August 15, 2013 6:27 pm

Film reviews: Kick-Ass 2, 2 Guns, Planes, When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, Call Girl, Kuma and Bachelorette

A round-up of the week’s cinema releases
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz in ‘Kick-Ass 2’

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz in ‘Kick-Ass 2’

Jim Carrey recently denounced Kick-Ass 2, sequel to the incredibly successful part-British film about ordinary American citizens transmogrified by mad bravery or the desire for revenge into high-kicking lunatics predominantly clad in homespun superhero spandex and stripper wigs. The actor tweeted that after careful consideration he “could not support the level of violence” in the film. Possibly his character in it – an ex-mafia hitman turned bunker-dwelling vigilante haunting the streets of NYC at dawn with an Alsatian trained to eat male genitalia – wound up, on screen, a shockingly long way from the twinkling buffer that his character had seemed on the page.

He certainly has a nerve but maybe he has a point. Who could ever anticipate a movie with absolutely nothing going on in it but bad taste? Two talented and charismatic young co-stars (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz) plug away at their brutal roles (“Act like a bitch, get slapped like a bitch”, “No guy is ever going to kiss that hole of a mouth”) but Carrey’s sudden death after the first 40 minutes removes the one reason to keep watching. Even wearing a mask and horrible false teeth the actor’s familiarly soft brown eyes are particularly deliquescent and the developing deep lines on his now 51-year-old jowls are deep enough to suggest he may – thrilling – go the way of Gary Cooper in High Noon.



Also brutal, but at least very occasionally witty and spoofy, 2 Guns has Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as good guys pretending to be bad guys in a shaggy dog story involving Mexican drug cartels and dirty CIA money. The film is of the type that insists we adore both actors instantaneously – which of course we do – especially when Washington is bantering with his squeeze (a pulchritudinous Paula Patton) along the lines of: she, angry: “Did you ever really love me?”; him, with a noirish glitter: “I really meant to love you.”

By now it is received wisdom that Mark Wahlberg is the funniest actor in Hollywood, and funny in a unique way. The sweetness and sincerity of his screen persona’s stupidity is so profound you’d probably agree to let your daughter marry him even though she would wind up with an accidental bullet in her head in about five minutes. Wahlberg makes lines such as “You know what you are? A misanthorp” so insanely funny you laugh in the way you used to at Eddie Murphy. “Stop playing the stupid card!” chides Washington, and Wahlberg winks at him, but he may as well be winking at us. He knows what he’s doing. Doesn’t that make him kind of cynical and therefore less funny? No. Why not? I’m confused.



Most of the animation on Disney’s Planes has been outsourced to the Prana studios in India. Six years ago The Hollywood Reporter ran an article about Disney’s determination to use talent in Mumbai (even vowing to release any such films in several Indian languages), so here it is – a palatable but whateverish 3D children’s comedy about a lowly single-prop plane from the Midwest who dreams of flying around the world in an international race. The USP of Planes is nutty in a way that will appeal to small children: literally everybody in its world is either a plane or a car of some sort. Even Tibetan Lamas appear as kind of miniature forklift trucks that rock back and forth in a trance wearing their yellow feather headdress when they are throat singing.



When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun
, a documentary about Tibet, is three years old. Why the cinema release now? It also claims to “feature” Richard Gere and Desmond Tutu, but both appear only in passing at a rally, neither saying anything edifying. Gere waves his little flag and claims to have had a dream about China “emerging from a kind of mist and saying, what have we done?” (Dream on, Dick.) It does, however, feature an unusually angry Dalai Lama, suggesting that the Chinese officials promulgating the rumour that he is dying of cancer are more than welcome personally to examine a stool sample to see how healthy he really is. Many Tibetan activists view the DL as a kind of Michael Collins figure: too eager to compromise. But much of what people say here is maddeningly phased out in favour of oozingly self-righteous music by Philip Glass, precisely what Tibet does not need: an arty score.



Call Girl
, pompously long and clunking, claims to be based on real events in Sweden concerning government corruption and sex scandals in the 1970s, and tries to wonder at the price paid for sexual liberation even in a model utopian society. Which makes it sound quite good. The impeccable 1970s set design and bad fashions put you in a comfy trance that curdles after two long hours into a dulling malaise – and there is still more of the film to go. For a story supposedly condemning the green slime of sexual exploitation there is an overwhelming blandness, a blankness to it all.



The young woman in Kuma, brought over from a remote village to act as housemaid and illegal second wife in a Turkish family living in Vienna, is cartoonishly perfect and too warmly sympathetic for the film to work entirely. The actress Begum Akkaya even looks like Jasmine, the eastern princess in Aladdin, which brings a (ruinous) element of fantasy and the ridiculous to the story. But it does have some real drama: death, infidelity with a libidinous young grocer, repressed homosexuality, and a genuine seam of sadness running through things.



Bachelorette
has been out so long in the US it’s already being shown on some American airlines, and if you were killing time on a flight you might wonder why it flopped. A short and sometimes very funny film about a long, chaotic hen night, it’s in places more bitter than Bridesmaids, more foul-mouthed, but ultimately it flips in and out of its tone too many times. Nevertheless it does have a sourness and a wretchedness that make some moments startlingly real and vivid.

Kirsten Dunst stars, and as usual wipes the floor with everyone, speaking in that off-hand, musical but hard-as-nails, highly intelligent, permanently irritated way of hers. As an actress she is rarely seen taking pleasure in anything. It somehow makes her immensely powerful. She is the one young star in Hollywood you could truly imagine a 1940s mogul spotting bitching-out a bank teller and thinking “that girl’s gonna carve up men, and some”. Then he’d tap her on the shoulder and make her an offer even she couldn’t refuse.


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