Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:30 pm 
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Erik von Looy: Memory of a Killer (2004)

In De Zaak Alzheimer, a Belgian hit man rebels when sent to kill a young girl and finds out she's at the bottom of a child prostitute ring which he decides to wipe out all the way up the chain of command -- just a few steps ahead of the police detectives. The only trouble is he's experiencing the onset of Alzheimer's. A brother is in a sanatorium with it. Despite this nod to an aging population (and hypertrophied genre) this is a conventional enough police procedural that includes such clichés as feuding branches of law enforcement and a bond between the chief investigator and the criminal, but it's well worked out with some neat little details and it moves fast. It would have been nice if there weren't all those banging drums to signal when the action is heating up and it would have been even nicer if the very able hit man would actually show more signs of oncoming senility. But the plot cheats us out of whatever dash of color that would bring by having him take medication to control the symptoms. Even with a bullet wound and a crooked shrink working for the top man in the ring trying to shoot him full of poison our hit man keeps the whole police force hopping till the end. Jan Decleir is compelling as the hit man, Angelo Ledda, and Koen De Bouw is sexy as the chief detective, Vincke.

Fernando Meireilles: The Constant Gardener (2005).

Meireilles' chronicle of three decades of favela crime life in Rio, City of God/Cidade de Deus (2002), was a wonder of color and whirlwind action. Here he applies his bright brush to a post-cold war John Le Carré story about a mild and moral diplomat, Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) whose political firebrand wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) gets assassinated in Kenya, leading him to go against the grain and offend his superiors by hunting down the medical cartel scandal that got her in harm's way. The contrast between the gentleness and focus of Fiennes's character and the turbulence and corruption all around him as he moves closer and closer to the same danger his wife faced is beautifully conveyed. The film is particularly notable for its endless fast succession of dazzling bright African images and its panoply of morally dubious secondary characters ably played by the likes of Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Gerald McSorley, and Keith Pearson. But unfortunately Meirelles' hyperactive editing, which underscored the wild energy of the favela in Cidade de Deus, tends to overwhelm the story sometimes and isn't altogether appropriate to a writer whose métier was always conveying the gray world of self effacing bureaucrats. When it's all over all you may remember is Fiennes' sad face. He's fine, though, and so is Weisz and so are many of the others. It's not certain this was the ideal project for Meirelles, though he has produced a stylish mainstream film.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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