Birthday greetings to that prolific and gifted playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood whose interest in the stage and World War 2 as well as the wider political world has gifted us with such profound work over the past six decades. A brilliant adapter of other people’s work also, his majestic achievement with The Pianist reminds us that he always gets to the heart of the matter. Happy birthday Mr Harwood!
It’s gold, I hate the lousy stuff. Following an underground explosion which killed his predecessor, Sonderditch gold mine’s newly appointed general manager Rod Slater (Roger Moore) is used as a stooge in the financiers’ plan to inflate the world’s gold prices by engineering a disaster. He is ordered by Manfred Steyner (Bradford Dillman) to break through underground into a dyke which will reveal a huge seam of gold – but it’s actually a lake that will flood the mine. Meanwhile he meets Steyner’s wife Terry (Susannah York), granddaughter of the mine’s owner Harry ‘Poppsie’ Hirschfeld (Ray Milland), and they fall in love believing their affair is a secret while a London-based criminal syndicate led by Farrell (John Gielgud!!!) moves with their plan … Wilbur Smith’s source novel was based on a real-life flooding in a Johannesburg mine and this film races towards the inevitable with an exciting conclusion and a satisfying payoff. Adapted by Smith and Stanley Price, it’s a fairly straightforward action entertainment (with some brief explorations of racism) but no less enjoyable especially as a kind of footnote to the James Bond series – it’s directed by Peter Hunt (OHMSS), edited by John Glen (Licence to Kill et al), production design by Syd Cain and the titles are by Maurice Binder. The newest Bond, Moore, and the wonderful York make a very attractive romantic couple and for the sadists there’s an opportunity to watch little Patsy Kensit (who’s uncredited) get blown up at a party. And you should see what happens to a Rolls Royce! This was shot on location at Buffelfontein and West Rand and apparently York went very public about the black workers’ conditions. Ripley’s: Steven Spielberg was producer Michael Klinger’s first choice for director but was vetoed by Moore!
Aka The Brothers Grimsby. Where to start in this ode to Northern British scum? Liam Gallagher lookalike kebab-munching Nobby Butcher (Sacha Baron Cohen) keeps a tribute wall to the brother from whom he was separated 28 years earlier. It means as much to him as his football team in his awful council house where he’s shacked up with knickerless flatulent Dawn (Rebel Wilson), their 11 bastards and sundry grandchildren. He finds brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) at a London gathering for healthcare philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz) and disrupts his work as a crack secret agent preventing an assassination, causing calamitous results including infecting Daniel Radcliffe with AIDS. They have to go on the run to protect Sebastian and go back home while MI5 boss Ian McShane unleashes ‘Chilcott’ (hmm!) on his black ops man turned supposed rogue agent, information helpfully supplied by Isla Fisher who’s hairless Sebastian’s on-off love interest. After some family bonding and flashbacks to their separation, the burst of post-Thatcher social realism amid the feral underclass shifts from one favela to another, in South Africa, where Nobby puts his daytime TV knowledge too good use, gets on down with the drug dealers (big up to LinkedIn!) and proves an idiot adept at the old spy game. The outrageous story complete with anal and phallic acts, animal abuse, defecation, fellatio, football hooligans, paedophilia, miscegenation, murders accidental and otherwise, takes place in a narrative of fraternal empathy, foster care, the World Cup, politics, eugenics and global germ warfare. And it’s literally jaw-droppingly tasteless, Jeremy Kyle Does James Bond, with a very large if flaccid and out-dated swipe at the kind of people who despise the shameless amoral creatures at its centre. I winced, I gasped and yes I did laugh on occasion: more than I did during The Girl on the Train. And there is a suitably explosive ending. Plus an unnervingly up to date joke about a certain TV sleb turned US Presidential candidate. I do hope the elephants weren’t hurt as this action bomb lands on its footballs.Where to next for Baron Cohen? F**k knows, as he would undoubtedly say. Un film de Louis Leterrier.
One might ponder the latterday career of Hugh Jackman, who here finds himself in the antagonistic role of the disgruntled former soldier working for a weapons company arming the police force in a near-future South Africa. Idealistic Dev Patel is progamming the eponymous robot with human consciousness but the childlike machine is hijacked by a crime gang of the sort that might decorate the Mad Max movies. Sigourney Weaver finds herself in the thankless role of the company CEO. What on earth were they thinking? Made by District 9’s Neil Blomkamp. Bad robot indeed. It just calls to mind that old Spitting Image song, I Never Met a Nice South African. Awful.