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Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Black Swan

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Produced by:
Scott Franklin
Mike Medavoy
Arnold Messer
Brian Oliver

Screenplay by:
Mark Heyman
Andres Heinz
John McLaughlin

Story by: Andres Heinz

Starring:
Natalie Portman
Vincent Cassel
Mila Kunis
Barbara Hershey
Winona Ryder

Music by: Clint Mansell

Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique

Editing by: Andrew Weisblum

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Release date(s):
September 1, 2010 (Venice Film Festival World Premiere)
December 3, 2010/December 17, 2010 (United States Limited/Wide Releases)
January 21, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 108 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $13 million

Gross revenue (as of publication): $96, 365, 938

And so the Oscars race has officially started. Nominations for both the BAFTAs and the Oscars are now out, and if one were to judge from the Golden Globes, The Social Network is this year's frontrunner. With the ten best picture Oscar nominations and there being a genuinely wide variety of films, it still seems to be anyone's ball game. Furthermore, these films seem to be avoiding the usual 'Oscar film' kind of label, able to stand up on their own two feet. It is fantastic to see films like Inception and Toy Story 3 get the recognition that they deserve, but also films like 127 Hours, a very unconventional film, and the film that is the subject of this review, Black Swan.

Anyone who has regularly followed this blog for the past few years knows that I raved heavily about Darren Aronofsky's previous film The Wrestler. In fact, it was my best film of 2008, and I consider it now one of my favourite films. Mickey Rourke gives a once in a lifetime performance as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, and I would seriously urge everyone to go out and watch that film. It serves as a companion piece to this film. Black Swan has got a lot of critical attention, particularly for the lead performance by Natalie Portman. Also, along with the Best Actress nom for Portman, it has also got a Best Picture nom and Aronofsky's first (but almost certainly not his last) Best Director nom.

In Black Swan, a New York ballet company prepares for the production of a new version of Swan Lake, a new lead being cast in place of Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) as the Swan Queen. As is the tradition of Swan Lake, the dancer cast in the part must alternate between the White Swan and the Black Swan. Among those in the running are Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis). Although described as the perfect White Queen, director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is reluctant to cast Nina in the part. However, after she bites his lip while kissing him, surprised and aroused, Leroy casts Nina as the Swan Queen.

Those familiar with Darren Aronofsky's films will know that he always seems to be able to direct the best performances possible out of his actors. Black Swan is no exception to this unwritten rule. The lead performance by Natalie Portman as Nina does for her what Randy 'The Ram' Robinson did for Mickey Rourke (I know, one of those stupid 'quotable' phrases that critics love to use). Portman has from her first film role as Mathilda in Leon proved herself as a fine actress, so it is terrific that she has got a role like this. She does an amazing job of playing Nina is a performance that is obviously physically demanding. Losing twenty pounds and going through an intense six-month training, she looks the part. Also, Portman manages to manifest emotion through the physical performance of the character. She projects the perfectionist persona of Nina via the dancing, but also the rigid tightness of someone emotionally repressed. As such, whenever we get glimpses of the 'Black Swan' persona emerging, waiting to be born, it can be shocking. This is a performance that works well both in three-dimensional terms and also in narrative/thematic terms of two different sides of one's personality fighting over the same body. The emotional spectrum of the character bounds to all places imaginable, from the depths of depression to the peaks of triumph. As the epicentre of the film, Portman gives a stunning performance of mesmerising power that is the one of the best, not just from a film this year, but in film history.

Portman's performance as Nina is getting a lot of attention (and rightfully so), but good words must be said about the rest of the cast. Mila Kunis is really great as Lily. Granted, all of the characters are written very much symbolically around Nina, but Kunis portrays adeptly the attributes that Nina is lacking. Although less technically proficient as Nina, Kunis shows us that Lily is more of a free spirit of passion, the polar opposite of Nina's rigidity. Kunis gives Lily a real charm to her character and delivers a really fine performance. Also, although only in the film for a few scenes, Winona Ryder does a good job of playing Beth MacIntyre. She creates a fully believable character out of the symbolic representation of what the future could be for Nina. Also, Vincent Cassel, who seems to be able to make the most boring characters seem interesting, is able to ply his talents to the character of Thomas Leroy. The unconventional director is able to come across as suave, boorish, intelligent, arrogant and powerful, often at the same time due to his complete embodiment by Cassel. The man has a fantastic way of being able to shed the skin of previous roles and become enveloped in the character he is playing. Finally, Barbara Hershey is excellent as Erica, Nina's mother. She plays the loving, adoring mother with great pride, treating Nina like her little cherub. You really get the impression of a genuinely supportive mother. However, when 'things happen', the elements of her being overbearing and Nina being a projection of her unfulfilled dreams become apparent, while still being tackled by her motherly role. The clash makes her an intimidating onscreen presence.

Although these performances are fantastic, you can't help but get the impression that without the direction of Aronofsky they would not be as good as they are. Black Swan is, for a film that goes to lots of different places (figuratively speaking), rather controlled. As someone who has seen many of these films go in the wrong directions, Aronofsky admirably manages to keep things surprisingly restrained. Like the perfectionism of Nina, Aronofsky's decisions to have the whole film narratively a reflection of Nina's battling persona(e) displays intelligence and good sense. It is the best-disguised trick of the film. Filmmakers are ultimately illusionists with their magician tricks, the greatest trick of all being caught up in the trick and forgetting, consciously or unconsciously, the presence of a magician. This is a work that is reminiscent certain works of David Lynch, particularly movies like Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE. I really think that Aronofsky has pulled off a great illusion in the direction of the film. Black Swan is a very powerful work that furthermore proves Aronofsky as one of the most important filmmakers working today. He just seems to keep releasing great films.

A few words must also be given to the cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Aronofsky's considers the film a companion piece to The Wrestler, and the two share similarities, the digital photography for one thing. However, unlike the cinematography in The Wrestler, where it is used to show the down-and-dirty gritty life of 'The Ram', here DV is used for its subversive qualities. Here I go again, I know, but I frequently (too frequently) mention the use of DV in action films in light of the way Paul Greengrass' Bourne films were shot. Also, I often talk about how they use it inferiorly, and how you often end up nauseated. In the case of Black Swan, Libatique used the nauseating effect of DV photography to dramatic effect, but not without the control that permeates the film. All of the moves are clearly intentional, and make you doubt what you see onscreen. Also, Libatique’s cinematography works excellently in a stylistic sense, particularly in the dance sequences, much of which shows Portman dancing, but also makes use close-ups on her facial expressions as she does so. It has an amazing effect and is very innovative.

However, as ever in the case of cinematography, it wouldn't work nearly as well without some excellent editing. If there is one word (noun) to describe the editing of Black Swan, it would be 'crank.' Andrew Weisblum displays the control that typifies the work, and does one of the best editing jobs of the year. I love how during the dance scenes, Weisblum lets the cinematography and acting take centre stage, often letting the shots go on for over a minute. It is a generous piece of editing that makes the work seem so much more whole. The editing though clearly works best when catering towards the film's subversive qualities. Weisblum displays a controlled frenzy that is highly appropriate for the work. This is the case in the last thirty/forty minutes of the film, giving the film a real hallucinatory feel, leading us to question the nature of everything we are witnessing. By this stage Weisblum has 'cranked' up the film, and the editing, frenetic but not without control, contributes hugely to the vice-grip that the film has on the audience. This is some superb work in the editorial department, and Weisblum should be very happy with what he has done.

The final outstanding aspect of the film that I would like to really praise is the overall sound of the film. Of course, being a film about the production of a version of Swan Lake, we are going to get lots of Tchaikovsky. The use of Tchaikovsky is very wise, for certain sections of Swan Lake recur throughout the film, becoming motifs. Also, different versions by The Chemical Brothers pop up, for example, in the club scenes. Clint Mansell returns once again to do work for an Aronofsky film. A previous winner of Best Soundtrack/Score from my annual Year-End awards (for The Wrestler), Mansell is a terrific composer, and once again he does some fine work for Black Swan. Saying that, the real stars of the film's overall sound would have to be the sound department. As mentioned, the film is incredibly subversive, and like many of David Lynch's films, the sound is a key component to this. The sound goes up and down, volume level being tweaked to suit its purpose in relation to the plot. Also, Foley Artist Steve Baine has done his homework and come up with some very strange sounds. The best aspect of sound in general in the film though is the sound editing. There is a fantastic organic quality to this, with seamless transitions from diagetic to non-diagetic music working very well in sucking us into the mindset of Nina. In terms immersing us in the character, all of those involved with sound are a big part in developing a profile for Nina without explicitly saying things.

Black Swan is a fantastic film is so many ways, although by no means is it flawless, and it does not pain me to write of certain problems I found with the film. As I mentioned, the film is very controlled and the narrative unfolds in this manner purposefully. However, I'd be lying if I thought that the film on the rarest of occasions the screenwriters (Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin) went a bit too far with the 'controlled frenzy' I mentioned earlier. I won't mention them because it would involve spoiling the plot, but by the end they do leave you deflated. This is a fault especially considering that the ending points in more specifically in one direction, rather than keeping it open-ended. That is the most I will say, because I could elaborate and really don't want to spoil a fine film with a niggle of mine. Also, the script is pretty good as it is.

As I said, I have a problem with the film that denies it the status of a perfect film. Nevertheless, there is so much could about the film that it outweighs that problem significantly, fully deserving of being called a 'masterpiece', to use a long-worn cliche. Natalie Portman gives an extraordinary performance as Nina, and is backed up by a wonderful supporting cast. Also, Darren Aronofsky handles what could have been a messy film with suitable prowess. It is shot very well, although much of the success of Matthew Libatique's cinematography is down to the superb editing by Andrew Weisblum. Finally, it has some of the best overall sound in any film from 2010. Black Swan a wonderful film that really stands out as an important film to be seen.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Recovering (another one of those days following drink the night before)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Kick-Ass

Directed by: Matthew Vaughan

Produced by:
Matthew Vaughan
Brad Pitt
Kris Thykier
Adam Bohling
Tarquin Pack
David Reid

Screenplay by:
Matthew Vaughan
Jane Goldman

Based on: Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

Narrated by: Aaron Johnson

Starring:
Aaron Johnson
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Mark Strong
Chloe Grace Moretz
Nicholas Cage

Music by:
John Murphy
Henry Pryce Jackman
Marius de Vries
Ilan Eshkeri

Cinematography by: Ben Davis

Editing by:
Pietro Scalia
Jon Harris
Eddie Hamilton

Studio(s):
Marv Films
Plan B Entertainment

Distributed by:
Universal Pictures
Lionsgate

Release date(s):
26 March 2010 (United Kingdom)
16 April 2010 (United States)

Running time: 118 minutes

Country:
United Kingdom
United States

Language: English

Budget: $28 million

Gross revenue: $96, 130, 462

I’ll tell you something, 2010 has been a terrific year for comedy. We’ve had Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Cemetery Junction and Chris Morris’ edgy but tasteful Four Lions. Three really great comedy films that put the comedies of most other years to shame. Saying that, I suppose to have some great comedy, we also have to eat some bad shit too. Grown Ups, Magruber, Marmaduke and Vampires Suck come to mind as some the worst comedies in recent memory. Where our next film stands on the spectrum is to be found during the course of this review.

Kick-Ass is the new film from director Matthew Vaughan. I have not seen his previous film Stardust, although personally I wasn’t that fussed on Layer Cake, his debut film. I might go back to re-watch it, as it has been a good few years since I saw it. Anyway, Kick-Ass met for the most part positive reviews, although the film has sparked controversy due to its content. It is laden with vulgarities, notable for being a mainstream, 15-Rated film able to get away with the use of the c-word (‘cunt’ for further reference). Also, it is for a superhero film pretty violent. However, most of this controversy is being generated because this profanity and violence involves at various parts a young girl.

Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Hit Girl was eleven when uttering the line “Okay you cunts, let’s see what you can do now” and performing kills with a various array of stabbing weapons and guns. Roger Ebert of the called the film “morally reprehensible”, and Chris Tookey of The Daily Mail declared, “This crime against cinema is twisted, cynical and revels in the abuse of childhood.” Firing straight off before getting into the film itself, I have no problem against the character of Hit Girl. To take an example of a similar case, both men speak very well of Taxi Driver, Tookey rating it 9/10 and Ebert listing it in his ‘Great Movies.’ Now, in this film, Jodie Foster plays an underage prostitute character that is a sexualised character. At the time of filming, Foster was fourteen, only three years older than Moretz in Kick-Ass. I have no problem with Taxi Driver or Jodie Foster’s age when portraying the character. However, I see this as double standards on the part of Tookey and Ebert, who need to get off the moralistic pedestal and stop declaring themselves Chloe Moretz’ guardian angels!

Anyway, post-opinions section (an opinion that wasn’t asked at that), lets get down to the synopsis of Kick-Ass. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a teenager, who while juggling a crush for Katie (Lyndsey Fonseca), is disgusted by crime and people’s apathy towards it, wondering why no one has decided to become a superhero like those in comics. It is a pure escapist vision with which one can empathise, and Dave decides to become ‘Kick-Ass’, despite having no superpowers. After a failed first attempt at fighting crime that damages his nerves, increasing his capacity for pain, he continues his crusade, and after becoming an Internet phenomenon, realises he is not alone. During a raid on drug dealers, he is saved by Hit Girl (Chloe Grave Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), a father-daughter superhero duo. Their main target in vigilantism is Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), a local crime boss. Upon damage being done to his business, he goes after Kick-Ass, with his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) volunteering to become ‘Red Mist’ to lure Kick-Ass to his father. And so, our pieces have fallen into place. Lengthy synopsis yes, but no big spoilers.

To start with what is good about Kick-Ass, the acting must be taken into account. It is great to see a cast in a film that is all round on form. Aaron Johnson gives a perfectly likeable lead performance, in a role that could have made him the boring foil of the film. Also, Christopher Mintz-Plasse escapes the long shadow of his first film performance as Fogell aka McLovin' in Superbad, giving another worthy performance. As the film's lead villain, Mark Strong adds a fine presence. However, while these are all good performances, the best ones in the film have to be those of Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicholas Cage as the father-daughter duo of Hit Girl and Big Daddy. Both nail the unconventional relationship of a father and daughter who just happen to be a group of vigilante superheroes. There is a genuine chemistry between the two that makes their dynamic both very funny and very touching whenever it needs to be. Moretz gives a really great performance as Hit Girl, delivering a fully rounded performance that takes full advantage of the comedic possibilities of her age. It is certainly one of the best supporting actress roles of the year. On the other hand, we've good old Nicholas Cage. Now, say what you will about Cage and some of the bad films he has done, whenever he is good he's great. He is perfect as Big Daddy, doing the job of overacting 'dramatically' in the comedic context. The scene in which he and Moretz are practising what it feels like to be shot is a great example. He masterfully plays the doting, caring father, in a scene that in its very absurdity, reassuring his daughter that it will be ok for she is wearing body armour, is hilarious. A lot of people, in light of some recent performances where he is unintentionally funny, forget his great comedic talents when he is intentionally funny. Think back to Raising Arizona and then watch Kick-Ass, and you will realise how funny he is. In Kick-Ass, Cage gives one of the best supporting actor roles of the year.

In this section, I will deal with the work of both Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman, as director and screenwriters, but in the context of the nature of the film. I must compliment them both on the fact that they have released a comedy that pulls no punches and has no barriers. The dialogue is razor-sharp and well-written, with some really terrific comedic scenes the result of it. Also, contrary to the opinions of critics such as Ebert and Tookey, I find that conversely in a film that has no morals (or need of them), it is less reprehensible than most other 'moral' comedies. Comedy is a genre where you are meant to have no boundaries and should not be told 'you can't say/do that.' In this sense, Vaughan and Goldman have succeeded. With the lack of boundaries, we have the freedom to enjoy and indulge in the film's wicked sense of humour. Life would be boring if we took everything seriously, so well done to Vaughan and Goldman for not pulling any punches.

In another case of blanketing together things into one topic (partially because of laziness), I would like to complement the films action scenes by mentioned cinematographer Ben Davis, editors Pietro Scalia, Jon Harris and Eddie Hamilton, and the work of stunt coordinator Bradley James Allan and his stunt team. Allan is a great coordinator, having done stunts for films such as Hellboy II: The Golden Army (still one of 2008's best films and horribly overlooked), Avatar, and, erm, A Nightmare On Elm Street. Remake. Scratch that last one, but here we have someone who knows what he is doing. In Kick-Ass, his imagination is let loose and choreographs some of the best action scenes seen in a film this year. Certain scenes bring to mind Luc Besson's work, particularly Nikita, but there are also some amazing martial arts action scenes as well as those with guns. Now, saying that, we would not be able to see these action scenes if it were not for smart editing work. Scalia, Harris and Hamilton ensure that we are able to have enough time to register the visuals shot. Davis gets some really interesting camera angles at various points. All-round, each of these aspects display great imagination and inventiveness, and give Kick-Ass some genuinely great action scenes.

What Kick-Ass does right it does a great job of, however, it is by no means a flawless movie. To make a start on these problems, the film has a running length of 120 minutes, and to be frank, it is about twenty to thirty minutes too long. This is the kind of film that could really have benefitted with a running length of under 100 minutes. Not every scene is as funny as it should be, and it does get very tiring. The film goes on and on and on, and I would lying if I said that I didn't want it to finish far earlier than it did. I'm sure that Vaughan felt that he was putting out a great work all round, but if I was there as outside consultant, there would be a lot to cut.

This brings me on to my next point. One of the reasons the film is too long in because it tries to do too many different things. It is not that the humour is bad, but there is too much and it is a case of bombardment on occasion. As a result, the film is a bit of a mess, reminding me of Inglourious Basterds in this regard. It tries to be a spoof, an action film, a satire, a teen-smut comedy etc and it does each of these genres without each them being entirely developed. Kick-Ass is at its best when it manages to successfully meld genres. Furthermore, there seems to be a confusion of genre in the film. At certain points, it goes without a gag or action scene for long stretches, and the gags are rarely incorporated into the action scenes, often happening after the dust has settled. This lack of efficiency would be an explanation for the overlong running time.

Kick-Ass is a flawed film. It is far too overlong, and tries to do too many different things while often only glazing on their surface. As a result, the great comedy film in waiting never quite emerges from its shell gloriously. However, the film has a lot of good going for it. It boasts some great acting, especially in the case of Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicholas Cage. Also, through the efforts of editors, the cinematographer and the stunt team, we are given really terrific action sequences to digest. Finally, it is hard not to admire a film that has no limits with regards to its comedic scope, and Vaughan and Goldman obviously played their cards right.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (this time I know drink and too many movies are doing the job!)

Big P.S. – Kick-Ass has one of the best soundtracks of the years, and I forgot, but I have mention it before posting. The main Kick-Ass orchestral theme is one of this year’s better use of orchestrals. Also, the original Kick-Ass song by Mika and produced by RedOne on the end credits in very catchy. Finally, with John Murphy’s In A House – In A Heartbeat getting a remix, The Prodigy, Elvis Presley, Ennio Morricone, The New York Dolls, Gnarls Barkley and a version of Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation, this is a terrific compilation of songs.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Tony


Directed by: Gerard Johnson

Produced by: Dan McCulloch

Written by: Gerard Johnson

Starring: Peter Ferdinando

Music by: Matt Johnson/The The

Cinematography by: David Higgs

Edited by: Ian Davies

Distributed by: Revolver Entertainment

Running time: 72 minutes

Country: United Kingdom

Language: English

Alright folks, once again I have went back on my word with regards to the frequent updates of my reviews. But hey, the fact I don’t have internet at the moment (for reasons out of my control) shouldn’t stop me. And it won’t! I have still been keeping up with films, and intend to have many more done before the year-end awards. Incidentally, I have recently found that one of the great pleasures of being over 18 is that you have no bother buying some really nasty films. Henceforth, I have bought films ranging from Lucio Fulci’s terrible New York Ripper to the wonderfully anarchic Stuart Gordon film Re-Animator.

Today’s film Tony is the result of one of these trips to the horror film section. Lurking in the horror film section of a DVD store brings certain expectations: one, some strange looking people, two, people walking past giving you strange looks, and three (of course, we English hounds love the power of three), strange-looking films (that usually pay off in this respect, regardless of quality). As mentioned, New York Ripper and Re-Animator were found this way, as was Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left (not a great film, but still very good) and Snuff Movie by Bernard Rose (still yet to watch). Tony stood out because, well, I tend not to like to pay over a fiver for a DVD so the £5 label was appealing, and because the film was called Tony. Just say the title, Tony! It sounds odd to call a film simply after the first name of the title character and not the full name. Also, if one looks at titles based on characters, most of them have extensions, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare In Love etc (don’t dare go near me with Jesse James!). Already, we have something enticing me, and then the strange-looking man who bears a passing resemblance to Julian Barratt on the cover wielding a hammer. So, I bought the film, having not heard of it before, primed for review.

Tony is a film that does not require much of a plot synopsis, so I’ll probably be keeping this relatively short. Tony, in case you didn’t guess by now, follows Tony (Peter Ferdinando). He is a social recluse, spending much of his time digesting action films in flat and making the occasional shopping trip off of benefits. However, we find out that Tony is a serial killer pretty early on, and much of the drama leans on the basis of this dark secret.

To start with what is good about Tony, the performance of Peter Ferdinando must be taken into account. The character of Tony is in every scene of the film, and as such the film’s quality relies heavily on whether or not he gives a good performance. He doesn’t just give a good performance, but gives one of this year’s truly great performances. Tony is a character that could have been played in some many different ways, yet Ferdinando seems to have picked the right one. It is obvious that he has spent much time in perfecting this character, just in the way he looks. The rather strange outward appearance, hiding behind glasses and a moustache give us strong impressions of the character. Also, he doesn’t wear casual clothing, instead fidgeting uncomfortably in his own skin, adorned in a shirt and too-high trousers. Just hearing Ferdinando speak as Tony in performance terms is a thing of beauty (though he is a bit of a hideous character). This is very studied acting that formulates a rounded, three-dimensional character. There are patterns and routines (in every way) that Tony abides to, and he is a fascinating character to watch. Somehow, despite his committing repulsive crimes, we sympathise as we see moments when he is genuinely reaching out to other people, but too inept and awkward to do so. It is a great achievement in acting to make such a nasty film with a character doing such nasty deeds incredibly watchable. Also, while on the topic of acting, credit must be given to the supporting cast. Although having far less to do than Ferdinando, they manage to give performances that give the impression of being real people. Despite many being fodder for Tony, they manage to transcend the symbolic nature of what they are and their meaning to Tony. Tony is one of the films with the best all-round acting, particularly the performance of Peter Ferdinando.

Being a film that follows Tony, cinematography plays a key part in the films dynamic. David Higgs does a terrific job of this. The film is down-and-dirty, shot on a shoestring. As such, it befits that we follow Tony through his working-class area in London with a digital camera. It gives Tony a certain grimy raw feeling that befits the nastiness of the film’s topic matter. The colour tones are kept murky and dark, any outstanding, bright colours coming as a bit of a shock, both to Tony and the viewer. Normal colours, such as your bog-standard primaries red, blue and yellow, become almost blinding. Also, stylistically Higgs takes an interesting view on shooting the action. Instead of the usual DV approach of becoming a participant in the action, Higgs makes us become an observer. The camera rarely, if at all, takes a first-person perspective shot or over-the-shoulder shot. It either remains solidly in place, or walks alongside Tony. We become that little person that he so yearns for, and this creates an interesting relationship between the film and its viewer. Also, it is challenging in that as observer, we become voyeurs, compelled to root for Tony when he comes into trouble or watch with unblinking fascination at the brutality onscreen. Higgs in his own way, does one of the best and least overt jobs in cinematography this year (and when I say this year I mean last year!).

Words of praise must also be lavished on the sound of the film, both sound effects and soundtrack/original score. Like The American, Tony understands the power of silence. Much of the film is very quiet, the sounds being the world around Tony. Sound editors have done an amazing job of this capsulated form of London, a city I am familiar with, seem like its own, self-contained universe. The interruptions in these silences are the conversations, of which we catch every nuance and intonation, and the brutal sounds of the murders. These murders conjure quite a reaction from the viewer, taking far too long (in a good way for the film) to end, prolonging our torture. With regards to the original score/soundtrack, the work by Matt Johnson of The The fame is very minimalist. Bar the rare ambient sounds, the only non-diagetic sound are varieties of one recurring theme that I know as ‘The Tony Theme.’ It is rare for a film to have its own original theme song today, so perhaps it is strange to find it in this film of all places. Nevertheless, it works perfectly in the mysterious context of the film and as a result, alone in its various incarnations becomes one of the year’s best original scores.

Tony is in many senses a really great movie, and I would even go so far as to say one of the best of 2010. However, the film is problematic in a number of manners. For starters, the film does seem to kind of float around with actually arriving at any set conclusions. I'm not saying I have a problem with the ending, and I think that the film is very skilful in its ambiguity. Nevertheless, it does not change the fact that things are rather underdeveloped. Everything is left in the open, and this does come across as a problem. You can only go so without conclusions before people start thinking that the movie is badly written. It isn't badly written, the minimal dialogue saying exactly what is needed, but the way in which the film is structured disconnects us from becoming too involved in the film. Saying that, in doing this it becomes pretty subversive and challenging.

Also, there is a problem with regards to the running time of the film. At seventy-two minutes including a four-minute credit sequence, one can't help but wonder if this was a film better off running for a number of showings on Channel 4. As a feature-length film, it feels underdeveloped, though highly watchable as it is. While the running length does not dictate how good the movie is, even at seventy-two minutes, it feels like a long watch. If the movie was ninety minutes of length, it would be intensely frustrating and dull. As it is, it still feels long and if the cow was milked a bit too much. Personally, I feel a bit more development would have necessary for Tony to be a genuine horror classic.

While occasionally problematic, feeling long at seventy-two minutes, slightly underdeveloped and never really coming to any conclusions whatsoever, Tony is a really great film. It possesses one of the year's most subtle lead performances from Peter Ferdinando, some voyeuristic cinematography from David Higgs and a fine minimalist score from Matt Johnson/The The. As it stands, this is a fine debut film from Gerard Johnson, who shows excellent promise as a filmmaker.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired (don't know how, only got up at one today!)

P.S. Wrote most of this review about two weeks ago, so if thinks seem a bit odd, blame it on the delayed publishing. Peace Out!