Review: Shopping, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and The Hangover Part III

By May 28, 2013 No Comments

Julian Dennison and Kevin paulo in Shopping (Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland)

Shopping (Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland) starts with archive television news footage of the infamous 1970s dawn raids, tooled-up cops breaking down doors to track down “overstayers”. As a scene-setter it’s impressive. It gives the film an immediate sense of menace but it doesn’t follow through — the cops never arrive and the threat of deportation back to the islands (like almost everything else in the film) is never discussed. So, narratively then, Shopping may disappoint but as a psychological portrait of alienated working class teenage life it excels.

Shopping posterNewcomer Kevin Paulo is Willie, stuck in a dead-end job dreaming of something better. His white father (Alistair Browning, often threatening but with a heart in the right place) wants him to work hard and get on while his Samoan mother Theresa (Maureen Fepuleai) wants him to behave himself and set a good example to younger brother Solomon (Julian Dennison). He does neither of those things and falls in with a bad crowd of local crims led by charismatic Bennie (Jacek Koman). In their world “shopping” means thievery and the adrenaline, the parties and beautiful Nicky (Laura Peterson) keep Willie away from his own home and a family that needs him more than he realises.

[pullquote]I wonder whether the world is ready for a Pakistani James Bond.[/pullquote]Shot with style — and a budget-protecting shallow focus — by Ginny Loane, Shopping leaves the audience with plenty of work to do — filling in the gaps — until it reaches a suitably enigmatic conclusion. Strong performances from seasoned pros and newcomers alike keep the tension up in individual scenes but I sometimes felt that the through-line was no more than a slender thread.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist posterIn Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, an ambitious young Pakistani (Four LionsRiz Ahmed) gets a shot at the Wall Street big time until 9/11 turns his world upside down. Ten years later an American journalist (always impressive Liv Schreiber) tracks him down in Pakistan, linking him with the kidnapping of a US academic — but is he actually a terrorist or something more complicated?

It’s an intelligent drama about a difficult subject but it loses its way during the romantic subplot (featuring a pleasingly normal looking Kate Hudson) and these plucked-from-the-headlines movies risk being left behind by fast-moving real life. Ahmed is extremely watchable throughout — dangerous and charming simultaneously — to the extent I wondered whether the world is ready for a Pakistani James Bond.

Four years ago I made the bold assertion that The Hangover was “the Citizen Kane of all getting-fucked-up-in-Vegas movies” and I can safely stand by that now that Part III’s diminishing return to Vegas has all-but erased the many pleasures from the first film.

The Hangover Part III posterAbandoning the morning after/flashback structure adhered to so rigidly during Part II, Part III is much more traditional — and much less effective. Mentally deficient middle-aged rich kid Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is on his way to some kind of expensive medical institution chaperoned by the rest of the Wolf Pack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and the oft-kidnapped Justin Bartha) when they are run off the road, shot at and ultimatum-ed by mobster John Goodman: Find the unbearably annoying racist caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and some stolen gold or poor Bartha is for the high jump. The chase for Chow then leads them first to Mexico and — eventually — back to Vegas where it all began.

I wish I could say that The Hangover Part III is a worthy end to a groundbreaking series but, instead, I can only report that — despite so many individual elements looking like they belong in an actual movie — the combination falls so flat that not a single laugh could be heard from my section of the cinema. Or any other for that matter. And it seems like the “R” rating this time around is for the incessant cursing only — a juvenile and wearing transgression.

(Portions of this review first appeared in the May issue of Wellington’s FishHead magazine.)