Sunday, 19 April 2009

In the Loop - Dir. Armando Iannucci

One of the best political satirical comedies in years! ‘In The Loop’ is a spin-off (kind-of) of the fantastic British comedy ‘The Thick of It’, and follows Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a Cabinet Minister who makes a series of unfortunate slip-ups, the first is when he tells an interviewer that he believes war (always referred to as the invasion or the war, but never Iraq or potentially Afghanistan) is “unforeseeable” before telling journalists under pressure that you have to conquer a mountain of conflict on the path of peace. These mistakes place him in the middle of a diplomatic mine-field as both, the anti-war constabulary led by General Miller (James Gandolfini) and the Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy), and the gung-ho supporter of war Linton Barwick (David Rasche) - so crazy he keeps a live grenade as a paperweight - want Simon as a transatlantic partner to support their cause. Should he put his conscience or his political career first? Oh, and throw in hilariously vicious Senior British Press Office Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) and a bumbling Advisor to the minster (Toby played by Chris Addison) and you have one of the best political satires to come from Britain in years.

What makes the film work so well is the incredibly sharp witty script from a collaboration of writers that keeps the gag-per-minute counter ticking. Every meeting, confrontation political mishap is cradled with joke after joke whether they are subtle references to the cynicism and underhandedness in the current (or foregone) political climate or simply one of Malcolm Tucker’s fantastic rants – “I’m going to tear out your shinbone, split it in two and stab you to f**king death with it” - at ineptitude of everybody around him. Every actor and actress involved give solid performances as the flawed members of the tense political world. While Simon’s central story keeps the film on the ground despite a few diplomatic detours (that are still hilarious, even though they take up little of the running of time).

Armando Iannucci has already proven to the British public that he can create entertainment for the TV-masses and ‘In The Loop’ proves he also has the skills to replicate this on a wider, international, big-screen scale as well. It’s intelligent, it’s offensive, and it’s bleeding funny. See this film!

Crank 2: High Voltage - Dir. Neveldine and Taylor

Jason Statham returns as the indestructible Chev Chelios, first they poisoned his system and now they have taken his strawberry tart (heart), and he will go to every single violent-induced length to get it back. However, despite the film being incredibly outrageous with plenty of violence, nudity and gratuitous swearing on show, the film lacks any of the charm that the first film threw in your face at a ridiculous speed.

Jason Statham pulls his one-sided acting persona of a man on a revenge-trip out of the bag (mind, he has it down to a tee now...) and the supporting cast has very little in the way of dialogue, except for when they are screaming for mercy or aiming various weapons at Statham. Yet the most interesting aspect for me was the way in which Neveldine and Taylor used various hand-held cameras to get ‘into the heart of the action’, which worked at times and created some incredibly interesting action shots, but was let down by the editing, which to me, made the majority of scenes (combined with the soundtrack) seem nothing more than extended music videos (especially with the constant juxtapositioning of parallel shots side-by-side).

‘Crank – High Voltage’ is the epitome of the ‘no-brained action flick’. It seemed as if the directors had decided to see how far they could go after the trivial success of ‘Crank’ and while the film contains every aspect available to get male testosterone pumping, and that’s all the film does. It’s more outrageous than ‘Crank’, but in no way better than the first film.