Friday, 4 September 2015

BASIC INSTINCT: Two new films play fast and loose with reality and human nature

HIGH GRADE: Joaquin Phoenix is no stranger to bizarre, mind-boggling behaviour. His Hollywood trajectory is littered with head-scratching moments that give you pause. That’s one reason why he seems so ideally cast as ‘Doc’ Sportello in Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson’s perversely funny, cleverly plotted stoner crime comedy that reunites him with his Walk the Line co-star Reese Witherspoon. But Inherent Vice is fresh territory for the versatile Phoenix, whose Sportello is an in-demand private investigator who gets the job done but can’t stay out of trouble, finding himself in all kinds of scrapes and run-ins with the law. For his latest assignment, he’s tasked with getting to the bottom of what happened to a wealthy businessman and his girlfriend (Doc’s ex) who’ve vanished without a trace – a case that embroils him in the Los Angeles criminal underworld with dire consequences. Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, the ensemble film also co-stars Josh Brolin as investigating officer Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen; Witherspoon playing Deputy DA Penny Kimball; Benicio del Toro (the ruthless Sauncho Smiley) and Owen Wilson as the unassuming Cory Harlingen. Clocking in at 149 minutes, Inherent Vice is yet another unqualified triumph for Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and a stellar showcase for Phoenix, one of the most versatile actors of his generation. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

CUT TO THE CHASE: In No Escape, Owen Wilson plays American businessman Jack Dwyer, a decent and upstanding guy who has flown with his family over to Thailand on a work-related trip, as his company is involved in plans to improve the region’s water quality. But all hell breaks loose when rebels, armed with guns and machetes, go on a wild rampage, storming the hotels and slaughtering tourists and locals alike. Like any protective patriarch, Dwyer will stop at nothing to safeguard his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters – a quest that puts his mettle and survival instincts to the test. It’s an absolutely horrifying and grippingly realistic sequence of events that plays out, and director John Dowdle’s script (co-written with his brother Drew) raises troubling questions about safety and standard of living in South-east Asia. Tyrone’s Verdict: B




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