CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS — VOL. 1 (The Brood, Don’t Look Now, The Hit)



The Brood (1979 / dir. David Cronenberg / Canada) – David Cronenberg’s deft directorial skills and interesting cinematography can’t save this movie from it’s awful acting (with the exception of the great Oliver Reed) and even worse writing. The Brood is exciting when it’s a thriller, unfortunately, it tries and fails to be a dialogue-driven drama about 90% of the runtime. It seems like the film had many things to say about marriage, divorce, the responsibilities of raising children, abortion, physical deformities, anger management and the negative effects of experimental psychiatry. Unfortunately, every time it tries to form a coherent thought, it trips over a trail of it’s own farts. Cronenberg would later go on to become one of the best science fiction/horror directors in the world, but this little stinker is a reminder that he wasn’t Orson Welles right out of the gate. Grade: C-


Don’t Look Now (1973 / dir. Nicholas Roeg / UK) – I’ve never seen anything quite like Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. It’s unforgettable. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a married couple whose daughter drowns. They go to Venice to emotionally heal, but start suffering visions of their dead daughter running around the canals. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie deliver incredible, moving performances. Anthony Richmond’s cinematography conjures haunting but beautiful images of a sinister Venice and Graeme Clifford’s editing is sharp for the most part. Unfortunately, most of the movie gets hunkered down by needless exposition and pointless scenes involving side characters that literally goes nowhere. This is a real shame, because without these scenes, Don’t Look Now, would be a masterpiece. Instead, it’s merely good with a horrifically ironic ending. Grade: B


The Hit (1984 / dir. Stephen Frears / UK) – I can’t believe in my twenty-one years of watching movies I just heard about this Stephen Frears-helmed crime drama two days ago. It’s obscurity in film history despite a celebrated director and amazing cast (John Hurt, Terence Stamp and a 22-year-old Tim Roth) made me fear the worst, that it was a dud. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, The Hit is one of the most refreshingly original and bizarre crime dramas I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the best. Terence Stamp plays a criminal informant hiding out in Madrid who is found out by hitmen played by John Hurt and Tim Roth. The film turns into a road trip movie about taking Stamp to his execution, but also delves into this amazing conversation and meditation on the meaning of life and death. Terence Stamp is fantastic as always, but John Hurt does some of his finest work here as the creepy, reptile-like hitman. Hurt has very little dialogue but his eyes say it all, it’s a masterclass in minimalism. My only complaint with the film is that for as three-dimensional as the male leads are, the female lead is really underdeveloped and therefore impossible to empathize with.  Other than that, this is a strikingly unique crime drama that demands to be seen and discussed. Grade: A- 


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