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CINEMA Film round-up

VAN CONNOR and MARIA DUARTE review The Devil All the Time, Bill and Ted Face the Music, Hurt by Paradise, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Nocturnal and The Tunnel

The Devil All the Time (18)
Directed by Antonio Campos
★★★

THIS deeply disturbing Midwestern gothic tale, set in the backwaters of Ohio, explores the complex relationship between family and faith.

Based on the award-winning novel by Donald Ray Pollock, who narrates, the film centres around young Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) as he battles to protect his family and himself against the forces of evil, in the shape of an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson) who preys on young girls, a twisted killer couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) and a bent sheriff (Sebastian Stan).

Numerous interwoven stories, spanning from WWII to Vietnam in a non-linear timeline, prove a little confusing to follow. But if you persevere, co-writer and director Antonio Campos delivers a cleverly crafted and suspense-filled crime thriller which features a career-defining performance from Holland, and Pattinson in his creepiest turn to date.

But its brutal violence is not for the faint-hearted.

Maria Duarte

Available on Netflix.

Barking Dogs Never Bite (tbc)
Directed by Bong Joon Ho
★★★★

FOLLOWING last week’s reissue of Memories of Murder, this week sees Bong Joon-Ho’s 2000 directorial debut Barking Dogs Never Bite garner a long-overdue launch on British screens.

A blackly comedic tale of an aspiring college lecturer driven mad by the barking of his apartment building’s assorted canine residents, it’s the kind of darkly hilarious Hitchcockian tale you’d absolutely expect of the man who’d go on to give us Okja and this year’s acclaimed Parasite.

Its B-plot can’t measure up to a bonkers tale you’d reductively describe as “The Simpsons’ Frank Grimes with serial dog murder,” but it’s otherwise a wonderfully executed balance of sadistic and satirical comedy from a young helmer whose precise crafting and unique vision are apparent from the opening reel.

Masterly comedic timing from Lee Sung-Jae and a delightfully playful score by Jo Seong-Woo abound.  But it’s rightly all-eyes on Bong Joon Ho for this growling good time.

Van Connor

Bill and Ted Face the Music (PG)
Directed by Dean Parisot
★★★★

IN WHAT must be one of the longest-ever awaited sequels — it took almost 30 years in the making — hapless rockers Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are back for their final hurrah in Bill and Ted Face the Music.

It's been worth the wait, because this final instalment in the trilogy captures the spirit, joyfulness and humour of the original films without feeling contrived.

Winter and Reeves are on most excellent form as the now-middle-aged duo whose marriages are on the line — the storyline takes couples counselling to a whole new level.

They are given just 77 minutes to pen the greatest song ever written to unite the world and save reality and in their bodacious quest they encounter multiple future versions of themselves while their music-obsessed daughters (a phenomenal Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine, channelling their parents) embark on a mission through time to find the best musicians to help their dads.

Great and uplifting fun and a fitting end to the franchise.

MD

Hurt by Paradise (tbc)
Directed by Greta Bellamacina

“NOBODY cares about poets!” we’re told offhandedly during this lacklustre vanity project from former Harry Potter extra-turned-aspiring laureate Greta Bellamacina, a statement you’ll understand after 83 excruciating minutes of this incessantly grinding dramedy.

A woefully self-indulgent venture that attempts to fuse the hard graft of writing poetry with the day-to-day grind of being a disgruntled self-aware gal about town, Hurt by Paradise teeters aimlessly between yet another Fleabag cash-in, a Woody Allen flick and just about every disenfranchising slice of mumblecore Telluride-glistened waffle-fodder foisted upon near non-existent audiences for the past decade.

It’s a chore and the sort of film that asks — with complete sincerity — for its audience to accept unemployed characters renting sizeable apartments in central London while simultaneously complaining about the cost of broadband.

There’s little on which to recommend Hurt by Paradise beyond being “just about capably directed.”

VC

Nocturnal (15)
Directed by Nathalie Biancheri
★★★★

DOCUMENTARIAN Nathalie Biancheri makes her narrative feature debut with this convoluted but ultimately admirably sturdy character drama in which Cosmo Jarvis is Pete, a downtrodden painter and decorator who finds a kindred spirit in cynical and irascible schoolgirl Laurie.

Initially a story of the connection that can build between people across the age gap, it’s not long before Biancheri and Olivia Waring’s otherwise quite nuanced script can’t help but venture into more soap-opera-like terrain.

Mercifully, Jarvis — he should be a lot bigger a name than he is at present — and co-star Lauren Coe offer up more than enough chemistry and performative smarts to keep it all on course, with Michael Dymeck’s crisp cinematography skilfully bolstering their would-be bubble.

And Biancheri’s documentary background comes into full force in the film’s handheld slice-of-life kitchen-sink sensibilities.

For most of its runtime, Nocturnal is a pretty smart and savvy affair, careful always to show with a glance rather than tell in its dialogue. 

But a lazy inversion of that towards its conclusion weakens the story, making the impressive sum of its parts eventually more effective than the whole.

VC

The Tunnel
Directed by Pal Oie
★★★

INSPIRED by real-life events, this disaster thriller explodes into hair-raising action when a tanker truck crashes and catches fire inside a tunnel in the Norwegian mountains, leaving hundreds of people fighting for their lives.

The action is a grim and intense ride, with the claustrophobic conditions inside the burning and smoke-filled tunnel contrasted with breathtaking shots of the snow-covered mountainous outside.

Apparently, most tunnels in Norway apparently don’t have emergency exits or rooms and under Norwegian safety rules it is every man, woman and child for themselves in finding their way out — absolutely terrifying, as this film demonstrates.

MD

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