Mini Reviews (December 2017)
Radius, Coco, Welcome to the Punch
Radius (December 15/17)
Radius follows Diego Klattenhoff’s Liam as he wakes up in a field with no memory of how he got there or even who he is, with the amnesia quickly revealed to be the least of his problems once he discovers that his mere presence will kill any living creature within a certain distance. It’s a high-concept premise that’s initially employed to impressively engrossing effect by filmmakers Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, as the directors deliver a strong opening stretch detailing Liam’s near-silent attempts to piece together what’s happened to him and why nearby people keep dropping dead – with Klattenhoff’s stirring performance as the befuddled central character certainly perpetuating the intriguing atmosphere. The promising vibe persists even when Liam encounters (and eventually befriends) a woman (Charlotte Sullivan’s Jane) immune to his inexplicably deadly presence, although it does become more and more clear, particularly as Radius progresses into its wheel-spinning midsection, that there’s just not enough material here to sustain a full-length feature (ie there are too many sequences that either go on too long or are flat-out needless). And while Labrèche and Léonard do offer up a small handful of compelling interludes that briefly buoy one’s interest – eg a striking, suspenseful set-piece at a hospital – Radius is ultimately the sort of picture that would’ve been much better off as a component in a short-film anthology (though it’s worth noting that a last-minute twist does ensure the film ends on a decidedly positive note).
Not exactly top-tier Pixar, Coco follows Anthony Gonzalez's Miguel as he enters the Land of the Dead and embarks on a quest to track down his great-great-grandfather. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina deliver an exceedingly appealing opening stretch that seems to promise an above-average animated endeavor, as the filmmakers suffuse the beautifully-animated proceedings with a whole host of appealing elements and characters - with, in terms of the latter, Gonzalez's Miguel certainly as likable and charismatic a protagonist as one could possibly imagine (and this is to say nothing of the adorable stray dog that follows Miguel for much of the picture). The movie's thoroughly engrossing vibe persists right up until Miguel enters the aforementioned Land of the Dead, after which point Coco morphs into a Miyazaki-esque fantasy riddled with admittedly creative yet woefully over-the-top elements (ie there's just nothing to connect to within the film's padded-out midsection). It's certainly not difficult to see just what Unkrich and Molina are attempting to do here - the movie's message couldn't possibly be clearer - and yet the pervasive lack of subtlety ensures that too much of Coco feels as though it's been geared directly towards small children. The touching closing stretch isn't, as a result, quite able to make the tearjerking impact that Unkrich and Molina are obviously striving for, which is a shame, clearly, given the film's preponderance of better-than-average attributes (including an animation style that's never not jaw-droppingly astonishing).
Welcome to the Punch
Written and directed by Eran Creevy, Welcome to the Punch follows grizzled cop Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) as he breaks every rule imaginable to track down and capture a notorious criminal named Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). It's clear almost immediately that Creevy isn't looking to reinvent the wheel here, as Welcome to the Punch, for the most part, comes off as an excessively familiar, almost generic actioner that's been suffused with decidedly hoary elements (eg the weary cop, the exasperated superior, the skeptical partner, etc, etc). The less-than-compelling vibe is compounded by Creevy's style-over-substance approach, with the slow-moving narrative containing few instances of coherent exposition or character development (ie it's never entirely clear just what's at stake for these one-dimensional figures). It's consequently not surprising to note that McAvoy and his various costars are unable to breathe any life into their respective characters, which is a shame, certainly, given the impressive roster of eclectic performers contained within the supporting cast (including Peter Mullan, Jason Flemyng, David Morrissey, and Daniel Kaluuya). And although the movie does improve substantially in its climactic stretch - eg there's a standoff involving an old lady that's ultimately the picture's highlight - Welcome to the Punch is an utterly forgettable thriller that is rarely (if ever) as much fun as it could and should have been.