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Thriller

Message from the King (2016)

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Message from the king

Summary

A mystMessage from the Kingerious outsider named Jacob King from South Africa arrives in Los Angeles to avenge his younger sister’s death.

Genre : Thriller
Country : USA/UK/Belgium

Cast :
Chadwick Boseman : Jacob King
Luke Evans : Wentworth
Alfred Molina : Preston

Director :
Fabrice du Welz

My opinion on “Message from the King”

“It’s Bianca.
She’s got a brother.
He’s in town, says he has what we’ve been looking for.
He’s out of control, Mike.
You told me Bianca was not a problem anymore.
Bianca isn’t a problem anymore. I’m afraid that’s his problem.”

Those who imagine the Los Angeles metropolis to be idealistically beautiful, they should adjust that view after watching “Message from the King”. The less beautiful part of Los Angeles is used here. An impoverished neighborhood where the vast majority of residents live in poverty and where crime and drugs are an obvious part of society. Ash gray ghettos full of human suffering. And that’s being emphasized by drizzly weather. The crowded mortuary is a reflection of these fading slums. A collection of nobodies who died because of an overdose, madness (drowned in a bathtub as an imaginary fish) and gang violence.

Message from the King

All you need is a bicycle chain.

This is what Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) faces when he arrives in L.A. The reason why he’s staying in the city of angels is the sudden disappearance of his younger sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo). Soon he discovers the sore situation his sister got herself into and what it did to her : she earned a spot in the mortuary with a name tag on her big toe. The search for the murderers of his younger sister brings him in touch with all kind of figures. Trish (Natalie Martinez) the loyal neighbor points him in the right direction after which he meets a violent gang of Balkan criminals run by a certain Zico (Lucan Melkonian). Then there’s the rich dentist Wentworth (Luke Evans) and the wealthy movie producer Preston (Alfred Molina). And let me tell you. Some of them are getting to know the bicycle chain he just bought, in a less pleasant way.

Message from the King

Cape Flat.

For Jacob, these L.A. neighborhoods probably still look like charming neighborhoods compared to where he comes from. His sister Bianca, his deceased brother Isaac and Jacob himself, lived the largest part of their life in South Africa in the Cape Flat townships, a sandy area south of Cape Town and better known as “Apartheid’s dumping ground”. A dilapidated community where gangs rule. Both in the slums and in prison. Such as “The Number Gangs”. Isaac was a member of this notorious gang, until his death. Reason enough for Bianca to turn her back on her home country and to seek salvation in the United States.

Message from the King

I’ll be damned. It’s directed by a Belgian.

You could say this movie is a cheaper version of “The Equalizer” with Boseman having an equal personality as Denzel Washington. A cold-blooded but alert person who has control over his violent eruptions and who accurately follows the traces to solve the criminal puzzle in the end. However, the ultimate motive remains quite mysterious. Perhaps the only minus I could find in this hard-core, ultra-dark movie. In fact, it’s an ordinary revenge film that differs slightly from others because of its quirky atmosphere and tone. And afterwards I discovered the film was directed by a fellow countryman : Fabrice du Welz. Maybe that’s why this movie displays a kind of willfulness.

Message from the King

Why hesitate? Go watch it!

Even though this action-flick is soaked by cliché elements (corrupt policemen, a cunning politician and a prostitute (TeresaLights OutPalmer) who plays the Good Samaritan), you can speak of a stylish end product. No explicit violence scenes (the result is usually more explicit than the action itself) and a few star-like interpretations like that of Teresa Palmer. But especially Chadwick Boseman impressed. A man with few words, but hard negotiating techniques. From the very first instance, I was fascinated by him. In my opinion, this is yet again a rough diamond that simmers on Netflix undiscovered. Don’t let anybody stop you from watching this when you bump into it somewhere, because this will surely surprise you.

My rating 7/10
Links : IMDB

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Reviews

The Guilty – Review | TIFF 2021

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Despite having given some of the best performances of the past 20 years, Jake Gyllenhaal has only been recognized by the Oscars once after receiving a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain. His fantastic performances in Nightcrawler, Prisoners, Southpaw and so many other films went unnoticed by the Academy but now once again Jake Gyllenhaal is back in his latest film The Guilty. Whilst he’s quite unlikely to receive any awards recognition for his most recent role, Gyllenhaal is once againproving that he really is one of the greatest actors working today.

The Guilty is an American film directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and is a remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name. The entire film takes place over the course of a single morning, and it follows Gyllenhaal’s call operator Joe Baylor in a 911 dispatch call centre. Joe receives a call from a woman named Emily who acts as if she’s talking to her young daughter and through asking her a series of yes or no questions, Joe determines that she’s been taken and is in danger.



Trapped at his desk in the call centre, Baylor must solve the issue and find the truths, rescuing Emily, all through a series of phone calls. Almost the entire film takes place from within the call centre and it’s a very interesting perspective to see in a film. I’ve not seen the original Danish film so I can’t compare the two and any differences they might have but it’s quite refreshing to see a crime thriller film confined to just one location.

Normally in a film like this the protagonist would be trying to solve the case by travelling to different places and talking to different people but instead Baylor can’t go anywhere and has to solve it all from his desk. There’s a point where he’s phoning up a police officer to go to Emily’s house to check on her kids and to search for any clues as to where she might be but instead of taking the audience to her house, we too are confined with Baylor in the call centre, feeling his frustration when he can’t get an officer to go.

The whole film is very tense and has you on the edge of your seat throughout. The direction from Fuqua is clear and he gets such a high level of suspense out of the situation. Not only with us fearing if Emily will make it out alive and if Baylor will save her in time but also through some of the subplots. Joe gets a couple of phone calls from journalists asking about his side of the story ahead of ‘tomorrow’. It’s not until near the end of the film where we find out what’s happening ‘tomorrow’ and what Baylor had done wrong and whilst perhaps it does add a bit of a dampener and it doesn’t entirely sit right with me, it creates another layer of tension and adds to the suspense.



Jake Gyllenhaal really is excellent and the standout in The Guilty. The film does have an impressive voice cast with Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough and Paul Dano all voicing characters over the phone, but Gyllenhaal really is outstanding. There are very few actors that can demand your full attention for 90 minutes like he does. The film is almost entirely just Gyllenhaal acting from his desk but you forget about this fairly quickly because of the way that Gyllenhaal takes control of every single scene. Seeing him react to both sides of the conversation over the phone rather than cutting backwards and forwards between the two ends is so enthralling to watch because of his excellent performance.

There are times when the film does begin to drag and when we do learn a bit more about the trouble Baylor got into at work, it needed to be developed a bit more to be wholly satisfying but nonetheless The Guilty is a riveting film propelled by Jake Gyllenhaal’s fantastic acting.

The Guilty premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is released on Netflix on October 1st.

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The Toll | A Twist On Classic Genres Like The Iconic Western And Thriller

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Director Ryan Andrew Hooper puts together a suburb cast in his debut feature The Toll. This Tarantino-esque darkly comic thriller is set in the Old West of Wales. Specifically my own hometown of Pembrokeshire, it was filmed here too. So I was very familiar with the parts of Pembroke shown on screen in this neo-western which is centred in and around an isolated and feeble old toll booth. 

This non-linear narrative follows Michael Smiley’s character, a nameless Toll Booth operator living a simply boring pointless life. However his dark past soon catches up to him and its revealed that his life is not as simple, boring or pointless as we thought. his business may not even be entirely legal. He begins to operate and control events around him whilst a local group of people who look out for him end up doing some of his dirty work. Toll Booth does all the networking without even leaving his dull confine. 

Smiley brings an easy weariness to Toll Booth. The character intentionally mysterious, even though we don’t know the characters backstory and why he was on the run for all those years. Smiley still manages to make his character somewhat relatable. 

Iwan Rheon as Dom was absolutely fantastic and Paul Kaye who played Cliff had some great moments. However The Toll has a strong female lead, Annes Elwy who truly makes The Toll shift genres from thriller to an emotional story that allows the audience to get to know her a bit more, which added much needed emotion. 

The film also features many other eccentric characters such as Elvis personator and her mute partner played by Evelyn Mok and Darren Evans. 

Matt Redd’s screenplay truly forms an integral part of the experience, he creates many thrilling and hilarious encounters which sometimes feel reminiscent of Taika Waititi. The film mixes tension and black humour. Ryan Andrew Hopper’s direction truly makes the west wales landscape spectacular as he transports the western from the familiar wild west in America and brings it to the Pembrokeshire coast, the film all comes together with breathtaking cinematography from Adrian Peckitt. 

Overall The Toll rethinks and manages to put a twist on classic genres like the iconic western and thriller. And I look forward to seeing what Ryan Andrew Hooper does next.

The Toll is in cinemas and on premium digital from 27 August from Signature Entertainment.

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Crime

Stillwater- An Aggressively American Mess

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Tom McCarthy’s newest film Stillwater is loosely based on the infamous story of Amanda Knox, in this version, Allison Baker is accused of killing her girlfriend and as her father, Bill Baker, played by Matt Damon, visits her, he decides that he will personally work to prove her innocence. Directed by the same man who directed Best Picture winner Spotlight, Stillwater was something I was very much excited to see. After watching it though, I am baffled that this was made by the same man who made one of the most intriguing and well executed films of the past decade (Spotlight) as none of the talent he clearly has, is being used here.

The biggest issue with this film is the protagonist who is just unlikable. Matt Damon’s Bill is the epitome of an ignorant tourist, specifically American. He takes the phrase “fish out of water” to the nth degree, he is a fish who has purposefully left the water, knowing it will not be able to survive out of the water, and yet is annoyed that it can’t breathe and frustrated that the out-of-water isn’t the same as in it. He has been visiting France for years and hasn’t bothered to even learn the basics; someone says “bonjour” and he responds, in a thick southern American accent “hey”, and the few times he bothers to speak French, he speaks with an accent as bad as Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds (although this isn’t done for comedy) as he mutters “mersee”. At times, it felt like this film was satirising the typical American tourists that often get mocked by Europeans for their cultural ignorance. In one scene, a French university lecturer says that the reason the French press were so ruthless to Allison is because they were envious because she is American, and America is the “cultural elite” … in what universe is France, the home of the Louvre, a country that is the birthplace of cinema, with a rich and long history, envious of America’s culture? Things like this littered throughout made me think it was perhaps a satire, but everything else was pointing toward this trying to be a serious emotional film. Bill is not nice to the people around him, he is ignorant, selfish, entitled and we’re meant to empathise with him? He makes wildly inappropriate and unjustifiable decisions and yet this is the man with whom we spend the entire, lengthy runtime.

The next biggest issue is the screenplay. To say Tom McCarthy also co-wrote Spotlight, one of the most captivating, tight, and exciting screenplays in recent memory, this screenplay is disastrous. It seems totally unaware of what earth is like in 2021. At one point, the characters take screenshots from a public Instagram account to help them find somebody, and someone says they can’t take these photos to the police because “we stole these photos from Instagram” and people just accepted it. I was baffled by so many things like this, a random reference to “fake news”, bad boomer jokes about guns, I could go on forever. The screenplay also demands a mammoth runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes, and you feel every second. This should’ve been under 2 hours or extended and turned into a mini-series. There is so much of Bill just standing around, walking around, driving around, while listening to his country music to remind us how American he is, it drags so slowly. But at other times it is rushed, the ending is rushed, Bill is given no time to react to some huge news he receives so we completely lose any momentum the plot was building because the climax is either rushed or non-existent because too much time is wasted on following Bill doing absolutely nothing of worth.

There isn’t really anything this film excels at; everything is adequate. It is thoroughly average, the cinematography is dull, the editing successfully strings the scenes they filmed and that’s about it, the direction is unremarkable, the writing is, as I’ve discussed, terrible at times but the few times it isn’t dreadful it’s merely competent. The performances are okay. Camille Cottin easily gives the best performance as Bill’s love interest; Matt Damon tries but it’s difficult to enjoy his performance because his character is just so unlikeable.

It’s difficult to criticise because, while I did not like this at all, there really isn’t much that is actively bad, it’s just thoroughly average. It had a few interesting moments, one or two great scenes, some brief tension, but this film was just not for me at all, and I’m not sure who it would be for; probably the older cinemagoer, but for me, I have overwhelmingly negative thoughts. As a big fan of McCarthy’s other work, I wanted to like this, but I just couldn’t. 

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