There are several interesting things about what is, at it core, a fairly standard serial killer thriller. There’s a clever midpoint twist that turns everything on its head, and gives you a whole new understanding of what happened in the first half. Good but not great.
This steam punk noir manages to weave a murder mystery into a love story, in fact several love stories, balancing out the passion with a heavy dose of political intrigue, that hinges on an almost nineteenth century xenophobia against the races of mythical creatures who live on Carnival Row. It’s well constructed if a little slow on occasion. Put me in mind of China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series.
Worthy of every one of the accolades it received, and writing anything more feels like gilding the lily.
It’s hard to know where to start. The premise is compelling enough. An eclectic group of misfits hunt and kill Nazis in nineteen seventies America. Interesting idea, but not what provides the spice. It’s the tone of the show that’s gonna burn your tongue and make your sweat. It delves comedically into the post war policy of providing top Nazis safe haven in the states. It deals seriously with the trauma of life for those who survived the camps. All the time walking a razors edge of distaste, courting offence on one side of the blade and accusations of trivialisation on the other. They pull it off by blending at high speed exploitation flick and genuine holocaust remembrance, mixing in a comic book paste, and splashing in a chillies sauce of dark satire, the kind you might find in Kurt Vonnegut novel. It’s not a cocktail for everyone, but if you like your entertainment with flavours, this will take you on an journey.
An imagined conversation between a husband and wife.
I don’t know what to make of this low budget sciences fiction musing about the tension between humans and artificial intelligence. Visually it’s all a bit seventies practical effects. You can almost see the glue holding the props together. Personally I don’t mind this, it has a certain retro charm, but current audiences might find it a bit pants. The performers do their best with what they have, but are let down by a screenplay that’s a little on the nose. Instead of allowing you to make up your own mind, it’s telling us what to think. Where you should be discovering you’re taken to it. Where you should brushing up against enigma you’re given conclusions. Early films for both writer and director, that are reaching for something more than the usual cowboys in space. Interested to see what’s next from both.
Sean Penn steals the show as the madman, battling his psychosis while helping Mel Gibson’s professor write the Oxford English Dictionary. Ernest and interesting in equal measure.
It’s strange to think this film is 25 years old. Even after all that time it still packs an almighty wallop. It’s not just the performances or the writing, but the way it makes you take a deep breath and hold it. I know what’s going to happen. I can literally repeat the dialogue. But it still manages to take my breath away. It’s a film with many imitators, but none that live up to its essence. I wish contemporary films could summon up a quarter of its ability to make me feel. I miss that felling of being clawed by the throat, and made to gasp breathless, as a story unfolds. It’s exciting in a way thing just aren’t anymore.