Films made up of interwoven stories are notoriously difficult to do well, as it’s all too easy either to lose the threads of the difficult episodes or to become impatient with the less substantial ones. That director Mario Zampi nearly brings off the trick here is almost entirely down to the fantastic performance of Alastair Sim as the henpecked thriller writer whose inheritance depends on him receiving a 28-day jail sentence. The scene in which he tries to shoplift is one of the funniest in a career overladen with choice comic moments. The other three episodes aren’t bad, it’s just that Sim’s is exceptional.
In this slasher-influenced take on Ten Little Indians, a classy cast is stranded at a remote motel in the Nevada desert on the proverbial dark and stormy night (which of course means that the phone lines are down and contact with the outside world is impossible). Given that the place is suspiciously reminiscent of another roadside hostelry (proprietor: N Bates), it’s no surprise when they find themselves being picked off one by one in increasingly bloody ways. As the potential victims include indie favourites John Cusack and Ray Liotta, you hope that this is going to be more than a TV-movie-style murder mystery in which the guest turns are offed according to Hollywood rank, with the highest paid actor remaining. For the most part it is – the shocks are well staged, there are flashes of wit and the performances are sly without being too tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately, director James Mangold can’t sustain the atmosphere in the face of increasingly outlandish plot twists and the final revelation is so wildly illogical it’s irritating.
It may not seem much of a compliment, but this is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most efficient movies, a stripped-down thriller that cheerfully sacrifices characterisation on the altar of exhilarating action and special effects. Schwarzenegger stars as the leader of an elite special forces team whose jungle mission is thrown into chaos when they are tracked by a lethal alien game hunter. As with Aliens, much of the fun comes from watching a bunch of macho soldiers crack under pressure. Director John McTiernan ensures the tension is kept at snapping point and he’s helped no end by the sci-fi gimmick of a “cloaking” device that keeps the predator hidden from view. This smash hit propelled McTiernan onto the Hollywood A-list, a position he consolidated with 1988’s Die Hard.
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