Edinburgh review: Hellion

Hellion (dir. Kat Candler, 2014) 

Hellion

Teenage rebellion in the sundrenched plains of Texas is the subject of Kat Candler’s Hellion, a likeable but ultimately unremarkable drama starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, with a breakout performance by 14-year-old Josh Wiggins. Wiggins plays Jacob, the rough-and-tumble adolescent seen at the beginning of the film smashing up cars outside the local sports stadium, a teenager sweating his rage and without a cause left. He’s caught by local cops and sent to juvie, but allowed home at night, where he shares space with his emotionally distant father, played by Paul. Soon the authorities call in to take away Jacob’s younger brother Wes and into the care of their well-to-do aunt (Juliette Lewis).

The rest of my review is at CineVue.

Edinburgh review: Set Fire to the Stars

Set Fire to the Stars (dir. Andy Goddard, 2014) 

Set Fire to the Stars

Dylan Thomas’ first jaunt to America is explored in Andy Goddard’s understated but likable Set Fire to the Stars, which premieres tonight at the 68th Edinburgh Film Festival. The centenary of Thomas’ birth this year means we’re also getting an adaptation of Under Milk Wood to come – reportedly starring Rhys Ifans – but this melancholic picture, filmed in South Wales, should make a fine addition to contemporary reflections on the famously roguish poet. Indeed, Goddard’s film would have made a fine opening night gala over the morally complex Hyena, although the proximity to another Thomas drama, The Edge of Love - which opened the festival in 2008 – may have scuppered its chances.

The rest of my review is up on CineVue.

Edinburgh review: Welcome to New York

Welcome to New York (dir. Abel Ferrara, 2014) 

Welcome to New York

Gérard Depardieu is barnstorming as the outrageous subject of Abel Ferrara’s lurid Welcome to New York, inspired by the scandal that ended Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s career. The former IMF chief – and presumptive French presidential candidate – denied all charges and has now taken steps to sue the film’s producers for defamation. Regardless of Ferrara’s adherence to true life, it’s a startling and compelling account not just of a sex addict, but a character whose wealth and standing in his field has allowed himself to be far removed from contemporary morality. Within five minutes, we’ve seen Depardieu’s Georges Devereux shack up with four escorts at an orgy in New York’s Carlton Hotel.

Keep reading at CineVue

Edinburgh review: We Are Monster

We Are Monster (dir. Antony Petrou2014) 

The murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution back in 2000 is the painful subject of Antony Petrou’s We Are Monster, a clumsy and facile character study into his killer, Robert Stewart; an apparently well-researched drama that feels more like a hopeless shot in the dark at reaching the inner psyche of a killer. Stewart was a known racist, mentally unstable and violent (with an RIP tattoo on his forehead), but after institutional failures was put in the same cell as the British Asian. Six weeks later, Mubarek was dead, bludgeoned to death by a sawn-off table leg hours before his intended release. All in all, it took six years for the victim’s relatives to get answers.

To see the rest of my review, check it out on CineVue

Edinburgh review: Hyena

Hyena (dir. Gerard Johnson, 2014) 

Hyena

Opening films at festivals are often easygoing curtain-raisers that provide a bit of glamour before guests scatter into all manner of inevitable industry after-parties. But guests at this year’s 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival will be stumbling out of a violent, cerebral, police noir. It’s a brave choice, that never quite convinces as the right fit (it appears to have no relation to Scotland and its film industry) but Hyena is a cut above the average London gangster flick all the same. Gerard Johnson’s sophomore feature, Hyena might look on the outset like the type of London crime thriller usually populated by Jason Statham, but it’s more emotionally complex than its outset gives it credit for.

Read the rest of my review up at CineVue

 

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