The Sweeney (2012)


Directed by: Nick Love

“Geezers need excitement
If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence
Common sense simple common sense”

– The Streets

If anyone hasn’t listened to highlights from the Director’s commentary of Nick Love’s film ‘Outlaw’ then it gives you an insight into the creative minds of the director and his stooge, the lovable cockney cheeky chappy Danny Dyer.

Love is much maligned for his presentation of proper working class lads. Men who are unashamedly geezers; his characters are very much “what you see is what you get”, from football hooligans in ‘The Football Factory’ and ‘The Firm’, an aspirational ode to ‘Scarface’ in ‘The Business’ and marauding vigilantes in ‘Outlaw’. Critics love to slate Love’s films and most see him as inferior to fellow British directors of the noughties era like Shane Meadows and Ben Wheatley.

Making a modern day version of ‘The Sweeney’ seemed on paper to be a no brainer. The original TV show was adored by the Great British Public and the John Thaw and Dennis Waterman double act was a real representation of what proper men were like in the seventies. Regan and Carter can be considered two of the most popular British television cops, and arguably the best loved outside of Alfred ‘Tosh’ Lines and Frank Burnside.

In Love’s version of ‘The Sweeney’ we have veteran tough nut Ray Winstone as Regan and voice of urban youth Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew as Carter; Winstone’s Regan isn’t too different from John Thaw’s, he’s an intimidating man with a short fuse, who likes a bit of rumpy pumpy with a nice bit of fluff. The duo are part of the elite “Flying Squad” called The Sweeney; a branch of the Met who respond swiftly to in progress robberies. Regan and Carter bend the rules to get results.

Opening to a glorious aerial shot of London we get thrown right into the action as a warehouse depot robbery gets busted by Regan and Carter. What’s odd is that an armed response team decide to take on a group of masked men brandishing shotguns with wooden clubs. No matter, with a few brutal blows the situation is taking care of.

Winstone wheezes his way around the action sequences, looking like he might keel over at any moment; his body shape is frequently made fun of in the film, and actually becomes a much needed dose of light relief. Although we really could do without the sex scenes, gratuitous shots of Winstone from behind wearing his sagging XXL briefs, doing the deed with his much younger squeeze Nancy (bravely played by Hayley Atwell).

Regan has to deal with Internal Affairs who are trying to shut down the Flying Squad because of their over-aggressive methods, and his whole world gets turned upside down when a bank robbery goes seriously awry. Carter is keen as mustard, enjoys all the action, but because his missus has a bun in the oven he’s thinking about his own career prospects, moving up the ladder and settling down to a cushty desk job.

I always say that ‘The Town’ is the best blueprint for any modern crime thriller, because it uses the city surroundings brilliantly. Nick Love tries to use London, he’s able to incorporate some wonderful aerial shots of the capital, but as far as the action goes he gets it wrong. The usually busy Trafalgar Square is empty during a key robbery scene, and a shoot-out doesn’t quite capture the sheer pandemonium you might expect. In fact, the action is often unintentionally laughable. Both Winstone and Plan B seem uncomfortable even holding a weapon.

Damian Lewis is underutilized as the Sweeney’s constantly exasperated boss Frank Haskins. You feel that Lewis, with all his acting chops, would’ve been better cast as one of the bad guys. He mostly stands around in a teapot pose puffing out his cheeks and more or less going “Oh, what have you guys done now?” What we really needed was an Inspector Todd-like character from ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ to give Regan and Carter the hairdryer treatment for their reckless behaviour.

‘The Sweeney’, like most of Love’s films is watchable, but it fails to strike the correct balance between what we usually expect from an action packed crime movie, and properly acknowledge the legacy of the original.


The Sweeney on IMDB
Buy The Sweeney [DVD]


Barry Gold: Unchained

A chance to attend the swanky London premiere of the Alan Partridge film ‘Alpha Papa’ inspired Gareth Moore and Nige Gardner to create Barry Gold, PA to the fallen stars. I’ve been intrigued by Moore’s work since he uploaded the ‘Epic Stares’ series to YouTube. His wonky sense of humour harks back to the glory days of Les Dawson.

The first appearance of Barry Gold came in a short video job application that answered a fictional job ad for the role of Alan Partridge’s new assistant. The application was successful and Barry Gold rocked up on the red carpet.

After the premiere a mockumentary was filmed, allowing us to get to know Barry Gold a little better. The mockumentary, similar in style to ‘Spinal Tap’, ‘The Office’ and ‘Trailer Park Boys’, follows famed filmmaker Jonty Dupents as he travels to the fine city of Norwich to meet the elusively enigmatic Barry Gold.

Chock full of hilarity, we meet Barry’s latest client Ronnie ‘Potato’ Sachs, a former footballer struggling with his self-destructive tendency to compulsively pleasure himself at the most inopportune moments. Gold literally gives Sachs’ career a much needed kick up the backside. Then Barry goes on a disastrous dinner date. His unique ‘Come Dine With Me’ experience has to be seen to be believed.

If you’re interested in a behind the scenes look at the cult of celebrity more revealing then Louis Theroux’s ‘When Louis Met…’ series, then ‘Barry Gold: Unchained’ is for you.


Invasion Roswell (2013)


Thank you, SyFy Channel! I wonder at the business model that allows them to keep making these films, but make them they do, and the most recent one is “Invasion Roswell”, which gives us Greg Evigan from “My Two Dads”, known to British comedy fans for his unwilling guest appearances on Lee and Herring’s “This Morning With Richard Not Judy” TV show; and Denise Crosby, sadly (for her, I suppose) still known for her work on the first few seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.
An idea popped into my head halfway through this film, and it summed it up so well that I couldn’t shake it off. This film is “Red” meets “Independence Day”. The main cast are a group of retired soldiers who’ve specifically trained for alien attack – Evigan is the Bruce Willis leader / guy who can still fight pretty well; there’s a wacky low-rent John Malkovich; and Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman both have approximations of their characters too.

What would appear to be the day after these people are forced into retirement by the top brass (damn you, military bosses! Stopping the boys from getting the job done with your red tape!), aliens invade. It’s actually several years later, though – people have started businesses, had major operations and moved on with their lives, and that information might have been handy to avoid confusion. Never mind, though, eh? No-one ever said they didn’t like a film because of insufficient information about the passage of time.

Aliens invade, and our plucky heroes need to get the band back together in order to defeat the alien menace. Evigan’s wife dies, which he gets over remarkably quickly, possibly because she’s the stupidest person in the universe or because he never cared about her enough to tell her what he did for a living. So, they go back to the Army base, get suited up and if you’ve ever seen the ending to Independence Day, this film just rips it straight off and you may, if you like, skip it and read a magazine.

This film isn’t terrible. The dialogue is a bit forced-banter-ish, but Evigan and Crosby are at least able to act, it doesn’t look horribly cheap and it hurries along to its inevitable conclusion. If you’re in front of the telly, SyFy Channel is on and you can’t find the remote when this comes on, you might as well give it a go.


Invasion Roswell on IMDB

Possession (1981)


Andrzej Zulawski’s film of blistering power, Possession, is a transgressive powerhouse that dissects the destruction between a man and a woman and a tentacled monstrosity, yes, I said that right, a tentacled abomination that appears to be the fruition of the apocalypse. Furthermore, this film observes the disintegration of sanity like no other. Possession, unfortunately, has gained not so much bravura as other cult titles such as Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Eraserhead etc, this is mainly due to the film going (temporarily) out of print, it wasn’t available on DVD for some time both in Europe and the States. It was banned in the UK during the mid-eighties and labelled as a video nasty. Only in 2010 did we finally see the masterpiece make its migration to DVD/Blu-ray and oh, how stoked I was upon hearing such news. Despite that, it wasn’t until recently that I managed to grab a copy.

It follows Anna (Isabelle Adjani) and Mark (Sam Neil); a happily married couple until Mark comes back from a business trip to find out that Anna wants a divorce. Mark is somewhat confused by Anna’s hostility, almost neglecting the sincerity of her announcement as he continues to express how much he still loves her. They undergo a torrid storm of emotions until Anna reveals that she has been having an affair with a man called Heinrich. In his frustration, he has a private investigation follow Anna in relation to her carnal doings. However, there’s something more sinister behind it all…

The concepts in this film are multi-layered, its themes and ideas are transfigured throughout, causing most audiences to misinterpret the labyrinthine plot…as such as it is. I, personally, find that Zulawski’s film is a work of many meanings. Perhaps the only person in the world that truly understands it is its writer/director. The first hour is a relentless, almost maddening portrayal of a marriage breaking down. The dialogue is pretty much screamed and bellowed; you can almost feel the hatred and pain in the protagonists that’s played exceptionally well by Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neil. There’s an anxiety that’s almost tactile between them both, a physicality even. The vehemence advances as the characters gather tendencies to self-harm as well as hurt each other yet, you cannot help but think whether this aggression is somewhat sexual in a sort of masochistic way. All of the madness is witnessed externally and it lacks emotion yet the cold brutality is unflinching. As the marriage collapses, it is then that we, as an audience, notice that there’s something not quite right about this film. It unravels with a deluded maelstrom of symbolisms. The physicality I mentioned earlier that almost becomes apparent is perhaps, a symbolism of the monster that Adjani’s character goes on to have intercourse with? Or is it something bigger than that? A precursor to the end of days maybe or is it just an inhuman force that she willingly embraces in her manic depressive despondency? Even the location where the film is set (Berlin) is a symbol – WWII, Berlin Wall…

One of the greatest scenes in cinema history unfolds in this film as Adjani’s character descends into a fit of torment within the confines of a passageway. Still to this day, it sends nerves into a jittering mess not just because of what we actually see but the disturbingly perfect performance from Adjani. She did win a Cannes award (French form of an Oscar) for her depiction and quiet rightly so. Sam Neil excels also as the intense and obsessive Mark that spirals out of control. The special effects are extraordinary too; Carlo Rambaldi (E.T, Alien, Dune) created the foreboding menace that resides in the darkened room situated in the epicentre of Berlin. When Rambaldi is asked of the film, he negates it as if it doesn’t exist, he has also been known to retort it as something that’s ‘too strange to discuss.’

Possession will crucify you in more ways than one. It’ll destroy most of your preconceptions on what you think you know about cinema. Fans of films with clear meanings steer away from this yet those who enjoy a confrontational challenge, please watch this, it’s such a reward.

Craig Podmore ©

Possession on IMDB
Buy Possession [DVD] [1981]

Youtube Film Club: Monkey Shines (1988)


Directed by: George A. Romero

There have been several thought provoking films that look at the struggles of somebody living with a disability. From touching coming of age films like ‘Inside I’m Dancing’, to Daniel Day Lewis’ Academy Award winning portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’. There’s even been quirky films like ‘The Sessions’ where a poet who is disabled from the neck down hires a sex surrogate. Well, ‘Monkey Shines’ has a quadriplegic sex scene; it also features a demented monkey.

Allan is a promising collegiate athlete; we’re treated to an opening scene which shows him stretching his hammy’s in the buff. He has the perfect eighties body, with Patrick Bateman-esque abs and Carl Lewis’ thighs. Allan (played by Jason Beghe) straps on a rucksack full of bricks and heads out jogging. An excitable dog leaps into his path and he swerves, taking a step out into the road where he gets side-swiped by a vehicle. Allan’s whole life changes as he is confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down.

The first quarter of the film plays like a TV drama. Allan struggles to accept the cruel hand he has been dealt, and thinking he has nothing to live for he tries to suffocate himself. His failed suicide attempt and increasingly wild facial hair are of great concern to his Mother and scientist buddy Geoff. Thinking outside the box, the unreliable, alcoholic scientist calls upon Melanie, a fellow pioneering scientist who trains monkeys in order that they can help disabled people. Geoff donates one of the monkeys from his lab named Ella to Melanie.
Melanie trains Ella to help Allan, and the cute little chimp soon forms a bond with him, an intimate bond which ends in them somehow becoming telepathically linked. There is an explanation for this, something to do with Geoff injecting brain cells into Ella when she at the lab. The monkey goes from domesticated to demonic and begins destroying the lives of those closest to Allan. This multi-talented chimp wields a cut throat razor and commits arson.

Destined to be a cult classic ‘Monkey Shines’ is a bizarre story that belongs in ‘The Twilight Zone’, it is completely unlike your typical George Romero film, with plodding melodrama amongst moments of genuinely gripping terror. Jason Beghe’s performance is wildly erratic, veering from sincerity to sheer lunacy. Allan is a moody son of a gun and his anger extends to putting on ‘that voice’. It’s of some credit to Beghe’s acting skills that he is able to make a budgie attack seem terrifying.

Romero has channelled Hitchcock, showing the different levels of terror that face a man who is physically helpless; you can see an obvious nod towards ‘Rear Window’ as Allan is imprisoned in his own home, at the mercy of a mad monkey. There are other movie tropes, the well-worn horror of a science experiment gone wrong, and the spectre of jealousy, on par to Glenn Close’s bunny boiler rage as Ella strangles a budgie and takes out Allan’s loved ones in the hope that man and chimpette can live happily ever after. The ending is outrageous on so many levels, from Ella’s eventual demise, to a nightmare sequence akin to the dinner chest bursting dinner scene from ‘Alien’.


Monkey Shines on IMDB
Buy Monkey Shines – An Experiment In Fear [DVD]

Premium Rush (2012)


Directed by: David Koepp

I remember about six years ago I worked as a postman during the summer. My designated route required me to ride on a rickety bike. Given that I was a terrible cyclist and had somehow not ridden a bike for about eight years, I really did test the much repeated saying that you never forget how to ride a bike. The depot was situated just off the city’s busy Ring Road, and just getting to the start of your route was a nerve wrecking experience. A few times I almost swerved into oncoming traffic. I had to quit before I got killed.

‘Premium Rush’ is an innovative action movie that follows NYC bicycle courier Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he picks up an envelope late in his shift that ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. The delivery brings him into contact with a corrupt psychotic cop called Bobby Monday (played brilliantly by Michael Shannon) who is hell bent on getting his hands on the envelope.

Watching the nimble cyclists weaving in and out of New York traffic really does get the heart racing, but the film itself is very stop start, before grinding to a pathetically limp finish. The story is told in a skewed order, we begin with Wilee getting knocked off his bike, in slow motion his body cart wheels through the air. We then fast forward and rewind back and forth until we are back in the moment. To help us understand Wilee’s difficult delivery route we get to see Google Maps-like graphics, showing us where he is, and how far he’s got to travel. Wilee’s main strength as a courier is that he is able to anticipate where the best route is, he constantly looks for short cuts, which is just as well given he cannot stop at red lights because his bike has no breaks.
The frustrating thing about ‘Premium Rush’ is that after a promising first third, including a manically fun scene where we learn that Monday has a gambling problem, and owes thousands to a Chinese gang from losing several games of what looked like dominoes but is probably mah-jong. One of the gang leaders offers to square Monday’s debts if he is able to intercept a ticket worth fifty grand that is about to be delivered. Since Wilee has the ticket, Monday must chase the courier across New York.

The final two thirds of the film is far-fetched nonsense, completely and utterly cartoonish, tying in with Wilee seemingly being named after a Warner Bros. cartoon. Shannon is great as the unhinged cop, bringing his usual array of furious facial expressions. He has the best lines and is the star of the film. When Monday finally has Wilee where he wants him, trapped in the back of an ambulance, he is tricked one last time.

There’s plenty to hate about Wilee, the hero of the movie. He constantly refers to Monday as “douchebag”, when he in fact is the epitome of a douche. Here’s a cocky young man who rides a bike with no breaks. A true arsehat who doesn’t deserve to get the girl, but you know he will, because that’s how these movies tend to pan out. His rival for the girl, fellow courier Manny, challenges Wilee to a race through one of New York’s picturesque parks, the scene is the equivalent of an Attenborough slow motion shot of two alpha stags butting horns.

Of course when Wilee gets hit by a car, bruises some ribs, and can hardly move, he is somehow is able to recover, jump on a BMX bike and leap about all over the place, fleeing a group of hapless policeman. He grimaces but sucks it up. Wilee is doing his job for the adrenaline buzz, and the freedom. He doesn’t want to be an unhappy man in a suit who sits in an office cubicle from nine to five. He is willing to break the law in order to get the buzz. At times ‘Premium Rush’ feels like a ninety minute advert for an energy drink.

If I’m to pay this movie some compliments then I would say that the chase scenes are pretty innovative. You don’t see many bicycle chases in films, so ‘Premium Rush’ has a hint of originality. The cat and mouse game played by cop and courier is fun for a while, but then it gets a bit PG and predictable, and by the time the satisfying ending comes along you’re glad the ride is over.


Premium Rush on IMDB
Buy Premium Rush (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]

Popatopolis (2009)

A rare documentary review for the ISCFC, after one on video nasties last year – . This is all about B-movie auteur Jim Wynorski, featuring a retrospective of his work, a rundown of his style of directing and personality, as well as a behind the scenes look at the shooting of his latest film (at the time), “The Witches of Breastwick”.

Popatopolis Poster

Jim Wynorski is a prolific man. Director of 75 films in under 20 years, he’s got low-budget filmmaking down to an art. Okay, art is perhaps too strong a word for it. We join him in “Popatopolis” as he’s preparing for his latest film, which he plans on shooting in three days, an almost unheard-of amount of time even in these circles. His taste is for heavily made up, permed blondes with enormous breasts, and there are interviews dotted throughout the film with his current and former leading ladies, all of whom express their admiration and liking for the man, while not enjoying working for him particularly.

Times have changed, and that’s affected Jim’s world. When he was at his peak in the late 80s to mid 90s, B-movies were relatively well-funded affairs. You could occasionally get them released to cinemas, as well as the last few drive-ins, and home video along with TV sales would provide a solid revenue stream. I’m sure readers of this site will have seen at least one of Wynorski’s old films, whether it be “The Return of Swamp Thing”, “Chopping Mall” or “Deathstalker 2”. But the internet and digital filming changed all that, making the production and sale of films cheaper, while having a knock-on effect on all other aspects of low-budget filmmaking – less to spend on scripts, lighting, less time to shoot, and so on. From 2-month shoots back at his “height”, he’s down to 3 days, and from decent actors he’s now reduced to using porn actresses in the main roles in his films. Oh, now there are no more video stores, his distribution model is to cable channels in the US, which means nudity. If you’re an actress in a Wynorski film, your boobs will do more acting than you will.

The people that are interviewed are disappointed in this. Film legend Roger Corman gave Jim his first break, and contemporaries like Andy Sidaris and Julie Strain are all interviewed, and think he could and should be doing bigger and better films – but the super-low-budget fixes and way of doing things has probably become ingrained in him now. Although it’s never mentioned, the irony of the documentary being made about him being higher-budget than the film he’s making is presumably not lost on a man as canny as he is.

Still, this is absolutely not as depressing an experience as “Blood, Boobs and Beast”, the doc about Don Dohler, a director who was forced down a similar path (if at a different time). Dohler seemed profoundly bored with the sort of films he had to make to make ends meet, whereas Wynorski still loves it. He loves women (even if his treatment of them is pretty appallingly sexist), loves low-budget movies and is passionate about everything. There’s a fantastic clip of him right at the end, after a caption has revealed to us that his initial plan was to make “The Witches of Breastwick” in two days, talking to his PA. “Well, I’m glad I didn’t go with my initial plan,” he says. “You need three days to make the really good ones”. A man I’m fairly glad I don’t know, but who I’m glad is still ploughing his own furrow. In fact, 2012’s “Piranhaconda” may be an upcoming review title for this site.


Popatopolis on IMDB

Youtube Film Club: En el camino (2012)


Directed by: Walter Salles

The reason I refer to the film in Spanish is because this was uploaded to YouTube by some kind stranger with subtitles. I was persuaded to read ‘On the Road’ by a late friend of mine. It was only after he departed this world that I realized just how much gratitude I owed to the man. Though I read ‘On the Road’ too late for it to be a revolutionary force in my life (in my early twenties), the spirit, the exuberance, the congruent verve to live life with an unabashed sense of freedom, that message from the book was duly noted.

Walter Salles had a thankless job on his hands when he adapted Kerouac’s generation defining work. It was one of those ideas stuck in development hell. Coppola had the rights, but probably not the time, money or inspiration to put it out himself. Trying to capture the blistering pace of the novel, the breathless way it reads is nigh on impossible. Salles instead slows everything down, focusing on the homoerotic tension between Paradise and Moriarty and allows us to take in the breathless scenery of the America.

Prior to watching this film I was anxious about how Garrett Hedlund would handle to role of Dean Moriarty, the pseudonym for Kerouac’s hyperactive friend Neal Cassady. Capturing the essence of the legendary heartbeat and indeed personification of the beat generation is tricky given the man oozed unnatural levels of charisma. In theory he should be the kind of man that we all want to be, free, uninhibited and born with a burning desire to live. Cassady inspired legendary writers such as Hunter S. Thompson who emerged from the ashes of the beats. Doug Brinkley when talking about Thompson’s admiration for Cassady said “Hunter never really liked Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – he thought the writing was kind of sloppy and romantic and oversentimental – but he told me he thought Kerouac was a genius for two things: discovering Neal Cassady, whom Hunter thought was flat-out amazing, and using the literary construct of ‘looking for the lost dad I never had.’ Neal was never properly raised by a father. He didn’t even know whether his dad was alive or dead, and the notion of a young son who never had a dad, looking for his biological father, appealed to Hunter a great deal.”

Hedlund fits in with the piece; he is brooding and explodes into life when required, mostly in the sexual sense as a clichéd free spirit. Cassady was seen as an overwhelming physical force that never seems to sleep, yet Salles takes time to focus on the vulnerable, human side of his personality. The reluctant Father who seems half a man when he isn’t out on an adventure, there is a powerful scene where he leaves his struggling wife Camille to care for his baby in favour of another road trip with Sal.

The true revelation in ‘On the Road’ is the underrated Sam Riley, who sketchy accent aside, continues his theme of absolutely nailing introspective brooding young men; as he has done in the past when playing Ian Curtis in ‘Control’ and Pinkie Brown in ‘Brighton Rock’. Kerouac was a Mother’s boy, one of life’s constant observers who tended to float in the background and chronicle the vibrant moths that danced around the light.

It is tricky for the actresses to get a handle on their characters, given that they are so two dimensional in the source material. Kristen Stewart spends a lot of time flaunting around naked, feeling liberated and unburdened from her ‘Twilight’ pigeonhole, Kirsten Dunst is moody and teary and only the unnerving disappointingly brief performance of Amy Adams as William Burrough’s partner Joan Vollmer leaves an impression. All the women end up used and left behind like Galatea Dunkel, as the boys are off on their adventures.

The scenes at Old Bull Lee’s house could’ve been expanded upon because both Adams and Viggo Mortensen, who brings Burroughs to life, are magnetic. But like with most of the inspiring moments in the film, they aren’t somehow immortalized. This is arguably one of the most important books in American Literature yet the director is unable to tap into the source. In a film that spends a great deal of time on the inconsequential; a creepy Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard talking jazz and Tom Sturridge’s portrayal of Carlo Marx (Ginsberg) stand out as memorable moments along the journey.

It often appears that Salles confuses the reality of Kerouac’s world, with the fictional characters of ‘On the Road’. Yes, Moriarty is Cassady and Paradise is Kerouac, but there is weariness about Paradise which calls more on our knowledge of the young Kerouac, the momma’s boy, the aspiring writer who taped together a roll of paper so he could type and type and type without pausing; unlike his imagining of a young Che in ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ Salles didn’t need to present the reality. The most important part of ‘On the Road’ is the essence.

Any road movie struggles to capture the moment. When you are behind the wheel, or the hitchhiking eager eyed passenger sitting in the backseat you aren’t thinking. Everything is happening around you. The in car conversation, the world outside the windows speeding by, taking in the sights for a few glimpse seconds before you speed past. ‘On the Road’ is a watchable adaptation, but not as good as any of us wanted it to be.


On the Road on IMDB
Buy On the Road [DVD]
Read On the Road (Penguin Modern Classics)