Alliance Films' December '10 Releases
Handsome Harry (January 2/11)
Handsome Harry follows follow Vietnam veteran Harry Sweeney (Jamey Sheridan) as his daily routine of working and drinking is interrupted by a call from a former Navy buddy (Steve Buscemi's Thomas), as Harry is essentially summoned to the man's death bed and made to promise that he'll seek forgiveness from a comrade that was somehow wronged back in the day. Before he meets this mysterious figure, however, Harry decides to visit with each of the men involved in the crime - including John Savage's Peter, Aidan Quinn's Porter, and Titus Welliver's Gebhardt. Filmmaker Bette Gordon has infused Handsome Harry with an unabashedly low-key and deliberately-paced sensibility that proves an effective complement to Nicholas T. Proferes' decidedly subdued script, with Sheridan's consistently engrossing performance going a long way towards initially creating (and inevitably sustaining) an atmosphere of compelling authenticity. The film's episodic narrative ensures that certain portions of the midsection fare better than others, as Harry's encounters with the men from his past tend to vary in terms of their entertainment value (ie Harry's electrifying tete-a-tete with Welliver's character stands as an obvious highlight). It is, as a result, impossible to deny that Handsome Harry generally works best as an actor's showcase, with the familiarity of the central character's arc cementing this feeling and ultimately ensuring that the movie doesn't quite pack the punch that Gordon was clearly going for.
Public Enemy Number One: Part Two (January 2/11)
Picking up where Public Enemy Number One: Part One left off, Public Enemy Number One: Part Two follows notorious gangster Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) as he continues his pattern of criminal endeavors and prison breaks in his home town of France - with his efforts assisted by a fiercely loyal girlfriend (Ludivine Sagnier's Sylvie Jeanjacquot) and a quiet yet efficient partner (Mathieu Amalric's Francois Besse). There's little doubt that filmmaker Jean-François Richet does a superb job of immediately capturing the viewer's interest, as the director, working from a script cowritten with Abdel Raouf Dafri, kicks the proceedings off with a series of action-oriented interludes that effectively establish an atmosphere of palpable excitement (which isn't that surprising, really, given that the opening half hour features bank robberies, car chases, police shootouts, and prison escapes). Cassel's magnetic and downright electrifying performance certainly goes a long way towards sustaining the film's engrossing vibe, and it's worth noting that the movie doesn't palpably start to run out of steam until its well past the halfway mark. Public Enemy Number One: Part Two's transformation from a balls-to-the-wall action flick to an episodic drama ensures that, like its predecessor, the film ultimately feels as though its been padded out to justify the saga's two parts, which effectively ensures that both movies would have been better served had they been edited down into one consistently engrossing thriller. Still, Public Enemy Number One: Part Two is, for the most part, an engaging piece of work that answers any and every question one might have had about Jacques Mesrine - except, curiously enough, why the police chose to take him down in a manner resembling a mob hit.