Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
New on Netflix Streaming: THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH (2008) and KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND (2010)
THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH (France/Belgium, 2008; US release 2011)
Based on a series of popular Belgian comic books and graphic novels, LARGO WINCH ("THE HEIR APPARENT" was added by US distributor Music Box) was a hit in Europe, but took three years to get a limited US release. It drew comparisons to early 007 films, but it really feels more like what might happen if the Bond films focused less on action and thrills and more on meetings in M's office and the behind-the-scenes stuff at Universal Exports. With a globetrotting plot that eventually crosses over into the incomprehensible, LARGO WINCH focuses on the titular hero (the bland Tomer Sisley), the adopted son of recently-murdered billionaire industrialist Nerio Winch (Miki Manojlovic). At the time of his father's murder, Largo, estranged from the old man and traveling around the world, is being imprisoned in Brazil after mystery woman Lea (Melanie Thierry) plants drugs on him. Busting out of jail and making his way back to the Winch headquarters in Hong Kong, Largo gets embroiled in all manner of corporate espionage and an attempted takeover by his father's nefarious rival Korsky (Karel Roden). Most of the rest of the film deals with endless blathering about shares, files, accounts, debts, and Hong Kong. Once in a while, there's an action scene or a stunning aerial shot of Hong Kong to keep you awake. Despite game effort from a qualified supporting cast (including Kristin Scott Thomas, Benedict Wong, Anne Consigny, Steven Waddington, and the awesomely-named Wolfgang Pissors), and an admittedly spectacular climactic rooftop fight sequence, the film moves along at a snail's pace, and much of the blame lies with Sisley, suffering from a severe charisma deficiency in the starring role. Looking like a more toned Sacha Baron Cohen, Sisley does his own stunts (though who knows why he's being chased?), but elsewhere registers zero regardless of what language he's speaking (the film is split about 50/50 in French and English). A movie like this lives or dies with its star, and Sisley, going for cool but coming off catatonic, is either miscast or just bored when he's not in motion. And on top of that, what the hell kind of thriller ends with a slow-clapping scene? Sisley returned for 2011's THE BURMA CONSPIRACY: LARGO WINCH II, which co-stars Sharon Stone, but has yet to secure US distribution. (Unrated, 109 mins)
KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND (Norway/Poland/France/Sweden, 2010; US release 2011)
Based on a true story, KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND is a frequently harrowing look at the events leading up to the 1915 rebellion of the so-called "Bastoy Boys" at the Bastoy Island boys reform school, off the coast of Norway. What's here isn't really anything new, and director Marius Holst lets it drag on a bit long and lays the Moby Dick analogies on a little too thick, but overall, it's very well-acted and beautifully shot. When Erling (Benjamin Helstad) arrives at Bastoy amidst talk that he killed someone, it doesn't take long for him to establish his bona fides as the school's resident rebel. He forms an uneasy alliance with Olav (Trond Nilsson), who's been installed as the group leader by Bastoy head Governor Bestyreren (Stellan Skarsgard), who lives in a very ornate house on the other side of the island with his young wife (Ellen Dorrit Petersen). Olav is due to be released soon and has grown accustomed to looking the other way at assorted injustices and cruelties, but it's Olav who tries to tell the Governor about his top aide, housefather Brathen (Kristoffer Joner) being a pedophile who regularly molests slow-witted Ivar (Magnus Langlete) in the laundry room. For his own reasons, the Governor sweeps Olav's accusations under the rug, and a final tragedy involving Ivar, which finally prompts the boys to rally behind Erling and Olav and revolt. Skarsgard's Governor is a fascinating character who, despite his stern and unbending manner, feels a duty to rehabilitate the boys and doesn't believe in the cruelty practiced by his underlings. He's torn about doing nothing about Brathen, but in doing so, puts his own interests ahead of the boys. Holst doesn't keep the momentum going all the way up to the very end and it occasionally succumbs to cliche and familiarity (a lot of it recalls THE MAGDELENE SISTERS), but KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND goes far on the performances of Skarsgard, Joner, Helstad, and Nilsson. (Unrated, 116 mins)