BLONDE. purple


Robbery, assault and battery.

(2021) Crime Drama (1091) Julian Moore-Cook, Ellie Bindman, Adam J. Bernard, Jennifer Lee Moon, Jessica Murrain, Roger Ajogbe, Andy Chaplin, Joe Gallina, Nicholas Grey, Daniel Jordan, Jennifer Lee Moon, Emily Swain, Richard Sandling, Jess Radomska, Stella Taylor, Oliver Silver, Al Gregg, David Ngara-O’Dwyer, Ryan Molloy, Martin Smith, Thomasin Lockwood. Directed by Marcus Flemmings

When things are going well, everybody tends to be generous and kindly. It is when things are exploding in our face that our true characters tend to emerge. Nothing explodes in the face quite like a bank robbery gone sideways.

And that is exactly what’s happened to Wyatt (Moore-Cook), a man who requires an immediate infusion of cash that is talked into doing something he’s never done before – rob a bank. His more experienced partner, Nath (Bernard), has been shot and taken to the hospital. Wyatt is left with a teenage girl Maddison (Bindman) as a hostage and a hostage negotiator (Gray) who might be the least suited for the job in the history of law enforcement.

In the two hours or so of the film’s run time, we get to meet these characters and others in their orbit. We find out that other members of the crew, like the hot-tempered Ant (Sandling), dropped out of the heist before it even began. We meet femme fatale Saida (Moon). And through it all, we see how Wyatt got into a situation that is so far over his head that it might as well be Mt. Everest.

Flemmings, whose last film Six Rounds (which Bernard starred in) showed immense promise, improves on that film here. The dialogue is far better, a quantum leap in fact. There is a noir-ish quality to it that is tantalizing. His eye for casting talented unknowns continues, as Moore-Cook and Bindman both shine. Bernard, who continues to impress, is a scene-stealer in a supporting role that you won’t soon forget. He’s an actor with the presence to carry franchise-level pictures, mark my words.

The drawback here is in the pacing and the editing. The film bounces around with a cornucopia of flashbacks which from time to time interrupt the momentum the film is building. This sort of thing can be frustrating to a viewer and as a critic, I tend to advocate simple storytelling devices to young filmmakers. Too many flashbacks can spoil a film like too much salt can spoil an entrée. Also, the movie is set in America, but the cast is British and it was filmed there. While I get the sense that Flemmings was trying to make a comment on American racial relations (a prologue Montage shows incendiary moments in American racial tension, from the Civil Rights era right up through the marches of Black Lives Matter), but there are too many English accents to make the movie believable as American-set. However, there is a killer soundtrack of classic R&B and retro-soul that is absolutely perfect for the film’s atmosphere.

In general, though, this is a movie that has a good deal going for it. Flemmings’ movies tend to be intelligent and thought-provoking which is a commodity that should be encouraged in any filmmaker. The good news is that this movie isn’t a step backwards for Flemmings; he’s moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if his next movie made a serious impact on the independent movie scene. No pressure, right?

REASONS TO SEE: The soundtrack is essential.
REASONS TO AVOID: The edit could have been a bit tighter (loses steam when it bounces around to various elements).
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In addition to being a film director, the London-born Flemmings has also been a fashion photographer.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/14/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dog Day Afternoon
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
Set!

Shrink


The party's over...

The party’s over…

(2009) Dramedy (Roadside Attractions) Kevin Spacey, Saffron Burrows, Jack Huston, Griffin Dunne, Robin Williams, Pell James, Robert Loggia, Keke Palmer, Gore Vidal, Dallas Roberts, Mark Webber, Jesse Plemmons, Laura Ramsey, Ashley Greene, Joel Gretsch, Mina Olivera. Directed by Jonas Pate

We look to our mental health professionals to help us see us through our problems, help us overcome our addictions and in general feel better about ourselves and our lives. Like any physician, they are also human beings, subject to issues and pain of their own.

Dr. Henry Carter (Spacey) is a bestselling author and psychiatrist to the stars. He has a gorgeous home in the hills, a clientele that reads like the “A” list and the respect of his peers. But that home is an empty one – his wife committed suicide in it. He can’t bring himself to go in his bedroom any more. He numbs himself out on alcohol and pot. In fact it can be said that Dr. Henry Carter is a stoner of epic proportions.

That’s not to say he isn’t functioning. He still manages to see patients and doles out advice that at least sounds good. His patients include a hard-charging talent manager (Roberts) who gives no quarter in business and has no regard for anyone, a fading comic actor (Williams) who is a raging alcoholic but refuses to acknowledge his problem – he attends his sessions to be treated for a sex addiction that he does acknowledge. There’s also an actress (Burrows) whose career is handled by the talent manager that is slowly spinning into oblivion as he believes her age is an obstacle. She is married to a philandering rock star (Gretsch).

Into this mix comes Jemma (Palmer), a teen whose mother recently committed suicide. She is seemingly losing interest in everything except the movies; Dr. Carter’s father (Loggia) – also a well-respected shrink – urged him to take her on as a pro bono case. At the same time, Dr. Carter’s “step-godbrother” Jeremy (Webber), a struggling screenwriter, becomes friendly with Jemma and realizes her story is the one he was born to tell.

Yes, this is one of those ensemble pieces where all the stories of all these different people are entwined. It’s just not done as well as those other movies like Babel or Crash. The writers rely far too much on coincidence. It’s lazy storytelling and it happens way often here.

Fortunately the movie has some strong performances to fall back on. Nobody in the business does cynical as well as Spacey does and he delivers once again here, despite material that really could have easily been rendered into a 2D caricature. To the actor’s credit, he gives the character nuances and layers that give him a fully realized personality that allows us to really get involved in his story.

He is well-supported, particularly by the manic Williams who has had problems with alcohol in his career and clearly channels those awful years in is performance; Palmer is sweet and cute and adorable and is a breath of fresh air in the movie and James who plays Roberts’ personal assistant who is the love interest for Jeremy.

The opening shot, a panoramic take of the City of Angels from behind the Hollywood sign, shows a great deal of promise but then it falls into cliché-ridden seen-it-all-before-ness that not only doesn’t add any real insight to addiction or life in L.A. but doesn’t really add anything to the genre either. The only thing it really has going for it is Spacey and you can certainly see him in plenty of much better films.

WHY RENT THIS: Spacey is always interesting. Supporting cast is first-rate.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A little bit formulaic. Some lazy writing – too many coincidences.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of alcohol and drug abuse in the film, and a whole lot of bad language. There’s some sexual content as well.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Michael Caine’s grandfather had a similar job to Hobbs.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a music video for the Jackson Browne song “Here” from the film’s soundtrack.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $303,431 on an unreported production budget; chances are this wasn’t profitable during its theatrical run.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Crash

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Gangster Squad