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Film Criticism by David O'Connell

The Infinite Man (Sullivan, 2014)

January 14th 2015 03:50

Hugh Sullivanís feature film debut is the antithesis of the average Hollywood by-product Ė those bloated behemoths squandering mega-budgets on lame stories Ďconstructedí with a paucity of often offensively dim-witted ideas.The Infinite Man (2014) succeeds on an intimate scale: a single location, a trio of actors and yet full of ingenuity, ideas and heart.

Sci-fi without the aid of special effects is difficult to pull off Ė and almost impossible without an intriguing narrative foundation on which to build, manoeuvre and expand.The Infinite Man stretches its paltry resources to the limit, creating an entertaining overlapping tale of a man, Dean (Josh McConville), determined to re-create and recast as perfect a meaningful weekend for he and his partner Lana (Hannah Marshall) as they struggle through a tough patch. Nothing like the flicker of nostalgia to stoke an old flame. However Deanís plan is stymied when the couple return to the motel of a previous trip and find it dusty, desolate and abandoned to the elements.

Dean isnít completely put off and using his prowess as an inventor, begins to implement his latest work by travelling through time to start all over again. Soon, the circuitous loop he invents begins to create mayhem as further corrections bring him face to face with parallel versions of himself, Lana and another of Lanaís suitors, the cocksure Terry (Alex Dimitriadis). As various strands overlap, the resolute Dean remains determined to work around the glitches and set himself and his beloved back on the path to romantic bliss. The idealised vision he clings to as a blueprint for success for he and Lana is endearingly wrought. All credit must go to both Sullivan for the deceptive complexity of his narrative and McConville who forces us to empathise and root for the hapless Dean who initially seems annoyingly anal.

With a retro console, a few buttons and funny looking headgear Sullivan has the most fundamental tools with which to kick-start his sci-fi premise. Itís a case of the sheer genius of simplicity working to maximum effect, restricted budget be damned. The cannily chosen locale, the abandoned structure in the middle of nowhere in South Australia, is a another great asset for the production. For all his clever convolutions Sullivan never forgets to lace his twisty narrative with humour; much of which successfully blends with the drama thanks to Deanís earnestness and bouts of petulant anger as well as the work of Dimitriades who is clearly in his element even in a support role.

The Infinite Man is released on DVD by Madman on Friday, January 16.


Life of Crime (Schecter, 2014)

January 7th 2015 02:11

A light and breezy crime caper, Life of Crime (2014) is both advantaged and hamstrung by its Elmore Leonard source material, in this case his early novel The Switch. Renowned for his dialogue-heavy dissections of convoluted, often hapless criminal endeavours, Leonardís work is regularly cool and whip smart, but fundamentally shallow. Though Daniel Schecterís adaptation sporadically shifts into a higher gear, it never gets close to attaining the peaks of other notable Leonard adaptations like Steven Soderberghís Out of Sight (1998), Tarantinoís Jackie Brown (1997) or even Barry Sonnenfeldís Get Shorty (1995).

This tale of two criminals, Louis Gara (John Hawkes) and Ordell Robbie (Mos Def) who kidnap the wife, Mickey (Jennifer Anniston), of a wealthy, corrupt businessman, Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) in late 1970ís Detroit is diverting enough - mildly amusing certainly, though never in a laugh-out-loud kind of way. Louis and Ordell are a fairly bland duo; they lack menace or even seriousness, content to play out their roles as extortionists, though itís clear from early on that their outcomes will likely deviate from the norm. Yet thereís no rich vein of inspiration driving the whole thing; it feels like Schecter is relying on Leonardís intrinsic storytelling gifts to provide a spark.

The entire film suffers under the weight of such expectations, feeling curiously flat and yet, just as curiously, itís never exactly boring and almost oddly endearing. Thereís a minimum of nastiness with most of the darker strands hung out for their comedic value, like the Nazi predilections of Louis and Ordellís moronic, lumbering buddy Richard (Mark Boone Junior), whose house they use to detain Mickey. Isla Fischer seems to having the most fun as Frankís carefree mistress. The late 70ís aesthetic is decently recreated though clearly on a budget with a whole gamut of gaudy, drab and downright ugly colour schemes and nasty checked pants being dragged out of reject bins for the occasion.

The performances are solid across the board, though thereís not a single role with enough weight, sparkle or even a memorable one-liner attached to be called a showcase for any individual. The always watchable Hawkes is perhaps the pick, though compared to his remarkable recent spate of roles in Winterís Bone (2010), Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), and The Sessions (2013), this represents a seriously depressing turn back towards mainstream fare. The filmís best twist is saved for the very last scene and even if it doesnít salvage much, there are certainly worst places to be left stranded than the middle of the road.

Life of Crime is now out on DVD from Madman.


Thereís not a lot to distinguish Mikkel Norgaardís adaptation of yet another bestselling foreign language mystery novel. The wave of Nordic and Scandinavian crime has well and truly crested, leaving us shaking our heads as to how to sort the wheat from the chaff. Though it's certainly not without merit, The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) is conventional in nearly every sense. The prologue establishes the rash, headstrong nature of lead character Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) Ė naturally a character flaw that will see him at odds with superiors. Returning from a gunshot-enforced layoff he finds himself booted down to the lowest rung of the departmentís ladder, retrieving cold cases long since buried in basement files. Carl, we soon discover, is not one for contorting his mouth into the upturned contour of a smile, for example. Heís not a happy camper and shows little faith in his designated partner, Assad (Fares Fares), who seems to have been trawling these lower reaches for quite some time.

Bowing down to duty, Carl takes interest in a case of apparent suicide by a stable young woman, Merete (Sonja Richter) on a cruise ship when in the company of her mentally handicapped brother. Ruled a suicide officially, Carl smells a rat and decides to dig deeper. Through means of instinctive deductive reasoning he comes to believe in foul play and throws caution to the wind in his search for answers. The competent Assad isnít entirely convinced, but bemused Ė and presumably amused by the novelty Ė of his new partnerís intense desperation to unlock a thought-to-be solved mystery, he plays along.

In a parallel plotline we discover, of course, that Carlís instincts are not without foundation. An individual with a grudge has gone to elaborate lengths to exact a torturous, elongated revenge. Though the race-against-the-clock predictability of Nikolaj Arcelís screenplay means the narrative arc is hamstrung by its orthodoxy, thereís still a mildly gripping curiosity that has us holding out hope for a cleverly wrought, unforeseeable twist. The finale, when reached, proves to be derivative and conservative yet the always riveting Kaas is certainly enough to sustain interest. His physical presence - utilised by far better directors than Norgaard, including Lars Von Trier and Susanne Bier Ė comes to the fore and his combination with the laidback Fares shows just enough promise to have us believing that the inevitable string of films to follow based on more of Jussi Adler-Olsenís crime novels have a chance to deliver creditably in what is a stacked, highly competitive genre.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is now out on DVD through Madman.


Wetlands (Wnendt, 2013)

December 2nd 2014 04:50

L'argent (Bresson, 1983)

November 17th 2014 04:08

A Place in the Sun (Stevens, 1951)

September 24th 2014 02:24

Vernon, Florida (Morris, 1981)

August 20th 2014 08:34

Raze (Waller, 2013)

June 25th 2014 03:52



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