herald

Thursday 23 October 2014

Not to Di for: even Naomi can't save this royal mess

Diana Drama. Starring Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Cas Anvar, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson, Charles Edwards. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Cert 12A

Unless you managed to avoid all newspapers and UK media a fortnight ago, it's unlikely that most movie goers will be unaware of the savaging this film received the day after its London premiere.

The reviews were unflinchingly negative, bordering on the cruel in certain cases. However, one would have to ask whether this tsunami of bile was prompted by the portrayal, if not betrayal, of a still-beloved figure or simply because Diana is just a rotten movie. The latter proves to be the case.

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel (who gave us the brilliant Downfall and the not-so-brilliant The Invasion) never seems to get a handle on what he's exactly supposed to be delivering here. He certainly sets things up very well, beginning with a very deft, wordless sequence set in August 1997 when Princess Diana (Naomi Watts), Dodi al-Fayed (Cas Anvar) and their entourage leave their Paris hotel for that fateful car journey, but apart from a reprise of that section at the finale the rest of film flounders badly.

FLASHBACK

From the opening we flashback two years to a separated but not yet divorced Diana rehearsing for the infamous Martin Bashir interview and complaining that she'd like to see more of her children if only the Palace would let her.

The warning signs for what the viewer is about to endure are already flashing away, as Diana ponders the meaning of love and duty with her acupuncturist/ spiritual advisor Oonagh Toffolo (Geraldine James) and struggles with the culinary demands of making beans on toast. Pretty soon we're into the meat of the story as she becomes smitten by heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) and the woeful script sinks the enterprise, dragging everyone involved down with it.

Screenwriter Stephen Jeffreys (whose only other effort was the Johnny Depp/Pete Doherty catastrophe The Libertine) has managed to somehow persuade perfectly fine actors to spout rubbish such as "Sometimes you don't perform the operation, the operation performs you" and "Can hearts really break?".

One wonders what a screenwriter like Peter Morgan could have done here, but no decent film-maker is likely to touch this subject for at least the next five years until after the smell from this utter stinker clears.

1 STAR

the call THRILLER Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, Michael Imperioli. Directed by Brad Anderson. Cert 16

FOR a good two-thirds of its running time The Call plays out as a fast-paced, entertaining thriller but, as is the case with so many of these things, the writers just couldn't take it over the line for the finale.

Still, while it's on its game we have Halle Berry as LAPD 911 responder Jordan Turner who loses her nerve when a mistake on her part leads to a young girl being abducted and murdered. Six months later and while she's training new 911 operatives there's another abduction when a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) is bundled into the boot of a car and calls the police, Jordan resuming her old role. What follows is very reminiscent of an award-winning episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as the cops try to track the phone and save the girl.

CLICHE

Director Brad Anderson keeps things moving along at a spanking pace here, not least when a motorist (Michael Imperioli) becomes suspicious of the antics of the kidnapper (Michael Eklund) and rather unwisely intervenes.

Alas, the final act goes headlong into 'Ah Lads' territory, with every serial killer cliche you'd care to mention lobbed into the mix but, I'd have to say, in a reasonably entertaining manner nonetheless.

That said, somehow I don't think Halle Berry will be adding to her Oscar haul with this one.

3 STARS

COLD COMES THE NIGHT THRILLER. Starring Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston, Logan Marshall-Green, Ursula Parker. Directed by Tze Chun. Cert 15A

IN a week which rather unusually features three females in lead roles, Alice Eve tops her more decorated colleagues with a fine performance in Tze Chun's atmospheric thriller. Set in a wet and grey upstate New York, Eve plays Chloe, the widowed manageress of a seedy motel hoping to gather together enough cash to give her daughter (Ursula Parker) a better life.

Involved with a slimy local cop, Billy (Logan Marshall-Green), her plans are thrown awry when there's a double murder on the premises and Billy tows away a victim's car. Unfortunately, there's a rather large stash of money hidden in the vehicle and soon Chloe is coerced by an almost-blind Russian gangster, Topol (Bryan Cranston), into helping retrieve it.

For some reason, Cranston appears to have based his character, or at least his voice, on that of Gru from Despicable Me, which does rather dilute his more menacing pronouncements.

The spirit and feel of movies like A Simple Plan and The Last Seduction are in evidence here and Alice Eve is terrific and believable as a young mother driven well past what she thought were her limits in order to protect her daughter and herself.

Again, things go rather doolally in the final 20 minutes but for most of the time Cold Comes The Night is a gritty and engaging thriller.

3 STARS

R.I.P.D. FANTASY. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker Stephanie Szostak. Directed by Robert Schwentke. Cert 12

ONE of the commercial disasters of the summer in the US and it's not hard to see why, R.I.P.D. uses up all its imagination in the title, as a group of dead cops patrol Earth looking for baddies.

Essentially a humour-free knock-off of Men In Black with an element of Ghostbusters thrown in, this wastes the talents of Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds.

3 STARS

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