Services like Netflix and YouTube have made the most recent films readily available to anyone. Can we find anything of value in the muck of b-movies, ambitious failures and exploitative crap-fests? We’re going to find out in Dispatches from Instant View Purgatory.
What’re we watching: “Blitz,” a British thriller released earlier this year, starring Jason Statham as a violent police officer trying to track down a teenage cop killer.
What does it look like: Imagine “Death Wish 3,” with all of its neo-conservative paranoia and brutality, updated for contemporary audiences.
What’s going on: Statham’s officer is yanked out of his slow descent into alcoholism by the sudden murder of one of his fellow officers. Striking up an unlikely partnership with an unpopular and openly homosexual transfer officer from another precinct, played by up-and- comer Luke Evans, he hunts down a psychotic 20-something who murders his way through the South London Police precinct.
Why haven’t we heard of this: It’s unbelievably British. If you don’t know your slags from your wankers, you’re going to be horribly lost in a snowstorm of rapid fire dialogue.
What works: Frequent music video and commercial director Elliott Lester brings a hardcore sense of kinetic brutal violence to the film. Every bullet, every crowbar to the knee and every box cutter stabbing is choreographed to elicit shock and revulsion. Gut wrenching violence rarely looks this good.
What doesn’t: Unfortunately, Lester’s small body of film work holds him back and he follows the plot of the book the movie is based on a little too closely, winding through tons of subplots that don’t have much to do with the film. I’m sure they worked better on paper, but it holds up the movie.
Skip to: Blitz steals the show and his gleeful crime spree becomes the best moment of the film. About 40 minutes in, the killer breaks into the apartment of a former officer, brutally bludgeoning the man with a hammer, spraying blood across his face, the floor and the walls all before he vomits on his victim. Late in the film, Lester beautifully shoots a climactic scene, showing the way the media frenzy often celebrates the most violent of crime.
The Verdict: As far as the Jason Statham ultra-violence canon goes, this one’s not as gory or skull shattering as “Crank 2” or his uncelebrated “The Mechanic,” but it’s a brutal film. The last act takes some rough turns and a conclusion that doesn’t entirely work for the film, but it’s a dark but strangely approachable movie.
What’s coming up next: Nia Vardalos wrote and starred in the most profitable indie film of all time in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Her star faded after the misguided television adaptation and the atrocious 2004 “Connie and Carla,” but then she fell off the map. Returning to the screen in 2009 with “I Hate Valentine’s Day,” she hoped to recapture her fading star. Audiences didn’t show up. Let’s find out why.