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The Last Survivors

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With Mad Max: Fury Road having blazed a trail last year, and Katniss’ story coming to an end in the second part of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, The Last Survivors arrives at a time when female characters are not simply strong because they can kick hard.

Sometime in the future, the world has been crippled by a ten-year drought. In a valley somewhere in America, a water baron by the name of Carson (John Gries) has taken it upon himself, like any good George Miller antagonist would, to round up anybody using his precious water on their dilapidated farmland. Hayley Lu Richardson plays Kendal, a young woman keeping her head whilst those around her literally lose theirs. Having managed to hide herself and her ill partner (Booboo Stewart) from the machinations of the corrupt baron and his small army, she soon finds that time and water are running out.

Visually bleached to the bone, The Last Survivors plays out like the adaptation of a Young Adult novel that’s yet to be written, where youth must triumph over the old. Kendal, however, is a resourceful protagonist who isn’t trying to lead a revolution, but just trying to survive. Richardson plays her with ruthless efficiency, and there are chills when she confesses to her boyfriend that she hadn’t planned on him surviving as long as she has.

John Gries (Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite!), meanwhile, plays Carson as the hero in his own story, forgoing the usual villain’s arched eyebrow and moustache twirling. Both Carson and Kendal don’t want to have to hurt anyone really, but needs must when the devil drives. At times, like its cast of characters, The Last Survivors looks a little rough around the edges, but it certainly achieves more than its glossy compatriots.

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In a deep, dark bunker, a young family have been surviving for over 300 days with limited light and even more limited food. Outside and above the bunker lurk “The Breathers.” With glowing eyes and Darth Vader’s respiratory problems, they stalk the night on the lookout for the family.

Hidden is a chamber piece spiked with apocalyptic sensibilities. At least to begin with anyway. Directors, The Duffer Brothers, set up a grim, bleak world which we view through the eyes of daughter, Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind), who has spent nearly a year living in fear of the mysterious Breathers, and stuck in the middle of her loving, well-intentioned parents.

Like any true parental team, mother and father want the best for their children, but choose different routes to get there. Mother, Claire (Andrea Riseborough), tries to maintain order with a series of rules intended to keep Zoe safe, but ultimately to help herself cope with their desperate situation. Meanwhile father, Ray (Alexander Skarsgard), agrees with the rules set in place, but his more relaxed, cavalier attitude causes tension. With everything going on, there’s a lot here for a child to emotionally unpack, and young star, Emily Alyn Lind, gives a strong, emotional, and heart wrenching performance.

As deliberately paced as the film is, Hidden picks up speed when an attempt to destroy a rat in their makeshift kitchen leads the family to exposing their hiding spot to the things upstairs. From this point on, Hidden takes a sharp turn from thriller to something altogether different. It’s a gut-punch of an ending, and it’s a testament to the cast that things stay as grounded as they do.

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Bound To Vengeance

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Revenge films, particularly those where the protagonist is a terrorised woman being brutalised by a gang of men, can easily fall under scrutiny for their lurid eye. These Femsploitations, as recently as the rebooted I Spit On Your Grave trilogy, are sometimes too focused on the victimisation of their protagonists, as opposed to their eventual bloody vengeance. Jose Manuel Cravioto’s Bound To Vengeance skips this problematic ghoulishness by setting its sights firmly on what really should be the selling point of these films in the first place: the revenge.

When we’re first introduced to Eve (Tina Ivlev), she is being held captive in a dark basement by Phil (Richard Tyson). Spotting an opportunity, Eve escapes his clutches, but upon realising that he has other women incarcerated around town, she forces Phil to help her set them free…but not everything is as it seems. Despite Eve’s best intentions, her white knight attitude puts her into contact with people who are not as strong as her. PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and even indifference to their own plight means that Eve struggles to rally the troops.

Bound To Vengeance is a brutal film that doesn’t rely on brutality. Reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s (Drive, Only God Forgives) aesthetic, its slick neon visuals offset its grimy underbelly. Whilst it could have been an excuse for 90 minutes of violence towards women, the film’s onus is very much on the aftermath of Phil’s brutal campaign of fear and abuse towards his “sweethearts.” We’re not invited to be a silent participant wallowing in their suffering, but we’re sure as hell going to be there when Eve storms the Bastille. With grounded performances from Ivlev and Tyson, this is an excellent indie thriller that tries to do something a little different from the norm.

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Screenwriter turned director, Brian Helgeland’s penchant for brutal noir (Payback, L.A Confidential, Man On Fire) gels easily with the British gangster genre’s droll humour and casual violence.

This project sees him in the director’s chair charting the tale of Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the twin gangster brothers of sixties East End London. Reggie (Tom Hardy) is the charming rogue and club-owner criminal. Ronnie (also Tom Hardy) is a paranoid schizophrenic, certified insane until Reggie blackmails a shrink and orchestrates his release from an institution. Out in the world, Ronnie is a hair trigger; he’s violent, brutal, openly gay in a time of repression, and willing to use its shock value to provoke violence. The brothers form an antagonistic partnership with club owner, Leslie Payne (David Thewlis), who facilitates an alliance with US Mafioso, Angelo Bruno (Chazz Palminteri). Around the same time, Reggie meets the meek and mild Francis Shea (Emily Browning) and falls in love. All the while Ronnie, a crazed and manic time bomb, wants to go to war with the world, permeating the plot with the stench of inevitability.

There have been Kray cinematic treatments before (notably with Spandau Ballet’s Gary and Martin Kemp), but this take on the tale lulls the uninitiated into its gloss and period excess until it’s interspersed with horrifically jarring violence, though clearly that’s the point that Helgeland is trying to make. Hardy is a true movie star, and here he is astonishingly good in one of the best depictions seen of one actor playing twins on-screen, rivalling even that of Jeremy Irons in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. It’s undermined by an ill-fitting score and a puzzlingly structured third act, but there’s real pleasure in Hardy’s bold, intense, and utterly compelling lead performance.


Good Kill

Distributor: Roadshow
Format: Blu-ray, DVD