Tag: Stephen Merchant

Fighting with My Family

fwmfSaraya “Paige” Knight competes as part of a wrestling mad family from Norwich, who run a local wrestling gig out the back of a van. This is the “pro” brand of wrestling, complete with fake punches, body slams and dramatic leaps off the top rope onto some poor sucker waiting to take the fall—the kind of wrestling that spawned the likes of Hulk Hogan and (yes) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. For Saraya (the excellent Florence Pugh) and her brother Zac (Jack Lowden), the dream of making it to the glitz and glamour of America’s WWE hits a snag when the inseparable siblings have to split their tag-team … she got selected to trial, he didn’t.  

This simple but true story is Saraya’s after all—it’s a classic rags-to-riches tale, a kind of Rocky story built on sweaty training montages and more eye-rolling cliches than a wrestler’s verbal retort.  

Of course, no film about wrestling would be complete without an appearance from the aforementioned mountain of machismo himself. The Rock’s planetary sized screen presence orbits his goofy charismatic charm, sucking your attention with tractor-beam-like command—that’s no moon, it’s The Rock. So it’s unfortunate then, that he only makes two brief appearances (despite promo material suggesting otherwise). But hey, that’s one for each bicep, so you take what you can get.

However, as is so often the case, the film’s heart and soul rest with its writer/director. Here, Stephen Merchant (The Office) proves that he can pen some heartwarming moments and very funny gags for the big screen. Sadly, his directorial efforts don’t fare so well—he’s on autopilot and although hanging on tightly to his inflatable pen, he seems to be drowning in a sea of predictability.  Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) delivers a rib-tickling performance as Saraya’s dad, lacing this film with plenty of feel-good vibes as he vicariously lives through his daughter’s fortunes. Beyond that, Fighting with My Family remains an entertaining but lightweight affair of humorously choreographed muscle.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

Advertisements

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Claire Foy (Finalized)The antisocial hacker and ball-breaker Lisbeth Salander has finally made a return to the big screen in this adaptation of David Lagercrantz’s fourth book of the “Millenium” series. Departing from the brooding drama and gritty violence of Stieg Larsson’s first three stories, this tale instead heads down the more conventional Hollywood path.  Gone is the laser-focussed indictment of misogyny. Gone is the lucid paranoia or the slow-burning mystery. Here we have a middling spy-thriller that only loosely acknowledges its roots; I’m sure Larsson will be turning in his grave. Consistent though, are Lisbeth’s (played by the excellent Claire Foy) knack for kicking some serious ass and her penchant for a bit of heroic crusading and vengeance. Throw in a moral conscience, some family infighting, and a rogue piece of software on the loose (that allows a single user control of the world’s nukes … of course) and you have a bitchy blend of Bond, Bourne and Batman.

It’s all fairly conventional stuff; a very simple tale of fast cars (and bikes), preposterous motivations, a far-fetched use of tech, and disorienting action sequences all set to the backdrop of a forgettable soundtrack. Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breath) does bring about some visually striking set-pieces that make full use of his horror background, but unfortunately, the collective whole feels too episodic.

What is refreshing, though, are the traditional gender roles which have been turned on their head. The chief power parts (on both sides of the ledger) are strong active women, with men being relegated to the margins. At one point the film even acknowledges the passivity of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) as just a pretty face.

Unfortunately, this renders the excellent cast, many of whom have impressive credentials, as woefully underused. Try as she might, Claire Foy’s commendable take on Lisbeth’s reckoning, or even Sylvia Hoeks’s (Blade Runner) chilling rendition as her sister can’t halt the inexorable pull of the film towards Hollywood’s formulaic juggernaut.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.