Where’s it on? Sky Cinema, Now TV
No pandemic was going to keep Steven Soderbergh down. Presumably well-prepared for a viral outbreak, given his unnervingly prescient Contagion (2011), the industrious genre polymath shot this eccentric, crystal-cut thriller in April 2021, under strict Covid protocols. Updating the tech-savvy conceptual gambits of The Conversation (1974) and Blow Out (1981) for the age of Siri and Alexa voice-assistants, the hyper-contemporary Kimi locks its gaze on an agoraphobic technician (Zoë Kravitz) who stumbles across what sounds like a murder on the audio streams fed to her computer. What starts out like a single-location thriller oriented around Kravitz’s apartment soon takes to the streets of Seattle for a breathless foot-chase – all to a terrific Bernard Herrmann-esque score by Cliff Martinez. It’s a shame audiences won’t get to see Soderbergh’s film on the big screen, as it finds this taken-for-granted master at his most stylistically playful, leading to the best returns of his recent streaming-service sabbatical.
Draft Day (2014)
Where’s it on? Amazon, iTunes
Most tributes to Ivan Reitman, who died this week, have focused on either the comedy blockbusters, such as Animal House (1978) and Ghostbusters (1984), or his early days co-founding the Toronto Film Co-op with David Cronenberg. So here’s a chance to catch up with an underrated gem, the kind of genre picture that doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel but hits its requisite beats with a satisfying combination of charisma and suspense. The Kevin Costner sports movie is basically a genre unto itself, and this punchy, American football drama keeps a well-thumbed playbook close to hand. Reitman shoots in the bold, primary colours of a sports telecast, keeping things busy with a multitude of wipes and split-screens, as a clock counts down to the zero hour when Costner’s NFL manager has to make a gutsy set of moves if he’s gonna snag the players he wants for his team.
Boarding Gate (2007)
Where’s it on? MUBI from Saturday
With no Blu-ray in sight, this weekend brings a rare opportunity to catch Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate in HD. While Assayas started his career in the late-80s with a series of lyrical character portraits, the new millennium found this cine-literate maestro curdling the margins of genre. A spiritual bedfellow to his 2002 corporate thriller Demonlover, this globetrotting tale of sex, power and espionage makes for a compelling companion piece to latter-day Michael Mann films like Miami Vice (2006) and Blackhat (2015). Sharing a fondness for muscular, airport-novel frameworks (and frantic nightclub set-pieces), both filmmakers appear fascinated by transitional, in-between spaces and the corruptive effects of globalisation and commodification. If Mann finds romance in the digital haze, Assayas shoots for sleazy, fluorescent-lit detachment on Super 35mm.
The Last Sunset (1961)
Where’s it on? ITV4, Sunday, 2.50pm
Robert Aldrich put his name to six westerns across a 29-film career. Superficially, they couldn’t be more different, variously encompassing wacky comedy (The Frisco Kid, 1979), revolutionary tales of vengeance (Vera Cruz, 1954) and ferocious Vietnam allegory (Ulzana’s Raid, 1972). One of Hollywood’s great mavericks, Aldrich wasn’t averse to making bold political statements, both on screen and behind the scenes. The Last Sunset may be the closest he got to a classical western, in which Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson fight over Dorothy Malone on a cattle trail to Texas, but a script from blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is testament to Aldrich’s fearless activism. It’s a film of fascinating tensions – between its two leads, between the studio soundstages and dusty location work, between Freudian anxieties and vivid Sirkian melodrama – all leading up to a barnstorming, fatalistic climax.
Den of Thieves (2018)
Where’s it on? Film4, Friday, 9pm
A generically-titled directorial debut from the writer behind London Has Fallen (2016) and A Man Apart (2003) probably comes with a certain set of expectations. So it’s a welcome surprise to find that this first feature from Christian Gudegast has such gnarly, muscular, B-movie chops. From its Los Angeles setting and 140-minute running time to the grudging respect held between cops and bank robbers, there’s no escaping Den of Thieves’ love for Michael Mann’s crime epic Heat (1995). No bad thing when set-pieces are engineered with the kind of clarity and suspense on display here. Gerard Butler gets one of his best roles as ‘Big Nick’, a drunken cop who smells of strip clubs and bad choices, and who eats blood-spattered donuts from the crime scene floor. Sleazy, propulsive, and with an extended central heist sequence to rival Ocean’s Eleven (2001), it’s an A-list knockoff that hits its marks. The sequel, currently in pre-production, can’t come soon enough.