After a couple of days away from the festival (unfortunately the day job can’t be completely ignored!) and a disastrous experience courtesy of the London transport system (missing yesterday’s Argo screening due to a cancelled train has to be the low point of my year so far), I was finally back to Leicester Square for the second week of the BFI London Film Festival. There were plenty of highlights from week 1, which you can catch up with here, but my sixth day at the festival brought me to two great movies: Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, and hilarious black comedy Seven Psychopaths. Reviews after the jump…
Crossfire Hurricane (***)
A quick test: how many Rolling Stones songs can you list off the top of your head? This was what I asked myself whilst awaiting Crossfire Hurricane earlier today, before realising that I could come up with a paltry three. Ask me about The Beatles, Bowie, Queen, even The Who, and I could have reeled them off, but for some reason, despite their iconic status as one of the world’s all-time great rock bands, I’m just not familiar with their work.
It was with some trepidation then than I watched this movie, curious to find out what all the fuss was about. I was not disappointed. We all know Mick Jagger has the moves, but who knew that he’s such a charismatic and amusing screen presence? Likewise I was shocked to learn of the Stones’ mass teen-girl following that could even put One Direction’s current liege of fan girls to shame. Although the band was largely marketed as the anti-Beatles, they caused just as much pandemonium as their more clean-cut contemporaries, with the early scenes in Crossfire Hurricane utilising archive footage of the band’s first US tour to great effect. The images are frankly thrilling, as girls repeatedly storm the stage and maul their idols, passing out with excitement and even wetting themselves en masse.
From here we follow the ups and downs of the band’s journey from being the scourge of every parent’s nightmare, to their legend status as it stands today. It’s not exactly revolutionary but it’s never dull, and the voiceover narration from the band’s existing members, reliving their past experiences, is a great way of adding gravitas to the images.
It’s also worth noting that Crossfire Hurricane makes little effort to get under the skin of the men beneath the rockstar exteriors. Although the usual sex, drugs and rock and roll paths are each explored, sometimes with devastating consequences, the documentary’s angle is strictly superficial. Aside from learning of the group’s cultural impact, and the shape of their successes, this is purely a celebration of the band and their career, in commemoration of their 50th anniversary. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, the film is fascinating regardless, but there’s a missed opportunity hanging over Crossfire Hurricane that’s hard to dismiss.
Without a doubt one of the funniest movies of the year, Seven Psychopaths is a hilarious black comedy from the man behind the equally off-colour, equally brilliant In Bruges. Again director Martin McDonagh unites with Colin Farrell to bring us a borderline-offensive but funny enough to get away with it comedy, this time about a struggling screenwriter whose latest screenplay sees him involved with a number of LA’s most dangerous serial killers.
Aside from being brilliantly written, Seven Psychopaths is brimming with great performances. Farrell is solid in the lead role, but entirely outshone by Sam Rockwell, who gives an awards-worthy performance. His take on Billy, the unsuspecting psychopath, is consistently funny and features a wealth of standout moments, not least his fantastic re-enactment of the ‘final shootout’; it ranks amongst his finest work. Likewise Christopher Walken is charmingly quirky playing a man with more than a couple of mysteries up his sleeve, whilst Woody Harrelson relishes the part of a dog-loving mafia boss with everything he’s got. A talented female supporting cast also shine with appearances from Gabourey Sidibe, Olga Kurylenko and Abbie Cornish, although McDonagh is the first to admit that his female characters aren’t quite as well developed as one might hope.
However what struck me the most about the Seven Psychopaths screening I attended was how much the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it. The stereotypical image of being stuffed into a room of stony-faced, disaffected film critics couldn’t have been further from the truth. People were one step away from rolling in the aisles, with spontaneous applause lavished on a number of the film’s funniest moments. If that’s not endorsement enough to see this movie, then I don’t know what is. Seven Psychopaths deserves to be seen.