7:30 PM, 31st March, 2017
I have a theory – okay, a silly half-baked generalisation – about Oliver Stone: whenever he makes a film with a title consisting of someone’s name, he’s a great director. Presenting: Snowden.
Some of you may recall the documentary Citizenfour. I was one of the few who didn’t think much of it, perhaps because I did not at the time know who Snowden was: all I saw was three people talking in a Hong Kong hotel room, and we were never really told what their story was. This film tells us the story; and more importantly, puts flesh on it.
So who is Snowden? As played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he’s an awkward and naïve young man with an unlikely girlfriend (Shailene Woodley, who offers us an engaging mix of uncertainty and warmth). He’s also an intelligence contractor who is becoming increasingly concerned about the US Government’s electronic surveillance of – well, everything; and that includes him. He finds himself a pawn on a chessboard he never knew existed, and it’s increasingly tense as we watch him sneak past more powerful pieces to reach the eighth rank.
The script is based on Snowden’s own account of himself, so take it with a grain of salt if you like – but please, allow yourself to submit to the drama. I think this is one of the best films of 2016. Perhaps you missed it as it seemed a few beats behind the zeitgeist. That’s a feeble reason. Watch it now.
9:59 PM, 31st March, 2017
Straight-arrow cop Bennie Chan (Jackie) has spent the best part of his life hunting down the criminal inexplicably dubbed ‘The Matador’, who killed his best friend/partner (Tsang). Benny thinks he has his man when a witness to The Matador’s evilness comes forward, but she is murdered in his Macau casino before she can hand over valuable evidence. Pro-gambler Connor Watts (Knoxville) witnesses the murder and ends up with said evidence, only to be snatched by the Russian mob. Benny rescues Connor in Russia, only for the pair to find they have to return to Hong Kong on foot after Connor burns Bennie’s passport in his own attempt to escape… and so on until the pair defeat The Matador and rescue the girl. No, not the dead one, another one whose inclusion in the synopsis would only confuse things further.
Skiptrace is Hollywood’s latest attempt to arbitrarily pair Jackie Chan with a comedian and hope the dollars roll in (spoiler: they didn’t). Sadly, that comedian is a very off-his-game Johnny Knoxville. The movie is a disjointed, convoluted mess from start to finish. Where Chan bothers replicating his trademark comedic action it plays out at a pace slow enough that the audience could repeat every move. For the most part it is replaced by wonky CGI or clumsily cut inserts. At worst it is a confusing reminder of much better movies; at best it is an oddly entertaining and entirely out-of-place cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” performed by Jackie and a circle of nomadic Mongolian tribesman. This MST3K-grade disaster is funny for all the wrong reasons and needs to be seen to be believed.