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crime | John McDonald

crime

American Hustle

December 14, 2013

There’s something irresistible in a wellmade film about con artists, who are invariably portrayed in a sympathetic light. Perhaps there’s not much difference between them, actors and directors. Filmmakers set out to con the viewer by creating an illusion, setting false trails and expectations. We, in turn, are happy to be conned. There are plenty … More


The Counselor

November 9, 2013

In a hotel room in El Paso, two anonymous bodies are entwined beneath the sheets. We listen to their conversation for minutes before we lay eyes on Michael Fassbender and Penélope Cruz, playing the Counselor and his girlfriend, Laura. Having just seen a big René Magritte exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, … More


Mystery Road & Exposed

October 19, 2013

Before Mel Gibson got a real American accent, the film Mad Max (1979) was dubbed to make it acceptable to a United States audience. Is that Australian twang still a barrier to international success? Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road should answer this question. The accents could hardly be more Australian but the film is pitched firmly … More


The Act of Killing & Rush

October 5, 2013

There are limits to a social conscience. When a film has attracted every possible superlative it takes on the status of a must-see event, but after about ten minutes you know The Act of Killing will be both sickening and unforgettable. As one deadpan horror follows another in an interminable procession, many viewers will decide … More


Stoker & The Best Offer

August 31, 2013

There was a moment in the 1980s when Australian directors such as Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong heard the siren call of Hollywood and went to make films in the United States. It seems this alluring melody is now drifting towards South Korea, with directors such as Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), Bong Joon-ho (The … More


The Bling Ring & Beyond the Hills

August 10, 2013

Sofia Coppola says she didn’t grow up in Hollywood and has never been a part of the subculture she anatomises in The Bling Ring. Yet Coppola, who has been in the film industry since birth, may be the perfect director to explore a notorious crime spree in which celebrities’ homes were burglarised by a group … More


Man of Steel & Everybody Has a Plan

July 6, 2013

When comic book heroes are turned into sensitive brooding souls, there is something twisted in our culture. We’ve seen a tortured Batman and now an angst-ridden Superman filled with anxiety about his true identity and how people might react to his superpowers. To complete the psychological profile the new Superman has a difficult childhood. He … More


Farewell My Queen & Fast and Furious 6

June 8, 2013

Everyone knows the story of doomed, frivolous Marie Antoinette whose life of pampered luxury was ended by the guillotine. The Queen’s personality was established in filmmakers’ minds by Stefan Zweig’s best-selling biography of 1932, subtitled The Portrait of an Average Woman, and she has never been allowed to deviate too far from that model. Among … More


The Reluctant Fundamentalist & Sinister

May 25, 2013

Mohsin Hamid says the structure of his novel of 2007, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was partly based on Fred Zinnemann’s classic western, High Noon. Instead of Gary Cooper waiting for the baddies to arrive, we have a group of militant students in Lahore awaiting the police and a group of American agents. It sounds good in … More


The Place Beyond the Pines & Tabu

May 11, 2013

Although I’m not much interested in the celebrity circuit, it was surprising to read, late last year, that Bradley Cooper had been named The Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. By all accounts the most outraged constituency were fans of Ryan Gosling, the other Hollywood pin-up boy of our era. If it achieves nothing else, … More