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Film Round-up: March 8

This week the Star's critics review Walk Like A Panther, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, You Were Never Really Here, Gringo, and Wonder Wheel

Walk Like a Panther (12A)
Directed by Dan Cadan
★★★

PRACTICALLY every film today ends up feeding television’s increasingly insatiable appetite for material to fill the medium’s screens 24/7.

Walk Like a Panther reverses that trend in that writer and first-time director Dan Cadan first brought his wrestling-based comedy concept to life as a short-lived 2008 TV sitcom.

Here he establishes the narrative background with an opening flashback tribute to the popular 1980s ITV Saturday afternoon television show World of Sport, whose larger-than-life wrestling icons included brawlers such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus.

Nostalgia infuses Cadan’s contemporary storyline, which finds a group of former wrestlers — the eponymous Panthers — living in a small Yorkshire town reuniting to fight in the ring again. They want to save their beloved pub The Half Nelson from destruction by the cruellest of contemporary villains — developers.

Cadan says his film is not about wrestling as a sport but about wrestling with life, “which we all do one day at a time.”  The result is a pleasant, if forgettable, nostalgic blend of character-driven laughs and wrestling action, performed with patent enjoyment by hard-working actors not self-adoring stars.

Think Ealing Comedy meets Carry On, 21st century-style. And relax.

Alan Frank

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (12A)
Directed by Alexandra Dean
★★★★

SCREEN siren Hedy Lamarr, “the most beautiful woman in the world,” was the inspiration for Disney's Snow White and Cat Woman.

But what is less known is that she was an ingenious inventor whose pioneering work — frequency hopping — is now used as the basis for secure Wifi, GPS and Bluetooth.

She has never received proper credit for that, which writer-director Alexandra Dean aims to correct in this riveting debut documentary, co-produced by Susan Sarandon.

Lamarr narrates her own story via a previously unheard audio interview with journalist Fleming Meeks in 1990 in which she went on the record for the first time about her life and work, with friends and family filling in the gaps.

“Any girl can be glamorous,” Lamarr says at the beginning of the film. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” This sets the tone for the rest of the documentary, the remarkable story of an extraordinary groundbreaking and intelligent woman who was always at odds with her beauty and how people could never get past her face.

But Bombshell means that Lamarr will finally get her wish of being recognised for her intellect and technological genius rather than her beauty.

MD

You Were Never Really Here (15)
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
★★

YOU Were Never Really Here won director Lynne Ramsay the best screenplay award, its star Joaquin Phoenix was voted best actor at the Cannes film festival last year and the ecstatic critical reception for her version of Jonathan Ames’s hard-arsed New York-set thriller would imply that she's achieved auteur status.

The gore-soaked central story has Phoenix, mesmerising but over the top, playing an overweight, bearded hitman with emotional problems landing in trouble when he's hired to rescue a14-year-old girl from a child-prostitution ring.

I shouldn’t bother trying to follow the headache-creating plot. Ramsay doesn’t, settling instead for unpleasantly graphic blood and violence, decorated with deliberate directorial flourishes designed to further her auteur pretensions rather than the narrative.

But excellent editing by Joe Bini helps drives the storyline along and an unfamiliar supporting cast adds badly needed credibility.

AF

Gringo (15)
Directed by Nash Edgerton
★★★

BEST KNOWN for his dramatic roles, British actor David Oyelowo shows off his comedic prowess alongside a star-studded cast in this dark action-comedy.

Oyelowo plays the hard-working, fiercely loyal and mild-mannered Harold Soyinka who is shafted by his back-stabbing bosses Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron, in wonderfully evil mode) during a work trip to Mexico.

There, the naive Harold is kidnapped and pursued by local drugs lords and a black-ops mercenary.

Directed by Nash Edgerton, this quirky and entertaining comedy tries a little too hard at times and the tone is somewhat uneven, but those drawbacks are overcome by solid performances from an A-list cast having a blast.

That's especially so with Oyelowo. He's a true revelation and I can't wait to see him in more comedies.

MD

Wonder Wheel (12A)
Directed by Woody Allen
★★

WOODY ALLEN generates galaxies of comment, pro and con, but one thing he's certainly good at is finding finance for his films, delivering one every year.

His 2017 offering is set in 1950s Coney Island, where acting aspirant Ginny (Kate Winslet) is working as a waitress. She lives with her thuggish carousel-operator husband Humpty (Jim Belushi) and their young, unfortunately pyromaniac, son.

The surprisingly lacklustre story is briefly catalysed by Ginny’s affair with lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake) and then by the shock arrival of Humpty’s estranged daughter Caroline (Juno Temple) who, pursued by murderous gangsters, also has an affair with Mickey.

I hope I haven’t made it sound too entertaining. It isn’t. Ultimately, it resembles a pastiche of routine vintage Hollywood melodramas, with Winslet’s searing performance — far better than the film deserves — its saving grace.

AF

 

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