is the latest British import to get rave reviews among the art-house
crowd, and it’s obvious why: it features first-rate performances from
two of England’s best film actors (Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley).
Kingsley is astonishing as an East End gangster sent over to Winstone’s
villa on the Costa del Sol to persuade him to come back to England
for one last job. The novice director, Jonathan Glazer, allows Kingsley
and Winstone the time and space to show just what they’re capable
of. (Glazer came from directing television commercials, but there’s
very little jump-cut freneticism here.)
But partly because of the relatively sedate camerawork, and partly
because of the script (by Loius Mellis), the good bit of the film
— the war of wills between the two leads — feels like an adapted
stage play. And when the action moves to England and the pace picks
up, Glazer turns out not to have any ability to build suspense. I
think Winstone narrowly avoids death at one point (just as he does
right at the beginning of the film, for no obvious reason), but it
wasn’t very clear.
A lot of the film simply fails. Glazer insists on throwing in various
dream sequences and magical realism which don’t work at all, and the
exposition of the reasons for the heist seems utterly pointless. (There’s
also a shot of Ian McShane dripping water, which needed a lot more
explanation. Ambiguity is not always a good thing.) On the other hand,
Kingsley’s last lines will stay with all who see this movie for a
very long time, and not only because Kingsley is such a good actor:
Glazer shoots them magnificently.
So it’s a curate’s egg of a movie. If you go to the movies in order
to see great acting performances, then go see this one. If you want
to see a perfectly-formed film, however, don’t bother. Go rent Dog
Day Afternoon or something instead.