Local cinemas this week

Two is a Family

This 2016 French-language remake of a hugely successful 2013 Mexican film has actually been around for a while – and done massive business, particularly in its native France. It doesn’t appear to have travelled at all outside of Europe, though locally it turned up at this year’s French Film Festival – pulling in crowds big enough to convince local arthouse distributor Palace to give it a shot. Which should pay off for them…provided its star Omar Sy’s big broad smile is wide enough to paper over the plot’s many improbabilities.

He plays Samuel, a louche and irresponsible womaniser suddenly forced into fatherhood. That happens after one of his many one-night-stands, English tourist Kristen (Clémence Poésy) drops their baby girl into the middle of the threesome he’s having with two naked nymphettes on board the luxury yacht he’s minding in the South of France. His immediate response is to give the kid back as quickly as possible, but after a few improbable plot-contrivances, he’s stranded the UK. Flash forward 8 years: Sam and his gorgeous cute-as-a-bunny daughter Gloria (Gloria Coulston) are now living happily in a child’s wonderland – a luscious East London warehouse apartment equipped like a playground. Instead of stairs they use a slide between floors that drops into a huge tub of brightly coloured balls. Life is one big party, and Sam has morphed into the world’s most caring, doting (and fun!) dad. Plus he’s become a minor celebrity after landing a well-paid job as a stuntman to boot. He lives with an equally unlikely gay benefactor, a TV producer called Bernie (Antoine Bertrand), though why the irrepressibly straight Sam is shacked up with a man who literally drools at the sight of his handsome black torso is a mystery. Then who should turn up but Kristen – her maternal commitment issues miraculously resolved – claiming back her birth daughter. Cue tear-jerking custody battle…

The script’s and director Hugo Cellin’s handling of all these credibility-stretching scenarios (plus a few more late bolt-out-of-the-blue plot turns) is, it has to be said, shaky. The fact that the movie works at all as a crowd pleasing heart-warmer – and has become the most popular french-language film worldwide in 2017 – is almost entirely due to the charisma of its leading man and the chemistry he enjoys with his young co-star. Sy’s breakout role in Intouchables followed up by his impressively solid one in Monsieur Chocolat proved he could charm the skin off a snake. For most escapism-orientated movie-goers, that will be more than enough. M from June 28. Local cinemas include Palace Norton St and Palace Verona.  ★★★ View the trailer

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Now that cannabis is legal in most North American states and Big Pharma has snaffled up the nation’s opioid market, the cartels have had to branch out… According to this muscular followup to 2015’s outstanding but brutal drug war film Sicario, those murderous Mexican gangs are now into people smuggling. And just to keep it nasty, include Islamic terrorists in the illicit cargo of migrants and refugees they ship across the US border.

Two opening scenes, one an on-the-nose depiction of a suicide bombing of a Kansas supermarket where a shell-shocked mother pleads for her daughter’s life (nope – kaboom!) set up that terrifying scenario – the very same one peddled locally our own feeble-minded mini-Trumps. Surely the film’s writer Taylor Sheridan, whose previous smart and subversive thrillers include the thoughtful and nuanced Hell or High Water, isn’t peddling xenophobic bullshit? Well no, of course not, quickly he and director Stefano Sollima (from the Gomorrah TV series) reveal the terrorism threat as just a ploy being used by self-serving US agencies. Meanwhile down on that godforsaken dusty border the nation’s not-afraid-to-get-dirty protector is once again special agent Matt Gravin (Josh Brolin) – now under the guise of that “threat” given an unlimited under-the-radar remit to defeat the cartels. “No rules this time” he growls in a low manly voice (er, were there any last time?) to his soulful Sicario assassin sidekick Alejandro (Benico del Toro). 

And though we’re well used to the murderous cynicism that (apparently, at least according to Hollywood) is the only way the US government does business anywhere in the world, a lot of what happens down on these lawless badlands is a bit of a stretch. That’s not to say this sequel isn’t as tightly scripted, impressively crafted and as well acted as the first – it is an exceptionally tough and very exciting movie indeed, with fantastic sound-design to boot. But it has no heroes we can root for, no moral centre like the one the Emily Blunt character provided last time. Matt is the type of guy who’d kill his own mother if his CIA boss told him too and only look a bit “torn” afterwards. And Alejandro, a former cartel soldier himself, despite showing an unexpected concern for the teenage daughter (Isabela Moner, excellent) of the drug kingpin he kidnaps, is just unreadable. Frankly, we some respite from the amoral murk and all their hard-boiled macho posturing. Instead, their “rules of engagement” (none, remember) are trashed, replaced by a new set of principles. They’re what Matt instructs under his breath, “Fuck it all.” Right then… And this is a war the US expects to win? MA15+ from June 28. Local cinemas include Palace Norton St, Palace Central, Rhodes, Broadway, Burwood and Dendy Newtown★★★★ View the trailer

Also opening this week

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin star in a lost-at-sea survival adventure, Adrift, and in Edie an elderly lady climbs a mountain in Scotland. Because its school hols, a very good-looking dog saves the day for the third time in Belle and Sebastian 3: Friends for Life, while in another sequel of a sequel, everyone’s favourite monster family go on cruise in Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation. (All unpreviewed).

Reviews – Russell Edwards