On Camera #25: Spy / Black Coal, Thin Ice / Kingsman / Son Of A Gun / The Clangers

on Monday, June 08, 2015
Words: Saam Das & Maxamillian John

In Cinemas: 'Spy' (2015) + 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' (2014)

Actresses Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne are reunited with their 'Bridesmaids' director Paul Feig on the unimaginatively named spy comedy, 'Spy' (★★★, 6/10). McCarthy plays unassuming CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who volunteers to enter the field to track Byrne's Rayna Boyanov - the only person who knows the location of a nuclear weapon, but one fully aware of all other CIA field agents.

Cooper's appearance in the field is strongly disapproved by brash fellow agent Jason Statham, who plays somewhat against type, completely ignorant of his increasingly bumbling nature. Statham is often a scene-stealer but McCarthy is comfortable as ever on the big screen, even in the relative unfamiliarity of an action-heavy role. Unfortunately, while many of the jokes are hits, many are misses - perhaps underlying that the spy satire genre is a little tired these days.

Chinese thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice' (★★★½, Words: MJ) sees Fan Liao play an alcoholic former cop, reduced to scraping by on security work which he performs badly. When an old murder case is dredged up, he goes back on the job and starts to obsess over the prime suspect - a widow working in a laundry. The story may be of a tragic nature, but director Yi’nan Diao doesn’t allow us to pity any of the characters, or to shovel them into the over-occupied narrative ditches that the premise might hint at.

Diao continually wrong-foots the viewers with changes in narrative tone. When 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' is funny, the humour bursts into scenes that are otherwise very serious. Other directors wouldn’t have the stones to commit so fully to the approach; just like tragedy can enter unannounced, arbitrarily, and alter the quality of a moment, so can humour. That audacity is as funny as the jokes themselves - the humour of 'Black Coal, Thin Ice' is harsh, physical and piercing.

At Home: 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' + 'Son Of A Gun'

Out on DVD this week is Matthew Vaughn's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service', who turns his eye to the spy genre, following the path of Taron Egerton as he moves unemployed youngster on a London council estate to secret agent, under Colin Firth's stately guidance. Samuel L Jackson is on hand as a ludicrous villain, hamming it up at every opportunity. The film's uneven tone is troubling - the ending leaving a particularly sour taste in the mouth with its oddly archaic attitude.

An alternative offering for home cinema is writer-director Julius Avery's enjoyable feature debut, 'Son Of A Gun'. A young offender-centred crime drama that sees Brenton Thwaites as new prisoner JR, who finds himself under the watchful eye of Ewan McGregor's commanding Brendan. JR's new association takes him deep into the thrills of mob life but having to also pay a necessary price through criminal actions. The tropes may be tried and tested but Avery's direction is taut, and he captures the action set pieces particularly well.

For catch up TV, our resident telly expert Jordan Andrew encourages you to check out BBC improv 'Murder In Successville' and E4 music-based drama 'Empire'.

TV & Movie News

Not only did Han shoot first, according to the original shooting script for 'Star Wars: A New Hope' but Luke was called Luke Starkiller. Outrageous.

Disney-Pixar are back and asking what if the dinosaurs never died out in new animated feature 'The Good Dinosaur':

Cult show 'The Clangers' returns for a shiny new facelift on CBeebies. Check out the trailer on YouTube.

Ridley Scott and Matt Damon team up on 'The Martian', with heavy hitters like Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor in tow:

Read previous On Camera columns here. Drop us a line at film(at)fadedglamour.co.uk if you have something you think might be worth featuring in a future column.

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