New on Netflix Instant: Steven Soderbergh's Indie Action Thriller 'Haywire'
Plus Christopher Nolan's 'Insomnia' and a library of American classics, gritty seventies dramas, contemporary action hits, and more
"Haywire" (2011), is Steven Soderbergh's version of a drive-in action movie: lean, sleek, and disciplined. The thoroughly conventional script (by Lem Dobbs) involving outsourced international espionage, corrupt players, dirty tricks, and righteous vengeance moves at the speed of mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano's reaction time and Soderbergh designs the film around her skill set. A superb supporting cast (Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas) delivers entertainingly stylized performances. Videodrone's review is here.
Also among the notable New Releases arriving on Netflix Instant are "The Moth Diaries" (days after its DVD debut; see MSN's review here) and the Taylor Lautner action thriller "Abduction" (2011) (reviewed on Videodrone here). And on the arthouse side is the ultra-low-budget "Bellflower" (2011), a scruffy American indie about cars, friendship, the disappointment of romance and preparing for the apocalypse, and the acclaimed "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (2011) from Turkey, a measured, quiet crime drama turned metaphysical road movie.
"Insomnia" (2002), Christopher Nolan's 2002 remake of the icy, sun-bright 1997 Norwegian noir of the same name, is the rare remake that is arguably better than the original. Al Pacino's L.A. cop Will Dormer arrives gaunt, tired and sleepy-eyed, in a quiet Alaskan village to investigate a murder, and the 24-hour sun blasts his guilty conscience when he tries to sleep each night. Nolan likes to play with perception and perspective and the increasingly blurred and hallucinatory perspective of the bleary Dormer is an evocative comment on his compromised soul.
"The African Queen" (1951), the magnificent wartime adventure starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as unlikely partners in heroism, is a classic journey adventure with an terrific, offbeat love story at the center. John Huston is arguably the greatest Hollywood writer/director of literary adaptations and this is one of his best. Bogart and Hepburn stoke the fires of this unlikely romance the way only stars of that magnitude can and Huston makes the African location and clumsy, temperamental steam powered boat itself essential parts of the film's personality and texture.
In a darker vein is "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), the blackest of Hollywood’s self portraits from Billy Wilder. Gloria Swanson, who stars as aformer silent movie queen living in her memories while plotting a fantasy of a comeback, understands both the monstrous and pathetic dimensions of her demented diva, and Wilder makes his scabrous and acidic expose of Hollywood’s living graveyards both ghoulish and tragic.
Even darker is "The Night of the Hunter" (1955), one of the most beautiful pastoral nightmares the cinema has seen. Part rural film noir and part expressionist parable with Robert Mitchum as a psychotic con-man in preacher's garb, it's the only film directed by the great Charles Laughton.
Going toward the light (and easing into the magic hour) is Terrence Malick's second feature "Days of Heaven" (1978), a delicate, impressionist drama of migrant laborers at the turn of the 20th century and one of the most beautiful films ever shot.