Fuel for flaming youth
‘12 Angry Men’, 1957, cert. U, dir. Sidney Lumet, 4/5 stars.

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This film reminded me of Reservoir Dogs and not because of any violence. The deceptively simple plot takes place in limited settings with a limited amount of nameless characters, all men in suits. These restrictions only served to increase the film’s intensity, along with superb acting and gripping dialogue.

A boy is being tried for the murder of his father. The twelve, all male members of the jury retire to a stifled room to decide the verdict. Eleven are convinced he’s guilty. One isn’t.

The characters arguably represent different figures of society. The dissenter, played by Henry Fonda, is the ‘do-gooder’; willing to stand against the majority and stick to his opinions to the end. He is not convinced that the boy is innocent. He is just unsure on sending him to his death on what he perceives as doubtful evidence and he is willing to sit out and point out the evidence’s defects. His main opponents are ignorant, crack jokes, shout at, insult and bully everyone if they show disagreement with the guilty verdict, through personal reasons such as prejudice against the boy’s background or simply because they have other places they’d rather be. The other characters either sway with the majority or are open to arguments.

This film serves as a powerful, relevant warning against holding blind confidence in the death penalty or treating the subject lightly and attacked outdated social ideals that demanded respect but encouraged hypocrisy and prejudice, in a manner that moves and angers you. 

‘The Killer Inside Me’, 2010, cert 18, dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2/5 stars

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At first I thought I was enjoying this film and it did sound promising. Very firmly set in its environment of 1950’s small town west Texas America, the film offers some pleasantries such as period setting and dialogue, boosted by good acting, especially from Casey Affleck in the lead as a respectable, mild mannered deputy sheriff. At least, that’s what he and the film appear to be on the surface. Underneath, however, runs a powerfully dark undercurrent of violence and sadomasochism, reminding me a little of Blue Velvet. The film opens strikingly with Affleck’s character, Lou Ford, attempting to run a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town. He ends up belting her and then having hot blooded sex. As the film progresses, he develops a complex get-rich scheme involving revenge, lies, blackmail and savagely killing anyone close to him.

As good as the acting is, as brutal the violence and as dark as the depths some of the scenes reached, the film contained numerous flaws. It tried too hard to adopt the period 1950s film noir atmosphere, especially with an entirely rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Some events aren’t filmed well and left unexplained. The sex scenes are gratuitous, unrealistic and awkward. In short, the film tried too hard to be what it was, but failed to leave a lasting impression, apart from annoyance. The film had some promising elements but at the same time there was vast room for improvement. Also Affleck’s high pitched accent grew frustrating after a while!