State of Play, The Heist, Betty Blue: films on TV today

Russell Crowe is onto a story, Christopher Walken is after a work of art, Béatrice Dalle is on a downward spiral: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today


State of Play ★★★★
10.00pm-12.35am ITV4


Purists blanched (don’t we always?) when Paul Abbott’s ambitious six-part BBC political saga of 2003 was remade as a Washington-set action movie in 2009. But it’s fine. Each has its place, and it’s best to forget that the film is based on the series. In the capable hands of director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and with writers Tony Gilroy (the Bourne films), Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z) on heavyweight adaptation duty, it shifts action from Westminster to the Beltway, and confidently erases David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelly Macdonald and Bill Nighy from our minds. Rather, it’s Ben Affleck as the compromised, square-jawed politician, Russell Crowe as the dogged journalist, Rachel McAdams as a blogger (to create some old-school/new-media tension) and Helen Mirren as the hard-nosed newspaper boss. Struggles in Congress and the Middle East drive the resultant thumping, slick thrills.

The Heist ★★★
11.45pm-1.10am BBC1 Premiere

This breezy “one-first-job” caper sees Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman and William H Macy hatch a plan to steal valuable paintings from the gallery where they work, not for money, mind, but because they love the art so much. The movie almost didn’t see the light of day, after distributor/financer Yari Film Group went bankrupt, but with a cast this good it was bound to be picked up elsewhere.

Betty Blue ★★★★★
11.45pm-3.30am Film Four

This extended version of the celebrated erotic French drama packs another 60 minutes of passion and rage into the Oscar-nominated drama from Diva director Jean-Jacques Beineix. Jean-Hugues Anglade plays a handyman and would-be novelist who embarks on a tempestuous relationship with a wild, unpredictable woman (Béatrice Dalle) whom he meets at a beach resort. It’s a virtually plotless, but wholly intense drama, led by a sultry, ferocious performance from Dalle.

Night of the Living Dead ★★★★
10.45pm-12.40am Horror Channel

George A Romero not only gave his blessing to his longtime makeup artist-turned director Tom Savini’s remake of Romero’s 1968 zombie classic, but came on board as writer and updated his own script. As a result, this is one remake that is acceptable to many fans of the original. The main difference is that this one’s in colour, which may please some, but no amount of bright red blood can surpass the shock value that the original had at the time.

The Lady from Shanghai ★★★★
11.00am-12.45pm Film Four

Rita Hayworth went blonde against the wishes of Columbia studio head Harry Cohn to fascinate Orsen Welles’s roving Irish sailor in this early film noir that Welles also directed. Hayworth was also estranged from husband Welles by then, so the combination of real-life separation and on-screen entanglement is almost too much to bear – and that’s even before Welles finds himself accused of murder.


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