to go and get a toy she wants to show him. Annie and Paul have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation.

Later that evening, Annie and Emily play hide n’ seek in the foliage of fields around the house. As it is dark, both of them carry torches. Annie, having grown up in the area, quickly finds her daughter, shining the light on her playfully. They keep on playing. A bright light shines on Annie. She thinks it is Emily but when she tells her to stop shining the light she does not reply.

Annie realises it is not her daughter and searches frantically for her. She looks back to the house and sees Emily standing on the roof. She rushes back to the house. She calls the sheriff. The sheriff tells her that the lights she saw in the field were probably local kids. Annie is convinced that they were not random kids playing in the field.

Annie checks out what she saw online and sees a video of Walter Sims (Gerald Tyler) talking about a humanoid race living secretly amongst the populace. Annie takes his details off of the internet. Annie sees lights shining from outside and rushes to Emily’s bedroom. Emily is fine. Annie goes outside to check what the lights are. She sees multiple lights shining around the field. She looks back to the house and sees something approaching her daughter.

Annie runs back into the house. The figure has disappeared. Annie calls the sheriff again and tells her the story of what happened. The sheriff is sceptical. In the present, sheriff Dickerson is not believing Annie’s version of events. In the past, Paul and Annie have another conversation. She tries to tell him that something is not right in the house. Paul tells her that she should not have moved back into the house, especially with her fragile mental health. He threatens to take Emily away from her.

Annie gets a monitor so as she can see Emily at night. She is woken in the night by a scream and looks to the monitor. Emily is not in her bed. She rushes to her bedroom and finds her daughter standing by her door. She wants to sleep with her. Annie continues to hear noises and goes to check the house. She sees a figure walking around the house. Emily disappears again.

She contacts the sheriff. The sheriff almost runs over Emily as she heads towards the house. Emily says to Dickerson that she does not want to go home. Emily also has a bloody nose, something that had happened earlier In the day also. The sheriff warns Annie that she is going to report her to child services.

Back in the present, the sheriff asks Annie about her gun purchases the previous week. Annie tells her that she bought them for personal protection. Earlier that same night, Annie had seen an alien taking Emily and had shot at it as it took Emily into the elevator. The elevator had then gone down. She had hurried into the basement to try and catch it.

Annie relays the story to Dickerson. Dickerson tells her she is going to jail. Annie is put in a truck with a police officer and another prisoner. The truck has an accident on the way, the driver having to avoid a cow blocking the road on a very rainy night. The truck goes down a bank and flips over.

Annie regains consciousness and frees herself. Everybody else in the truck has died. The police find the truck. Annie returns to her house and cleans herself up. She decides to go and find Walter Sims. Sims invites her into his house and tells him about his ancient alien beings theory. He is worried that Annie found him through the internet.

Annie tells him what she saw. He tells her that they target children to harvest their inner light, their energy. Annie wants to kill it. Sims locks her in his house and goes to find the aliens, fascinated by them and not wanting her to kill them. Sims heads to her house. He quickly encounters one of the aliens.

It attacks him and Sims runs to his car. He is driving away and is attacked again in his car. He escapes his car and runs into a railway yard. He is caught by another one and killed. The police find his corpse. The police go to Sims house and see all his notes about the missing children. Annie manages to get out of Sims’ house.

Annie heads back to her own house to look for her daughter. She hides when Paul comes to the house. He goes into the lift and is attacked by one of the aliens. Annie goes to get in the lift to look for both Paul and their daughter. She goes to the basement stairs but is chased by one of the aliens. She gets away but as she is about to go back into the basement, she is stopped by Dickerson, who is pointing a gun at her.

Annie puts her gun down. Dickerson is killed by one of the aliens. Annie runs as the same alien comes after her. She repels it by attacking it with a lampshade pole, shocking it. It does not die. Annie heads to the basement. She finds Paul and wakes him from unconsciousness. They both go looking for Emily. They see the alien feeding on energy from Emily.

Paul causes a distraction so that Annie can grab their daughter. As mother and daughter try to escape, they see Paul get killed. Annie slows the alien down by shooting it and takes her daughter back to the house. She douses the house in petrol. The alien burst into the house and attacks her. She slows the alien once again by first tasering it then shooting it. She sets the house on fire.

Annie and Emily get into Paul’s car and drive away. Emily asks if the alien is dead and Annie tells her it is. In the fields around the home, the light that shines from the aliens’ heads lights up the night. The end.

Dark Light is utter garbage. Written and directed by Padraig Reynolds, it is a film that gets worse over its runtime with a haphazard story, undefined antagonist and the least subtle script this reviewer has ever suffered through, with every utterance exposition. Reynolds can certainly direct the visuals and the film flows relatively nicely but he should get someone else to write. The script is first-year scriptwriting student bad.

I am going to kindly believe that it was the script that contributed to the wholly wooden performances by the entire cast. Admittedly, they did not have much to work with, every character speaking in the same manner, pace and cadence. The central character had no compelling reason to stay in the freaky house but did anyway.

If she did, Reynolds did not put it in the script. Annie suffered from depression. How do I know this? Because Paul comes right out and says it. He does not allude to it or talk around it. He just says it. Her mum had depression and committed suicide. Guess how I know? Bloody Paul and his helpful exposition!

Sims talks some bollocks about ancient, advanced aliens and then decides to go and meet them, even though he knows that they basically eat children and have done for years. As soon as he finds himself in bother he runs like Usain Bolt. He was also supposedly worried about being found via the internet, even though he had, in the video he had produced talking about the aliens, asked people to contact him!

Reynolds also could not decide how he wanted the aliens to kill people with them slashing, frying and, quite randomly, biting the unfortunate Paul in the neck. The aliens snatch children but the sheriff had never before been told of disappearing children even though Sims, the kook, had hundreds of pictures of missing children on his wall. Annie, who had already been spooked by the old house, decides to take her daughter into a field, at night, to play hide n’ seek. It was as if she wanted to lose the damn child.

Dark Light – a title that makes very little sense – is a mishmash of ideas all poorly executed. Scoring a, I can only say, generous four point two on IMDB, Dark Light is a film to give a wide berth. Wretched.

Hollow Point – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A professor of ethics family is killed when they stray into the wrong part of town and witness a drug lord murder someone and get killed for witnessing it. After getting imprisoned for trying to exact revenge, the professor is recruited by his lawyer, who is also a secret vigilante, to join his crew of outside-the-law warriors.

Is it any good?: No. Nope. Nah. Not at all. This film is next level terrible. The script is woeful, the acting is terrible, the directing is terrible, the…you get my drift. Just bad.

Spoiler territory: A police detective, Amanda Ray (Juju Chan), her retired ex-partner, Damian Wakefield (Michael Paré) and a wealthy lawyer, Hank Carmac (Luke Goss), are a clandestine vigilante group working outside the law, meting out justice on those who slip through the legal cracks.

The three vigilantes, wearing balaclavas, storm a dreadlocked dealer and his crew as a deal is happening, busting in on the deal, guns blazing, shooting the dealer and all of his men. Ray, of oriental descent, hands out a bit of a choppy-socky beating to a few of the henchmen to show her fighting prowess, her massive fifty-five-kilo frame punching and kicking men twice her size and weight all around the rooftop.

Meanwhile, Hank is shouting expletives at the buyer, Redlock (Samuel Evan Horowitz), who has his hands up in surrender. Redlock, who has a gun pointed at him, is a drug dealer, not a rocket scientist, thus his lack of understanding of physics and overconfidence make him decide he can reach for a gun and shoot the man in a balaclava who is pointing a gun at him. He can’t. He dies.

It is daytime and Doctor Nolan Cooray (Dilan Jay), a professor of ethics in law, is teaching a class of eager students. After the class, he drives home and gets a call from his wife, Audra (Angie Simms). She is stuck in traffic with their daughter, Mindy (Sofiya Suarez) and tells him she is running late for dinner. Nolan tells her he will cook.

Audra decides to turn off of the main road, to get out of the jam as she ends the call with her husband. Nolan reaches home and begins cooking. Audra rolls up on some men having an altercation. She sees one of the men pull out a gun and kill someone. He then walks over to the car – she helpfully waits for him – and kills her and her daughter. A neighbour sees him kill the mother and daughter.

Nolan is getting worried. He calls the police but it has not been a long enough period for his family to be considered missing. The police knock on his door, detective Chuck Bryant (Roger Guenveur Smith) and detective Emily Plaza (Natalie Burn). They tell him that his family is dead.

Detective Bryant tells Nolan that his family was in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnesses of a turf war. Nolan, who obviously lives in a different world from the rest of us where killer drug dealers are reasonable, is shocked to hear that was the reason. Did he think his family was part of a drug deal gone wrong or undercover cops?

Anyhow, the man who killed them, Trigger (Jay Mohr) – easily the best thing in the film – who is identified by the neighbour witness in a police line-up. Trigger is not at all fazed by being in custody.

Harold Kelso (Kirk Fox), a sleazy businessman, has Catalina (Malea Rose) doing some paperwork for him. Kelso gives Catalina a glass of drugged wine. When she succumbs to the effects of the drug, he rapes her. The three vigilantes come to visit Kelso. Ray slaps him about a bit and shows him a whole slew of photos of women he has employed and assaulted. After a bit of physical persuasion, Kelso admits to raping the women. They report him to the police and leave.

The detectives find the witness, Wanda Esparza (Crystal Leah Chacon). She has been strangled. They inform Nolan. The next day, Nolan goes and buys a gun. He goes to a drug dealer, Jinx (Anthony Hull) and gets Trigger’s address. He goes to Trigger’s house and tries to kill him. He gets beat up but manages to get his gun on Trigger. The police come before he can shoot Trigger.

Nolan gets convicted of attempted murder and assault. In prison, another prisoner, Cam (Peter Lee Thomas), takes a dislike to him and threatens him on the first day. Nolan sits with an older prisoner who befriends him.

At their local bar, Soi Dog Tavern, Wakefield steps in to teach some yobs manners – cans of whoop-ass aplenty – when they chauvinistically abuse the waitress, Hanna (Amanda Crown). Hank is in the prison library chatting with one of his clients. Nolan is reading downstairs when Cam comes and propositions him. Nolan pushes him and gets a beat down before Hank intervenes and – unsurprisingly – open more cans of whoop-ass on Cam and his, suddenly eager to get their asses kicked, friends.

In the infirmary, Nolan is spoken to by the head guard, James (Bill Duke). He tells him he needs to stay out of trouble – which, of course, had not entered his mind – and learn to survive – another pearl of wisdom for the stupid. He also tells him he needs to learn to fight otherwise he will get ‘popped’, because it is a gladiatorial arena in prisons, with bodies of the fallen strewn everywhere.

James proceeds to tell Nolan – and us – about Hank, a man who lives by a ‘code’ and other such bollocks. Back in his cell, Nolan remembers his wife and daughter being killed. Even though he was not there. Hank tells Ray and Wakefield about Nolan and his case. He decides to help him. He sends him BOOKS on self-defence. Nolan does press-ups and shadow boxes. The older prisoner tells him he needs to get out of there – stating the bleedin’ obvious – and let go of his anger, as he gives him a prison tattoo.

Ten months pass, Nolan is eligible for parole and Hank is helping him. One of the guards is taking Nolan to another cell but it is a setup. He pushes him into a fight with Cam. He beats him easily, having learned all his moves from the books. Nolan gets thrown into solitary. The next day, despite his violent act, Hank vouches for his character and he is released.

Hank takes him home but not before offering him an open invitation to meet with him and his friends at the tavern. Nolan takes him up on his offer a few days later. The crew take Nolan on one of their night missions. They grab Jinx and want to know who his dealer is. After Hank threatens to kill him, Jinx gives up a name; Omari (Tony Tambi). Hank shoots him in the foot.

Nolan is shaken by the crew’s violent methods. Wakefield questions Hank’s judgement but Hank tells him that he is sure Nolan will come around. Nolan does some press-ups and comes around. Detective Bryant tells Nolan that Hank was looking into DNA samples from Wanda and thinks Trigger may have killed her. Nolan goes to see Hank.

He wants to know why he was looking for a DNA sample. Hank explains to him that he will use any methods to achieve their objective. So there is that. Nolan joins the crew as they go to see Omari. After shooting a couple of henchmen and tiny Ray kicking one in the head, Hank asks Omari for his stash.

Omari acts as if he does not know what he is talking about. Hank tells Nolan to smash his hand. Omari tries to brave his way through the pain. Nolan smashes his hand again and Omari gives up his drug stash and the money. Hank burns the drugs. Ray contacts detective Plaza to arrest Omari and his crew. He tells Nolan that they always burn the drugs and give the money to the city.

Hank tells Nolan why he does what he does it and how his wife got beat up and raped by Aryan followers on the orders of a man he had gotten convicted for life. She committed suicide some years after. Doesn’t really explain anything, though it is a horrible story. The detectives get good news. The DNA matches Trigger’s.

Nolan turns up at the precinct wanting to know if they have picked him up. Detective Bryant tells him they cannot find him. Ray sees him in the precinct and warns him not to come there again. She takes her concerns to Hank. Hank is sure Nolan is one of their kind. Hank and the crew go to see Nolan the next day. He persuades Nolan that he can find Trigger.

They go to find Trigger and use Jinx – never was a name so apt – to find him. Nolan, who is now totally on board with extreme violence, smashes Jinx’s legs with a wrench. Jinx quickly divulges a location. The crew roll to Trigger’s safe house. Elsewhere, detective Plaza has been tipped off to Trigger’s possible whereabouts and gets in a helicopter.

The crew storm Trigger’s house and start shooting. Trigger runs. Nolan and Wakefield catch up with him. Wakefield tells Nolan to shoot him but Nolan is reluctant. Elsewhere, Ray is, once again, showing her martial arts prowess, kicking seven shades out of a couple of henchmen.

Trigger runs again and Nolan pursues him. They fight and Nolan gives him a beating. When Nolan gets up, Trigger reaches for a gun. Nolan shoots him. Detective Plaza, who was in a helicopter remember and knew where they were, arrives after the event and witnesses it all as self-defence. The crew leave it to the authorities. The end.

Hollow Point is awful. It is not unwatchable and I have seen worse action films but it is still poor. Except for Jay Rohr and, for the most part, Dilan Jay, the acting is pretty wooden. Luke Goss, who has now been an actor longer than he was a pop star, shows no signs of becoming a credible actor. Maybe it is the projects he picks or maybe he just cannot act.

Written by Chad and Evan Law and Daniel Zirilli, who also directs, it is hard to believe that three people combined to write a story this weak. The central premise was strong enough without the subpar Underground Six vibe. Nobody learns to fight from books. It’s a nonsense.

The detective roles served little to no purpose in the film. They neither moved the story forward nor added to it. Multiple witnesses seeing Trigger kill people just helped to increase the body count. Jinx, who had been shot in the foot only days before, was available for a bit more torturing so shortly after sustaining a gunshot wound? As for the Omari strand of the story…why? Once again it added nothing. Nolan asks Hank about his reasons and Hank just happened to walk around with a crumpled photo of his dead wife in his jeans pocket – not in his wallet – his pocket!

The directing is not much better and the editing is just horrible. The film is only eighty-nine minutes long but is still too long. Not because it is a painful watch but because there are so many unnecessary scenes in the film. The opening scene serves no purpose, the bar scene serves no purpose, the detectives I’ve already mentioned, the extra witness and finding Trigger’s DNA on her did not serve any purpose because he gets killed anyway!

Bill Duke – who has been in far better films – as James, is utilised for a frankly terrible and unimaginative exposition scene that does little to improve or push the story forward. This film is a real mess. The budget is only one million dollars but it is still too much. Hollow Point, in case you are not sure how I feel about it, is a turd of a film. Avoid at all cost.

The Irishman

Martín Scorsese’s latest offering to cinema is the three and a half hour epic gangster’s story, The Irishman. Few can tell a gangster, or more specifically, Mafiosa story, better than or even as well as Scorsese.

Known for Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Casino, Raging Bull, Hugo, The Age Of Innocence, Shutter Island and so many other films, Scorsese has, generally, been at the peak of his directorial powers when recounting stories that involve the Italian-American experience. The Irishman is one such story.

Taken from the book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ written by Charles Brandt and adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian, The Irishman recounts the words of Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), a hitman for the Bufalino crime family and right-hand man to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), as well as a union leader himself. The Irishman chronicles his rise through the ranks, the killings he did, his estrangement from his daughter Peggy, portrayed with steely resolve by Anna Paquin, and the disappearance of Hoffa as recounted by Sheeran himself.

Scorsese unites all of the big guns for this one. DeNiro and Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino are, unsurprisingly, in attendance but he also recruits his original muse, Harvey Keitel, who plays Angelo Bruno and Pacino, turning in a stellar performance as Hoffa. This film gives film lovers the DeNiro/Pacino match up they have yearned for all of these years.

DeNiro, as one would expect, puts in a wonderful everyman performance in the film as the working-class Sheeran whose chance meeting with Russell Bufalino takes his life in a totally different direction. After being persuaded to do a few jobs by Russell, he is taken under the wing of the Bufalino family.

Russell, whose connections and tentacles were in every business, introduced Sheeran to the leader of the powerful trucking and distribution union, the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa. Sheeran not only became Hoffa’s muscle but also became a close friend. This close friendship would prove ultimately costly for the increasingly nervous and mistrustful Hoffa.

Sheeran claims to have shot him twice in the back of the head. The body was then removed and incinerated. As the body was never found and nobody was ever indicted of his murder, it remained a mystery until Brandt’s book hit the shelves. There are those who dispute Sheehan’s claims but as this review is about The Irishman, which is, like many of Scorsese’s stellar works, biographical. I will take the story as close enough to the truth.

After five decades of filmmaking, Scorsese could be forgiven if he decided to go the route of other well-regarded directors and make pastiches of his own works. Though this charge has been levelled at him before, most notably for 1995’s Casino – a film I personally loved – following the tour-de-force that was Goodfellas, Scorsese has always been a director who has sought out varying film projects.

It is, however, in the realm of Italian-Americana where he has always excelled. If the story also happens to be biographical in nature all the better. From the staggeringly brilliant Raging Bull up to this year’s The Irishman, along with his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese continues to produce captivating work. Make no mistake, even at a bum-numbingly 209 minute runtime, The Irishman is a riveting piece of cinema.

From the rich opening signature camera sweeps, through the casual, matter-of-fact violence, up to its no-man-can-beat-time conclusion, The Irishman is a film that pulls you into the world of mobsters, unions and persons who lived unapologetically outside of the considered norm.

Much is made of the modern techniques and computer wizardry used to de-age the near octogenarian stars in the early scenes, especially on DeNiro, who is in almost every scene. It is initially a little disconcerting. Not because it is not good more because one knows they are not young men and, most notably with DeNiro, in their physicality and gait.

The strength of the story and performances does quickly make this minor gripe an irrelevance. For us outside of the world of organised crime, the fascination, whether it is portrayed romantically like in The Godfather, or as a daily grind such as in The Sopranos or humorously as in Bullets Over Broadway, there is always a compulsion to watch. If it also pulls back the curtain on people in history whose names are fading like the few photographic images of them that exist, that is even better.

The Irishman takes the story of the little known Frank Sheeran and brings to life one of twentieth centuries greatest crime riddles, what happened to Hoffa? Offering a credible answer. If in the unlikely event that Scorsese was to retire after this film, it would be a fitting film to bow out on. Masterful.

Someone Great (Netflix)

First published on April 20th on

Gina Rodriguez, the self-proclaimed voice of Latina women, is in another Netflix film. Full disclosure; ever since Rodriguez decided that she was going to throw black women under the bus, to advance the cause of Latina women, I’ve have gone right off of her.
Before she went all ‘yo también’ for Latina women, I was all in on Jane the Virgin, the show that made her a global star. It is a brilliantly written show, with excellent story arcs and outstanding performances from the entire cast, it a show that, deservedly, has garnered many awards over its four-season run.
Now in its fifth and final season, its star, Rodriguez, has been busy working on projects for life after Jane. Whilst in the midst of promoting her various projects and, controversially, during a round table discussion with other prominent actors, Rodriguez has beat the drum for Latina actors at the expense of other women of colour.
That she wanted pay parity, for Latina women, was admirable and would have been widely praised had she not done so at the expense of others. As a black person who is a huge fan of a lot of Latin shows, the comments from Rodriguez were disappointing. I would be lying to say that they do not skew how I now view Rodriguez.
That being said, I thought I would watch Someone Great starring Rodriguez as Jenny Young – not a particularly Latin-American name – LaKeith Stanfield, better known from the brilliant Get Out, as Nate Davis, Brittany Snow – all of the Pitch Perfect movies – as Blair Helms, and DeWanda Wise – lead on another Netflix show, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, as Erin Kennedy.
Jenny, Blair and Erin are best friends since college. Nate and Jenny are a couple and love one another passionately. Jenny is an aspiring music journalist and gets offered her dream job across the other side of the country. They had been together nine years when Nate breaks up with her, in part because of the impending move for the job, one week before she is due to move. Jenny is devastated.
She calls her two friends, wanting to have one last big party at the Neon Classic, the same party she met Nate at nine years before. Having shared so much history together, everywhere Jenny goes she sees or hears something that reminds her of Nate.
The Neon Classic is a big deal and to get tickets they have to go through Matt, an old crush of Jenny’s whose rejection in college pushed her towards Nate. Unbeknown to Jenny and Erin, Blair is sleeping with Matt. They think she is with Will, even though it is evident that she is not into him.
Erin is struggling to commit to her lesbian relationship with Cynthia (Michelle Buteau), having been hurt in the past by a girl who was experimenting with her own sexuality. The changes happening in all their lives, as they approach their thirties, has the women panicking about their futures and the impact it will have on their relationships.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is the author’s first feature. At thirty-one years old, Robinson is right in the demographic of a generation at the forefront of inclusivity. This is reflected in the film with black, white, Latin, gay – male and female – represented.
Whilst this is a beautiful thing to see, it is not something that is entirely believable, especially in a country so notably divided as America, not only when it comes to race, but also politically. The central story – Jenny’s heartache and eventual acceptance of life’s changes – is a good one and, for the most part, told in an engaging way.
Even given my own reservations and prejudices, there is no denying that Rodriguez is a fantastic actor. At no point did I think ‘that’s Jane!’ Or have thoughts of her misguided utterances. The central relationship between Rodriguez’s Jenny and Stanfield’s Nate is believable at every juncture, making anyone who has lived through the pain of a breakup nod knowingly.
The story arc with Snow’s Blair and Wise’s Erin are not as well rounded, especially Blair’s. I realise being straight and heterosexual is passé and has been reflected ever since the invention of film, but I felt her two scenes with Will and lustful hook up with Matt seemed a bit of a cop-out.
Erin’s confession as to why she found it difficult to voice her true feelings was a great scene. Unfortunately, that is all it was, one scene. The rest of her story was of her bravado and sassiness. The film, as a whole, is okay with outstanding scenes. Robinson, who has done some acting herself, really allows the actors to work and it shows.
Even, as I mentioned earlier, the central friendship does not seem especially realistic, such is the commitment of the actors to the roles, it works perfectly and, in spite of yourself, you believe they are friends. The acting is, across the board, great. Even the minor characters put in good performances.
Something, that I think is a bit of an influence from the MCU films, is a trend to inject comedy into every story. While I do love a laugh as much as the next person, not every story naturally lends itself to comedy. There are amusing moments in this film – Rosario Dawson’s brilliant cameo as Nate’s cousin Hannah stood out – the central premise of the story does not invite comedy.
The elements that have been used as comedy crutches in many cinematic stories – getting messed up, going to a club – seem a little forced in this insistence. There is even a horribly awkward scene with the always flamboyant RuPaul, as a high-end drug supplier/friend called Hype. I can only assume that scene was shoehorned in because somebody knew RuPaul or he knew somebody.
Someone Great is by no means a terrible film and at just over ninety minutes, it is not long either. It just does not commit as much as it should or could have to the central premise. A film that should have been, perhaps, a bittersweet comedy, comes over as Sex in the City for the millennial generation. Watch if you really have nothing else on and like good acting or Gina.

A Simple Favour – review (Netflix)

Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a widowed, single mother who, after the death of her husband, started a cooking vlog. She is overly nice and volunteers for every activity at the school her son, Miles (Joshua Satine) goes to, much to the irritation of the other parents.

All the parents agree that Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) is unlikely to volunteer for any of the upcoming fair’s activities. Emily runs PR for a fashion company, Dennis Nylon (Rupert Friend), and is the envy of the other parents.

When school finishes, Nicky (Ian Ho), Emily’s son, and Miles best friend, wants Miles to come for a play date. Emily, who has turned up in her Porsche to pick him up, agrees and invites Stephanie back to the house for drinks.

Stephanie is a little starstruck by the glamorous Emily, impressed by her stylishness, beautiful home, and confidence. Emily seems nonplussed by her own life, mixing the two ladies martinis. She tells Stephanie that her husband, Sean (Henry Golding), is an author, and he had written a well-known book. Stephanie knows the book, having read it herself. Emily tells her he does not write anymore.

Emily asks if she is divorced. No, Stephanie tells her, she is widowed. Her husband and brother died in the same car accident. She says that fortunately, her husband had life insurance, and she has been surviving on that. Emily bemoans her financial burdens, as she is the one who brings in the money.

Stephanie tells Emily that she will look after Nicky, pick him up after school if she ever needs it. A few days later, Stephanie gets a call. Can she pick up Nicky? Stephanie tells her it’s not a problem.

Emily meets her a little later in the park and takes umbrage when Stephanie takes a photograph of her, insisting that she delete it, even threatening to take legal action. Stephanie deletes the photo.

The ladies return to Emily’s house for some drinks again. Emily tells Stephanie that she and Sean had a threesome with one of Sean’s teaching assistants. She asks Stephanie if she ever did anything bad. Stephanie tells her that she kissed her half-brother. Emily asks if that was all that happened. Stephanie’s hesitation tells her that it was more than just a kiss.

The next day, Emily asks Stephanie to pick up Nicky again. Stephanie picks the boys up. Later in the day, she cannot get a hold of Emily. Two days later, she calls Sean. He is in England seeing his sick mother. Sean comes to see Stephanie when he returns, they call the police. The police initially look at Sean as the most likely person to be the reason for her disappearance.

Stephanie comes to his defense, saying she has seen how loving they were as a couple. Besides, he was in London. Sean stays over at Stephanie’s home. The next morning he gets up and makes breakfast for them and the boys. Stephanie, not used to having a man in the house for so many years, is immediately enamoured.

Stephanie tells her vlog audience about the ongoing Emily situation, enlisting their help to try and find her. She then takes it upon herself to go to Emily’s workplace, and see Dennis Nylon. She sneaks into Emily’s office and snoops around, finding a photograph of her. Stephanie pretty much lives with Sean as the police look for Emily.

Sean gets a call. The police have found a body in a lake. Sean goes to identify the body. It is Emily. Stephanie tells her vlog audience that Emily is dead. Stephanie stays with Sean over the funeral period. They end up getting together. Stephanie sees Sean at work, hugging a woman. She begins to suspect something is not right.

At dinner, Nicky says he saw his mother. Sean tries to tell him he must be mistaken, but Nicky insists that he did see her. Stephanie tells Sean she feels like Emily is still around. He tells her that Emily was not the person she thought she was. She asks him why he took out a four million dollar insurance policy on her. He tells her that Emily actually got the idea from her.

Tell me your secrets. All of them.

Sean asks her to move in with him. Stephanie agrees and clears all of Stephanie’s clothes from the walk-in wardrobe. When she returns with some of her own clothes, she is spooked to see the wardrobe back how it was before, filled with clothing. She then gets a photograph from Emily. Emily calls. She tells Stephanie to say hi to Sean.

Stephanie goes to Sean wanting to know if he and Emily are trying to scam her. He tells her that Emily is dead, and she is overreacting. Stephanie recalls telling Emily how her husband and brother died, with her husband killing both of them deliberately because he suspected that Miles was not his child.

Stephanie tracks down an artist, Diana Hyland (Linda Cardellini) who did a painting of Emily. Diana did not know her as Emily, she knew her as Claudia, and she was her muse. Emily/Claudia conned Diana out of a lot of money, even having her pay for her to get through college. Stephanie asks if Emily/Claudia ever mentioned Michigan. Diana gives her a sweatshirt that shows a summer camp she used to go to as a child.

Stephanie goes to the holiday camp. She finds some old photos of Emily. It turns out that she is a twin. She tracks down her parents. They live in an old, remote house, surrounded by land. Stephanie goes to the house and talks to her mother, Margaret (Jean Smart). Margaret tells her that one of the daughters was evil.

The daughters were named Faith and Hope, and they caused a fire in one wing of the house before running away. Stephanie records another vlog, knowing that Emily/Claudia/Hope will watch it. She contacts the insurance company, telling them she thinks that Emily may be alive. Emily comes out of hiding to meet up with an unsuspecting Sean. He had no idea she was alive.

Stephanie tells Sean that Emily had a twin. He did not know. Stephanie meets up with Emily. Emily tells her that her sister drowned, and she just used her drowning to disappear. Stephanie does not believe her. Emily killed her because, Faith, now a heroin addict, was trying to blackmail her for drug money.

Emily comes up with another plan, persuading Stephanie to frame Sean. He gets arrested for allegedly forcing Emily to stage her own death. Stephanie and Sean try to double-cross Emily, with Stephanie pretending to shoot Sean. Emily sees through the ruse and shoots Sean, wounding him. She is about to shoot Stephanie, but Stephanie tells her that they are live streaming, the police are on the way.

Emily tries to escape but gets hit by a car as she goes runs off. The police arrest her. Six months later, Stephanie is still vlogging, hitting one million subscribers. She also becomes a sleuth for cold cases. The end.

I love you, but I love money more!

A Simple Favour, from a novel by Darcey Bell, with a script by Jessica Sharzer, is directed by the ever-prolific Paul Feig, the director behind Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and the Ghostbusters remake.

A little darker than his usual fare, Feig’s A Simple Favour is, nonetheless, a comedy. Anna Kendrick, best known for the Pitch Perfect films, is great as the Stepford-esque, Scooby gang’s lost member, Stephanie. She perfectly contrasts the striking Blake Lively’s Emily. Lively too is perfect as the compulsive, manipulative Emily.

The story zips along, Stephanie being understandably taken in by the seemingly sophisticated Emily, whose handsome, loving husband and beautiful home is a dream for Stephanie. That someone as luminous as Emily should want to be her friend, proves irresistible to Stephanie.

The film is a strong mix of straight forward thriller and comedy, with certain aspects of the film; when Stephanie goes to Dennis Nylon or the scenes with the other parents, played purely for laughs. The car crash that kills Stephanie’s brother and husband is horrific, with not a sliver of humour around the scene.

Sharzer’s script is sparkling, the conversations and voices of each character very distinct and deliberate. There are very few indulgent scenes, with the near two-hour runtime filled with a compelling story ably told by all on show.

A Simple Favour is a film that does not disappoint; amusing and entertaining in equal measure. Definitely worth adding to your watch list.

Gerald’s Game – review (Netflix)

   When a middle-aged couple, Jessie and Gerald Burlingame (Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) go to a remote location to try and spice their marriage. As they drive, Gerald nearly hits a stray, hungry dog on the path to the house. Gerald has brought handcuffs and takes a Viagra tablet, planning for a kinky night of rough passion. As he starts to play, Jessie becomes uncomfortable and demands he let her out of the cuffs. 

   They begin to argue, each blaming the other for the state of their relationship issues. As they argue, Gerald suddenly clasps his chest. He has a heart attack and dies. Jessie is still handcuffed to the bed. As she desperately tries to free herself, her mind starts to play tricks on her. She sees her dead husband and a more assertive version of herself. They tell her how to stay alive. The stray dog comes into the bedroom and starts eating bits of Gerald, much to Jessie’s dismay.

     She falls asleep as night falls. She wakes momentarily and sees a misshapen man (Stacey Struycken) leering at her. Gerald, the one in her head, tells it is death. She falls asleep again and remembers herself as a twelve-year-old girl (Chiara Aurelia) and an unsavoury incident with her father. Awake the next day, she sees Gerald and her other self again. They grill her about her childhood and her father’s inappropriate behaviour. She falls asleep again. 

    She is twelve again. Her father is apologising for masturbating on her. He manipulates her, saying that they need to tell her mother. She refuses. He pushes her to tell, saying that she will tell someone at some point and that they should tell her mother. Jessie begs him not to say anything. He agrees and says they should make a pact never to tell anyone. 

    She is woken by the dog licking her foot. Freaking out she kicks the dog away again. She only sees Gerald, her assertive, pragmatic self nowhere to be seen. He tells her that death is stalking her, waiting for her to expire. She sees the misshapen man again and then falls asleep once more. 

    She is an adult and sees herself as a child. She talks to her young self. Young Jessie gives her a clue as to what to do to escape. Awake again, both Gerald and her assertive self are back. She slits one wrist with broken glass and slips her hand out of the cuffs. 

    She escapes the cuffs and is bleeding heavily. She bandages her damaged hand and goes to get the car keys, she collapses from blood loss and dehydration. When she wakes up. The stray dog is distressed by something in the house. She sees the misshapen man at the end of the corridor. She has to go past him. She gets the car keys and gives him her wedding ring as she walks past him. She drives off, still weak from her ordeal. She crashes into a tree in the woods. She is found and returns to normal life. 

    Back in the normal world, she sets up a foundation to help abused youngster so as they do not have to go through what she went through. She also finds out that the misshapen man she saw was real. He turned out to be a particularly macabre serial killer and sexual deviant, with a rare disease that caused his disfigurement. At his court case, she turns up to face him and, in doing so defeats her personal demons. The end. 

    Gerald’s Game – another questionable title for a film – is a lot better than perhaps my synopsis of the film would have you think. Carla Gugino’s central performance is riveting. She is ably assisted by Bruce Greenwood and herself. As the film is pretty much set in one room, it still manages to move at a good pace, with the story of Jessie’s psychological battle with her demons and her mind trying to work out how to stay alive and escape. 

    Bruce Greenwood is brilliant as Jessie’s doubting voice, goading her allowing her to hide, from herself, her own mental weakness. Chiara Aurelia’s young Jessie is good as well, especially in the uncomfortable eclipse scene, sitting on her father, Tom’s – a creepy Henry Thomas – lap. 

   From a Stephen King story, the script is by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, with directing duties also falling to Mike Flanagan, is expertly crafted. The camera pretty much stays on Gugino’s Jessie chained to the bed, close-ups and full body shots giving a sense of loneliness and desperation. 

   The film does fall apart a little at the end, with the epilogue and the explanation of the misshapen man, which was weak and took away from the power of the preceding ninety minutes somewhat. 

    The film, however, is about Carla Gugino. She keeps you watching and puts in an incredible and believable performance. Gerald’s Game is an enjoyable film at one hundred and three minutes runtime and is worth seeing for Gugino’s turn alone. 



Dierda and Laney Rob a Train – review

     When Marigold Tanner (Danielle Nicolet) has a mental breakdown at work and is caught trying to steal a television, she gets sent to jail leaving her two daughters, Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) a genius level, high schooler, Laney (Rachel Crow) her unpopular younger sister and Jet (Lance Gray) their little brother, to fend for themselves.

The CPS worker, Gloria (Kinna McInroe) warns Deidra that if she cannot feed her siblings and maintain a minimum standard of living, they will be put into foster care. 

   They go to visit their mother in prison. She is still mentally fragile, glad for the state to be taking the burden of life’s struggles off of her, even if it is in the most extreme of circumstances. Deidra, frustrated and angry at her mother’s attitude, takes her siblings home. 

    Deidra earns some money tutoring other students, but it is not enough as the bills begin to pile up. She works out that they need to raise eleven thousand dollars. That will clear the debts and get them enough money to bail their mother out of jail. 

    At school, Laney is picked as a potential miss teen Idaho, much to her supposed best friend’s, Claire (Brooke Markham), displeasure. Claire does not hide her disdain, saying she expected Laney to support her. Deidra goes to see her ex, Jerry (Myko Olivier) who is a bit of wheeler-dealer. She wants to sell weed. He tells her that he does not sell weed anymore. He tells her to go see her father.

   Deidra goes and sees her father, Chet (David Sullivan), who works at the railways as a guard. He is somewhat of a wastrel and Deidra has very little respect for him. A news report video of detective Victor Truman (Tim Blake Nelson) being interviewed about train robberies.

Chet is in the back of the broadcast. The report gives Deidra an idea. She decides to rob trains. Laney and Jet go to see their mother. She tells them how she missed out on a television show because she got pregnant.

    She enlists the help of Laney and they plan to raise enough money to bail out their mother and pay the bills. Deidra also plans, secretly, to save enough to pay for college. The two sisters begin to execute their plan. They plan to steal various goods and Deidra goes back to Jerry to sell the goods. 

    Victor Nelson is investigating the robberies. He needs a win, having gotten into trouble due to excessive force on a previous case. The broken seals have alerted the railroad company. Deidra goes and visits her mother again, alone. She is unhappy that she intimated to Laney that having them, getting pregnant, derailed her life.

   Nelson suspects that the robbers are students after seeing footage of them by the tracks. Ms Spencer (Sasheer Zamata), who sees Deidra as her ticket out of the rural school she is stuck in, as she is the only student in the school with the talent to go to an ivy league college, goes looking for Deidra. When she finds that she has not been attending classes, Ms Spencer goes to their home.

   She finds out that Deidra is the mastermind behind robberies. Deidra persuades her to not turn her in. Nelson turns up at Laney’s school assembly. Deirdra, who knows that the police are after them, has not told Laney, who remains none the wiser. 

   Deidra forgets that the Gloria from the CPS is coming for a visit. She and Laney rush into the house and find Chet there talking to Gloria, saving them. Chet comes on board with the robberies, marking the containers that have the more valuable items of merchandise in them. 

    Chet goes to see Marigold in prison. They are still irresistibly drawn to one another even though they are separated. Nelson is determined to interview every student as he notices the operation has become more sophisticated. Chet tells the girls about a big haul coming through, but Laney gets worried. During an argument with Deidra, she discovers that Deidra has been taking money for college. 

     Nelson interviews the students. He dismisses Deidra because she is the valedictorian. Deidra investigates Nelson, finding out about his psychological profile. Jerry tells Deidra off for being so judgemental. She apologises. Gloria finds out that Chet is their father. Chet runs off with the kids. 

    Deidra goes to see her mom again and get the whole story. A traffic accident wiped out all the money she had been saving to send Deirdra to college. A reality show pushes her over the edge when she is at work and she ends up smashing the television and in jail. 

    Nelson works out that the Tanner sisters are the robbers. He arrests Laney at her pageant. He goes looking for Deidra. Deidra frees Laney and they hatch a plan to take down Nelson. Chet, who had left, comes back and smacks Nelson. The railway company settle with the Tanners. Deirdre goes to college. The end. 

     Deidra and Laney Rob a Train is a wonderfully entertaining film. Written by Shelby Farrell and directed quite creatively by Martin Freeland, it is an unexpected gem on Netflix, completely different from anything else you are likely to see on the streaming service.

The film jumps straight into the story, the three siblings relationship shown in the first two minutes. Five minutes in, the driving force of the film, the mom getting incarcerated, has happened and the film is off. The acting from everybody is perfect. 

   Ashleigh Murray’s Deirdra is so believable that everything that happens subsequently is completely in keeping with her. Rachel Crow as Laney, in the shadow of her quite brilliant sister, is heartbreaking and perfect. Her lack of confidence displayed in her posture and general demeanour even when she does not speak. 

    Farrell’s script is full of comedy gold, especially in the characters of Chet, Ms Spencer and Nelson. The fact that it balances drama and comedy, with the central premise of train robbing, is quite impressive. You actually believe that someone could do it, and get away with it. 

    Even though Deidra is a bit of a know-it-all, you still root for her as her heart is in the right place and ultimately they are doing a wrong thing for good reasons. The casting of Ashleigh Murray as the lead is heartening. A dark-skinned young, woman, especially as her entire screen family is light of skin and white, is a bold decision. 

   The strength of the story, acting and direction are such that the casting does not distract. It definitely helps that the bright-eyed Murray is so good in her role. The music is really good as well, punctuating scenes and working as a good mood setter. 

    Freeland’s direction is brisk and the film hurtles along at a good pace, with no wasted or unnecessary scenes. Every scene, anything that happens on the screen leads to something else or tells you some information you need to know. 

    Deidra and Laney Rob a Train is definitely worth ninety minutes of your time. It is better than the six point one on IMDB would have you believe. An absolute gem. 


Turn Up Charlie – review (Netflix)

      IS Idris Elba James Brown in disguise? Even though the erstwhile godfather of soul was known as the hardest working man in show business, his death in 2006 put an end to his hard-working practices and brilliant music career. His spirit, however, seems to have found its way into the ever-prolific Elba.

    Though his IMDB seems to reflect the normal workload of any popular actor, it does not note the adverts, deejaying, social work or general omnipresence of the man. He seems to be everywhere. 

    One of his latest appearances is in the Netflix show, Turn Up Charlie. Executive produced by and starring Elba, Turn Up Charlie sees him as a struggling, dance scene deejay still living off of the glory of a long-forgotten dance tune he produced.

   He lives with his aunt Lydia (Jocelyn Jee Esien) whilst lying to his parents, who he speaks to on FaceTime, having them believe he is a successful businessman. They also think he is engaged to be married to his, unbeknown to them, ex-girlfriend, Alicia (Ashley Bannerman). 

   As he is playing a small gig at a local pub, his old school friend David (J. J. Feild) shows up. David, a successful actor, has returned from America with his wife, Sara (Piper Perabo) and daughter, Gabrielle – ‘Gaby’ – (Frankie Hervey). Sara also happens to be a world-famous, deejay and producer. 

   When the precocious and spoilt Gaby manages to force another nanny to quit, by stealing her vibrator, Charlie steps in to help out his old friend as both parents have pressing engagements that they have to attend. 

   With Charlie being one of the few people that Gaby seems to get along with, David and Sara decide that he would make a good nanny. Charlie, desperate to get back into the upper echelons of the music scene, takes the job. 

   Set over eight, twenty-five-minute episodes, Turn Up Charlie is an enjoyable, slightly nostalgic – I was hardcore clubber in the eighties and nineties, though not into the drug scene at all – amusing dramedy. 

   As one would expect from a project co-produced by an actor, the acting is first-rate in the show, with a few faces well known to British audiences  – Angela Griffiths, Gus Khan, Jocelyn Jee Esien – making an appearance. 

   The role of Gaby is central to the story and in Frankie Hervey they found the perfect actor to inhabit the role. She is brilliant. Her chemistry with Elba is perfect, the two playing off of one another expertly. Their characters are so clearly defined and motivations easily understood, that none of the interactions seem forced or out of place. 

   There are four writers credited on the show – Georgia Lester, Laura Neal, Victoria Asare-Archer and Femi Oyeniran – With Georgia Lester credited on five out of the eight episodes. As she is credited – according to IMDB – with the first three episodes and the last two, one has to assume she pretty much sets the tone of the show. 

   For the most part, the story is good. Charlie is a good guy who, like a lot of people, wants to be seen as something more than he is. He also, like so many, does not, initially, take responsibility for his own mistakes and foibles. Gaby just wants to be more important to her parents than their respective careers. To this end, she projects a facade of confidence and entitlement, acting as though nothing bothers her. 

    David, back in England to ‘tread the boards’, is feeling upstaged by the nightly acclaim his colleague Grace (Bo Bene) is receiving in his play. When his agent tells him of a possible film job in South Africa, David wants to take it.  

   Sara is in a different place in her life and career, wanting to give Gaby more stability and let her relentless travel and deejaying take a backseat. Her agent, Astrid (Angela Griffiths) is not ready to settle down and stop partying, causing tensions between them. 

   As I said earlier, the story is good for the most part but suffers towards the end from being an almost truncated story. Because of the episodic nature of the show and the mixing of comedy and drama, it could probably have been better served over ten or twelve episodes, as opposed to the rushed and mildly unsatisfying conclusion in the eight episodes. 

    It is unclear whether Turn Up Charlie was written with the thought of a second series, though – even though there is some scope for a second series – it seems unlikely. Turn Up Charlie is an enjoyable series even if it is not a must watch. 

   Idris Elba will, no doubt, continue to be one of the hardest working men in show business. The godfather of soul would appreciate that at least.