Serpentine Revenge Thriller Featuring All The Fixin’s For Riveting Cinema
After being bashed beyond recognition by her alcoholic husband (Fran Kranz) again, Molly (Jocelin Donahue) made a beeline to her regular port of refuge in a storm. So, by the time his hangover wore off the next day, he knew exactly where he could find her.
Her mother (Joelle Carter) was so upset when Teddy showed up that she pointed a gun at his chest and ordered him to “Stay away from my daughter!” But the savage wife beater defiantly called her bluff by waiting for his spouse while arrogantly asserting, “Angela, you’re not going to shoot me.”
Emerging from the house with a black eye and bruises all over her body, Molly brushed past her mom before forgiving her sadistic abuser for the umpteenth time. Fed up with this predictable cycle of dysfunction, Angela prevails upon her son (Kenny Wormald) to defend his sister’s honor, like their late daddy would’ve done, if he were still around.
Although Gordon loves his sister, he’s too much of a milquetoast to rise to the occasion by taking the law into his own hands. And after taking a humiliating tongue lashing from his irate mom, he decides out of desperation to enlist help in exacting a measure of revenge.
So, he arranges a meeting in a diner with Howard Blake (Chris Mulkey), a tough guy for hire. The ex-con turns out to be not only a cold-blooded hit man but cheap enough to retain on a modest, grocery clerk’s salary. So, the next thing you know, Gordon finds himself stuck in a conspiracy to commit murder that he can’t back out of even when he starts to have second thoughts.
That is the intriguing point of departure of The Living, a serpentine psychological thriller written and directed by Jack Bryan (Struck). This character-driven drama chronicles the slow descent into depravity of a well-meaning hero who reluctantly takes to the wrong side of the law for the sake of a sister stuck in denial.
A grim, grudging-buddies splatterfest featuring a few surprising plot twists and all the fixin’s for a riveting cinematic experience.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 91 minutes
Studio: Shooting Films
Man From Reno
Crime Writer Becomes Embroiled In Real-Life Murder Mystery In Multilayered Neo-Noir
Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani) is a mystery writer in her native Japan where she is famous for her best-selling Inspector Takabe series. But despite achieving phenomenal success and the fanfare surrounding the release of her latest potboiler, the popular novelist is still feeling so empty that she’s contemplating suicide.
Desperate for a change of scenery, she travels from Tokyo to San Francisco where she rents a hotel room, and plays with a razor while sitting in a bathtub. Fortunately, before making a rash decision, she ventures down to the bar where she is propositioned by a handsome Japanese gentleman (Kazuki Kitamura) in town from Reno.
Though initially offended by the crass overture, Aki eventually invites the solicitous stranger up to her room for a delightful evening of no-strings attached sex. The next morning, the strapping hunk vanishes into thin air without saying goodbye, however he does leave a suitcase full of clues behind.
Meanwhile, in nearby San Marco, Sheriff Moral (Pepe Serna) and his deputized daughter (Elisha Skorman) have a dead body on their hands identified as Akira Suzuki. As it turns out, that’s the name of the stud with whom Aki just shared the steamy one-night stand.
Furthermore, besides the authorities, there are a number of unsavory characters who are suddenly suspicious of seemingly innocent Aki. They also want access to her recently-deceased lover’s belongings.
So, instead of quietly committing hari kari, the flustered tourist finds herself embroiled in the middle of a real whodunit, rather than a creation of her fertile imagination. Thus unfolds Man From Reno, a cleverly-scripted neo-noir directed by Dave Boyle (White On Rice). Laced with more twists than a Chubby Checker concert, this inscrutable adventure proves a pure delight to unravel from beginning to end.
An utterly absorbing, inspired homage to the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 111 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening April 3, 2015
Furious 7 (PG-13 for pervasive violence and mayhem, suggestive content and brief profanity) Latest installment in the adrenaline-fueled franchise, featuring recently-deceased Paul Walker’s final screen appearance, finds the motley crew of mercenaries coming out of retirement to match wits with a vengeful assassin (Jason Statham). Ensemble cast includes Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell and Djimon Hounsou.
Woman In Gold (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Helen Mirren plays the title character in this fact-based, courtroom drama recounting an elderly Holocaust survivor’s attempt to recover a priceless family heirloom stolen by the Nazis during World War II. With Ryan Reynolds, Katie Holmes, Elizabeth McGovern and Frances Fisher.
5 To 7 (R for sexuality) Romantic romp revolving around an aspiring young writer (Anton Yelchin) and a married, middle-aged socialite (Berenice Marlohe) who rendezvous at the same time every day for a passionate affair at a classy, Midtown Manhattan hotel. Featuring Glenn Close, Olivia Thirlby and Frank Langella.
Boychoir (Unrated) Musical drama about the battle of wills which ensues when a demanding choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman) pushes an orphaned, 11-year-old student (Garrett Wareing) to the limit in order to help the promising prodigy reach his potential. With Josh Lucas, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger and Eddie Izzard.
Cheatin’ (Unrated) Adult-oriented animated adventure about a love triangle involving a happily-married couple (Sophia Takal and Jeremy Baumann) and the shameless temptress (Sita Steele) who turns the husband’s head. Voice cast includes Alex Markowitz, Jacob Steele and Mike Dragovic and Kelly Kriegshauser.
Cut Bank (R for violence and profanity) Psychological crime thriller, set in Montana, about a young auto mechanic (Liam Hemsworth) whose plans for a better life for himself and his girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) unravel after filming a murder he witnesses in their tiny hometown. With Billy Bob Thornton, John Malkovich, Bruce Dern and Oliver Platt.
Death Of A Tree (Unrated) Faith-based drama about an elderly Catholic widower (Ronnie Marmo) who finds himself tempted by an attractive young woman (Gracie Tyrrell) to break the vow of celibacy he gave to God. Cast includes Megan Barton, Paul Borghese and Alexi Foor.
Effie Gray (PG-13 for sexuality, mature themes and brief nudity) Dakota Fanning stars as the title character in this historical drama, set in Victorian England, about the scandalous, loveless marriage between a teen bride and a prominent art historian (Greg Wise). With Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Claudia Cardinale and Derek Jacobi.
Electric Slide (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and brief violence) Crime blotter biopic chronicling the life and times of furniture salesman-turned-infamous outlaw Eddie Dodson (Jim Sturgess) who robbed 72 banks over the course of his checkered career. Ensemble cast includes Patricia Arquette, Chloe Sevigny, Isabel Lucas, Constance Wu, Rhys Coiro, Vinessa Shaw and Oz Perkins.
The Girl Is In Trouble (Unrated) Urban crime thriller about a down-on-his-luck Manhattan DJ (Columbus Short) torn between blackmailing a murderer (Jesse Spencer) and helping a damsel in distress (Alicja Bachjleda). Co-starring Wilmer Valderrama, Paz de la Huerta and Miriam Colon.
The Hand That Feeds (Unrated) Employment discrimination exposé about a mild-mannered short order cook-turned-real-life Norma Rae who rallied fellow undocumented immigrants to challenge exploitative working conditions at a New York City restaurant chain.
Lambert & Stamp (R for profanity, drug use and brief nudity) ’60s retrospective revisiting a couple of fledgling filmmakers (Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert) who abandoned their plans to make a movie in order to mentor and manage the promising rock & roll band that would eventually call itself The Who. Featuring Pete Townsend, Terence Stamp and Roger and Heather Daltrey. (In German, French and English with subtitles)
Last Knights (R for violence) Medieval action thriller about a disgraced warrior (Clive Owen) who leads a rebellion against a corrupt ruler (Aksel Hennie) in order to avenge the death of his noble master (Morgan Freeman). With Daniel Adegboyega, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Sung-kee Ahn.
Manos Sucias (Unrated) Drug trafficking drama chronicling the tension which mounts between a Colombian fisherman (Jarlin Javier Martinez) and his estranged brother (Cristian James Abvincula) after they agree to tow a cocaine-filled torpedo up the Pacific coast. Supporting cast includes Hadder Blandon, Andres Reina Ruiz and Maria Perlaza. (In Spanish with subtitles)