Appaloosa

The promoter for this film, bound by allegiance and salary to be enthusiastic, gave me this answer as I walked into the screening: “Um, well, it’s…ok, if you like cowboy films.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Appaloosa will divide its audience between those who enjoy slow, classic Westerns and those who would rather watch Flubber. On repeat. For a week. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are freelance gunmen elected Marshall and Deputy of the boom town Appaloosa.

Their job, if you hadn’t guessed it already, is to arrest the murderous gang leader – played without the anticipated cringe by Jeremy Irons – and bring him to justice. When Rene Zellwegger (inexplicably) arrives in town, she sets her eye on the Marshall and proceeds to mess with his head. Director Harris has produced a thoroughly faithful Western in the style of The Magnificent Seven or A Fistful of Dollars. Without the frills of most modern Westerns, it will depress the fence sitters and duly thrill the purists.

Body of Lies

Body of Lies might sound like the title of a made-for-TV-drama starring an ex-Penthouse Pet, but it is both a riveting action film and a damning appraisal of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Leo Di Caprio is a top CIA agent deployed in Afghanistan with a problem, and its not his absurd attempt at a Taliban beard, which, for starters, in no more than a bum-fluff goatee. His problem is a superior officer at HQ in Langley, Virginia, a portly Russell Crowe, who keeps blowing his cover with his brazen, single-minded US tactics.

To infiltrate a Taliban stronghold in Jordan, Di Caprio must befriend the Minister of Security, played with Andy Garcia-esque suavity by Mark Strong, and to do so he is bound to an oath of honesty. He breaks it. Bombs go off. Things fall apart. With his connections in the country gone, he cooks up a masterful plan he hopes will lure the Taliban leader out of hiding. Ridley Scott's picture is likely to hand Di Caprio an Oscar nomination, and may win Crowe his first nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Righteous Kill

Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. Two detectives on the trail of a New York serial killer. What promised so much delivers painfully little. What unfolds is a bread and butter cop drama, complete with a flimsy story and a dull script. Part of what made Martin Scorcese's The Departed so good was the acerbic banter between the detectives. Righteous Kill is so bereft of wit that it's easy to mistake the wisecracks for platitudes.

Pacino and De Niro do what they can; both embody the world-weary city cops they portray with the ease they are famous for, but not even their star power can rescue the plodding story as it slumps to a lazy and improbable end. Curtis ‘Fiddy' Jackson makes a convincing turn as a gangster, John Leguizamo is even typically engaging as the young pretender who smells a rat. Brian Denehey, star of far too many average cop dramas, comes out of retirement to star in another average cop drama. A great film to look forward to; a disappointing one to watch.

 
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