The Paperboy

Florida, 1969, and in the midst of a summer so hot, “God himself must’ve been sweating”, a small-town sheriff is murdered. Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) will go to the chair for the crime, unless local investigative reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) – aided by brother Jack (Zac Efron) and oversexed convict groupie Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) – can prove otherwise. Heat sears through the screen as the muggy murder-mystery converges with a young man’s sexual coming-of-age, a first love forged in the salty fires of piss on a jellyfish sting.

Director Lee Daniels tenaciously fosters the same provocative, naturalistic atmosphere that won Precious so many plaudits, and his cast is faultless. Cusack in particular impresses as sleazy swamp-dwelling Hillary. However, strong turns and sharp-edged characterisation fail to mollify the lingering feeling that this is a fairly by-the-numbers noir procedural dressed up with some charged sexual and racial politics. The Paperboy hints at something great, but squint past the trickles of perspiration and you’re left wanting.

Originally published in The Skinny magazine.

 

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Red Dawn

In 1984, the year Orwell prophesied doom, writer-director John Milius took the Cold War to its barely logical conclusion for Red Dawn, imagining a Third World War where parachuting Soviets invaded the US mainland and might have triumphed, were it not for a plucky band of American freedom fighters. In this silly and largely pointless remake, the enemy may have changed, but the same fatuous paranoia, flag-fluttering patriotism, and flimsy grip on international politics remains.

Just as Soviet Russia was a handy baddie in the ’80s – mysterious, aloof, faceless – so North Korea apparently is today. A right-wing fantasy writ large, the premise would be intriguing if it wasn’t so patently absurd. There’s competent action from first-time director Dan Bradley and the cast, led by Chris Hemsworth, are fine. But it remains an entirely ludicrous ninety minutes, jingoistically guileless in depicting an American insurgency fighting back against an invading foreign army – in reality, of course, it tends to be the other way around.

Originally published in The Skinny magazine.

 

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