Blitz (2011) and Roadgames (1981)

Blitz is basically a hard-boiled, overheated cop thriller with all the US clichés, reworked for its London setting – Jason Statham’s proper hard nut cop breaks all the rules, but he gets results, you know the score. He’s actually a proper arsehole, a homophobic, sexist, reactionary bastard who treats more or less everyone like dirt, but since most of his victims are low-life informants, that’s okay, I suppose. His sidekick, played by Paddy Considine, eats vegetables, listens to classical music and takes care over his appearance. Statham’s having none of this – he says he doesn’t care if Paddy’s gay, but only if he keeps it to himself, you know? Paddy nevertheless earns himself a place in Statham’s heart when he confesses that he battered a paedophile’s bollocks so much they actually burst. The film works all too well in making its villain so irredeemably vile that you can’t help but cheer Statham and Paddy on when they start making their own rules.

Plot-wise this is total conveyer-belt, production-line exploitation, nothing special at all, but as junk-food entertainment, it works. A psycho is going around killing police officers, and for Statham, this won’t do at all. The film is very well made, fast-paced, exciting and solidly performed. Well, the jury’s out on Statham – to be fair, it’s a preposterously macho character he’s been saddled with, but his approach is just as much to blame. He’s made a mint out of these arrogant, one-of-the-lads, beer ‘n’ birds type action heroes, and Blitz is one more to add to the pile. Luckily, Statham’s backed by lots of great support to temper his tendencies down a notch  – the always-excellent Considine can never do wrong in my book. He can play sensitive, he can play terrifying, he can do comedy well too, the guy’s fantastic, and he takes a token role (his character’s sexuality is thankfully not stereotyped or made fun of, barring the moment when Statham says he’s a good copper, despite being ‘a poofter’, though that bit is more notable for making Statham sound like a right dickhead more than anything – I hope that was the intention) and does well with it. The supporting cast – Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton, Mark Rylance and an underused David Morrissey do well enough, but everybody here is upstaged by Aidan Gillen as the villain – he’s utterly despicable, but hypnotically evil at the same time. He asks to be given the opportunity to update his facebook status after being arrested. He batters one victim with a hammer, but then sticks around in his flat to watch some game show on the telly, loudly berating the contestant for getting the answer wrong. Me, I found this funny. If you don’t, then the odds are you won’t find much to enjoy in Blitz. The film is pretty nasty, but it’s about a cop killer, so what else do you expect? The thing is, Blitz really goes over the line with the violence. If there’s an opportunity to throw some really shocking violence in our faces, it’s taken. Head crushing, throat shooting, hammer-crushing, it’s all horrible, effectively vicious stuff, but if you’re in the mood for a nasty bit of entertainment, the fast-paced, slick fun of Blitz will do the job. PS: Aidan Gillen’s profile picture on IMDb proves he has good taste in cats.

Back to 1981 now for Roadgames, a cracking Australian thriller that used to be the kind of film you’d discover buried on BBC2’s late-night scheduling. It’s directed by Richard Franklin, an unashamed Hitchcock-devotee who got what must have been his dream job a few years later when he got to make the sequel to the Master’s own Psycho. For those who haven’t seen Psycho II, let me just say that it is far better than you’d think it would be, and I personally prefer it to the original… anyway, back to Roadgames, which is notably Hitchcockian with its use of long takes, drawn-out suspense, ‘wrong man under suspicion’ plot motif and themes of obsession, but Franklin makes it all his own, thanks to some great use of the open Australian vistas and never-ending stretches of road, and a fantastic performance from Stacy Keach as the man who drives a truck (but ‘not a truck driver’) who becomes convinced that the man in the green van up ahead is the one responsible for the murders of various hitchhikers. Keach has a cute pet dingo along for the ride, and it’s with him (and himself) that he shares plenty of conversation with, and it’s this element of his performance that shines the most – he’s essentially talking to himself, but he draws you into his world entirely. Jamie Lee Curtis, still revelling in her early slasher movie-queen era, is also great as ‘Hitch’, who could be the next victim…

Interestingly, Roadgames is almost entirely free of explicit violence – much is more hinted at than revealed, though the one moment of outright gruesomeness (wait for it…) is a gem. Franklin’s more interested in winding up the suspense gears, and he does a stellar job – I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the film’s major classic shock moment, but you’ll be thankful afterwards… I recommend Roadgames for those wanting some seriously chilling, exciting and stylish thrills – it’s better than Blitz at the very least!

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