The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Part II

In Films by Coach Brock

Remakes sometimes prove weak derivatives of the original film but The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo deserves to stand on equal footing as the Swedish original. The strengths of the original film – an enigmatic title character, dark themes and a cold setting which is not often portrayed on film – remain intact as do the weaknesses, such as the stilted plot and anti-climatic conclusion. The first chapter of the Millennium Trilogy is more suited to film, where it can be edited and altered to retain the audience’s interest, than a 631 page tome. Many films follow Akira Kurosawa’s model …

Drive

In Books by Coach Brock

Ryan Gosling’s unnamed protagonist is as enigmatic as Drive itself. Mixing genres between film noir, tragic hero and 1980s crime thriller, Drive certainly showcases a fair amount of style as it could have been directed by Miami Vice’s Michael Mann. When it endeavours to tell a story, it falls short because the film relies solely on the viewer taking it all in from afar rather than scrutinizing the brush strokes. Undoubtedly, the film is unique as Gosling’s character, who works as a getaway driver, auto mechanic and stock car racer. He is elusive at first when he is introduced as …

The Interrupters

In Films by Coach Brock

In many respects, The Interrupters showcases the dichotomy of documentary filmmaking: the execution of the film is flawed but the story is spellbinding. Shot over the course of a year, the documentary follows “Violence Interrupters” affiliated with the group Cease Fire as the roam the streets of Chicago’s most at-risk neighborhoods, mediating confrontations and diffusing dangerous situations. The group’s goal is two-fold: to reduce violence as much as possible because acts of violence beget violence and lobby to address some of the root causes of which violence is a symptom. The group is founded by a doctor named Gary Slutkin …

T.I.F.F. 2011, Part V: Into the Abyss

In Films by Coach Brock

Werner Herzog returns to the Toronto film scene with Into the Abyss, another existential work strangely similar yet totally unlike his last documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The documentary is both a rumination on the meaning of life and a true crime story, a version of In Cold Blood for the twenty-first century. Herzog recounts a triple-homicide in Conroe, Texas in 2001 when Michael James Perry and Jason Burkett killed three people in order to steal a Camaro. Interviewing friends and family of the victims and perpetrators, Into the Abyss exposes the audience to lives impacted by poverty and marred …

Mystic River

In Films by Coach Brock

Mystic River is a study in contrasts: the divergence of adulthood from childhood, the distrust between society’s instruments and its constituents, the clash between those who are law abiding and those willing to take it into their own hands. Over the course of two hours, director Clint Eastwood delicately establishes parallels between conflicting groups and how they conspire to cheat people of a positive outcome, or even a fair one. Fate is cruel and does not explain its reasoning but everyone must abide by its consequnces. Jimmy, Sean and Dave are best friends until one day when they are eleven-years …

Capote

In Films by Coach Brock

Capote chronicles the life of author Truman Capote as he chronicles the murders in Holcomb, Kansas which would become the basis for his book In Cold Blood. The quadruple-homicide may have permanently damaged the innocence of the country as the task of researching and writing the book harmed the conscience of the author. The Kansas scenery comes to life, albeit in the drab colours of winter. Instead of a stark conflict between good and bad, black and white, there are many varied interests at play. The contrast between the values of the upstanding citizens of Holcomb and those of Perry …

In Cold Blood

In Films by Coach Brock

Unlike the film Gangs of New York, which adapted a spell-binding text and rendered it into conventional Hollywood tripe, In Cold Blood enhances the true crime novel by Truman Capote and brings it to life on the silver screen. The events which permanently altered life in tiny Holcomb, Kansas – and perhaps throughout all small towns in the United States – have been the subject of a true crime novel by Truman Capote, a documentary, television movie and the first widely-distributed American film to use profanity. Capote devoted six years to the project, compiling records and minutiae in order to …

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1

In Films by Coach Brock

After a long delay, I was finally able to view the conclusion of the two-part series about French gangster Jacques Mesrine, thanks to Bay Street Video. Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 follows the criminal as he moves in and out of custody and the police move ever closer. The true crime drama captures the last two years of Mesrine’s career, culminating in a violent shootout in the Parisian suburbs. Unlike the prequel, the tone of this work more like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Public Enemies. Like Mesrine: Public Enemy, the film is excellent and shares many of the …

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

In Films by Coach Brock

So often, documentaries are praised because they bring interesting information to light, not because of the director’s craft or production values. The documentary combines interviews with archival footage, mixing objective facts with subjective opinions. Viewers leave the theatre believing that they have been totally informed about the latest crisis which is about to erupt when in fact they were only shown highlights of one side of the issue. The works can still be a productive use of two hours but one must keep their critical thinking filters on at all times. At first glance, Client 9: The Rise and Fall …

T.I.F.F. 2010, Part III: The Big Picture

In Films by Coach Brock

Also known as L’Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie, The Big Picture proved to be another excellent film. “Thank you for choosing this f—— film,” director Eric Lartigau told the capacity crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival. The f—— film focuses on Paul Exben, played by Roman Duris. Early in the film, his learns that his marriage has collapsed. Paul confronts Grégoire, his wife’s lover, and accidentally kills the man. He realizes that he must disappear so he assumes Grégoire’s identity and moves to the Balkans. The film is a dark character study of a tragic hero. Lartigau often …

T.I.F.F. 2010, Part I: Easy Money

In Films by Coach Brock

After viewing countless flawed films, tolerating several superficial screenplays, and living with too many loose ends that have not been tied up, I was very happy to see Easy Money at the Toronto International Film Festival. A crime caper film with a twist, director Daniel Espinosa spends as much time exploring the personal lives of those who control the drug market in Sweden as he does the cocaine deal about to unfold. Consequently, the characters are fully developed and their motivations are known and understood. J.W. is a business school student who drives a cab and runs errands for a …

Mesrine: Killer Instinct

In Films by Coach Brock

The first installment of a two-part series, Killer Instinct chronicles the first part of Jacques Mesrine’s life of crime. when the gangster operated in France and Canada in the 1960s. Many aspects of the film are taken from other pictures; the film seems to be part Goodfellas, part Bonnie and Clyde, there is even a scene taken exactly from Thelma and Louise. Though the derivations – camera angles, plot elements, even a couple of nearly identical scenes – are obvious, the way that everything is deftly combined does not cheapen the film. Ultimately, there is no shame stealing from master directors …

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In Films by Coach Brock

Far too few films feature enthralling character development and an elegant touch to create suspense and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of those works. It is a clever psychological thriller — not without its flaws but still much more intriguing than the average film. Although one audience member walked out in digust when he found out that it was filmed in Swedish with subtitles, I did not feel that that hampered the story at all. Interestingly, another woman in the theatre forgot that the film was restricted and reacted in shock whenever a rated-R moment occured. Stieg Larsen elegantly incorporates …

The Secret in Their Eyes

In Films by Coach Brock

A film that alternates between drama, romance, and comedy, The Secret in Their Eyes shows that thoughtful filmmaking is not dead (at least until the final ten minutes when subtlety goes out the window). Esposito is a retired investigator who is now an aspiring writer. Although he has changed careers, he cannot put his two passions – an unsolved case and an unrequited love – out of his mind. The crime in question, a twenty-five year old murder and rape case, is not overly intricate. Some crime thrillers compile twist after twist until the story passes the bounds of plausibility …

Un prophète

In Films by Coach Brock

Most reviews of Un prophète are either very positive or quite negative. There seems to be no middle ground. I don’t know what to make of it. I would ask any view of Avatar or The Hurt Locker whether each film would have the same impact if it were the fourth or fifth version of that style of film. Unfortunately for Un prophète, it seems like it is one neo-realist film too many. After films like Gomorrah, Sin Nombre, and The Disappearance of Alice Creed have broken down all taboos and shown the gritty omnipresent nature of crime. Relative to …

A Good Fella or a Wise Guy?

In Films by Coach Brock

Both sides of a tragic tale – the glitz and glamour and the nuts and bolts – are told by Martin Scorcese and Nicholas Pileggi, retelling Henry Hill’s journey from hijacker and street tough to drug dealer and gambler to federal informant. The two works exemplify the difference between film and literature; Goodfellas enables you to visualize the events and see how a character chooses a course of action and Wise Guy recounts exactly what happened and how it was done. In retrospect, Goodfellas will be recognized as one of the top three films of the 1980s, although stylistically it …