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Non-Review Review: Paradox

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

The obvious point of comparison for Paradox is Taken.

Of course, Taken is so archetypal an action film that it has become a stock point of comparison for any gritty action movie with a paternal protagonist. However, the similarities to Paradox are quite apparent. Both Paradox and Taken are the stories of fathers who discover that their daughters have been kidnapped while holidaying abroad, and who inevitably use their investigative skills (and their capacity for violence) in order to track down their lost loved one while venturing into a disturbing subculture that exists for the gratification of the rich and the privileged.

Paradox follows veteran Hong Kong police negotiator Lee Chung-Chi when his daughter is kidnapped in Thailand. It quickly becomes clear that the girl has been targeted by illegal organ dealers to provide a heart transplant for the corrupt local mayor, meaning that the father is caught in a desperate race against time to pull back the layers of corruption and indifference that serve to insulate those responsible. Along the way, he teams up with local police inspector Tsui Kit to crack the case.

However, much like the obvious comparison to Taken, the simple plot description does not do justice to the weirdness and tonal awkwardness of Paradox. It is perhaps most accurate to describe Paradox as a film quite like Taken, if Taken featured a scene in which one character dangles another off the roof by their penis.

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Non-Review Review: Green Room

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Green Room is a masterful artisanally-crafted suspense thriller.

Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier crafts a loving tribute to seventies horror that feels like a truer successor to the “backwoods horror” genre than many contemporary remakes and reimaginings. Following a punk band named The Ain’t Rights that stumble into a tense stand-off with a bunch of neo-nazis in rural Oregon, Green Room is almost aggressively old-school in its horror sensibilities. It is tense and claustrophobic, paranoid and unsettling. Saulnier has a masterful understanding of the genre and its expectations, crafting a pitch perfect homage.


Green Room is a very canny piece of work, but never in a manner that is distracting. The film is wry without being ironic, more arch than subversive. Appropriately enough, given its punk protagonists, the movie’s hints of cynicism about its genre and set-up bely a more earnest appreciation of the form. Green Room is a classic and conventional horror film about a bunch of kids who took a wrong turn, and it is utterly unapologetic about that. Instead, it commits to providing one of the most visceral traditional horror experiences in recent memory.

Green Room is a nasty piece of work. And is all the better for it.


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Non-Review Review: Anomalisa

This film was (almost) seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Anomalisa is a heartbreaking tale of isolation and loneliness, an affecting drama about living in a world that feels illusory.

Directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, from Kaufman’s screenplay adapted from his own stageplay, most of the discussion of Anomalisa has focused upon its unconventional production. The movie was essentially crowdsourced, as the space allocated in the closing credits to the project’s kickstarter backers will attest. However, Anomalisa is also a stop motion production, painstakingly and meticulously filmed using life-like dolls to tell a sad story about adultery and anomie.


In some respects, this fascination with form makes sense. After all, Anomalisa is a very human and grounded story. Even allowing for the difficulty that Kaufman had fundraising for the project, it would likely have been more practical to realise the story with living performers in a more conventional style. However, the distinctive technique provides a powerful emotional weight to Johnson and Kaufman’s story. The relative banality of the illusion is very much the much the point.

Anomalisa is not so much a story about fantasy as it is about a disconcerting sense of unreality.


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Non-Review Review: Hail, Caesar!

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Hail, Caesar! is little more than an excuse for the Coen Brothers to adventure through classic Hollywood; a series of fantastic scenes and sequences tied together more by central theme than by a linear plot. It is telling how many performers essentially find themselves relegated to only a single scene or two, with performers like Scarlett Johannessen, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Alison Pill, Ralph Fiennes and Channing Tatum effectively (and occasionally literally) dancing around the film than weaving through it.

In many respects, this simply shouldn’t work. On paper – and perhaps on reflection – Hail, Caesar! plays like an anthology of great little scenes; a collection of short films all linked by the classic Hollywood aesthetic more than a single unifying narrative. The actual substance of the film is quite removed from the story promised by the trailers, which seem to tease “an old-timey movie Ocean’s Eleven with actors teaming up to rescue a kidnapped George Clooney.” It spoils nothing to reveal that the movie is most definitely not about that.


Although the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock is a central thread, Hail, Caesar! plays more like a day in the life of Hollywood studio fixer Eddie Mannix. Mannix is (very) loosely based on the real studio executive (and notorious “fixer”) of the same name, although it seems quite unlikely that he ever had a day quite as bizarre as that presented here. The Coen Brothers have a great deal of fun incorporating classic Hollywood iconography into their film, both as movies within the movie and then in a more meta-fictional manner towards the climax.

However, Hail, Caesar! is tied together through its recurring humanism. The movie opens with Mannix taking confession for his sins, part of a daily ritual. One of the films featured is an old-school biblical epic. Complex economic theories are woven through the narrative, and the film repeatedly touches upon the awkward relationship that exists between Capitol Pictures and its performers. Although Hail, Caesar! is too shrewd to propose easy answers to its complex web of character interactions, it does tease some insightful questions. And features some great set pieces.


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