Liam Neeson is magnetic as the natural leader of a group of men who survive a plane crash in the Alaskan tundra. He has to be, not only for his companions but for the sake of this thriller, which badly needs some meat on its bones. Initially Neeson’s hunter is suicidal after losing the woman he loves, but he resets to survival mode without much difficulty when a pack of wolves begins to stalk the men across the snow. This teases out each man’s weakness, but the resultant stabs at psychological analysis are unconvincing. Fortunately, Neeson has the gravitas to evoke his character’s inner strength and certainly doesn’t need the many flashback scenes he is lumbered with. Director Joe Carnahan (Narc, The A-Team) is better at making a visceral impact, evident in the crash sequence and every time the wolves pounce. Consequently, this works more as a horror film than a character study, though Neeson’s air of abandonment certainly cuts deep.
Pornography, drugs and disco are the driving forces of this potent parable of the partying 1970s from director Paul Thomas Anderson. Spanning the height of the disco era, this Martin Scorsese-influenced rags-to-bitches allegory is a visually stunning and poignant exploration of the adult entertainment industry. Charting the rise, fall and rise again of bus boy-turned-porn star Mark Wahlberg, who has the right credentials to make it big in the business, Anderson’s surreal take on the American Dream is as startling as it is highly entertaining. Burt Reynolds was Oscar-nominated for his brilliant turn as sleaze-movie producer Jack Horner, the patriarch of an extended family of life’s flotsam and jetsam. Scintillating support is provided by Heather Graham as Rollergirl and Julianne Moore (also Oscar-nominated) as leading lady Amber Waves. The breathtaking opening Steadicam shot is justifiably famous.
In this gleefully inventive bloodbath, Rutger Hauer adds another iconic role to a screen CV that includes Blade Runner and The Hitcher. He stars as the indignant tramp who turns vigilante and sets about cleaning the mean streets of Hope City from lowlife trash, sexual predators, corrupt officials and gangster slime. Jason Eisener’s film began life as a fake trailer that was included in the Canadian release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s B-movie celebration Grindhouse, but unlike the similarly spawned Machete this expanded release is perfectly balanced between imitation and parody. While extreme splatter matters to Eisener, it’s his infectious pulp energy, jet-black humour and witty flourishes that give the edgy violence a joyous shock value above the exploitation norm. The cartoon viciousness and wild overacting only add to the winningly exuberant excess of what is a startling feature debut for the director.