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Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul, 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon– 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 6th and Digital from Monday, August 23rd

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

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Settlers

Director – Wyatt Rockefeller – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 103m

****1/2

The lives of a one-child family living on a farm on Mars are changed forever by the arrival of a hostile outsider – out on digital platforms from Friday, July 30th

Reza (Jonny Lee Miller from Regeneration, Gillies Mackinnon, 1997; Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996) and his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella from Climax, Gaspar Noé, 2018) have emigrated to Mars to take over a farm which they now run with the help of their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project, Sean Baker, 2017). Growing vegetables and rearing pigs, they seem very happy with their lot, not least because that the Earth the couple left behind was not in a good way… We hear very little about it beyond a conversation where Remmy learns her parents never encountered whales or elephants, only dogs, even as that planet hangs in the sky as a constant reminder of where they came from.

The light has a reddish glow. Everything around the compound is dirt, rocky outcrops and occasional areas of bush and scrub. There is no-one else around apart from the three of them.… Read the rest

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The Shadows (殘影空間)

Director – Glenn Chan – 2020 – Hong Kong, China – 94m

*****

A forensic lady psychiatrist becomes convinced that a fellow psychiatrist’s treatment of his patients is encouraging them to commit murder – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Award-winning social worker Chu kills his mother, wife and little girl before throwing himself out of a second floor window in a suicide attempt. Psychiatrist Dr. Tsui Ching (Stephy Tang from My Prince Edward, Norris Wong Yee-Lam, 2019; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017) possesses the ability to see inside the subconscious mind of her patients, something she experiences like a vivid dream. She appears in a public talk before an audience alongside Dr.Yan. When he asks her view of humanity, she expresses her belief that people are inherently good. He thinks they are inherently bad, ascribing their motives to selfishness.

When Chu turns out to have been one of Dr.Yan’s patients, Tsui becomes convinced that by telling them to embrace their dark side rather than repress it, he is effectively encouraging them to commit murder. Advising Ho (Philip Keung – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; Shock Wave, Herman Yau, 2017), the cop who is investigating the case, she persuades him without any admissable evidence to investigate all of Yan’s patients.… Read the rest

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Possessor

Director – Brandon Cronenberg – 2020 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 103m

*****

A woman possesses other people’s bodies via technology to assassinate selected targets – on Shudder from Thursday, June 10th, as well Digital HD or BFI Player rental

Anyone who’s seen Brandon Cronenberg’s earlier Antiviral (2012) will know that he is a force to be reckoned with, operating in much the same area as his father David (whose Crash, 1996, is currently out on VoD and is released on UHD and BD on December 14th) but with his own, highly individual slant. And equally impressive.

His protagonist here is assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) whose boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) inserts Vos’ consciousness into others so she can carry out hits on designated targets while occupying their bodies and consciousnesses. Lately, though, things haven’t been going quite to plan. In the body of Holly (Gabrielle Graham), Vos picks up a cutlery knife then repeatedly and bloodily stabs her target with it rather than simply shooting him with the supplied gun. Although Vos gives all the right answers in the psychological evaluation tests following her return, Girder is concerned.

He fears are raised further when Vos asks for time off with her partner Michael (Rossif Sutherland) and young son Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot).… Read the rest

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Sheep Without A Shepherd (Wu Sha, 误杀)

Director – Sam Quah – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A family stands together when their daughter kills the local police chief’s son who is both a rapist and blackmailer – available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.

This opens with a prison break in which the escapee ends up interred in a coffin next to the corpse of the man who was trying to get him out. That turns out to be a story told by Li Wiejie or Jie for short (Xiao Yang), an insatiable watcher of detective and crime thrillers. The film lays its cinematic cards on the table almost immediately by referencing Hitchcock, montage, sound effects, excitement and The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994). Sheep Without A Shepherd is in thrall to the West’s suspense movies and plays out like one while at the same time retaining its distinctive Chinese character with its emphasis on the importance of family ties and loyalty.

Jie and his wife (Tan Zhuo) run a small store in Thailand. Their daughter Ping known in the family as PingPing (Audrey Hui) persuades dad to fund her to go to summer camp where she is drugged and videoed being gang-raped by privileged brat Su Cha (Beety) and his pals.… Read the rest

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Jellyfish

Director – Che Chun Hei – 2018 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 30m

****1/2

A gangland sniper’s shooting of his designated target leads to a friendship with a dog and further unauthorised killings – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

Gangland boss Shing (Lau Kong) sets up a sniper (Bowie Chan Wai Wing) in an apartment in a block overlooking a patch of waste ground. Every day, a man walks his dog over this patch. The man is the sniper’s designated target. So the sniper sets up his gun, passes the time, tries to get a decent signal on the TV, smokes, relaxes on the sofa, anything but look through his viewfinder and watch the man and dog pass.

Finally, the order “today” comes though his pager from Shing. One shot and the guy is dead. The dog just sits there, remaining where his master fell. A black van rolls up. Two guys. One has a revolver and thinks of shooting the dog, but doesn’t do it.

The sniper feels for the dog. He takes it food.… Read the rest

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Possessor

The irredeemable flesh

Possessor
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Certificate 18, 103 minutes
Released 27 November

The controversial director David Cronenberg has long been an exponent of something he calls ‘the new flesh’, ways that humanity might transcend its bodies. His son Brandon is the same, his new film Possessor concerning the world of cybernetic industrial espionage. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an assassin working for a company run by Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), which injects her consciousness into other people as host personalities so that, wearing the clothing of their minds and bodies, she can kill designated targets before being extracted…

His father’s notorious Crash (1996) was restored for reissue in November… [Read more]

Read the full review in Reform.

Read my alternative review here.

Trailer:

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Creepy (Kuripi: Itsuwari no rinjin, クリーピー 偽りの隣人)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 130m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new crime thriller Creepy draws on Vertigo, Psycho and Audition.

The latest film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa to receive a UK cinema release is an extraordinary and highly original crime thriller with more than a passing nod to two better known Alfred Hitchcock films. Its opening reworks that of Vertigo (1958) while certain later narrative elements owe much to Psycho (1960) although not the parts of that film which are usually aped or recycled in other movies. It also recalls Takashi Miike’s notorious Audition (1999) in its overall structure. Yet despite these clear influences, Creepy is very much its own film.

Vertigo‘s first scene opens with the rung of a ladder grasped moments afterwards by a human hand. This develops into a chase sequence in which the vertigo of Detective ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) causes a cop to fall to his death. Creepy‘s first scene opens with bars over a window.… Read the rest

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Every Time I Die

Director – Robi Michael – 2019 – US – 97m

***1/2

Reality disintegrates around a man tormented by the accidental, childhood death of his sister – on VoD from Monday, October 26th

People who’ve apparently died then come back to life have often reported the sensation of going down a dark tunnel towards the light, which they then haven’t reached because they’ve been brought back to life. That motif is realised a repeated, clumsy special effect at various points in Every Time I Die, along with more subtle and arguably more successful variants on the same theme, such as a child waking up in a hospital room where the door is slightly ajar revealing a light source beyond.

Other elements recur too: protagonist Sam (Drew Fonteiro) repeatedly feels a pain in his head and blacks out, only to repeatedly come to or wake up in another scenario. He wakes as a young lad of eight (Kenneth Moronta), a camera on the table in front of him, in the hospital room with the door ajar and the light beyond, Then he wakes up, in that device we’ve seen so many times in movies where it was all a dream. Here he wakes staring at the face of Mia (Melissa Macedo) who has spent the night with him and now must leave early to go back to her husband Tyler (Tyler Dash White), a soldier recently returned from several months away on active duty.… Read the rest

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ManHunt (Zhui bu, 追捕)

Director – John Woo – 2017 – China, Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Hong Kong action director John Woo’s return to form – currently on Netflix.

The late Japanese actor Ken Takakura who died in 2014 appeared in more than 200 films and made his name playing ex-cons and gangsters for Toei studios between the mid-fifties and mid-seventies. He was a major inspiration for Hong Kong director John Woo who here remakes the 1976 Takakura vehicle Manhunt.

Du Qiu (Chinese actor Zhang Hanyu) finds himself in a Japanese bar swapping notes on movies with the mama-san Rain (Korea’s Ha Ji-won). Almost immediately, a loutish group of men in suits storm into the same bar to demand he leaves so she can give them her full attention. Once he’s gone, Rain and her partner Dawn (the director’s daughter Angeles Woo) proceed to gun down the suits, the camera whirling around them as Woo choreographs the mayhem.

Du is a lawyer working for a pharma company. The morning after a huge corporate event he wakes up to find a dead woman (Tao Okamoto) lying next to him in his bed. Implicated in her murder, he goes on the run.… Read the rest