Films of the week: Dominik's cool crime drama Killing Them Softly hits the target

 

Saturday

Killing Them Softly

10pm & 1.45am Sky Movies Premiere

(Andrew Dominik, 2012) Set in New Orleans on the eve of the 2008 US presidential election, this is at once a tense but cool and bleakly funny crime drama about robberies, contract killings and other mob activities, and a recession-era parable about ruthless greed and unregulated capitalism more generally. Brad Pitt heads a first-rate cast, playing a speechifying cynical hitman. James Gandolfini also stars. *****

Sunday

The Visitor

11.30pm BBC2

(Thomas McCarthy, 2007) The hangdog character actor Richard Jenkins plays a lonely economics professor who forms an unlikely friendship with the young Syrian-Senegalese couple who sublet his New York apartment. The Visitor is a political film, in that it investigates the plight of immigrant detainees in the US, but primarily it's just a very well-formed and human story. ****

Monday

Side by Side

10.50pm Film4

(Christopher Kenneally, 2012) No one manufactures photographic movie cameras any more, and Hollywood's transition to an era of all-digital production and exhibition would seem to be a fait accompli. In this well-illustrated documentary, Keanu Reeves discusses what we might gain and lose in the process, with leading directors and cinematographers including James Cameron and Christopher Nolan. ****

Tuesday

Scanners

12.55am Film4

(David Cronenberg, 1981) "Scanners" have a genetic mutation resulting in the "derangement of the synapses which we call telepathy". Oh, and sometimes they can make people's heads burst. This is the David Cronenberg film with the most in common with other mainstream action-horror movies of the Eighties; its ideas are garnished with car chases, gunfights and explosions. Michael Ironside stars. ****

Wednesday

Don't Look Now

12.30am Film4

(Nicolas Roeg, 1973) With its associative editing, temporal dislocations and ominous atmosphere, Nicolas Roeg's masterful Du Maurier adaptation gets under the skin in a way few other films can, and is all the more haunting for the fact that its supernatural element is secondary to its investigations of love and loss. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie star as a grieving couple staying in off-season Venice. *****

Thursday

Raging Bull

10pm ITV4

(Martin Scorsese, 1980) Martin Scorsese's punishing biopic of the self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta is likely the most compelling and eloquent film ever made about inarticulate, violent people. Robert De Niro's Oscar-winning, bravura performance is justly famous, but the contributions of Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, as LaMotta's luckless brother and wife, shouldn't be forgotten. *****

Friday

The Dark Knight Rises

3.30pm & 8pm Sky Movies Premiere

(Christopher Nolan, 2012) In the same way that (with recourse to a vast budget) Bruce Wayne can transcend the limits of his humanity and become Batman, Christopher Nolan's third film about the "Dark Knight" attempts to transcend the limits of the superhero genre. The result is a flawed but weighty crime film, capable of awesome feats. Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway star. ***

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