THE MEN (BFI). Marlon Brando’s first film. Released in 1950, this candid, sentimental, but cliched and clumsy quasi-documentary is set in a US hospital for WWII veterans. Brando plays a paraplegic in a wheelchair who rages inside and out against his powerlessness, forcing the audience to share in his pain. His subtle and powerful playing required no accompaniment from an obtrusive score. Teresa Wright plays his devoted fiancée. 55 Veterans play themselves.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (BBC iPlayer). Patricia Highsmith’s expert and stylish psychological thriller is set in the Greek islands. Two master criminals, one rich (Viggo Mortensen); the other, a con man (Oscar Isaac), is vying for the rich man’s wife (Kirsten Dunst). And then there is the question of a lot of money and who gets it. The two rivals are becoming more and more dependent on each other. Isaac manages to make the imposter sympathetic. Mortensen isn’t trying to be nice; on the contrary
I AM A CAMERA (Studio Canal). Julie Harris reprises her award-winning Broadway performance as Sally Bowles. Those who have read Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin novels and seen John Van Druten’s 1951 play and musical, cabaret, will be greatly disappointed by this cheesy, theatrical, poorly directed and poorly acted 1955 film that has too much goofy farce and not nearly enough Nazi seriousness. Isherwood absolutely loathed it. Laurence Harvey is a miscast and his hairstyle is totally wrong for the 1930s.
EXTREME PREJUDICES (Studio Canal). Directed by Walter Hill, this 1987 bank robbery and drug cartel thriller has a cast of CIA mercenaries who are all believed to have been killed in the war. Nick Nolte is the no-nonsense, hard-headed Texas Ranger. Powers Boothe is the flamboyant drug dealer. They were friends; now they are mortal enemies and rivals for the same woman. Hill focuses on the violence rather than the plot and it feels like a modern western. The violence is brutal and there is a fantastic Wild Bunch bloodbath finale that is stunning in its execution and editing.
HIGH CRIME RATE (Studio Canal). I wish I could have seen 1973 by Enzo G. Castellari poliziotesco Thriller in Italian with subtitles. The dubbed English voices don’t suit the Italian actors at all. Franco Nero (with his distinctive hairdo) suffers the most. He is cast as a police inspector who wants to break up the drug ring (led by Fernando Ray) in Genoa. A landmark film for its time, the film features violent slow-motion killings and dangerous car stunts that take place in real traffic.
THE GOOD LIAR (Netflix). A psychological thriller. The cast includes Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Jim Carter and Russell Tovey, which is promising. Unfortunately, the script is a mess and the longer the film goes on, the more improbable and confusing it becomes. There seem to be two separate stories that never converge convincingly. McKellen plays a uniquely awkward con man. Mirren plays his victim.
KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALIVE (studio channel). There’s a lot of violence (punches, bullets, dynamite) in this all-male, no-female 1968 spaghetti western. Enzo G Castellari tongue-in-cheek relies on his stuntmen rather than his actors, whose acting skills are very limited; but the stunts are so acrobatic and so absurdly unconvincing that they come across as comical and childishly silly.
WATCH MOVIES AT HOME: Robert Tanitch reviews 7 movies
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