Raymond Carver’s 1981 short story “So Much Water, So Close To Home” has already been adapted for two near-masterpieces: a segment of Altman’s awesome Short Cuts in 1993 and Paul Kelly’s 1989 song “Everything’s Turning To White”. Now we can add the third (and best) item to the list, Ray Lawrence’s Jindabyne.
The story is deceptively simple. Four guys go on a fishing trip and discover the body of a murdered girl. Instead of reporting it they decide to carry on fishing. The community is horrified and one of the wives (Laura Linney) realises that she can never see her husband (Gabriel Byrne) in the same way again.
Screenwriter Beatrix Christian takes the already highly-charged story to another level by making the dead girl a “blackfella” and Byrne and Linney’s central couple outsiders, immigrants from Ireland and America respectively.
But the film isn’t so much about politics or “issues” as it is about character, and there is a richness and depth to every portrait that we don’t get blessed with too often in the cinema. Jindabyne isn’t an easy watch but it is certainly rewarding.
Crank is an entertaining actioner with a neat twist and no pretensions. B‑movie superstar Jason Statham plays another hard-man with a soft centre. This time he’s hit-man Chev Chelios and he’s on the way out. He’s been poisoned and only ever-increasing amounts of adrenaline can keep him alive while he tracks down his murderer and gets his revenge.
This he manages using all the best methods: drugs, sex, fast cars and ultra-violence. The Los Angeles locations are well-used, the direction is spicy and the cutting is razor-sharp.
The second wave of Christmas cash-ins has arrived and a fairly dismal bunch they are. First up is The Nativity Story, a prequel to the smash-hit snuff movie The Passion of The Christ. If you’re familiar with the source material you won’t find many surprises in this version which is told with a respectful lack of spark or panache. I was slightly disappointed to find that this version has no inn-keeper, a role this reviewer essayed to great success upon the London stage as a seven-year-old. Most importantly: Keisha’s fine, no worries.
Going in with low expectations is the best way to approach Unaccompanied Minors, the latest variation on the tried and true kids-run-amok genre. This time the not-so-adorable kids are trapped in a snowed-in airport on Christmas Eve and the wicked airport manager wants to stop them having a good time. While it’s nowhere near as good as the original masterpiece, Home Alone, I found myself warming to this one and would recommend it to anyone wanting to keep the seven to eleven year olds quiet next Christmas by which time it will be out on DVD.
The most objectionable thing about Deck The Halls isn’t its stupidity (and it is very stupid), it is the stupidity it assumes of its audience. A not-funny comedy rendered without wit or subtlety (adding a decent dash of ugly in their stead), Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick play neighbours competing to be the “the Christmas Guy” in a small town. There were five of us in the cinema at the start and I was the only one still there at the end, cursing my professionalism.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 6 December, 2006.