The film is based on a graphic novel written by John Wagner, but Josh Olson's screenplay strips away much of the plot - not to mention much of the gore which might have seemed to be right up Cronenberg's dark alley - and leaves behind a wry, ruminative examination of how Tom's family's psyche is knocked off-balance by the killings' reverberations. It's Cronenberg's most straightforward, crowd-pleasing film in 20 years - too straightforward, perhaps. At the end of this brief History, you feel that the premise merited a few more complications and ambiguities. For a start, Mortensen is such a muscular man-mountain that it's always easier to imagine him spilling blood than pouring coffee.
Three weeks ago I commented that Russell Crowe's character in Cinderella Man wasn't conflicted enough to be the protagonist of a sports film, but he was a veritable Mike Tyson compared to Kuno Becker in Goal!. Becker plays a teenaged Mexican who works as an illegal labourer in Los Angeles. In his spare time he plays "soccer" with such genius that a holidaying British talent scout insists that he fly across the Atlantic for a trial at Newcastle United.
Becker's progress should entertain anyone who hasn't grown out of Roy of the Rovers. But not even the estimable Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais can make much of a story out of an incorruptible and sunny-tempered youngster who has less of an edge than the football he kicks so ably. Another own goal is the positioning of the film's climax halfway through the film, ie, when Becker fulfils his lifelong ambition to be a professional footballer. An hour later, when we get to the actual finale, the drama hangs on whether or not Newcastle will qualify for the European Cup. Why should we care about that?
Four Brothers (15)
Mark Wahlberg and Outkast's André Benjamin star as two of the four adoptive brothers who gather in Detroit when the twinkly, white-haired old lady who raised them is gunned down in a convenience store robbery. The twinkly old lady, we're told, struggled all her life to keep her delinquent sons on the straight and narrow, so it's somewhat ironic that she's barely in the ground before they turn vigilante, waving shotguns around and pouring petrol over anyone who might lead them to her killer. It's an irony which the film acknowledges in a couple of scenes, but these few whispers of social commentary can barely be heard over all the gunfire, screeching tyres and misogynistic dialogue.
Four Brothers' constant hopping between po-faced sentimentality and gung-ho viciousness would be offensive if the whole project weren't so daft. Its only point of interest is Britain's own Chiwetel Ejiofor, who dons a designer pimp suit and an immaculate American accent to play a villain so absurdly smooth and sadistic that he seems to have sauntered in from another film that's a lot more fun.
This dream-like, avant-garde Japanese film stars Tadanobu Asano as a young man who suffers amnesia after a car crash. All he can remember is his predisposition to become a doctor, so he enrolls in medical school. But one day, in dissection class, the tattoo on a cadaver's arm triggers memories of the woman he loved in his previous life. If you don't worry too much about how lax the medical school's regulations seem to be, Vital is a poignant, satisfyingly strange depiction of the love triangle between a boy, a girl and a corpse.
A Danish drifter turns up at the dingiest farmhouse in Lanarkshire. Its brutish, blind proprietor, Peter Mullan, offers him work, which might not be very sensible, considering what a young, pretty and sexually unfulfilled wife he has. "I'll kill any man who touches her," he growls, informatively. This contrived Scottish Gothic melodrama looks like an am-dram production from the 1970s, and its central theme appears to be the difficulty of getting people to trust you when you've just committed a murder.