DIRTY GOD – movie review

Dark Star Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Sacha Polak
Writer: Sacha Polak, Susie Farrell
Cast: Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Bluey Robinson
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/12/20
Opens: November 13, 2020

Acid attack drama Dirty God gets a poster and trailer

Big surprise: the poor get shafted. Unlike the title character in Dutch director Sacha Polak “Hemel” who in the end finds true love , Jade (Vicky Knight) does not fare as well. Not only did she pick the wrong boyfriend who, after leaving her with a two-year-old child, disfigured her face and chest by throwing acid at her. She is disrespected by her mother Lisa (Katherine Kelly) who often has to take care of Rae (Eliza Brady-Girard), the toddler. Jade is red meat to the types of scammers who go after the elderly, the desperate and the ignorant; and she is given the cold shoulder by the hospital which, working under the cash-strapped National Health refuses to give her the additional plastic surgery that she deserves.

In a promising debut performance by Vicky Knight, who herself is disfigured but is made worse by the film’s makeup department, Jade gains some support from her best friend Shami (Rebecca Stone), an extrovert whose gentle boyfriend Naz (Bluey Robinson) also has had carnal knowledge of Jade knows . He knows what to say: when Jade blames a “dirty God” for her troubles, Naz notes that God had nothing to do with her concerns. The guilty party has been sentenced to a long term in court. But Jade needs more attention than she is able to get post-acid attack and turns to chat sites that are only somewhat comforting but mostly humiliating. The chat sites, however, are a piece of cake compared to one that advertises cheap plastic surgery in Marrakesh.

What more can Jade do to deal with her disfigurement? In one scene that would be comical if it were not sad, she wraps herself in a niqab to resemble Britain’s Islamic women, dancing about while covering her scars completely.
As a further sign that the poor do self-destructive actions that keep them in their unenviable cast, we see that Jade’s mother Lisa looks no more than seventeen years older than she, a condition repeated by Jade whose two-year-old is going to have a young mother if she’s ever around, and whose culture will doubtless be imitated by Rae some fifteen years from now.

Despite her immaturity or perhaps even because of it, Jade becomes a likable person, one that might tempt us in the audience to shout to her that she can rise at least somewhat out of her social class with just a few changes. If British director Ken Loach may be the foremost diarist for the working class, noting its inhabitants’ alienation from society, then credit Sacha Polak with offering a look at the underclass, whose members appear to lack any understanding of politics and are clueless about how to do better. Perhaps Jade needs the counsel of Professor Henry Higgins, whose tutelage gets a street flower seller to pass for a princess.

Excellent performance from newcomer Vicky Knight, a big plus being photographer Ruben Impens’s camerawork in Morocco, contrasting its warm tones with England’s more frigid ambiance.

104 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B


THE CHILDREN ACT – movie review


Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Richard Eyre
Screenwriter:  Ian McEwan from his book
Cast:  Emma Thompson, Fionn Whitehead, Stanley Tucci, Ben Chaplin, Eilseen Walsh, Anthony Calf, Jason Watkins, Dominic Carter
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 7/11/18
Opens: August 18, 2018 on DIRECTV.  September 14, 2018 theatrical on A24

Richard Eyre’s film, “The Children Act,” can be used as a primer against the stupidity of fundamentalist religions of all stripes.  But Ian McEwan, who adapted his novel for the screen, has other important issues in his mind.  McEwan (whose novel is available on Amazon for eleven bucks) digs into the character of the woman who is at the center of the story in the book and even more so in the movie.  Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson), a judge on a high court in London which deals exclusively with family cases, involves herself in one particular case which, though revolving around a hospital’s needed permission to save a 17-year-old’s life, affects her so emotionally that she takes dramatic steps before rendering a decision. She is led to question her own life’s choices and forced to deal with regrets about her own choices.  “The Children Act,” then, may be have a strong judicial component that puts it in the class of movies like Xavier Legrand’s “Custody” (a broken marriage leads to a custody battle with an 11-year-old in its center).  Primary focus, though, is on the private life of an eminent jurist who is also an accomplished pianist called upon to give concerts to other important people in the judicial field.

In a subplot that adds to Maye’s emotions and will lead her to a crisis and the early stages of a breakdown, she must deal with the protestations of her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci), a professor of philosophy, who is fed up with what he considers his wife’s unavailability for weekend socializing.  There’s more.  He challenges her to name the date that they last had intimacies, noting that they do not even kiss anymore.  While these justifiable complaints do not change the course of their declining marriage, they increase the helplessness she feels when she delves into the case of Adam (Fionn Whitehead) a 17-year-old boy just months away from becoming an adult with the right to make independent decisions.

On her courtroom docket, parents of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith claim the right to make their religion felt in the treatment of their son Adam, ill with leukemia, who needs a blood transfusion to have any hope of living without serious physical handicaps or even of pulling through at all.  Deciding to see the boy herself, she visits the hospital room and listens as young Adam repeats his parents’ objections, stating that he is willing to die rather than violate a principle of Jehovah’s Witness, though that faith did not decide against blood transfusions until 1945.  The basis in the Bible is from  Genesis 9:4 “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood; and Leviticus 17:10 “If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood I will set my face against that person…”  Maye believes that the lad has been brainwashed, is unable to convince him to agree to the transfusion, and goes back to court to deliver her judgment.

The heart of the film is Maye’ emotional connection to this intelligent, pious young man, who becomes the son that she never had.  When Adam, now recovered, visits the judge without an invitation, that is, stalking her, her life from that point is at a crossroad.

We may be tempted to say that Richard Eyre, who is Thompson’s godfather, deserves full credit for evoking a stunning performance from Emma Thompson.  After all, his filmmaking includes “Notes on a Scandal” (a disliked veteran high school teacher appears to befriend a younger one who is having an affair with a 15-year-old student, but the good wishes are just a pose) and “Iris” (a lifelong romance of novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband as she fights Alzheimer’s).  Thompson, who appears in virtually every scene making this perhaps the crowning achievement of her career, makes things easy for the director.  Her status climbed after her separation from Kenneth Branagh.  The Oscar-winning actress has played roles of mostly reticent people in prestige films like “The Remains of the Day” and “Sense and Sensibility.”  According to some, like journalist Sarah Sands, Thompson has “grown with age and experience.”  The 59-year-old performer’s name is often used together with others cast in “heritage” productions, like Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet, nor can anyone deny that she is among the best actresses of her generation.  “The Children Act” is a perfect vehicle to see her in this classic role at her best.

Rated R.  105 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+



Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Christopher McQuarrie
Screenwriter:  Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller
Cast:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris
Screened at: AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 7/11/18
Opens: July 27, 2018

Movies have come a long way since an audience for “The Great Train Robbery” ducked under the seats as the railroad train headed toward them in that historic six-minute film screened in 1903.  Just imagine what the audience, perhaps seeing their first film at the turn of the 20th century, would think if they saw “Mission: Impossible—Fallout”! They wouldn’t be ducking under their seats. They would be shouting and running for the exits, thinking that the end of the world was finally here.  If they stayed for most of the almost two and one-half picture, though, they would not think the world was ending. They would be certain, because the bad guys, who include August Walker (Henry Cavill) as a rogue agent actually tasked with eliminating the good guys, and especially Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), an anarchist with, of course, a full beard, plan to blow up a good part of the world knocking out 1/3 of our population to start.

Lucky for us that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), working for the IMF together with Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), is available to make amends for his failure to capture the anarchist.  While many would think his new mission is impossible, the fallout is altogether a happy one, ultimately finding a reconciliation between Ethan Hunt and his wife Julia Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan).

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, in his métier having directed “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” in 2016 (a homicide inspector looks into the case of a sniper who shot five random victims) and is the only one who directed two “Mission Impossible” actions.  At the screening I attended he spoke to the vast audience at AMC Lincoln Square’s IMAX theater, making sure that we all appreciate that Tom Cruise, who does some of his own stunts, injured his ankle during a drop from one roof to another in London, yet without waiting for his foot completely to heal continued to show up for work.  (Work?  This is pure fun.  We all should have jobs like his.)

In a picture with a great many strengths, though plot is not one of them, Tom Cruise leads his team against people out to kill off much of civilization to start “a new order.”  McQuarrie and a cast of hundreds of extras supporting to main characters, enact what some consider to be one of the greatest action movie of all time.  Given the steady march of film technology—special effects, booming sound, motorcycle chases through the streets of Paris that look so real you’d swear  you witnessed the real thing—“Mission: Impossible—Fallout” will impress audiences that are already hip to video games and scores of action features—but I can’t think of a single one that can surpass what occurs on the screen in an IMAX theater.

This sixth installment following McQuarrie’s “Rogue Nation” (Ethan Hunt and team go after the Syndicate, which had been charged with eradicating the International Monetary Fund) opened in Paris July 12, 2018 as well it should be given the City of Lights’ major role as virtually another character.  Don’t expect this to be in any way comparable to the intellectual spy stories of Joh Le Carré though you might compare the story to chapters in books by Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum.  In an opening sequence Ethan Hunt and Benji botch an operation irritating CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) forcing Hunt to team up with Luther (Ving Rhames) and the complex character August Walker (Henry Cavill).  In a breathtaking sequence the two jump from a jet like joyous sky divers, their chutes threatening to stay closed even as they are within 1000 feet of Paris’ Grand Palais.

One of the actions exquisitely choreographed is a fight scene in a men’s room between the team and a goon, the action unfolding with a minimum of itchy editing so common to martial arts pics, the realistic punches landing with thuds.  Other adventures involve masks donned by some to conceal their identities, with a great gag involving CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer.  Audience members who may not have traveled much will be treated to the wonders of Paris, but Hunt is not one to sit in a sidewalk café watching pedestrians but is happier in cars and motorcycles charging down the cobblestone streets.  At times that most drivers would be honking their horns at traffic delays, Hunt is able to traverse the streets at 60 mph without knocking down a single civilian.

Other stunts involves jumping from roof toe roof, climbing and hanging on to a rope which Hunt holds onto for dear life as a helicopter takes off,.  All comes to a smashing conclusion in Kashmir (filmed in Norway and New Zealand) as the team of good guys try to defuse a series of bombs set to go off in 15 minutes thereby destroying most of India, Pakistan, Kashmir and presumably the happiest country, Bhutan.

Each episode tops the one before, the movie owning nothing to the James Bond series since every gadget owned by 007 has been largely surpassed by today’s technology.  So: plot is familiar, action is incredible.  The picture deserves to be seen in 2-D on the largest screen available in your area, IMAX if you can get it, but given the length of the film and the annoyance of wearing those pesky glasses I would recommend skipping the 3-D.

Rated PG-13.  144 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – A
Overall – A-