Kate – review

Brief synopsis: In revenge after killing a member of the Yakuza, an assassin is poisoned. Dying, she has less than twenty hours to find the person responsible for ordering her death.

She kidnaps the niece of whom she believes ordered her death, hoping to flush him out.

Is it any good?: Kate is an entertaining actioner in the vein of Salt or Atomic Blonde. Playing the role of a contract killer, Kate, Mary Elizabeth Winstead ably carries the film.

With violent, kinetic action, set pieces, Kate is an exciting actioner set against a neon-lit Japanese cityscape.

Spoiler territory: In Osaka, Japan, Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is declining Varrick’s (Woody Harrelson) advice to use a scope. He presses home that this mission cannot go wrong.

She reminds him that she has not missed a shot in a dozen years. She leaves to go and position herself in the vantage point for the incoming target.

The car with the target arrives. A teenage girl gets out. She runs around the car, her father getting out on the other side. The target is open, Kate hears via her headset (Elysia Rotaru – voice).

Kate hesitates; there is a child. The voice repeats the target is open. She has to take the shot. Kate shoots, killing the girl’s father in front of her.

Sometime later, she is in Tokyo. She has told Varrick that she wants to retire. She will finish the Japan job after that; she is finished. She goes to a bar in Tokyo, trying to get some normalcy in her life.

She meets Stephen (Michiel Huisman). They have an evening of passion before Kate gets a text. The final job is on. Kate tells Stephen he has to go. She pays him.

Kate goes to the location where her intended target is going to be. She waits patiently, scope trained on the area. She does not feel right, a little unsteady.

The target appears, Kate gets the okay and takes the shot. She misses. The target, warned by the attack, is bundled into a car. Kate, against the wishes of the voice, pursues the target.

She is struggling, having ingested something that is affecting her. She steals a car and chases the target. The poison coursing through her, makes her pass out.

She wakes up in hospital. There is a radioactive poison in her body. She has about twenty hours to live. Kate recalls drinking wine with Stephen. He did not drink the wine.

Kate leaves the hospital, but not before forcing the doctor (Hirotaka Renge) to help her steal stimulants. She goes and sees Stephen, having memorised his address.

She wants to know who wants her dead. Stephen tells her he does not know. She threatens to kill his wife, Kanako (Mari Yamamoto). Stephen relents, telling her that Sato (Koji Nishiyama), part of the Kijima (Jun Kunimura) Yakuza clan.

She goes and sees Varrick. She tells him she is dying and wants to know why. Varrick tells her that she killed Kijima’s younger brother in Osaka. It is revenge and a matter of honour.

He directs her to a local club that Sato and other members of the clan hang out. Kate goes to the club. She kills multiple henchmen and lower level Yakuza. She wants to know where Kijima is.

One of the few remaining henchmen tells her that the only way to get to Kijima is through his niece, Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau). Kate finds Ani. She is the teenage daughter of the man she killed in Osaka.

Kate kidnaps Ani. Ani tells her that the only person who knows where her uncle is Renji (Tadanobu Asano). Kate tells her to call him. She uses Ani as bait, trying to get Kijima to show himself.

Renji sends men to kill Kate. And Ani. Kate gets into a firefight with multiple henchmen, killing them all. Ani, who she had tied up in a bathroom, escapes.

Ani she finds Shinzo (Kazuya Tanabe). Shinzo makes it plain to her that Renji wants her dead. Kate kills Shinzo, saving Ani. She tries to leave Ani behind but the teenager follows her.

Ani wants to help her find her uncle, believing that he wants her dead. They need to get to Renji. To do that, Ani thinks that his boyfriend, Jojima (Miyavi). They go and meet Jojima.

Kate and Jojima fight. Jojima overpowers Kate and is about to kill her. Ani smashes him in the head, killing him. They use Jojima’s mobile to track Renji down.

They find Renji and get Kijima’s location. Kate contacts Varrick and tells him where she is going; she does expect to survive the encounter. At the address, kate tells Ani to leave. She is going in alone.

Kate goes into the house and finds Kijima. He is sitting, waiting for her. Kijima speaks with her, telling her she is a pawn. Outside the house, Ani meets Varrick. He tells her that Kate killed her father.

Kijima shows Kate that Varrick betrayed her. She tries to stop Ani from going with Varrick. Ani shoots her. Ani leaves with Varrick.

Kijima finds a stunned Kate and gives her a stimulant. Varrick has returned to his office with Ani. Renji is there, the two having formulated a plan to overthrow the Kijima clan.

Kijima, Kate and an army of yakuza attack the offices. As Kate searches for Varrick, Kijima faces off against Renji. The older man quickly dispatches Renji.

Kate finds Varrick. He has Ani as a hostage knowing that Kate would come to rescue her. Kate kills Varrick. Ani hugs a dying Kate, taking her onto the roof. Kate dies. The end.

Final thoughts: Kate is an exciting action-thriller, with Winstead driving the film from the outset. There are no surprises story-wise. Everything that happens one expects to happen.

It is the camerawork, editing and directing by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan that helps to elevate this film. That and Winstead. Winstead is excellent as the relentless Kate.

Written by Umair Aleem, Kate is a competent script with a strong enough story to let the actors work. The fight scenes are violent and brilliant, with the edits and fight choreography sharp.

At one-hundred-and-six minutes long, the film hurtles through its runtime with no overly unnecessary fluff. Like I mentioned at the outset, There is an Atomic Blonde vibe about the film, Nicolas-Troyan utilising the Japanese backdrop beautifully.

Kate, above all else, is a Mary Elizabeth Winstead film. She is compelling from the first frame to the last and is one of the reasons to watch this film.

Till Death – review

Brief synopsis: A woman must fight for her life when her husband hatches an elaborate plan to have her killed in revenge for an extra-marital affair. 

Is it any good?: Till Death is not good. It could have been, but it is over-complicated, poorly paced. Additionally, Megan Fox, who plays the protagonist, cannot act. 

Spoiler territory: Emma (Megan Fox) tells Tom (Aml Ameen) that their affair must end. She cannot do it anymore. Tom, going full simp, tries to persuade her that they have something. She leaves the hotel room. 

It is her wedding anniversary. She puts her wedding band on as she drives to meet her husband, Mark (Eoin Macken), at his office.

She has tears in her eyes. Whether they are guilt or regret, is not clear. Mark’s assistant (Lili Rich) gives her a bouquet of white roses. Happy anniversary. Emma thanks her. Her expression looks as though she received a parking ticket. 

She goes into his office to wait for him. On his desk, there is a police case folder. Mark is an attorney. The case folder has a photograph of a beat-up Emma in it. It is the case folder of the man who assaulted her, Bobby Ray (Callan Mulvey). Bobby Ray does not look like a friendly guy. 

She remembers the attack, how he stabbed her in the back. Her reverie is interrupted by Mark. He remarks on her dress. He thought she would wear the red one, his favourite. She felt like something different. 

He ignores her, saying she can change on the way. So much for women’s rights. She asks why he has the file on her case. He tells her that Bobby Ray’s had his parole revoked. She should not be looking at the file. It could trigger her anxiety. 

She does not seem overly anxious; she looks bored. They leave the office, stepping into the elevator. The miserable couple stands beside one another, lost in differing thoughts. 

The elevator stops. Sam gets on. Seeing Mark, he greets him with deference, being one of his subordinates. He does not acknowledge Emma. Subtle. 

Mark asks if he has met his wife, turning to Emma. Sam, understandably, lies. No, he has never met her. Emma, the brazen hussy, points out they met at the Christmas party. Sam, not wanting to look like a punk, pretends to recall it. 

Mark, ominously, says they did not meet at the Christmas party. Both Emma and Sam look as though they are about to shit their pants. They met at the holiday party. Mark is enjoying their discomfort a little too much. 

Mark and Emma head to a restaurant to celebrate their anniversary, relations between them remaining challenging. Emma is in her red dress.

A waitress asks if they would like dessert. Emma declines. Mark, in a particularly alpha move, orders dessert for both of them. He then slides a jewellery box over to Emma. 

She was not expecting a gift. It’s a surprise. It is a steel necklace. Steel, not silver or platinum. Steel. The man is a successful attorney and buys his wife a steel necklace. She does not see any alarm bells, remarking that it is beautiful. 

Elsewhere in the restaurant, a man (Julian Balahurov) proposes to his girlfriend (Stefanie Rozhko). She tearfully accepts. There is celebratory applause from the other patrons. Truthfully, the man is older enough to be her grandfather. 

Anyhoo, Mark comments on how, not long ago, that was her. She gives him a gift; tickets for the Superbowl. With a breathtaking lack of grace, he rejects the tickets. 

Mark has another surprise for her. He has put a blindfold in her pocket. Not the most exciting present and, given their frosty relationship, should have sounded some alarm bells. It does not. 

He takes the now blindfolded Emma for a drive. She gets agitated, removing the blindfold an hour into the journey. They are on the way to the lake house. It is the dead of winter, with snow and ice all around.

At the lake house, Emma has the blindfold on again. She is counting to one hundred. Removing the blindfold, she sees that he has set out house romantically; rose petals on the ground; candles, secret messages. 

She finds him in the bedroom, holding a couple of flutes of champagne. He apologises for the state of their relationship; It has not been going well for a while. That’s good enough for her. He’s getting action. 

Emma wakes in the morning to find Mark sitting up. He has handcuffed her to him. Confused, she calls to him. Mark turns to her and tells her it is time to wake up. He commits suicide, shooting himself in the head. 

A blood-splattered Emma is, understandably, shocked. Attached to his bloody and disfigured corpse, she looks at her options. She will call somebody. Nope. He thought of that; no phone line. Use the gun to shoot off the handcuff? There was only one bullet in the gun. He blew his brains out with it. 

Emma drags his body to the top of the stairs. She needs to go downstairs. Not thinking it through, she pulls him to the top of the stairs, promptly crashing down the steps under his weight. 

She goes to the kitchen but Mark, the fiend, has thought of everything. There are no utensils; no way for her to separate from her recently deceased spouse. 

She finds the car keys and drags dead Mark to the garage., which is outside the main house. Because he has left her with no clothes, including no footwear. Not only must she contend with his non-cooperative bodyweight, but also the freezing weather. 

She gets to the car and attempts to drive away. That would be too easy; he has drained the tank. He left her a message in the car. 

He knows about her affair with Tom, though it was not the reason he committed suicide. The suicide worked with his plan. She has no idea what that plan is. She goes back to the house. 

Emma tries to remove the necklace after washing the blood off her face. It will not come off. A frustrated Emma rages at his hypocrisy. A still dead, Mark, does not react. 

Tom turns up at the house. After an initial reluctance, Emma opens the door to him and explains what has happened. He tells her that Mark was about to be arrested for tampering with multiple cases. Hence the suicide. 

Tom has left his mobile charging in his car. As he goes to retrieve it, a car is pulling up to the house. He tells Emma to lock the door, get back in. 

Jimmy (Jack Roth) purports to be a plumber. He has come to fix the pipes. Tom tells him that it will not be possible to do the job at that time, he is happy to pay him for his time. 

Jimmy is determined to enter the house, coming up with myriad reasons to be let in. Tom gets aggressive, insisting that he leave. Jimmy did not come alone. Bobby Ray is Jimmy’s brother. he is not as patient as his younger sibling. 

He stabs Tom, killing him, much to the distress of his brother. Bobby calms him down. They need to search the house and find Emma. Emma’s movement is still somewhat restricted by having to drag a corpse around. 

Somehow, she manages to evade the two hapless brothers and get to the boathouse. In the boathouse, Emma frees herself from her dead deadbeat husband by cutting off his thumb. 

The brothers almost find her. Almost. They find Mark’s body. Bobby tells Jimmy that it was Mark who gave him the job. Jimmy recognises Mark as the person who put Bobby in prison. 

Bobby wants the money. he also wants revenge. Jimmy looks at the safe. It needs a thumbprint and a combination to open. Jimmy thinks the job is too much trouble and wants to leave. His brother wants the fortune. 

He tells Jimmy to get the corpse. He will find Emma. After some more cat-and-mouse antics, Bobby captures Emma. Not before she can make a call to the police. 

Bobby wants the combination to the safe. Emma does want to give it to him, knowing it is the only thing keeping her alive. Bobby believes he can coax the combination out of her by giving her an incentive. He threatens to cut off her toes. 

Jimmy, exasperated by his brother’s penchants for violence, prevents him from carrying out his threat. He points the gun Mark killed himself with at Bobby. He does not know that there are no bullets in the gun. 

Jimmy persuades Emma to give him the code. Bobby opens the safe; it is empty with only a message left in it. The diamonds are close to Emma’s heart. The diamonds are in the necklace. 

She tries to remove the necklace, but it has no clasp. Bobby, eager to exact retribution on Emma, realises that Mark wants them to cut her head off. He has no problem with that. 

His violence averse brother is opposed to that option, causing the two brothers to fight. Jimmy gets killed during the altercation. Bobby, not one for rational thought or discourse, blames Emma. 

He attacks her. First, trying to shoot her with the unloaded gun, then the two wrestle on the ground. Emma manages to escape, but not before he stabs her in the leg. She manages to handcuff Bobby to Mark. 

Bobby relentlessly pursues Emma dragging Mark’s corpse. They end up on the lake fighting. The ice breaks, Bobby is dragged down by Mark’s corpse but not before grabbing Emma. 

In the icy waters below the surface, the two struggle once more. Emma manages to grab the knife Bobby wants to kill her with and stabs him in the eye. 

Freed from his grasp, she escapes to the surface. Sirens blare as the police head to the lakehouse. The end. 

Final thoughts: Till Death is a moderately entertaining film let down by a weak central performance. Written by Jason Carvey and directed by S. K. Dale, the film looks good and has a good premise. 

The film moves too slowly, the pacing exposing Fox’s thespian shortcomings. Everybody else on show is good. Even Macken makes the underwritten role of Mark work. 

Unfortunately, Fox is the driving force of the film. Though not unwatchable, her expressiveness seems only able to cover sullen or miffed. One is never fully invested in her battle. 

The underwritten script makes elements of the story muddled, taking away from the main story. 

At eighty-eight minutes long, Till Death is not a long film, it just takes too long to get going. The downside is it tries to stuff too much into the conclusion. 

If you like Megan Fox, you might enjoy Till Death. For non-Fox fans, there is not much to recommend this film.

Father Christmas is Back – review

Brief synopsis: an uptight woman struggles to have a traditional Christmas with her extended family. As she strives to control all the circumstances of the festivities, another element rears its head; their estranged father.

Is it any good?: Father Christmas is Back is an utter turd of a film. A supposed comedy, the film is a painful, almost laugh-free watch.

That four people combined to write this worthless mess is a mystery that sharper minds than mine will ponder for years. 

Spoiler(ish) territory: Uptight Caroline Christmas-Hope (Nathalie Cox), is dressing the family Christmas tree. She wants Christmas to be perfect. As Caroline puts the finishing touches, she wobbles and falls. It is hilarious. No, it is not. 

Her husband, Peter (Kris Marshall), comes and picks her up off of the floor. She is frantic about having a perfect Christmas, her family en route to the home. Peter is more sanguine, sure that everything will be fine. 

As the highly-strung Caroline bleats on about wanting an exquisite Christmas, Peter listens patiently. It’s very amusing. Not really. She asks him to collect a bag of gifts from the bedroom. The gifts are for the local old peoples home. 

Get this; there are two bags of gifts! In identical bags! Haha! Anyhoo, Peter does not check the contents of the bags. No, why the heck would he do that? He radios his wife – they live in a mansion – and asks which bag. It’s the bag on the right. 

Yes, my friends, this is the expert setup for a joke, the pay-off of which comes towards the end. The hilarity continues. Caroline picks up her two sprogs, Daisey (Amelie Prescott) and her younger brother, Henry (Oliver Smith). 

They visit the old peoples home to drop off the gifts. Daisey is nervous because she is playing Mary in an upcoming nativity play. Luckily for her, one of the old dears, Jean (Ania Marson), has some experience of treading the boards. 

Jean tells Daisey that she played the lead role herself, adding that she slept with many people to get the part. A slightly embarrassed Caroline gathers her children and leaves. The laughs never stop. 

Returning home, she finds Peter has decorated the tree with toilet rolls and makeshift decorations. Caroline is horrified. The children love it. 

The next day, the sisters start to arrive. First is Joanna (Elizabeth Hurley), the cougar of the family. In her mid-forties but dressing as though she were in her twenties, Joanna has a new boyfriend, Felix (Ray Fearon) and the sisters’ mother, Elizabeth (Caroline Quentin) in tow. 

Next to arrive is Paulina (Naomi Frederick). Paulina is obsessed with The Beatles, sporting their famous hairstyle of the sixties. She is writing a thesis-cum-book on the band. My sides are hurting with all the chuckles. 

Watching proceedings from an adjacent property is John (John Cleese), uncle to the sisters. Vicky (Talulah Riley) is the last to arrive. She is a free spirit and the youngest. She is a bit of a slut. So there is that. 

John joins the family in the house. He has an ulterior motive, wanting to see Elizabeth. In the kitchen, the four sisters are chatting. Vicky tells them that she spent a couple of weeks with their father in America. 

The other sisters are shocked and a little miffed to hear that, much to her amusement. To the shock and bemusement of everyone, James (Kelsey Grammer), their father, turns up at the manor. Vicky invited him. He has brought his girlfriend, Jackie (April Bowlby). Elizabeth faints. 

The Christmas family muddle their way through…Christmas. A long-held family secret gets revealed. All is resolved. Yippee and Merry Christmas. The end. 

Final thoughts: Father Christmas is Back is wretched. It is not entirely down to the script. Maybe ninety-eight percent of it. Directed by Mick Davis and Phillippe Martinez, with a story by Martinez. The god-awful script is by Hannah Davis, David Conolly and Dylanne Corcoran. 

What makes the film even more painful, is that far better comedy writers – Caroline Quentin, John Cleese and Kathy Brand – are in the film. The acting is teak-like in the extreme, the assembled cast struggling to make the material work. 

Hurley, not blessed with natural acting ability, is poor. The woman is trying but she is out of her depth. Rolls Royce gets a good showing, one of their beautiful Wraith’s given much screen time. The best thing in the film.

The film is over-saturated, so colourful that even a rainbow would pale in comparison. A British film, there is a smattering of farce that does not work. There are far too many jokes that do not work in this film. 

The unfunny scenes are too numerous to list. That two comedy greats in Grammer and Cleese should find themselves in one such scene, – the ‘old blokes squaring up for a fight’ a classic! – is criminal. 

Father Christmas is Back – his surname is Christmas! Ho ho no. – is terrible. Truthfully, the trailer does not promise much. I expected the film to be bad. It under delivers spectacularly. 

At one-hundred-and-five minutes, it is not a long film. However, it is still too long for any right-minded, sober person to sit through. You have been warned.

The Princess Switch 3 – review

Brief synopsis: When a priceless jewelled attract gets stolen, a queen and princess decide to recruit the criminal doppelgänger cousin of the queen to help retrieve it. The artefact needs returning before the cardinal, who lent the artefact, finds out, causing an international incident.

Is it any good?: As inevitable as Noddy Holder and Mariah Carey getting airtime on streaming services and radios across the Christian world, in the run-up to Christmas, Vanessa Hudgens is easing into the same category, a Christmas rom-com of some description reliably releasing around the holidays. 

The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star sees Hudgens reprise the multiple roles of queen, princess and cousin in the popular franchise. As is the case with many sequels, this one sees diminishing returns from a premise that has perhaps run its course. 

Spoiler(ish) territory: Queen Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens), along with her close friend and doppelgänger, Princess Stacy (also Hudgens), is hosting a Christmas festival in their home nation, Montenaro. 

Dignitaries from around the world are invited to the small principality for the festival. The Vatican has loaned a rare, jewelled artefact for the occasion; The Star of Peace. 

The jewel is stolen days before the festival. The queen must retrieve the item without the Vatican finding out about its loss. They need someone who knows the world of criminality. 

They recruit Fiona (Hudgens again), another doppelgänger and cousin to the queen. Fiona, serving community service for attempting to steal the monarchy, agrees to help get the item back. 

Fiona goes to see an old friend, Peter (Remy Hii), a former Interpol agent. Peter works out that a. hotel tycoon, Hunter Cunard (Will Kemp), had the gem stolen. A collector of rare items, Hunter had it stolen. 

Peter reasons, given Hunter’s connection, reporting the jewel stolen would only create more of a problem. They will have to steal the jewel back. They formulate a plan to attend the tycoon’s annual Christmas party. There they will steal back the gem. 

Peter has a soft spot for Fiona. It is something he has had since childhood, the two longtime acquaintances. Fiona does not have close relationships. Her memories of her mother, Bianca’s (Amanda Donohoe), abandonment around the holidays, acute. 

The theft is a three-person job. One of Fiona’s flunkies, Reggie (Ricky Norwood), gets injured. Queen Margaret must impersonate Fiona for the mission’s success.

The conditions of Fiona’s community service, Stacy finds impersonating the wayward cousin whilst she and the queen complete the theft. 

Final thoughts: The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star is a harmless piece of fluff. Easily the weakest of the three films, it lacks the charm and humour of its predecessors. 

Hudgens is watchable as ever. Unusually, especially for Hudgens, an actor whose chemistry with a variety of male actors is one of her strengths, her chemistry with Hii’s Peter is non-existent. 

With Mike Rohl on directing duties again, Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger are the writers, just as they were on the previous two instalments.

The script, this time around, does not have the same snap or humour of the previous films. Even the humour that should work is a little forced. The actors work gamely to try and make the story work, reprising their various roles admirably. 

The script, unfortunately, is just a little flat. The directing is competent, the film looks good. With a one-hundred-and-six minute runtime, the film bumps through at a good pace. There are a few lulls but nothing significant. 

The weak strand about abandonment around the holidays and the film being set around Christmas are the only things that make it a festive film. There are no surprises. What one expects to happen happens and it looks how it is meant to look. 

The Princess Switch 3 – Romancing the Star is an okay film if you enjoyed the previous two instalments. As a standalone film, it does not hold up. It is not worth an hour and forty minutes of one’s time.

The Harder They Fall – review

With a screenplay by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin, with Samuel also on directing duties, The Harder They Fall is a Western made notable by an almost exclusively black cast. 

Using the Western staples of revenge and the overthrowing of a small town, The Harder They Fall is a big-screen film forced, by present circumstances, onto the small screen. 

A host of well-known stars and actors appear in this well-made film. Idris Elba leads the charge as the antagonist, Rufus Buck. He is ably supported by Regina King, as Trudy Smith, and Lakieth Stanfield as Cherokee Bill. 

The protagonist, Nat Love, is played by Johnathan Majors. Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary, Edi Gathegi as Bill Pickett, Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee and RJ Cyler as Jim Beckworth make up the rest of Love’s crew. Delroy Lindo’s Bass Reeves brings the two factions together. 

The story begins with a god-fearing man (Michael Beach) sitting down to eat with his young wife, Eleanor (Dewanda Wise) and son, Nat (Chase Dillon). 

There is a knock at the door. Two men come into the house, Rufus and Jesus Cortez (Julio Cesar Cedillo). The man recognises Rufus. He is not glad to see him, knowing that it is not a good omen. 

Rufus kills the man and his wife. He carves a cross into young Nat’s forehead. Many years later, a grownup Nat, a well-known outlaw himself, exacts revenge on Cortez. 

All of this happens before the credits roll on Samuels’ beautifully crafted and nostalgic homage to Westerns, the Old West and figures from history. 

From the outset, the writers state that the film is a work of fiction. Even though all the names are real people from the Western era, the story is fictitious.

The beauty of Samuel and Yakin’s story is that the cast being predominantly black is not important. There are elements of the film, that work better, because of it, but it is not the driving force of the film. 

From a technical standpoint, The Harder They Fall is a wonderful piece of work. From the stylised opening title sequence, dusty, yet colourful, palette and shot selection to pacing and fabulous soundtrack, The Harder They Fall is an enjoyable treat. 

All the actors on show bring their A-game, with standout performances from Regina King and Lakieth Stanfield. Idris Elba is the biggest name on the call sheet.

However, it is Majors’ Love that drives the film, his chilled demeanour carrying proceedings easily. Majors’, who recently appeared in Loki, as the time-travelling villain, Kang, star is in the ascendancy. 

Veteran actor, Delroy Lindo, is such a natural fit as the lawman, Bass Reeves, a role made for him to play. There are so many great scenes in the film, from Deon Cole’s Wiley Escoe, as the sheriff of Redwood, bravado monologue before being persuaded to leave town, to Elba’s Rufus final revelation, the film is full of gems. 

The music of the film deserves a special mention. There is hip hop, reggae, soul, traditional Western-style music and accents. 

Besides the nods to the classic spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, there is a quiet homage to The Magnificent Seven, with the bond amongst Love’s motley crew of protagonists, going beyond greed or need. 

There is a wobble, the story of Love’s revenge momentarily overshadowed. Redwood needs saving from the tyranny of Rufus and his gang. This particular storyline peters out, none of the townsfolk figuring in the story later on. 

At two-hour-and-nineteen minutes, The Harder They Fall is a long film. It does not feel long. The action is well-spaced out, the peak and troughs of the film, keeping one’s interest throughout. 

Jeymes Samuel has fashioned a highly enjoyable film, that is well worth the two hour viewing time.

Passing – review

Brief synopsis: In 1920’s America, a couple of mixed-race women get reacquainted, having not seen one another since high school. One of the women is married to a white man and passes herself off as white. The other embraces her black side, her family life in Harlem. 

Is it any good?: Passing, a directorial debut from actor Rebecca Hall, is a bit of a disappointment. From a book of the same name, the film promises more than it delivers. With so many subjects to explore, Passing barely skims the surfaces of them, the film a frustrating viewing experience. 

Spoiler(ish) territory: Irene (Tessa Thompson) is shopping in New York. It is the 1920’s. Emancipation has been a thing since the beginning of the century nevertheless, black people remain second-class citizens. 

A pale mixed-race woman, Irene nervously shops amongst the white people. None of them notice that she is not white. It is the height of summer in New York, the heat oppressive. 

Irene visits a hotel bar for a cool drink. The patronage is all-white; she feels out of place. A young couple comes into the bar. The woman is blond and pretty, her partner fawning over her. 

The man leaves her, going to the bathroom. Irene looks at the woman, who catches her looking and stares back at her. The woman approaches, calling her name. 

Irene does not recognise her. The woman begins to laugh. It’s Clare (Ruth Negga), an old high school friend. Irene had not seen her for over a decade. 

Clare is passing herself off as white. Even her husband does not know she is mixed. Clare has a daughter that, thankfully, came out pale of skin. Mistakenly, she thinks Irene is doing the same. 

Irene explains that she is still living in the same neighbourhood. She lives in a black area. Harlem. She does not want to pass for white. Irene, isolated in white society, jumps at the opportunity to reconnect with the black life she grew up knowing. 

Final thoughts: Hall’s love for the source material is evident in the film. That is the problem. The script has little to no exposition, requiring Thompson and Negga to tell the story through their emotions and acting. 

As excellent as both actors are – and they are both very good – the film’s script gives them too little to work with. The ninety-eight-minute film is filled mostly, with Thompson’s not unattractive face, struggling to tell some type of story. 

It is difficult to know how faithful to the source material the film is. A book tends to lend itself more to an emotive experience. Passing is very emotive, tackling the prickly subjects of race, identity, class and belonging. 

Though Hall’s film is not long, it is interminably slow. The story meanders, the tensions that Negga’s character must have suffered are not evident at all. 

Thompson’s Irene, in contrast, has her own demons. Sadly, the script and minimal interactions with other characters do not allow them to show. Passing has gained some critical acclaim, which one can only believe is due to the subject matter it tackles. 

From a technical standpoint, the film is not great. It is in focus, yes, but some of the shot selections seem more indulgent than necessary. Shooting the entire film in black and white, whilst artsy, is a bit of a copout, the light coloured skin of both actors leaning towards white for the viewer. 

The jazz club scene works well in the film, the energy leaping off the screen. Similarly, the concluding party scene has a buzz about it that, rather than contrasting with the rest of the film, shows up the slow pacing.

That Hall is an actor herself is evident in the performances from the cast. All of the actors bring strong performances. Ultimately, Passing disappoints because it had so much scope and promise. Not a terrible film but an unsatisfying one that is difficult to recommend.

Intrusion – review

Brief synopsis: a couple, tired of big city living, moved across the country to a small rural town in the hopes of living a more sedate life. Returning from a date night, they find their home ransacked after a break-in. 

Their relationship comes under severe strain when the husband kills multiple assailants during a second break-in. 

Is it any good?: Um, it might be if one had any idea what was happening! To say Intrusion is a confusing mess is an understatement. That the central pairing of Pinto and Marshall-Green lack any chemistry does not help either. 

Midway through the film, one is still confused. What is it about? Who are the characters? The film could – and probably should be – called ‘Trust’, but I suspect that title is somewhat overused. It is still a weak effort. Something that is all too often the case on Netflix. 

Spoiler territory: out for a date night, psychiatric counsellor, Meera (Freida Pinto) and her architect husband, Henry Parsons (Logan Marshall-Green), the least compatible looking couple in tv-movie-history, return home to find their new place wrecked. 

Meera, a cancer survivor and prone to anxiety, is, understandably, an emotional wreck. Henry, ever the doting husband, tries to reassure her that everything will be fine. They report the break-in to the police.

Detective Steven Morse (Robert John Burke), visits Henry, whilst Meera is at work. The detective asks what items were taken. Just a couple of mobile phones and a laptop. Did they have any enemies? Not that Henry knew of. They had only been in the town for a year. 

They had moved from Boston. He had decided to build a house in Corrales. He had wanted to get away from the rat race, create a place for his wife to feel safe after her health issues. None of this is explained until five minutes from the end of the film. I guess the writer thought it would be too much exposition. 

Did he have any enemies in Boston? The spectacle-wearing, Henry, looks aghast at the thought that he could have an enemy that would cross the country. Truthfully, Henry looks like a serial killer but the detective is too polite to say. 

The detective remarks on the lack of a security system in the house. Henry says he thought Corrales was a safe town. Never watched shitty Netflix movies then…

Meera goes to see her oncologist, doctor Burke (Denielle Fisher Johnson). The doctor mentions how she heard about the break-in. It’s a small town. Back at the house, Henry is installing a locks and security system. It works vis their mobile phones.

Meera returns home. Henry has been busy putting the home back in order. He has replaced their mobile phones. He also installed an app, so as they know where the other person is at all times. Not big brother like at all. Meera seems unperturbed by all the changes, trusting her, slightly overprotective husband, implicitly. 

During the night, Meera wakes up and notices that the power is out. She wakes Henry. He checks the generator outside the house. It has been tampered with, the power deliberately cut. He looks back to the house and sees torch beams in the rooms. Henry runs back to the house. 

Meera is tied up in the bedroom. Henry quickly frees his wife and the two sneak downstairs. The intruders are in Henry’s office. Henry goes and gets a gun that he had hidden in a plant pot, much to the obvious surprise of Meera. Henry is tackled by one of the men, Meera’s screams alerting the others. 

The couple manages to escape, running back up to the bedroom. Henry tells Meera to get to the car, lowering her over the balcony. Before he can follow his wife, Henry is grabbed by the intruders. Meera goes to the car but hears shots fired and screams for her husband. One of the intruders staggers towards the car, already dying from a gunshot wound. Henry shoots him in the back. In the back! 

The next day, Meera wants to know why there was a gun in the house. Henry apologises. He is bullish about not having told her about the weapon, as that weapon saved their lives. Detective Morse comes to see the couple. The men who broke into their home were all from the same family. The Cobb family. They resided in a trailer park in the rough part of town. Not that trailer parks are ever in the nice part. 

The family is also connected to the disappearance of a girl; Christine Cobb (Megan Elisabeth Kelly). She was a relation to the men. Later on, Meera cannot understand Henry’s blasé attitude. He killed three men. Henry lies, telling her it makes him sick to think about it. She does not believe him, especially as he seems to be focused on the house-warming they were planning. 

Henry pops out to pick up some things for the aforementioned party. He forgets his wallet and Meera’s efforts to contact him on his mobile are met with his voicemail. She decides to go after him, to give him the wallet. 

Whilst following after him, she notes that he takes a road heading towards the hospital. She is unable to keep following him, getting into a minor accident on the road. She returns home and asks him about his journey, telling him she followed him and he took the wrong road. 

Henry, his dodgy facade fading by the minute since his murder spree, says he took the wrong road. Meera does not look convinced. She gives him his wallet. What happened to her car? She had it towed and took an Uber. 

At work the next day, Meera suffers a PTSD episode. She imagines one of the intruders pointing a gun at her. It never happened. She leaves work. One of her colleagues bid her farewell and voices her sadness at the cancellation of the housewarming party. Meera did not know about the cancellation. 

In the car park, she is surprised by detective Morse. He heard about her accident. He also tells her that one of the intruders, who had been in hospital, died. He died on Sunday night. He notes that Meera is driving a new car. It’s Henry’s, she tells him. The detective leaves. 

Meera checks the vehicle’s satellite navigation, scrolling through the addresses. One is the trailer park home of the Cobbs, the family Henry wiped out. She visits the home and finds one of Henry’s business corporate envelopes addressed to the Cobbs. 

She finds a video camera and USB drive in their mail slot. Meera is confronted by a paranoid trailer park resident, Clint Oxbow (Clint Obenchain). He smashes the camera, believing she had filmed him. A shaken Meera returns home and tries to view the video but the damage done to the camera prevents it from playing properly. 

She orders a new camera, putting her work address for the delivery. Alone at home, Meera snoops around Henry’s office. She looks at the contents of the USB drive. There are pictures of the house construction. One of the Cobbs, the father of Christine, Dylan (Mark Sivertsen) is in the photos. So is Christine. 

Henry returns home. Meera gets flustered as Henry questions about her whereabouts. The app showed her across town. Meera avoids the question. Later, sitting down to dinner, Henry comes back to the question. He is intense, asking her if she is hiding something. Meera, nervous, a little guilty, stammers. 

He asks her about her doctor’s appointment and if she got the results as he thought that the specialist was on the other side of town. He is just worried that she is keeping it from him. He apologises for the inquisition. 

As Henry sleeps, Meera gets up to look at the photos on the USB stick. In the morning, Henry wakes up to see the bed beside him empty. Meera has already left. Outside the police station, Meera is wrestling with the notion of giving the USB to the authorities. She decides against it, deterred by seeing a crazed Clint being taken into the station under arrest for killing a female. 

Meera returns home and confronts Henry about the evidence she found at the trailer park. Henry tells her that the house and her treatment forced him to make certain decisions that impacted them financially. A deal he made with the Cobb family resulted in him being blackmailed. 

Meera laps up the excuse, her worries soothed by his elaborate explanation. The tension lifted, Henry thinks it would be a good idea to have the cancelled housewarming party. A few days later, the house is full of people and Henry and Meera are the gracious hosts. 

During the evening, Meera sees a news broadcast reporting on Clint’s arrest. He was arrested for animal cruelty, killing a dog. A bitch, the female. Suspicions surrounding his connection to the disappearance of Christine, had been dismissed. 

Something in the newscast prompts her to watch the video she found. The video shows Dylan saying he thinks Henry had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance. Meera decides to search Henry’s office. The party is still going on. 

She finds a button in his office. The button opens a secret door to a basement. Meera finds Christine tied to a chair in the room. Christine sees Meera and begins to scream and panic. The sound does not travel as she is gagged. Henry, who had noticed the light in his office go on, finds Meera in the room.

He tries to explain to her that he has urges. That is why he built the house. Really? They have been married for twelve years, the house is a year old. Anyhoo, Meera, standing in front of her deranged husband, tries to call the police. Henry stops her and ties her up in the basement. Henry returns to the party and gets rid of the guests, making an excuse about Meera being unwell. 

In the basement, Christine tells Meera she has no idea how long she has been in the basement. He did not abuse her physically. It was purely mental, telling her that he would decide. Meera manages to free herself. She frees Christine. 

Henry returns to the basement, still wanting to continue his relationship with Meera. The two women escape the basement, into the main house. They try to leave the house but Henry locks all of the doors remotely. 

He finds the women in the house and knocks Meera into a daze as he drags Christine back to the basement. In the basement, Henry picks up a baseball bat. He is going to kill Christine. Meera hits Henry first, splitting his head open with a heavy ornament, killing him. 

Sometime later, Meera sells the house and returns to Boston. The end. 

Final thoughts: Intrusion is a very silly film. It is too short for the story it wants to tell and most of the tension comes from the music instead of the story. Ably directed by Adam Salky, this underwritten film comes from the pen of Chris Sparling. 

There are all the elements of a promising film; a loving central relationship. A relocation to a small town. A secretive yet possessive spouse. A curious protagonist to help the viewer discover the story and unravel the plot. It is all there.

Unfortunately, none of the elements are utilised particularly well. There is a vague thread about cancer and Meera’s understandable worry. Then five minutes from the end we learn that it was quite serious, crippling her for a period. We only find this out through an expository dump as Henry whines about his urges.

His ‘urges’, as he calls them, are not alluded to at any other time in the film. There is no hint at a history of murderous urges or missing girls. Even though he had Christine captive, it only seemed to be so as he could decide when to cave her head in with the baseball bat. A very specific urge. 

How they had managed to be married for over a decade yet Meera did not notice his homicidal urges, is inconceivable and unbelievable. Henry is clingy and overbearing but the film portrays them as though their relationship is new. 

The film looks good in a modern, lean sort of way. The set design lacks soul, with none of the locations looking natural or adding to the story. Admittedly, the film does whizz through its ninety-two-minute runtime but that speed is to its detriment. An extra fifteen minutes, allowing for more of a build-up would have improved this film immensely. One to give a miss.

Lethal Love – review

Brief synopsis: After opening a new bakery coffee shop, a mother and daughter team cannot agree on a suitable method to attract customers. When a handsome musician busks outside of their new establishment and brings in customers, the two women are enamoured by him. The musician secretly woos both women until the daughter discovers what he is doing forcing him to change his plans. 

Is it any good?: hmm. It has a standard lazy title, Lethal Love, an attractive B-list cast and a silly premise, so not really, no. it does, however, almost tick the box of being awfully entertaining. The ending is horribly weak. There is a female-centric-ness about the film that skews the story. 

Considering the story was written by a woman, this does not seem especially strange except that the female characters, without exception, are exceedingly stupid. 

Spoiler territory: Blaine King (David Pinard) is penning a letter to Penny Jackson (Dayle McLeod), apologising for leaving. He glances at a photo of Penny and her sister, Camila (Cait Alexander). 

He scrubs blood off of the floor and cleans up. Something wicked happened there, one thinks.

Outside, he tells an unconscious or dead Camila, who is in a duffle bag in the boot, that they could have been good together. We do not see Camila again. 

In a picturesque town, mother and daughter, Sandra (Tori Higginson) and Sophie Sullivan (Joelle Farrow) are interviewed by a reporter (Michelle Rambharose) about the realisation of their bakery, Sweet Surrender, a name inspired by their favourite film. 

The reporter takes a photo for the local paper. The turnaround of news is pretty swift as dodgy geezer Blaine, has the article a few days later as he sizes up the bakery. 

Inside, Ange (Tommie-Amber Pirie), a local artist and someone who helps out in the bakery drops by. Sandra laments the lack of customers. Ange remarks how it has only been open a few weeks. As there are more staff than customers, Ange must be getting paid in cake. 

Sophie says she has been brainstorming ideas for promotions, but as her mother does not know any of the ideas, I do wonder who she brainstormed with as it is not something one generally does alone. 

Anyhoo, Sophie thinks they should try social media, utilising local influencers. Sandra immediately shoots the idea down. Too expensive. Not if you pay in cake! 

Sophie does not come up with that retort and instead listens to her mother’s, frankly, turd of a suggestion to give out coupons. A respectful daughter, Sophie reluctantly agrees.

Their discussion is interrupted by the sound of music coming from outside. They go outside to find Blaine busking outside of the store. Blaine stops as they come out, apologising for singing outside their shop. Mother and daughter, who obviously have too much time on their hands and do not get out much, encourage him to continue. 

Blaine can carry a tune. Soon, a bit of a crowd gathers. It seems this is a town full of people who are easily distracted and pleased. Sophie goes into the store and grabs some cake samples to hand out.

It seems Blaine’s impromptu concert has brought the patrons. The bakery is buzzing. After some introductions, Sandra invites Blaine in for coffee. 

Sophie, an attractive girl who somehow manages to not get hit on at all, thinks they should ask Blaine if he would play for them in the store. Sandra is sure he has his own thing going on. Sophie reasons that it does not hurt to ask.

She asks Blaine what his plans are. He spins the vaguest bollocks about using his savings and going where the road and this ‘gee – tar’ – okay he didn’t say ‘gee – tar’ but he should have – takes him. 

Movie romantics that they are, mother and daughter lap up the story. Sophie, panties getting moist in the presence of such a hottie, remarks she would not mind doing the same. Very subtle. 

Mind back on the job, she asks Blaine if he would play in the store. That is if he is going to be around for a few days. Sandra, more pragmatic than her hormonally challenged daughter, says they will pay. Her tone intimates that the pay would be minimal. 

Blaine, not as hot as we are meant to believe, with an unsettling smile, says that he would help them out by playing for tips. And cake. He didn’t say cake, but he will get cake. And coffee. 

In the evening, mother and daughter and Ange, who just hangs around for the free food, are enjoying a glass of wine and some chocolates that Sophie created. Outside, Blaine watches on with the eyes of a serial killer. 

The next day, Blaine waits for Sophie to come out of the store. He walks towards her, pretending not to see her and damn near takes her out – linebacker-style – as he ‘accidentally’ crashes into her. 

Apologising, Blaine asks her what she is up to. She is going to hand out flyers around town. Would she like some company? Of course, she would! No other man in town talks to her! 

They walk around town and Blaine invites her to sit on a bench as he probes her for information on herself. Sophie tells him it was one of her dreams to open the bakery with her mother and that she wants to go cliff jumping.

He feints interest but nearly trips himself up when he lets on that he knows about her working at the farmer’s market, Sophie wants to know how he knows about that. Blaine tells her that her mother mentioned it. That is a good enough explanation for her. 

Sophie asks what his dreams are. He already mostly, lives them, playing his music and singing his songs. He would like to settle down somewhere though. 

Sophie, a woman on heat and as subtle as a branding iron, asks if he would consider settling down in a town like theirs. Blaine, thinking this must be too damn easy, says he could be persuaded. 

Okay, so Sophie stands mesmerised by Blaine playing in the store, oblivious to Ange trying to get her attention. Ange is also impressed by Blaine, saying that if she was not married she would go for him. 

The fact that she is married to a woman does not seem to matter. Equality right there. 

Ange, who moments before had seen how entranced Sophie was by Blaine, intimates to Sandra that she should go for Blaine. With friends like her….anyhoo, Sandra points out that there is a bit of an age difference and she is happily single. 

Ange, not one to give up and remarkably dense when it comes to emotional cues considering she swings both ways, asks Sophie what she thinks of Blaine. 

She says her mother would frown upon her dating an older guy. Older guy? I’m not sure how old Sophie is meant to be but Blaine is at most eight years older. 

Ange, reinforcing her denseness, says she means for her mother. Sophie, progressive in thought, says she is happy with whatever her mother wants. 

Later, dodgy Blaine goes and finds Sophie’s identification and finds out she is a Leo star sign. Back in the store, Sandra gives him some sort of dessert as a thank you for the music. 

Blaine compliments the dish and manages to weave into the conversation that he is a Leo. Sophie, as people do, remarks she too is a Leo. He is slick. He talks about how nice it is to be there and how homely it feels. 

Sandra remarks how his family must be proud of him. Yes, because families are always proud of the travelling musician in the family. Blaine, a pained furrowing of the brow, tells them his family has all died. 

Sandra comforts him with the fact that he has them now. Blaine offers to help with clearing up in the store. There is a lot of dishes. It is as though they do not wash anything up until the end of the day. 

He offers to help with the clearing of leaves at their home. At their home the next day, Blaine takes the time to snoop around. Sophie returns home but Blaine sees her and returns to the garden. 

Sophie goes and interrupts him raking leaves and gets knocked over by a startled Blaine for her troubles. She cuts her hand falling. Blaine takes her into the house and tends to her wound. 

Sophie had brought him lunch. Blaine shares the food with her and makes his move. Sophie, doe-eyed over him, puts up little resistance. 

She belatedly, mentions that she thought that he was into her mother. Blaine says he prefers her. Guilt absolved, Sophie succumbs to his…charms. 

She wants to keep their relationship secret as she does not think her mother would understand. Blaine unsurprisingly agrees. 

Later that evening, a text conversation has Sophie sending Blaine a couple of risqué – there was shoulder on show. Naked shoulder! – photographs. In the store the next day, Blaine is not exactly careful as he shows Sophie some love.

He then goes into the back office and sees Sandra making ingredient orders. She keeps the passwords under the keyboard, joking about how she cannot remember them. Blaine asks if he can use the computer. Sure. 

Blaine adjusts the ingredients’ order. No idea why. He fashions another accidental meeting with Sophie, catching her as she is locking up the store. 

Sandra is waiting for her at home, planning an evening of movie rewatching. Blaine persuades Sophie to hang out with him. Did not take much persuasion. He just asked her. 

Blaine quotes her favourite poet, having seen the book of poems by her bed. How the heck people remember entire poetry books is beyond me. I penned a book of poetry and if someone quoted one of my own poems at me I’m not sure I would realise. 

They get on to the subject of family again. This gives Blaine another chance to tug at the emotional heartstrings, telling Sophie how his family never understood him and treated him poorly. 

Somewhat ominously, they all died in a fire. It was only his Cinderella-like treatment – he was made to sleep in the shed – that saved his life. Right…

The next day, Sophie is a little perturbed to find Blaine massaging her mother’s arm. She needs to speak with her mother. The ingredients order is wrong, several items are missed off. She is sure she ordered everything.

Sandra tells her she will have to sort it out. Sophie and Blaine are left alone. She confronts him about his closeness to her mother. He tells her he just wants her to like him. 

That evening, Sandra returns home late. She tells Sophie that she will have to take on more responsibility. Sophie goes to visit Blaine. Blaine tricks her into giving him her phone’s passcode. The woman’s an idiot. 

Blaine sings a song to Sophie, telling her he wrote it especially for her. He barely gets through the first chorus and Sophie throws herself at him. She wakes to find herself alone in his bedroom. 

She sees an old book and begins flicking through it. The newspaper clipping about her and her mother opening the bakery is in the book. Blaine comes back into the bedroom and grabs the book.

He tells her that people looking through his things trigger him because his sisters used to do the same to get at him. Why has he got clippings of her? He admires them. Okay then. Later in the day, Blaine gifts Sophie a pendant. It is their three month anniversary, a little juvenile but different strokes…

Sophie wants to tell her mother about their relationship but Blaine says he wants to just keep it between them. Sandra is displeased at Sophie’s recent tardiness. The two exchange terse words. Blaine sneaks into the store’s office and begins photographing the cake recipes. He is caught by Sophie. He tells her he wanted to surprise her. 

Sandra thinks Sophie is keeping something from her as she has been secretive of late. Sophie gives the most adolescent answer ever, telling her that she is an adult and needs her privacy. 

The two come to an amiable accord, Sandra agreeing to treat her idiot daughter more like an adult. Sophie tells Blaine that they need to tell her mother. Blaine warns her that if they tell her mother their relationship will end. 

Sophie tells him that her mother cannot stop their relationship. Blaine tells her that her mother sees him as a potential mate and shows her a photo she sent. Like mother, like daughter, there is provocative shoulder aplenty. 

Blaine says he will have to leave. Sophie, emotion overriding the little intelligence she has, begs him to stay. Even just as a friend. Blaine agrees to stay around. As a friend but he will never stop loving her.

Later, Sophie is woken by her mother crashing into the house late. She has been seeing someone. Who? She does not want to say. It might jinx it. 

The next day, Sophie tell her mother she wants to get together with her. Sandra tells her she is busy but they will get together the next evening. Sophie follows her mother on her evening out. 

She goes to Blaine’s home. Sophie confronts them. How long have they been seen one another? A few months. She does not let on to her mother about her relationship with Blaine. She leaves them. 

Blaine goes after her, gaslighting her, saying he was destroyed after their breakup and found solace in the arms of her mother. An explanation every woman longs to hear. Sandra tells Ange, a woman who is so ‘team Sandra’ that Sophie should be worrying about her safety, that Sophie saw them together. She thinks she should split up with Blaine. 

Ange says not to worry about it, Sophie will come around. Sandra deserves happiness. Sandra, who still loves her daughter more than a travelling musician, goes home to talk with her daughter. 

Sophie, in true telenovela style – always keeping secrets – does not tell her mother about her and Blaine. 

Blaine messages Sophie and tells her to come and see him. Blaine tries to convince Sophie that he can be with both of them. Sophie says she is going to tell her mother. She will show her the messages. 

Blaine tells her there are no messages. She will tell him anyway. Blaine grabs her violently and forces her to promise not to say anything. Sophie promises.

In the store, Blaine comes in with Sandra in tow, greeting a subdued Sophie. He is going to play a special song for her. The song is the same one he played to Sophie. She puts Blaine on a live stream.

After closing, Blaine proposes to Sandra. Ange, – team Sandra! Rah! Rah! Rah! – is an ordained minister and agrees to marry them. Sophie is in the back office, trying to find information about Blaine. 

Blaine comes into the back office to threaten her some more. He tells her that he is marrying her mother at the weekend. 

Sophie goes and finds Penny. Penny tells her that Blaine seduced both her and her sister. When she found out she told her sister but her sister just disappeared, leaving a note behind. 

Apparently, her sister was her best friend. Really? Not close enough for her to realise that the note was not in her handwriting. He also stole their songs, all his supposed music being the sisters. 

Sophie, smart enough to work out how to find out about Blaine but not clever enough not to confront him, gets caught by Blaine. He knocks her unconscious and stuffs her in a duffle back. Into the river with her! 

He steals her mobile. Though how he plans to open it again is anyone’s guess considering he used her fingerprint the last time. 

He returns to Sandra. She is worried about Sophie and sends her a message. The phone buzzes from Blaine’s pocket. He tells Sandra that it is a football score notification. She believes him. Love makes you dumb. 

The next morning, Sophie has survived. Yes, she has. It is the wedding day but Sandra does not think she should get married without her daughter present. Blaine persuades her that she needs to go for what she wants. Sandra’s love addled brain agrees.

A dishevelled Sophie, flags down a car and the driver (Ryan Boyko) lets her use his phone. She calls her mother. As it is an unknown number, Sandra ignores it. Sophie asks the driver to take her home. 

In her home, she sees Ange. Where is her mother? Upstairs. Sophie tells Ange that Blaine’s dangerous. Blaine appears in the kitchen. She tells Ange to run but Blaine knocks Ange out with a candlestick holder. She runs to her mother and tells her that Blaine tried to kill her. Blaine tries to convince Sandra that Sophie is crazy.

Blaine is frantic at the notion of Sandra choosing her daughter over him. He attacks Sophie. Sandra hits him with a heavy ornament, knocking him unconscious. 

Sometime later, mother and daughter are in the bakery and Penny is singing her song – the one Blaine stole – for the patrons. The end. 

Final thoughts: Lethal Love is so much hokum. The acting is serviceable and the performances, direction and setting are good enough for this made-for-tv-esque movie. 

Written by Heather Taylor and Directed by Avi Federgreen, Lethal Love is a slightly farfetched movie, let down by a piss poor conclusion. 

Like many Netflix/made-for-tv efforts, the characters are inexplicably stupid. I suppose that is half the fun of the films. The problem is when you tack on such an underwhelming climax, it brings down the entire film. 

The actors work gamely with the material. Unfortunately, with an eighty-seven-minute runtime, Taylor’s script wastes time on songs and red herrings – why did he mess up the cake ingredient order? – when a more exaggerated conclusion could have elevated this film from its IMDB four-point-six to a solid six. 

Lethal Love is not an unwatchable mess but it is eye-rollingly stupid in parts and I cannot recommend taking ninety minutes out of your day to watch it. Meh.

Britney Vs Spears – review

Hit Me Baby One More Time. Oops, I Did It Again. Toxic. Overprotected. I’m A Slave 4 U. (You Drive Me) Crazy. Stronger. These are some of the hits that propelled a teenage Britney Spears to global superstardom at the end of the nineties and into the early part of the new century. 

Less than twenty years on from her peak, it is difficult to express how famous Britney was at that time. She remains very famous and, though her musical output has slowed over the past decade or so, she is still enough of a name for a documentary on Netflix bearing her name, is something of an event. 

On Instagram, Spears has over thirty-five million followers, so she has obviously not been forgotten in the fallow years. In comparison, footballing superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, has ten times as many followers. 

Even the ‘famous for existing’ Kardashian/Jenner siblings all individually dwarf Spears’ account for followers, each one comfortably commanding over one hundred million followers. 

To put the above facts into perspective, The Kardashians came into public consciousness in 2007. Spears, who had gone global with her first single – Hit Me Baby One More Time – in 1998, had released seven albums by 2007. Spears had become a star before digital downloads became the norm, before the attention grab of multiple media outlets and platforms as the internet evolved.

None of this is alluded to in the documentary. Britney Spears is part of the last, dying breed of proper global superstars. There are still artists who become famous but few, especially with the fast-paced, disposable need-for-new, internet social media age we live in, maintain that career-high over decades. 

In the documentary by Erin Lee Carr and journalist Jenny Eliscu, Britney Vs Spears, they look at the court battle of Britney to wrest control of her life, career and finances from her father, James. 

Her father had a conservatorship imposed on her through the courts, sighting her supposed inability to manage any aspect of her life competently as reasoning. 

Unfortunately, a subject with great scope for exploration and intrigue, suffers from being a bit of a fawning, fan-made exercise, with Carr and Eliscu’s bias towards the star achingly obvious. 

Told in a mix of documentary styles, employing film footage, voiceovers, hearsay and interviews, the filmmakers also take the odd decision to add themselves into the documentary, reading various accounts of happenings and snippets from redacted documents. 

The lack of impartiality, with Britney portrayed as a bit of damsel-in-distress, weakens the film, having the effect of bringing out the cynic in the non-Britney fan. Even the most myopic Spears fan would challenge the one-sidedness of this documentary. 

The makers ask pointed questions to a raft of slightly reticent interviewees, hamfistedly trying to coerce support of the notion of a Britney under, a somewhat, draconian dictatorship. 

This alleged dictatorial conservatorship is supported by the legal system and enforced by her father. It truly is the stuff of telenovelas, only not as entertaining. 

Truthfully, the documentary sheds very little light on the conservatorship. Much of what is shown, is little more than an interested party could have gleaned from the press or, especially in these highly informed times, the internet. 

Lee Carr, who instigated the documentary as the filmmaker, says she spent two years putting it together. Eliscu, for her part as a music journalist, says that she was not into Spears music and knew very little about her as an artist. After meeting her, Eliscu liked her immensely and always enjoyed interviewing her. 

It is not as though I feel they should be trying to destroy Spears’ reputation. After all, a vociferous press has spent more than a decade documenting and exposing her every foible and misstep, relishing her discomfort and misery. 

The issue is, if one is selling a documentary, which by its very nature should be factual and, where possible, impartial, Britney Vs Spears fails. 

That Carr claims to have been making it for two years does not bode well either, given the bias and paucity of storytelling. The film seems to be told with a handbrake on, due to possible legal ramifications, something hinted at towards the end of the film. 

I suspect that the use of musical footage was probably prohibitively expensive, with any musical clips ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ brief. Most of the Britney footage is from the news, showing her multiple encounters with the press and various partners. 

It is a little haphazard, with the film trying to paint her father, James, as the villain. It is not an entirely surprising or, sadly, unusual story of those who should be looking after a star’s interest, benefitting and taking advantage of their privilege. What makes the film fail is the expectation. 

The title sets up a battle. What one expects is a little history. How the opposing sides, father and daughter, came to their positions. The public deterioration of Britney. Her family and friends reaction to it. Maybe, showing her father’s reasoning, no matter how flimsy, behind deciding to implement such an extreme measure. 

Unfortunately, as I said earlier, the people interviewed say so little that one is forced to fill in ominous blanks, something I suspect the filmmaker might have been aiming for. It is a misstep. 

Britney Vs. Spears should have been a compelling and, hopefully, illuminating insight into an unusual situation. Instead, it is a patchy and frustrating film, leaving more questions than answers.