Monthly Archives: April 2003

Training Day

Intense thriller about police corruption in Los Angeles. Fresh-faced cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) gets the chance to “try out” for an elite undercover narcotics unit, run by Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). The film covers this one “training day” from dawn to midnight. Hour by hour, Alonzo grinds away at Jake’s belief in decency and honest police work. He drags Jake headlong into his world of compromise, kickbacks, and outright brutality, and offers him a golden career path, if only he is willing to accept that these shades of dark grey are a necessary means to an end. Which way will he jump? Washington is amazing as Alonzo, and Hawke matches him in every scene. Fascinating to watch.

Donnie Darko

Fascinating, but somewhat uneven tale about a mentally disturbed teenager who sees visions of a man-sized rabbit from the future. As he follows the rabbit’s orders, the small-town life around him unravels with tragi-comic effects. Heartfelt and genuinely poignant performances all round, with beautiful direction and cinematography to match. The scene where the high school is introduced is a masterpiece: long tracking shots with balletic camera swoops, speed-ups and slow-downs, all to the tune of “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears. Unfortunately the story’s pace feels off-balance, and the ending is too ambiguous to be completely satisfying. Nice if you want something to scratch your head over, though.

Lawrence Block – The Collected Mystery Stories

As with most collections, this one has some excellent stories in it, and some throwaway rubbish. They range from traditional mysteries, through folksy con jobs, to character sketches without even a hint of crime, with even a few tales of psychological horror tossed in along the way. The bulk of the stories are one-offs, and that’s where most of the variability occurs. It’s the ones about Block’s series characters (Bernie Rhodenbarr, Matt Scudder, Keller) that are the really worthwhile nuggets, though.

Knockaround Guys

Decent thriller about the son of a Mafia boss Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper) who tries to prove himself to his dad. All he has to do is arrange for a bag of money to be flown across country to New York. But his friend Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) loses the bag, and Matty and his friends end up in Wibaux, Montana to track it down. The contrasts between Matty’s generation and his parents’ plays off well against the contrast between the big city kids and the small-town folk of Wibaux. Solid performances, and a script that is lean and to the point.

Ocean’s Eleven

Silly crime caper, but very entertaining. George Clooney and Brad Pitt are always watchable, and the rest of the ensemble cast look like they were having a good laugh. Very little in the way of plot, but it’s fun to watch how the heist will play out. But what on earth was up with Don Cheadle and the rubbish cockney accent?


More than just awful–this film is a steaming brown monument to the Gods of Crapness. It really is the worst film I’ve ever seen. The Matrix-a-like fight scenes are beautifully choreagraphed and would elevate even a poor film into something quite acceptable, but they jar so badly with the sixties-style SF story that they actually manage to drag the whole thing down. But the story…the plot…the dialogue…the interminable close-ups of Christian Bale stoically trying to cover up the emotions that are threatening to break through…. It was embarrassing. I could rant on about it for much longer, but it would only encourage you to see it for yourself on an “it can’t possibly be that bad” basis. Just trust me. It is.