Alliance Films' February '11 Releases
10½ (February 13/11)
10½ follows several child psychiatrists, including Claude Legault's Gilles, as they attempt to break through the brittle exterior of a seriously ill-tempered young boy (Robert Naylor's Tommy), with the film subsequently (and primarily) detailing the back and forth battle that ensues between Tommy and the increasingly exasperated social workers. Filmmaker Daniel Grou has infused 10½ with an admittedly authentic feel that's reflected in Claude Lalonde's spare screenplay, and it seems likely that the movie does capture the unpleasant reality of life within a halfway house for juvenile delinquents. But the jittery visuals and lack of plot ensure that 10½ becomes an unusually interminable experience virtually from the get-go, as Grou, in employing the style of a documentary, is simply unable (or unwilling) to develop any of these characters beyond their most superficial attributes - which effectively ensures that the viewer is left without a single figure worth rooting for or sympathizing with. This is especially true of Tommy himself; though Naylor delivers an impressively immersive performance, Tommy, for the most part, comes off as a hateful and downright reprehensible character that ultimately isn't able to engender even a whiff of sympathy from the viewer. The aggressively repetitive structure - Gilles and his team attempt to reach Tommy, Tommy throws an epic tantrum, Gilles and his team try again, Tommy throws another tantrum, etc, etc - exacerbates the movie's underwhelming atmosphere, and it finally goes without saying that 10½ is unlikely to hold much appeal for those without an inherent interest in social work and child care.
It's hard not to walk away from Red Hill feeling a substantial amount of disappointment, as the film boasts a seemingly can't-miss premise and an expectedly stirring turn from star Ryan Kwanten - yet writer/director Patrick Hughes manages to squander the movie's overtly positive attributes on an all-too-frequent basis. The storyline follows rookie cop Shane Cooper (Kwanten) as he moves into a small town and sets out to start his first day of work, with the character's uneventful shift inevitably becoming dangerous as an escaped convict (Tom E. Lewis' Jimmy Conway) arrives on the scene seeking revenge for a past misdeed. It's a spare setup that's initially employed to promising effect by Hughes, as the filmmaker does an effective job of establishing the various characters and the sleepy environment within which they reside. And although the movie does boast a few admittedly suspenseful sequences in its early stages - ie Conway holds an elderly couple hostage - there reaches a point at which the consistently baffling behavior among the various characters becomes too much to comfortably stomach (ie Conway places himself in the line of fire on several occasions, and yet nobody takes a shot at him). By the time Hughes introduces a silly supernatural element, Red Hill has effectively established itself as a missed opportunity of disappointingly demonstrable proportions - with the inclusion of several interminably-paced, dialogue-free stretches compounding the movie's less-than-enthralling atmosphere.