BFI London Film Festival 2017 - UPDATE #9
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Directed by Martin McDonagh
UK/115 MINUTES/HEADLINE GALAS
After the mild disappointment of Seven Psychopaths
, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
feels like a return to form for Martin McDonagh -- it's stylish, powerful, and darkly hilarious. McDonagh writes the type of memorable dialogue that sometimes borders on calling attention to itself (or in the case of Seven Pyschopaths
, it actively crosses that line), but here it always suits the story he's telling. It helps that its impeccably acted -- it's one of those films where pretty much every speaking role is filled by a great actor, but it's Frances McDormand who really stands out as a mother whose quest for justice for her daughter leads to the eponymous billboards. She's a character who doesn't take guff from anybody, but there's also a vulnerability there, and McDormand does an amazing job of letting that shine through. And as an added bonus, the film is surprisingly hilarious -- there are more big laughs here than in any actual comedy that's come out in recent memory.
Directed by Naoko Ogigami
Koreeda-esque in its gentle, laid-back approach to family drama, Close-Knit finds a young girl, abandoned by her deadbeat mom, who goes to live with her uncle and his transgender girlfriend. Director Naoko Ogigami's unobtrusive style, which emphasizes long unhurried takes, suits the material perfectly. The film's fairly long 127 minute running time can feel a bit draggy in parts, but for the most part this is an endearingly warm-hearted drama that's hard not to enjoy.
Directed by John Woo
HONG KONG/CHINA/111 MINUTES/THRILL
Well, apparently directing action cinema is nothing like riding a bike, because John Woo has straight-up forgotten how to do it. This is his would-be triumphant return to the genre that made him famous, and it is legitimately shocking how awful it is. This movie is so terrible, it will incept you into thinking John Woo was never very good in the first place, because how could a great director make a film this incompetent on every level? The movie has all of the hallmark elements of Woo's style to the point of self-parody -- the slow motion, the hyper-violent balletic gunplay, the standoffs, the doves -- but it all feels so lifeless and uninspired. Even worse, it's flat-out incomprehensible at times. It's so choppily edited and poorly staged that it's often difficult to even get a sense of basic geography. Who's shooting from where? Who the hell knows! As for the plot, Woo was never exactly known for his ace storytelling; you could forgive the muddled plotting (a by-the-numbers affair involving a wrongly accused man and an evil corporation) if the action were good. It is not good. Then there are the little disappointments, like the jarring presence of terrible-looking CGI blood instead of the practical squibs that Woo used to employ so memorably. It's the least of this film's many problems, but it's sadly indicative of how thoroughly Woo has lost his action directing mojo.