“We Fight New Wars. The Old Options, Military, Diplomacy. They Don’t Always Succeed…”
Acting as the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg after Lone Survivor and the excellent one-two of Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, Mile 22, based upon a screenplay written by American writer, Lea Carpenter, sees Wahlberg as James Silva, the ferociously agitated, quip-laden sociopathic leader of Overwatch, an elite, CIA-led special ops division who are tasked with traversing the destructive roads of Indonesia as they attempt to extract a prize asset from the country into the United States in return for the location of missing weapons grade plutonium. With Berg’s previous releases successfully managing to balance the re-telling of horrific true events with strong storytelling and well orchestrated action set pieces, Mile 22 manages to bat in completely the opposite direction, with Berg’s latest a film which can only be described as a crazed frenzy of a movie, a ninety minute, action packed head rush which is as violent as it is overly ridiculous, and a movie which results in you leaving the cinema with a guaranteed headache and a high chance of tinnitus as you feel your body become overcome with exhaustion from the events that have occurred before your eyes on screen.
Whilst strictly based on some form of “true story” regarding the existence of the Overwatch programme within contemporary wars across the globe, Mile 22 clearly wavers towards fictionalised events in which Wahlberg’s Silva and his team of cold-hearted killers have free reign to blow up, violently execute and cause as much general havoc as they desire. With paper thin characterisation which mainly focuses on our “heroes'” penchant for killing as effortlessly as possible, this only results in there being no sympathy whatsoever for events which unfold throughout the movie, particularly towards Wahlberg’s Silva, a foul-mouthed, utterly despicable smart-ass, a leading performance which made me wonder whether Wahlberg had actually been incredibly mis-cast due to Wahlberg not at all managing to balance the OTT nature of his character and ends up coming across more annoying than heroic. However, with a heart-stopping editing pace, crunchy action scenes with gunfire aplenty and a rousing, physical performance from arguably the greatest action star of the past decade in the form of Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Raid 2, Headshot), Mile 22 was a film in which I was never bored, and for a film in which its’ mistakes are blindingly obvious, Berg’s latest is a confusing, often manic, all action speed rush which sort of won me over the more it ventured into the realms of complete and utter ridiculousness.
Overall Score: 6/10
“There Are Two Kinds Of Pain In This World. The Pain That Hurts, The Pain That Alters…”
With The Equalizer 2 being the first sequel in which Denzel Washington has starred in throughout his luxurious cinematic career so far, it goes to show the trust which has been established between actor and director Antoine Fuqua, a filmmaker who reunites with Washington for the fourth time after the likes of the excellent, Oscar winning Training Day and of course 2014’s The Equalizer, a film based on the 1980’s American television series of the same name in which Washington’s Robert McCall beats down on the evil of the world in an attempt to save the helpless and aid the innocent in the most violent ways possible. Jump forward four years later and McCall returns once again in a sequel which attempts to blend an It’s A Wonderful Life style story arc with gritty, hard-edge violence, culminating in a bit-part character study riddled with rather cliched twists and a strange lifeless tone which pushes the movie forward at almost walking pace, and even with flashes of brilliance at times and Washington at his mercurial best, The Equalizer 2 is still a forgettable sequel which fails to expand upon its’ predecessor in a way which warrants its’ reason for existence.
With the opening thirty minutes re-treading old ground by once again establishing McCall’s “hero for hire” type to an audience who potentially may have completely missed the first movie, Richard Wenk’s screenplay seems more interested in showing how McCall fits into the everyday lives of random residents of Massachusetts instead of actually delivering the promise of the film’s action-packed trailer, and whilst the next thirty minutes attempt to elbow in a murder mystery subplot featuring the return of Melissa Leo’s (The Fighter) Susan Plummer, Fuqua’s movie never really gets going until the final act when the film remembers it is meant to be shelved within the genre of action rather than dour, dramatic nonsense. With Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) providing the most obvious character deception seen in cinema this year, the real fireworks within the movie undoubtedly resides between Washington and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), with McCall’s patriarchal relationship to Sanders’ Miles providing the best scenes of the movie, particularly one set piece in which McCall rescues Miles from a criminal-infested high-rise and emotionally spells out the tight balance between life and death. Whilst there is something within the DNA of the character of McCall which makes him undeniably watchable and interesting, The Equalizer 2 unfortunately does not carry the same sense of intrigue, resulting in Fuqua’s latest being a rather stale sequel which starves both action audiences and Washington fans alike for any real sense of engagement or emotional involvement.
Overall Score: 5/10
“At Last, We’ve Found The Place Where We Can Be Safe…”
Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker, Sergio G. Sánchez, whose previous credits include screenplays for the likes of The Orphanage and The Impossible, interesting and successful movies directed by fellow compatriot, J. A. Bayona, who is currently making waves in the box office with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Secret of Marrowbone is a equally fascinating thriller chiller which merges ghostly horror with secretive deceptions as the movie follows the Marrowbone family after the untimely death of their loving mother in 1960’s America. Led by George MacKay’s (Pride) Jack Marrowbone, the reclusive family soon become haunted by a seemingly supernatural entity buried high within the household, adding to the perils of the local lawyer, as played by Kyle Soller (The Fifth Estate), who attempts to derail the family’s ownership of their one safe haven, and whilst Marrowbone is a movie bursting with splendid performances, subtle creepy asides and beautiful set designs, Sánchez’s movie ultimately doesn’t hold a candle to his previous works, but still remains a solid, if overly predictable, gothic floor-creaker.
With supporting performances from the likes of young, genre aficionados such as Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth, with the latter rising to fame in Netflix’s Stranger Things and the former starring in the likes of A Cure for Wellness and the upcoming remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Marrowbone’s leading performances are all effectively finely tuned for the overall mood of the piece, particularly that of MacKay, whose transition throughout the course of the movie works primarily to the actor’s commitment and belief in the role. With the ever-splendid Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) taking a slightly different path to what fans of her work are used to, her character helps channel the absurdity of the plot come the final, overly predictable twist, a narrative jump which not only does not work as hauntingly effective as Sánchez’s work on The Orphanage, but one which opens up a spectacular can of worms regarding the meteor-sized plot holes it leaves behind in its’ wake. Featuring, but not relying on, a couple of well-timed jump scares and spooky set pieces, Marrowbone isn’t your straightforward haunted house piece as it weaves through to more of a Gothic-infused, Shutter Island esque psychological conclusion, and whilst Sánchez manages to prove himself as a director in his big screen debut, its’ surprisingly the script which doesn’t exactly hold together, resulting in a movie which begins in puzzling fashion yet ends on a slight bum note.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Wanna See This Thing Through? I’m Gonna Have To Get, Dirty…”
With Denis Villeneuve showing a wider audience what was to come of his expert film-making prowess back in 2015 with Sicario, a expertly crafted, white-knuckle thriller which laid the basis for the similarly masterful Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in terms of what the French-Canadian could achieve with the right backing, arguably the more impressive element of the feature was Taylor Sheridan, an American most famous at the time for his stint on Sons of Anarchy but whose screenplay for Sicario was both smart and compelling, one swiftly followed by equally impressive screenplays for both Hell or High Water and Wind River, capping off a trio of superbly written movies. each with a dedicated lust for heavy doses of substance and style in equal measure. Returning to writing duties again for the eagerly anticipated Sicario sequel, subtitled Soldado, the absence of Villeneuve means Italian director Stefano Sollima (Suburra) takes charge of a movie which continues the oppressive, ominous tone of the original whilst working through a genuinely thrilling narrative, one which sees the return of Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War) and Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick as they attempt to orchestrate a war between the Mexican cartels after they are seen to be aiding agents of ISIS cross the border in order to carry out their destructive message, and whilst Soldado doesn’t entirely hit the heavy heights of its’ near-perfect predecessor come the end credits, Sollima’s movie is still an unnerving, powerful work of war at its’ most darkest and lawless.
Beginning with a catalogue of terrorist related events, including a jaw-dropping and horrific supermarket explosion in which the camera lingers closely from outside through every familiar step of contemporary terror, Soldado quickly re-introduces the reunion of Graver and Gillick as they are handed the freedom to do as they please in order to combat the ever-increasing Mexican cartel presence on the US-border which has now taken extra precedence due their involvement in potential terror activities. With a central narrative which sees the kidnapping of the young, spoiled daughter of a renowned Mexican cartel boss, one which ultimately results in in-house allegiances being put to the test, Sheridan’s screenplay also follows closely the exploits of newcomer Elijah Rodriguez’s Miguel as he crawls up the ranks of the cartel’s people smuggling operation, and whilst the sequel doesn’t entirely hit the brooding, ambiguity which drove through the entirety of its’ predecessor up until the very end, the tight-knit, unbearable tension does manage to completely follow over, rearing its’ head throughout a high proportion of a movie which aside from one sarcastic aside, primarily holds its’ tone as completely and utterly serious. With a Michael Mann-esque, militaristic sensibility which sees countless shots of rampaging army vehicles cruising across the vacant, perilous landscapes of the US/Mexican border, Soldado is wickedly spectacular in its’ approach to action set pieces, with the piercing sound of bullets echoing the overripe mixing of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk merging spectacularly with endless cinematic screenshots of whirring helicopters, over-head drones and enough firepower to start and end a small coup.
With the inclusion of much more lusciously orchestrated action scenes second time around, the question remains whether the overall screenplay deserves such luxuries, and even as an overall body of work Soldado doesn’t piece together as tightly or rigidly as Sicario, with particular crucial plot threads concluding rather suddenly without any real sense of full-blooded purpose, the avenues which Sheridan’s writing takes us undoubtedly suits the bleak mould of the series, particularly in the movies’ penchant for gut-wrenching murder sequences and a concluding near-death experience which undeniably ranks up there with one of the more brutal character arcs in recent history. With Brolin and del Toro on superb, angst-ridden, macho-growling form, with the latter having much more space for a deeper layer of examination this time around as his character’s uncertain, ambiguous nature is slowly scraped at and given light, young Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) as the similarly tough Isabela Reyes gives an equally impressive performance as the daughter of the cartel boss responsible for the death of Alejandro’s wife and daughter. With a bruising, battling, war torn sensibility which is as tough at times as it is riotously engaging and enjoyable, Soldado is a sequel success story which both pays homage to its’ predecessor with utmost respect whilst developing its’ characters in fascinating ways, and with the possibility of a third film coming to nicely round the series off as a trilogy, one can only query how much further Sheridan can continue his winning scripture streak.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Know This Is Not How You Wanted To Spend Your Weekend…”
Directed by James McTeigue, a filmmaker who has never really eclipsed the success of his debut big-screen feature in the form of the rather excellent V for Vendetta, Breaking In, starring Gabrielle Union (Sleepless) in the leading role as mother of two, Shaun Russell, is essentially a hybrid crossover of a wide range of famous, historic movies, one which sees Russell attempt to save her children after they are locked inside a ultra-secure familial home with violent burglars who have come to claim a large monetary stash for their own. With a strange shadow of Panic Room airing over it, McTeigue’s movie is undeniably wrapped in B-Movie sensibility, and as the action moves from paranoid thriller to Die Hard territory and arguably even more so onto Hostage territory, a movie which in itself was a rather perfunctory rip-off of Die Hard anyhow and a film which too featured Bruce Willis, Breaking In is a movie which ultimately knows its boundaries, its’ flaws and complete lack of substance but runs with it anyway, and with a kick-ass leading heroine in the form of Union undeniably audience winning, McTeigue’s movie surprisingly falls into the category of enjoyable silliness.
With dialogue so exposition heavy throughout it seems to have been churned out in a cliched text machine, the first twenty minutes highlights the rather extreme security capabilities of the household in which Union’s Shaun has been tasked with selling after the sudden and unexpected death of her powerful father. With drones, bulletproof wall coverings and more CCTV coverage than the city of London, the stage is set for the action to unfold, and whilst the movie does fall rather heavily into generic conventions in regards to its’ typeface leading villain, lack of real tangible peril and an overly predictable Hollywood ending, the real interest resides in Union’s portrayal of a mother figure who will do absolutely anything in order to be re-united with her children, no matter what the consequences and how violent they may be. With laughable editing of obvious foul language and a mixed degree to which on-screen violence is approached, it seems obvious the filmmakers opted for a Taken 3 sensibility by aiming for the 12A threshold which ultimately was rejected, but with a classy eighty minute runtime and enough twisting, narrative turns in order to get to the film’s inevitable conclusion, Breaking In isn’t exactly groundbreaking but it does the job comfortably enough and for that I’m more than happy with.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Sweetheart, You Just Can’t Change The Rules Because Someone’s Showed An Interest…”
Appearing onto the cinematic fold with his first big-screen offering after a number of independent shorts, Michael Pearce writes and directs Beast, a spine-tingling, nihilistic and paranoid psychological thriller which sees Jessie Buckley’s (Taboo) Moll break free of her critical and controlling family as she comes into contact with Johnny Flynn’s (Clouds of Sils Maria) bohemian and free-spirited Pascal within the confines of an unnamed, rural and isolated community paralysed with fear after a number of young women are found brutally raped and murdered. With the ghost of Twin Peaks springing to mind each and every time there is a narrative crossover regarding the impact of death on a close-knit community, Pearce’s movie does impressively share a tonal similarity with David Lynch’s sprawling and surrealist masterpiece, with the film holding a relentless ominous tone up until its’ final, haunting shot, and whilst Beast decides to stay strictly within the realms of linear storytelling, with its’ feet planted heavily on the ground rather than conforming to the surrealist temperaments found in most Lynch works, its’ the shadow of the uncertain which brilliantly pushes the drama and undoubtedly leaves the audience in a contemplative mood regarding what has unfolded upon them.
Shot primarily on the island of Jersey, Pearce’s movie follows Buckley’s Moll, a reclusive, distant and dissatisfied daughter who resides at her home alongside the intrusive, demanding and judgemental figure of her mother, Hilary, brilliantly played by Geraldine James (Rogue One) who demands familial perfection. After stumbling across Flynn’s Pascal, a relationship between the two begins to blossom, much to the distaste of the rest of Moll’s family, resulting in a heavy sense of alienation as Moll begins to suspect that Pascal has much more to his questionable and overly murky history than it originally seems. Although Pearce’s movie features beautiful, sweeping landscapes and that particularly familiar British independent feel around it, akin to the melancholic temperament of Calvary and the uncertain sensibility of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, the film is not entirely cinematic throughout its’ 110 minute runtime, with dialogue set pieces heavily reminiscent of an ITV crime drama at times, but with a clear Hitchcock influence, particularly Shadow of a Doubt, acting as a thorough through line from start to finish, Pearce’s feature debut is a dark, twisted and enjoyably startling success.
Overall Score: 8/10
“How Did Faith Work Out For Those People..?”
Acting as a more than unnecessary reboot of the Michael Winner 1974 film of the same name, torture porn aficionado, Eli Roth (Hostel, Knock Knock) takes control of Death Wish, a ridiculously mainstream B-Movie attempt which swaps Charles Bronson for Bruce Willis as Dr. Paul Kersey who wreaks havoc on the criminal fraternities of Chicago after his wife and daughter are caught up in a robbery gone violently wrong. Forged around a screenplay by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The Grey), Roth’s latest is a strangely inert and viciously edited piece of nonsense which although fails to live up to perhaps the levels of incompetence many would suspect, is still a cliched and generously predictable ninety minutes with a Bruce Willis on hilarious form with arguably his worst on-screen performance in his entire career thus far. With vigilante justice a mainstay of cinema and television alike, with John Wick: Chapter Two and Netflix’s thoroughly entertaining The Punisher released in the past year, albeit one delayed due to questionable murmurings regarding its’ violent tendencies, the argument for whether yet another film depicting the horrors of U.S gun control in a day and age ripe with high profile massacres and murders is simply one I tend to stay away from, with instead focus directed primarily on the film as a work of cinema, rather its’ place in the overriding social stratosphere.
Unfortunately for Roth however, his decision to focus wholly on the power of violence and delights of retribution without any flip-side or depth to the film’s leading character is where the movie ultimately fails, with Death Wish oh so quickly falling into a pattern of an on-screen violent murder followed by minimalist discussion through random radio off-cuts and then quickly back to yet another violent death without any real sense of purpose or character development other than just Willis’ Kersey simply acting as cannon fodder for the film’s plodding progression. For example, in a remarkably misjudged scene, Willis’ Kersey enters a gun store with a busty, flirty female sales assistant happily flouting the power of the many weapons on show with Kersey questioning how easy it is for him to purchase such weapons, a question which I, and perhaps the entire audience, assumed would then proceed to satire the sordid state of affairs American gun control is currently in. Shockingly however, this discussion then leads to a scene later in the movie when Kersey returns hand in glove with a desire to purchase everything and anything in order to violently massacre whom he sees fit, showing that in fact, Roth’s view of the American weapon fascination is only for the greater good. With the film so obviously edited to fit under the umbrella of the 15 certificate that at times the picture jumps frames so violently you feel as if you’ve been shot yourself, Death Wish is still not exactly terrible and at just over ninety minutes, is sort of bearable to some degree, but with lazy decisions and a god-awful Willis, Roth’s movie is still utter nonsense.
Overall Score: 4/10
“Who Are We If We Can’t Protect Them? We Must Protect Them…”
Utilising arguably the most basic and fundamental element of horror cinema since the inception of the genre at the turn of the twentieth century, John Krasinski (Detroit) stars, writes and directs A Quiet Place, a thrilling and genuinely unnerving apocalyptic creature feature which mixes survivalist adventure with threatening terror and one which is held together by a key and tightly held plot point regarding the use of silence and the deadly consequences that arise whenever the rules of such an element are broken. Transferring their relationship in the real world into the landscape of the film, Krasinski is joined by Emily Blunt (Sicario) as two grief stricken parents, Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who attempt to survive in the treacherous, ambiguous world that now homes vicious, unrelenting and seemingly indestructible alien creatures who hunt primarily by responding to sound, no matter how small the disturbance may be. Beginning with a gripping opening act which sees the Abbott family scour the dredges of a The Walking Dead inspired future wasteland for resources and goods, the ground-rules for the drama is delicately set, with silence the overarching soundtrack and communication limited to close-quartered whispers and sign language whilst movement too limited to bare foot expeditions and a handy stock of sound reducing sand.
Whilst Krasinski himself has declared a complete rejection at horror movies in the past, the co-written screenplay from himself, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck is undeniably inspired by classic examples of not only the genre of horror but classic monster thrillers too, and with an opening act concluding in a manner which bears similarities to Stephen King’s famous opening tragedy in his magnum opus It, the thrills and spills throughout A Quiet Place are indeed recognisable but still highly effective in to an alarming degree. With post apocalyptic landscapes a common theme in contemporary cinema with the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Road two very different movies at either end of the spectrum in terms of what the genre can offer, the survivalist tendencies shown in A Quiet Place are never lingered upon in attempt to shove the notion of desolation completely in your face, with the narrative instead brilliantly glossing over such in a blasé fashion which makes the audience accept the surroundings in which our heroic family are based without getting solid answers on the cause or what the murderous monsters at the centre of the peril really are. With Noah Jupe (Wonder) and Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as the Abbott children, the former’s deafness (something of which Simmonds has in real life) offers in itself a brooding sense of peril, with the soundtrack switching from the background noise of the wild to complete and utter silence whenever Simmonds is on-screen, something of which works particularly well later in the action when her character is somewhat unaware of the power of her unfortunate infliction.
With Blunt undeniably the standout performer of the piece, her own attempts to balance the preservation of her family with the upcoming arrival of a new life results in a standout set piece involving a wince-inducing injury and the worst period of child labour in the history of cinema. With Blunt originally suggesting to partner Krasinski that someone else should take the part, her decision to be involved continues her ability to convey superb performances in a wide range of differing genres ranging from comedy (The Devil Wears Prada) to action thrillers (Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario) and now creature feature horror. Clocking in at a healthy ninety minutes, the pacing of the movie is brilliantly measured, with a hearty, white-knuckle build-up leading to a concluding act which mixes Jurassic Park style set pieces with 28 Days Later inspired terror all happening at a lighting fast paced that come the final credits, you can’t help but feel an extra course would be lapped up more than generously. For a movie which relies on the element of silence and resorts to having dialogue reduced to an absolute minimum, A Quiet Place could be praised on its’ own for just being a superbly brave mainstream exercise, but with top-notch performances all around, a wondrously creepy premise and come the end, a strangely heartwarming familial tale, Krasinski’s movie is a resounding and genuinely unnerving success.
Overall Score: 9/10
“He’s Here. Or Maybe, It’s All In My Head…”
Returning from a self-imposed early retirement last year with the rather entertaining Logan Lucky after a four year hiatus, director Steven Soderbergh returns once again to the cinematic fold with Unsane, a delightfully kooky psychological thriller starring The Crown’s Claire Foy as the equally wacky named Sawyer Valentini who is forced into mental despair from a stalker whom she believes has followed her into the confines of a mental institution which is seen to be holding her illegally against her will. Whilst comparisons to the standout genre examples when it comes to the notion of asylums and the mentally ill are wholly inevitable, Soderbergh’s latest undoubtedly revels in a familiar B-movie sensibility prevalent in films of a similar ilk, with the likes of The Ninth Configuration, Shutter Island and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the main ball-park areas the film can be aligned against, but with the added hysteria caused by the threat of Valentini’s stalker figure, Unsane is closer to Patrick Brice’s 2014 independent chiller, Creep, more than anything else, with the narrative’s uncertain ambiguity resulting in a sense of not truly foreseeing where the film ultimately is heading.
Shot from start to finish by use of an Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the FiLMiC Pro application which allows video to be stored in 4K, Unsane bears more of a tonal similarity to that of a found footage horror, and whilst at times the cinematography is radically subversive and riotously unconventional, the wider ratio aspect and grainy image does aid the claustrophobic nature felt by Foy’s Valentini, particularly with continuous Sergio Leone style close-ups and the jolty movement of the picture whenever the camera follows her character in a deliberate attempt to mimic the continuous threat of being watched. With Side Effects in Soderbergh’s back catalogue, the Hitchcock-esque thriller type is something in which the American is more than capable at portraying, and whilst Unsane does conform to the more wacky end of the genre spectrum, there is no denying that Soderbergh is arguably at his best when offering more of a challenging, unconventional set-up. Whilst at times the many ludicrous plot holes and questionable narrative choices do weaken the final product as a whole, Unsane is a thoroughly enjoyably and viciously wild cult piece which is gelled together by a Claire Foy on cracking form, and with a concluding act which is genuinely freakish and oddly unsettling, Soderbergh’s second return is another rousing, off-beat success.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Are Not Yakuza. You Are A Gaijin. An Outsider…”
With Bright, Mute and The Cloverfield Paradox a trio of big budget movies which have used Netflix as the chosen platform for their respective release over the course of the past six months or so, it’s fair to say that so far, critical consensus has been, let’s just say, less than positive for anything with the Netflix branding tainted on it, aside from the likes of Okja and Annihilation which have seemingly broken the bog awful standard set so thus far. Another week, another small screen offering however, with Netflix turning to Jared Leto this time in The Outsider, a generic, yet overly functional, crime thriller which utilises the much commentated approach of placing the American in the heart of post-war Japan as he rises up the ranks of the Yakuza after saving the life of Tadanobu Asano’s (Silence) long-serving crime boss, Kiyoshi, in prison. With a nihilistic, unnerving tone and both underwritten characters and subplots, director Martin Zandvliet’s approach to handling the inclusion of Leto’s wandering military ghost figure, Nick Lowell, is not exactly justified, with the narrative more focused on handling a whistle stop tour of violent deeds and double crossing than ever coming up with a valid reason for his inclusion in a primarily Japanese cast, but with enough style to at least hold your attention whilst it works its’ way from A to B, The Outsider is just about good enough to warrant two hours of your in-home small screen.
With attention obviously centred around the fundamental plot hole regarding whether a titular “outsider”, or in the words of the Japanese themselves, a “gaijin”, would ever be allowed into the strict ruling of the Yakuza traditions, the idea itself is one of interesting possibilities, but with a narrative starved of substance and an overripe, unnecessary violent streak, The Outsider is strangely unimaginative, utilising generic tropes of in-house familial power struggles to carve out a strangely tacked-on ending after we witness Leto’s Nick progress from messy haired prisoner to sharply dressed gangster with added cheekbones. Whilst the performance of Leto himself is similar to attempting Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive without half the acting ability or talent, his fundamental dullness is entirely down to the writing, where although the primary focus of the movie is seemingly meant to infiltrate the ways of the Yakuza through the eyes of a Westernised psychopath, the audience is instead left with an empty vessel which violently acts out whenever he feels the audience may be starting to lose patience. Whilst The Outsider is undeniably messy therefore and full of ludicrous implausibilities, Martin Zandvliet’s latest still managed to keep me interested however, and for a film which manages to have so many weaknesses and still hold me until the end, something somewhere ultimately worked.