Hitmen-on-holiday caper In Bruges had instant cult appeal and remains one of my favourite films, particularly after a visit to the beautiful Belgian city last year.
Writer/director Martin McDonagh follows it up with SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (15: Momentum), another darkly comic, dysfunctional-male buddy movie. This time set in Los Angeles, the story centres on a boozy Irish screenwriter (Colin Farrell), who’s struggling with ideas for his next project, a film about psychopathic killers.
Inspiration soon arrives when the dog-napping scam run by his dodgy best pal (Sam Rockwell) and partner (Christopher Walken) backfires after they swipe the prized pooch of a gangster (Woody Harrelson).McDonagh lampoons and challenges plenty of genre cliches, but the rapid-fire script doesn’t always hit the target and at times it even conforms to the very conventions it lambasts.
Yet it has a certain Pulp Fiction flavour to it and a charismatic performance by Walken, plus oddball cameos from Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton, give it heart.
> Following the hit Lord Of The Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson travels further back through the history of Middle-earth to tell the rambling story of Bilbo Baggins in fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (12: Warner).
Martin Freeman plays the titular hobbit with curmudgeonly charm as he reluctantly leaves home to join a band of dwarves led by Thorin on a quest to reclaim territory.
Although Ian McKellan makes an amusing double-act with Freeman as the wizard Gandalf, it takes ages for the story to get going and the pace suffers due to a diversion into Thorin’s backstory.
Extraordinary set-pieces include a battle between stone giants and a fateful encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis), whose vivid turn, full of humour and pathos, is deftly captured. But Jackson’s decision to split JRR Tolkien’s book across three films means he struggles to impose an orderly structure. It’s a rocky road with spectacular views, yet you’re left feeling there’s an awfully long way to go.
> Engrossing Irish drama WHAT RICHARD DID (15: Artificial Eye) offers a haunting portrayal of a young man at a moral crossroads.
Newcomer Jack Reynor is highly impressive as the Dublin student who puts his bright future at risk when bristling jealousy over his girlfriend’s old flame gets out of hand on one fateful night.
In a demanding role, he displays the charisma that makes Richard the alpha male in his circle of middle-class achievers, while also conveying depth to his soul-searching when the full implications of his actions hit home.
> Writer/director Mark O’Connor aims for authenticity with KING OF THE TRAVELLERS (15: Metrodome), a drama about bareknuckle fighting among the Irish travelling community.
John Paul Moorehouse is on a destructive quest to uncover the truth about his father’s killer 12 years earlier. His desire for revenge is swayed as he falls for the murder suspect’s daughter. Some crowd-pleasing moments in a film that arrives with a twinkle in its eye, but little else between its cauliflower ears.