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Monday 25 September 2017

Hoover cleans up FBI story

J EDGAR Drama. Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Cert 12A

Given that J Edgar Hoover was the most powerful law enforcement officer in the United States for almost half a century, serving under eight presidents, 136 minutes of screen time is barely going to scratch the surface of the story and Clint Eastwood presents us with only a frustrating snapshot of a fascinating and frightening character.

Flashing back and forth from an ageing Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio performing beneath layers of dubious 'old man' prosthetics) dictating his memoirs, to key points in his career, the structure Eastwood and his screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) have chosen does no one any favours, given that Hoover is revealed to be an unreliable narrator.

The formation of the FBI in the wake of paranoia about Communist subversion in the post-World War I period holds the interest, as does the emergence of Hoover as a public figure following the kidnap of Charles Lindbergh's baby son in 1932 and the bureau's war on celebrity gangsters during the Depression, but no sooner does a story strand start than we're whisked off to another dramatic dead-end.

The nature of Hoover's relationships with his domineering mother Anne (Judy Dench) and his lifelong companion and assistant Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) are rough sketches, the gay nature of the latter being fudged in a weak and disappointing manner.

J Edgar isn't a bad movie but, with the wealth of material available, there's a worthy but deadly dull pall hanging over the entire enterprise, a blanket of banality which not even the best efforts of DiCaprio can lift.

HHHII

WE Drama. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish, James D'Arcy. Directed by Madonna. Cert 15A

For her second stint as director, Madonna brings us the story of how King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) abdicated his throne to be with American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), but delivers a misguided, badly judged and at times risible movie.

The enterprise is sunk by the disastrous decision to shoehorn in the story of contemporary Manhattan housewife Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), whose obsession with Simpson and Edward links the 1930s with the present.

Riseborough and Cornish bring quality to proceedings, but WE is a muddled mess. HHIII

HAYWIRE Thriller. Starring Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Cert 15A

Recently we had a spectacular action sequence in Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol set in Dubai's Burj Khalifa hotel and now Steven Soderbergh introduces audiences to the treasure that is Wynn's Hotel in Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. We also get to see Michael Fassbender have the tar beaten out of him in a suite in the Shelbourne. Way to go Bord Failte.

Martial arts expert Gina Carano has heavyweight support in her acting debut as her character Mallory Kane is double-crossed by shadowy security contractor employers and so she sets out to wreak her revenge. We've been here before, but Soderbergh brings an infectious energy to proceedings. Solid. HHHII

THE SITTER Comedy. Starring Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Directed by David Gordon Green. Cert 16

An early contender for Worst Movie of the Year, The Sitter is a truly objectionable, mean-spirited, woefully unfunny and just plain wrong exercise in scraping the bottom of the gross-out barrel. Jonah Hill is at his worst as a man-child wastrel who finds himself in charge of three kids and winds up taking them on a mission to score drugs for his appalling girlfriend (Ari Gaynor). IIIII

CORIOLANUS Drama. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox. Directed by Ralph Fiennes. cert 15A

Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut is a modern-day, Balkans-set adaptation of one of Shakespeare's works and is an impressive-looking piece in which the pride of a successful general (Fiennes) proves to be his undoing when he's obliged to play to the public and falls foul of scheming politicians (Brian Cox and James Nesbitt). HHHII

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