• The Oxford Murders (2008)

     

    The Oxford Murders is a dark crime movie that convinces with a charming location, many mathematic mysteries and puzzles and several twists in the end of the movie that you simply can't see coming.

    I really liked the unusual technical approach and the scientific and especially philosophical content of the movie as well as the fact that a slow tension is built up that is hold on until the very last seconds of the film. The soundtrack of the movie is interesting and the camera work an interesting nod to the works of Brian De Palma and therefor quite artistic and interesting. This movie got some very good inspirations.

    But this film also has a few important flaws. First of all, the acting is somehow weak. All characters have different interesting aspects and a good book surely makes these factors evolve but the movie fails to do so. The film is overall too short and the acting is rather mellow. The main actors and especially Elijah Wood seem emotionless and uninspired at some points. You don't feel with the characters that all seem rather antisocial and not very attracting.

    The characters are simply not develop profoundly enough. Especially the main role should have been developed more: where does the American student come from? Why is he so interested in meeting Seldom? The backgrounds of the other characters are also not very clear. We can't really understand the despair of Beth and the role of her assassinated mother Mrs. Eagleton. The reactions of Lorna are also strange. She meets with her old lover Seldom and the American student Martin in a restaurant even if she obviously can't stand the first one anymore. She doesn't want to get in touch with Seldom or Martin as she says towards the second third of the movie just to meet and sleep with Martin again after a short while and little discussion. In the end, she suddenly wants to leave the country with a young man she barely knows and even though she has a good job. There are many confusing aspects like these that seem random and even strange. It seems as if some important scenes or details have been cut and that there must be a director's cut that explains it all in a better and more coherent way.

    There are many missed occasions in this movie. The plot is great, the locations are amazing and the budget was there. But the acting is disappointing, the characters remain superficial and strange and the movie seems sometimes too intellectual. Mathematically, there are as many positive points as there are bad points. But as we learned from the movie, not everything can be simply explained by mathematics and that's why I still give a rather favourable rating. The ending reserves many surprises and is definitely worth the wait and there are a couple of truly original ideas in this still very solid European movie. If you like dark British crime movies and surprising plots, you should definitely not miss the chance to check this film out. If you expect a strong acting, an amazing Elijah Wood as in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy or simply several addicting characters, you may be disappointed and should skip this movie.

     

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  • Mesrine: L'ennemi public numéro un / Public Enemy Number One (2008)

     

    This second part of the two Mesrine movies shows us the return of Mesrine to France, how he became the public enemy number one and how he was finally gunned down by the French police after two extreme decades of living on the edge of life.

    The acting of Vincent Cassel as Mesrine is even more profound and insightful in this part as in the first one. The way he demands pardon for all the bad things he had done in front of his dying father or how his daughter meets him as he is imprisoned are truly touching events. The way how Mesrine is left alone by all of his partners and friends in the end and how his girlfriend acts after his death are also very intense and sad moments of the movie.

    With the great and charismatic Mathieu Amalric that portrays François Besse, there is a new interesting character in this movie that forms an explosive and very diversified partnership with Mesrine.

    The second part of the movie also adds a lot of absurd, dark and sometimes almost surreal humour in comparison to the first part for example when Mesrine and Besse try to cross a river, when Mesrine and another gangster kidnap an old millionaire or when Mesrine gives some of his strange interviews.

    The problem I have with this movie is that it is somewhat repetitive. Mesrine commits a murder or theft, gets imprisoned and finally escapes and the circle begins again which is very predictable. Even though Amalric does a great job, I also miss some more memorable characters such as the ones portrayed by Gérard Depardieu, Cécile de France or Roy Dupuis in the first part.

    Neverthelss, this movie is a truly solid and essential continuation of the first and better part of this masterpiece and portrays the final years of one of the most stunning gangsters of the twentieth century. Both parts are definitely worth your time and money if you like straight but still insightful gangster movies.

     

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  • Mesrine: L'instinct de mort / Killer Instinct (2008)

     

    The two Mesrine movies are easily the best gangster movies of the last years and can without a doubt be described as the French Godfathers even though the two films have not exactly the same class as the legendary masterpieces.

    The thing that is really interesting about this movie is that it is told after true events and partially based on the autobiography of the French gangster and public enemy number one Jacques Mesrine. The movie makes very clear that one can't develop much sympathy for the character but his radical way of life, his brutal honesty and his strong and dangerous emotions surely create a very addicting, explosive and unique character.The first movie tells his life from his actions during the Algerian War up to his escape from a prison in Quebec.

    The character is introduced in a very interesting way. One witnesses his first theft, his first murder as well as his first escapes from prison but also how he gets into the crime scene, how he gets to know his second wife and how he gets along as his role as a father of three children with her. Mesrine always chooses the craziest, most radical and often most selfish way to escape from his problems. This movie is not just a gangster saga filled with action and tension but has also an emotional touch of the drama genre and some dark and sarcastic humour.

    Mesrine is perfectly portrayed by one of the best contemporary actors coming from France which is Vincent Cassel. Roy Dupuis plays the very charismatic Canadian terrorist and Mesrine's âme soeur Jean-Paul Mercier. The French acting crème de la crème appears in this first part of the legacy. Cécile de France plays Mesrine's future girlfriend and partner in crime that finally decides to chose the path of freedom and justice. Gérard Depardieu plays the intelligent gangster boss Guido. Ludivine Sagnier portrays Mesrine's latest girlfriend and excels in her role as a superficial blonde with fixations on a bourgeoisie lifestyle. The acting of this movie is really stunning and every actor plays his or her role close to perfection.

    The movie also discusses topics such as love, friendship, treason, loyalty, respect and more in a very intense way and how Mesrine feels about it. He is a very extreme personality and some of his actions contradict what he has already done or will do in the future and this shows how fragile this gangster really is.

    The greatness of this movie does not stop there. The part of the movie when Mesrine is put into a French Canadian prison is very intense. It is not only well filmed with interesting camera positions and cold, touching decorations but reminds me of legendary prison movies such as "Papillon" or "The Shawshank Redemption" and contains some well hidden but intense criticism. Mesrine's escape from prison eventually led to the closure of those inhuman French Canadian prisons and this movie shows us the way of life in this hell in a very intense way. The movie also slightly criticizes the corruptive justice and police in France as well as the way how the medias deal with Mesrine's fate and make an iconic modern Robin Hood out of a dangerous and ignorant gangster that begins to use the medias for his own good and enjoys the show.

    As you can see, the movie contains many different elements and details that make it a very diversified, intense and still entertaining gangster movie which happens to be one of the best of its kind. If you like "The Godfather", "Once Upon A Time In America", "Papillon" and "The Shawshank Redemption" you should definitely check this masterpiece out. If you happen to like this movie, you should absolutely try to get the German gangster and terrorist movie "Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex" which is also based on true events and happened at the same time as Mesrine became the public enemy number one in France. The French movie has also some connections to those events as Mesrine talks from time to time about it as you should have noticed.

    In the end, this movie about an extreme and charismatic character is way more than an excellent gangster movie with some social criticism but a gripping two hours of history class.

    The only reason why I didn't give the highest possible note is that I would have liked to learn more about the youth of Mesrine. For example, the movie didn't show us his very first wife and how he quit her to go to the Algerian War. It didn't show us how he got honoured by the French government and military for his heroic actions during wartime. It didn't show us how he got caught the first time during a bank theft and how he dealt with it. Those little elements could have made the character even more intense, profound and interesting but a part of that, there is really nothing negative about this amazing movie.

     

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  • Impasse du désir (2010)

     

    It's a shame that this movie didn't get the attention it would have deserved. Michel Rodde delivers us a slow development of a gripping drama that turns into a psychological thriller.

    The main actors coming from France and Quebec convince and get a great and detailed development throughout the movie after a somewhat mellow start. Especially Rémy Girard seems to get better every year and delivers the best job of his life in here. Laurent Lucas is a promising young French actor that I didn't know before and his performance inspires me to keep an eye on him and check out his other projects. But even the secondary characters are all detailed, profound and important for the development of the movie and there is not one single unnecessary scene if you analyze this movie after knowing its unusual ending.

    The movie is filled with interesting relationships and connections. The movie has many subtle details that lead to a stunning twisted ending that leaves many questions open and makes us think, interpret and analyze a lot. The last thirty minutes or so are filled with many surprises and have a much faster vibe than the slow first two thirds of the movie which makes me think of many great psychological thrillers. Now for the story itself, this one is authentic and one can easy identify with the characters which is one of the strongest points of the movie that distinguishes this small masterpiece from other flicks of its genre.

    In the end, I am happy to have stumbled over this flick. I thought I would get some solid entertainment and a mixture of a drama and a suspense movie but this film got me by surprise and after some doubts in the beginning I realized I discovered a great gem, a little masterpiece, a true treasure and I want to share my thoughts with the community and suggest any fan of surprising suspense movies and gripping dramas to check this underrated movie out at all costs. It's worth your time, patience and money and you won't soon forget this.

     

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  • Steel Trap (2007)

     

    This is the second part of my little review series: Movies that are way better than you expect.

    "Steel trap" seems at first sight to be another ordinary psychological thriller or slasher movie in the shadows of the great "The cube", "Mind Hunters" and "Saw". I expected a movie of a quality comparable to "House of 9" or "Nine dead" but I was rather wrong.

    The movie starts with the introduction to some stereotypical and rather ordinary characters and I was already close to judge the lack of originality of this movie. When the killing game began I was positively surprised for the first time. The acting wasn't that wooden and rather realistic and appropriated.

    The next surprise followed quickly. The killing methods turned out to be rather original, the atmosphere was sinister and gripping and the whole story attached me more to the characters. The movie got truly entertaining and addicting and I kept guessing who was behind the bloody murders and why. The great thing is that there are many wrong clues and also some right ones and I happened to analyze the behaviour of each candidate and had to change my mind and opinion many times.

    The third and last great surprise is without a doubt the twist in the end of the movie that I didn't really see coming. Normally, I have some doubts and am able to get on the right lane but this time, I got completely bumped. This ending really rated this movie way up beyond the average slasher flick.

    To keep it short, this is a rather original and gripping movie of a more and more popular genre and the rating average in here is definitely way too low. The movie is entertaining and an ideal choice for any horror movie night with your mates and you will keep guessing and expecting until the very end.

     

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