Feat of clay: Terracotta Army marches on

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By Ray Bennett

The exhibition of China’s 2,000-year-old terracotta warriors at the British Museum is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Some 100,000 tickets were sold in advance of the six-month display of a small group of the immense army created to guard the tomb of the first emperor of China, and it’s well worth a visit.

Lion Television, which produced a clever docudrama titled “First Emperor: The Man Who Made China” for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel, hosted a small gathering at the museum one morning last week ahead of the crowds.

Other groups were there too with film director Alan Parker among the curious. Like me, he also was enthralled by an unusually close view of the British Museum’s beautiful dome. The exhibition is staged on a platform built over the reading room so the ceiling has never seemed so close.

The fine detail of the life-sized fired clay figures, however, is extraordinary and many will leave the show thinking of a trip to China to see the emperor’s tomb.

Lion’s film is available on DVD and here’s my review from The Hollywood Reporter:

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – If only all history were taught as vividly as “The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China,” a two-hour television program that combines high-level documentary techniques with engaging drama to tell the story of the monster who created China more than 2,000 years ago.

Qin Shi Huangdi, as he called himself, was among the most ruthless and single-minded despots of all time but in his vision of himself as a divine ultimate ruler he managed to bequeath on a tumultuous people the landscape of a nation that has lasted for more than two millennia and achieved greatness.

The discovery in the 1970s of what is known as the Terracotta Army – life-size statues of extraordinary detail that were to be Qin’s guardians in what was no doubt destined to be a heated afterlife – revealed the enormity of his ego and the underground mausoleum he created.

Made emperor at aged 13, Qin came to embody the ruling philosophy of Legalism, a ferocious and unrelenting exploitation of the population toward the goals of peace and harmony, and the greater glory of Qin. A courageous warrior, Qin led his armies in conquering all six neighboring countries to create one nation that he named for himself, Qin, or Chin.

Qin slaughtered friends and enemies with equal fervor and spent one million lives building the Great Wall of China to protect his empire from marauding outsiders. Insiders were totally at his mercy and he ultimately tried to ban all freedom of thought and expression.

His dedication to warfare, however, resulted in the finest weaponry with swords of the highest quality that survive to this day. In a lesson for today’s Washington armchair warriors, each blade carried the name of the prime minister, who had to take personal responsibility for its excellence.

It is in such detail that “First Emperor” delights as it follows Jeffrey Riegel, Professor of Classical Chinese Language at the University of California, Berkeley, and Wang Tao, of the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London, as they explore and explain the legend.

New discoveries are made all the time at the immense mausoleum just outside the Chinese city of Xian and the documentary marks the first time a western TV crew has been allowed to shoot there. The result, shot in high-definition (HDTV) is extraordinary but not entirely surprising from the U.K.’s Lion Television, whose recent documentary on Lawrence of Arabia was also first class.

As the scholars reveal the remarkable legacy of a monstrous individual, dramatic scenes show how life may have been in that time with actors playing the principal characters.

Writer and director Nic Young employs a colloquial approach to their ancient dialogue in colorful scenes that are at first disconcerting but come to be entirely believable. He is helped by some spirited acting, especially by James Pax as the emperor who soars to despotic heights and then descends into deadly madness.

A co-production of Discovery Channel and Lion Television; Cast: James Pax; Wang Ji; Hi Ching; Vincent Wong; Tony Tang; Narrator: Samuel West; Writer and director: Nic Young; Producer: Lucy Van Beek; Executive producers: Richard Bradley, Bill Locke; Drama producer: Lamy Li; Cinematographer: Brian McDairmant; Art director: Senlin Yu; Director of production: Shahana Meer; Editor: Simon Greenwood; Music: Ilan Eshkeri.

Here’s more on the DVD

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THEATRE REVIEW: Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON — Noel Coward’s brittle and pathetic self-portrait of the matinee idol as the center of the universe is preserved more or less under glass in the National Theatre’s glossy new production.

The play is set in 1939, but the outbreak of World War II doesn’t add up to a hill of beans compared to the life and loves of Garry Essendine (Alex Jennings), who is king, and possibly sometimes queen, of all he surveys in his tightly sycophantic and highly theatrical world.

present laughhter Sara Stewart Alex Jennings x325“Present Laughter” is the kind of dated, middle-class artifice in which someone says, “Cynthia, darling, it’s Daphne. I’m at Garry’s,” and it’s supposed to mean something.

Daphne (Amy Hall) is what would later be called a groupie, but as the play was written in the days when British theater was heavily censored, she has spent the night at the boulevardier’s house only because she lost her own “latch key,” and even then stayed in the spare room.

Little does she know that she has entered a well-oiled and predictable environment in which the grand seducer is coddled and fussed over by a coterie that includes secretary, housekeeper, valet and an estranged but not quite ex-wife. The latter, Liz (Sara Stewart), is of course still in love with Essendine and is always there to help him brush off his conquests.

The fading lothario swans through life with labored insouciance and a carefully manufactured air of indifference to the malicious fate that has caused him to be so handsome, charming and desirable. Cosseted by his entourage of adoring women — and men — he is a star required constantly to twinkle.

But when Joanna (Lisa Dillon), the sexpot wife of a hapless friend, sets her decolletage at him, and an intense young man named Roland (Pip Carter) shows up peddling his serious writing, Essendine unleashes a torrent of snide and condescending derision on everyone.

Set in a huge, bookish room designed by Tim Hatley that suggests more Victorian Conan-Doyle than art-deco Coward, the production features all the polished style that you would expect at the National. Jenny Beavan’s costumes suggest 1930s glamour on the downslide, while director Howard Davies keeps the dialogue coming at a lively pace.

The trouble is that Coward has little to say that’s relevant today. The drollery isn’t very funny, and the insults appear lame. Sarah Woodward makes the most of seen-everything secretary Monica, and Stewart plays ex-wife Liz with sensible poise.

Hall is a bit too gushy as Daphne, while Dillon makes her plump little trollop reminiscent of mid-career Elizabeth Taylor. Carter turns highbrow writer Roland into a buffoon, and Tim McMullan and Simon Wilson struggle with the under-written roles of friend and cuckold.

It’s left to Jennings to carry the evening as Essendine, and he does it with great flair. Flouncing, sighing or raining down invective, he pays Coward the highest compliment of acting as if his slick and empty words really mean something.

Venue: National Theatre; Cast: Alex Jennings; Amy Hall; Anny Tobin; Tony Turner; Sarah Woodward; Sara Stewart; Pip Carter; Simon Wilson; Tim McMullan; Lisa Dillon; Frances Jeater; Playwright: Noel Coward; Director: Howard Davies; Set designer: Tim Hatley; Costume designer: Jenny Beavan; Lighting designer: Hugh Vanstone; Sound designer: Paul Groothuis; Music: Dominic Muldowney; Keyboard: Anne Kavanagh; Alto saxophone: Simon Harare

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Ye Olde Steak House: a fond farewell

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By Ray Bennett

I’ve eaten in a great number of restaurants in my life, good, bad and indifferent, but only two ever captured my heart.

One is Dan Tana’s on Santa Monica Boulevard, the most enjoyable dining establishment in Los Angeles. The other is Ye Olde Steak House in Windsor, Canada, which has served its last meal after 41 years.

Kurt and Irma Deeg ran the place expertly with reliably good food and friendly service, attracting customers from around Ontario and Michigan, being situated across the river from Detroit.

I was a regular in my time at The Windsor Star newspaper in the late 1960s and ’70s, and Kurt even allowed me an account, taking a huge risk with a newspaperman in those days, or at any time.

Lunches with fellow reporters could turn into all-afternoon affairs that on one infamous occasion enabled me to win the prize in the paper’s annual editorial staff golf awards for most drunken golfer (I retired to sleep it off having failed to hit the ball in several attempts at the first tee). The prize was a bottle carrier for my golf bag. Needless to say, I was mighty proud.

 

I took English comics Jimmy Edwards and Eric Sykes to lunch at Ye Olde Steak House when they were in Detroit performing their classic comedy “Big Bad Mouse.” They declared the steak & kidney pie a great success, which it invariably was.

Sunday nights also were a favorite time for me with a quiet steak and bottle of wine. No return visit to the city was ever complete without a meal there.

The Deegs served great steaks prepared perfectly and a damned fine French onion soup. The servers knew your taste and the bartenders knew your drink. It could be raucous or romantic; a place for friends, love and laughter.

Windsor won’t be the same without it.

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THEATRE REVIEW: Patrick Stewart in ‘Macbeth’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Seldom can Shakespeare’s murky Scottish tragedy “Macbeth” been have staged with so much clarity and emotional punch as in Rupert Goold’s exhilarating production at London’s Gielgud Theatre. It stars Patrick Stewart in probably the finest performance of his career in the title role.

Created at the Chichester Festival Theatre and bound for Broadway, the show is staged in two 80-minute acts that pound the senses and seize the imagination in ways that make the ancient tale of unbridled hubris vitally modern.

Using a stark basement setting reminiscent of Beckett’s forlorn “Endgame,” Goold stages the play in cinematic terms designed to establish a mood of dread as Macbeth and his wife bloody their hands in order to become rulers of an unruly state.

Soviet-style uniforms, video images of crushed rebellion and machine guns establish a bleak 1950s mood as Macbeth conspires to eliminate his rivals to the throne. The references might be to kings, princes and thanes, but Macbeth is a mid-management desperado seeking the top job — in business and politics — and he is willing to use all ruthless means to have his way.

This involves murdering the Scottish king, Duncan (Paul Shelley), while he sleeps and also killing his guards in order to lay off the blame. The king’s sons flee, suggesting mistakenly that they might have been complicit, while stalwarts Banquo (Martin Turner) and Macduff (Michael Feast) go along with crowning Macbeth.

Full of bluster but also deeply deranged, Macbeth suspects everyone and is soon arranging torture and more ugly deaths, including those of rivals Banquo and Macduff. But Macduff is away when his assassins come to call, and the slaying of his wife and children lead him to an alliance with the late king’s son, Malcolm (Scott Handy). With a force of soldiers loaned by the English, they head to Macbeth’s castle seeking vengeance.

Framed in the manner of a gangster film, the production uses imaginative lighting and sound to amplify the play’s supernatural elements. The three witches (“Double, double toil and trouble”) are portrayed as nurses who are definitely weird sisters. Banquo’s ghost shows up bloodily corporeal at the end of Act 1, but when the curtain rises again the scene is repeated showing that only the harried Macbeth can see the spectre of his slain enemy.

Stewart demonstrates that many years of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and big-screen outings in “The X-Men” movies haven’t diminished his stage presence one iota. He inhabits the role and is matched in intensity by Kate Fleetwood (pictured with Stewart) as Lady Macbeth and Feast as Macduff. Also making vivid contributions are Suzanne Burden as the doomed Lady Macduff and Turner as Banquo.

Designer Anthony Ward, and all the design talents, deserve high praise but especially music and sound designer Adam Cork. It is director Goold, however, who will be most applauded for his dynamic interpretation of a jaded classic.

Venue: Gielgud Theatre; Cast: Patrick Stewart; Kate Fleetwood; Paul Shelley; Scott Handy; Ben Carpenter; Martin Turner; Michael Feast; Suzanne Burden; Sophie Hunter; Polly Frame; Niamh McGrady; Mark Rawlings; Tim Treloar; Bill Nash; Playwright: William Shakespeare; Director: Rupert Goold; Designer: Anthony Ward; Lighting designer: Howard Harrison; Music/sound designer: Adam Cork; Video/projection designer: Lorna Heavey.

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FILM REVIEW: Julie Taymor’s ‘Across the Universe’

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By Ray Bennett

Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” is a sparkling treat for anyone with an appreciation of how popular music became the soundtrack for so many people’s lives.

That was never so true as in the ’60s when Beatles songs dominated the airwaves around the world. Critics of the film, which opened in the U.K. Friday, seem to view it as a failed attempt at interpreting the Beatles lyrics but it’s much more fun than that.

Although filled with colorful images and affectionately punning dialogue by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais that evoke the songs, it’s more about the way pop music, especially by the Beatles, informs the romantic aspirations of youngsters.

It’s a blast as Taymor, creator of the stage version of “The Lion King” and director of films such as “Frida” and “Titus,” displays her customary visual flair. The songs are sung by the cast, which includes Jim Sturgess, as a Liverpudlian who visits the U.S. to find his estranged father, Evan Rachel Wood (“Thirteen,” 2003) as the girl he falls in love with, and Joe Anderson as a down-to-earth rich boy who becomes his best friend. Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard and Bono have cameos performing iconic Beatles numbers.

Three superb music producers, composer Elliot Goldenthal, T-Bone Burnett and Teese Gohl, combined on the 31-song soundtrack. Goldenthal, of course, is the director’s domestic and professional partner, an A-list composer who won the Academy Award for “Frida” and he provides the score for “Across the Universe.”

Burnett has been responsible for some of the best song soundtracks of recent times including “Walk the Line,” “Cold Mountain” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Gohl is partnered with Steve McLaughlin in the U.S.- and U.K.-based film music production company, gohlmclaughlin, with credits including “Stardust,” “Layer Cake” and “Closer.”

Interscope has put out a soundtrack CD but it contains only 16 tracks from the film. Some fine numbers are missing including “If I Fell” by Wood, “I Want You” by Anderson, and “Because,” by the whole cast. Crucially missing are some great tracks by costars Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther and Goldenthal’s fabulous end-title orchestration of “Flying” with the Secret Machines. Perhaps if the film is a success then Interscope will release an album with the rest of the music. boomer nostalgia.

Across the Universe 2

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FILM REVIEW: George Clooney in ‘Michael Clayton’

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By Ray Bennett

Tony Gilroy’s gripping thriller “Michael Clayton” starring George Clooney, which previews in the U.K. today and opens Friday, is the writer turned director’s second topnotch film in 2007.

Paul Greengrass directed Gilroy’s script for the hugely entertaining “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which continues to thrive at box offices everywhere. “Michael Clayton” is a more cerebral type of suspense film akin to classics such as “The Parallax View” and “Three Days of the Condor” but it’s also a winner.

Clooney is in great form playing a fixer at a big law firm dealing with the meltdown of a senior partner (the excellent Tom Wilkinson) who sees the error of his ways in defending an unprincipled multi-national corporation. Tilda Swinton gives a sizzling performance as a femme fatale.

It’s early yet, but don’t be surprised to see the film edge into next year’s Oscar race with nominations for Clooney as best actor along with Swinton and Wilkinson in the best supporting categories.

Another of the film’s many pleasures is the imaginative score composed by James Newton Howard and after being Oscar-nominated four times for scores and twice for songs, this could be his year.

Howard has written the music for all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films including “The Village,” for which he landed his most recent Oscar nom. His others were for “My Best Friend’s Wedding, “The Fugitive,” “The Prince of Tides.” He was also nominated for best song for “Look What Love Has Done” from “Junior” and “For the First Time” for “One Fine Day.”

A top-flight film composer since “Head Office,” a 1985 comedy from director Ken Finkleman, Howard also wrote the theme for TV’s long running hit “ER.” Up next is Scott Frank’s caper movie “The Lookout,” which is due in the U.K. Oct. 26.

Warner Bros. gives “Michael Clayton” a limited release in the United States on Oct. 5. It goes wide on Oct. 12 with international territories to follow. ad guy himself.

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TV REVIEW: Billie Piper in ‘The Secret Diary of a Call Girl’

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By Ray Bennett

Chrissy Skinns, producer of the new Billie Piper series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” which debuts tonight on ITV2, insists that the show’s depiction of prostitution as something fun, glamorous and relatively carefree is an accurate one.

In the promotional material, she tells of doing research for the show’s central character, Belle, and meeting many women who were quite happy on the job.

Skins says, “What really came across in the main was that the women at this end of the market had chosen to be hookers, they weren’t on drugs or forced into it, which is, of course, another side of prostitution. We’re not pretending that doesn’t exist; it’s just not what our ‘Belle’ is about. The women we talked to genuinely liked their profession.”

Obviously she’s never seen Channel 4’s “Sex Traffic.” Here’s my review from The Hollywood Reporter:

LONDON — By most accounts, the life of a prostitute is desperate and vile, despite such absurd male fantasies as “Pretty Woman” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” The new U.K. series “The Secret Diary of a Call Girl” also puts a shiny gloss on commercial life between the sheets, but this time it’s created by women.

Billie Piper from “Doctor Who” plays Belle, a character based on an anonymous blog and subsequent book by someone claiming to be a happy and successful call girl in London. Produced by Chrissy Skinns, the show was created by Lucy Prebble, who also wrote four of the eight episodes. Documentary outfit Silver Apples optioned the property and took it to IMG’s Tiger Aspect, which produced the half-hour show for ITV.

You would hope the result might be thoughtful and revealing, but the series is really just a tame peep show for fans who think Piper is a cutie. She is an “escort girl” who dresses in sex-shop lingerie and undresses quite a bit. In each episode she encounters a new “client” provided for her by her female “agent.” No johns and pimps in this joint.

Belle speaks directly to the camera most of the time, making statements that are supposed to be bold and candid, such as, “The first thing you should know about me is that I am a whore.” She happily provides props for her sessions, mostly sex toys and riding crops and saddles when required.

Belle prides herself on being a complete professional, which apparently means a life of bookkeeping and personal hygiene. She’s lost count of the men she’s “slept” with — and when a callow customer fails to rise to the occasion, she says it’s a first. She’s not sure how to handle things, though, when another client, a bearded doofus with a bad Russian accent, takes her to an orgy and then becomes possessive.

Such scenes cry out for some kind of wit, but that is seriously lacking. Piper milks what she can from trite dialogue by raising her eyebrows to the camera or simply leering. The show would benefit from some notion of sensuality to go with its portrait of a woman who supposedly enjoys sex so much. The orgy sequence is cretinous and banal, with the Russian guy salivating over a woman doing a striptease by bursting balloons tied to her knickers.

Piper makes a game attempt at being sexy, but her character is dull and hackneyed. Many of her TV customers might want their money back.

Read the full review and here’s more about the series and info on ‘Sex Traffic’

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BOOKS: On surviving icepicks in the brain: ‘My Lobotomy’

By Ray Bennett

Charles Fleming, journalist, novelist and one of my very best of friends, has a new book out titled “My Lobotomy” written with a man named Howard Dully who underwent the most hideous surgery you can imagine when he was 12.

My_lobotomy_cov-330Fleming, a former reporter for Newsweek, Vanity Fair and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, wrote one of the best Hollywood biographies ever published, “High Concept,” about the late producer Don Simpson (“Beverly Hills Cop”).

His new one has received great reviews and is available on Amazon.

He writes from his home in Los Angeles: “It is a gripping, heart-breaking and ultimately quite redemptive story about the first-ever lobotomy survivor to come forward and tell his story. He was one of the youngest people ever to undergo a transorbital or ‘icepick’ lobotomy. The story of how he got the procedure, what it did to him and the nightmare it made of his life makes exciting reading. He’s a terrific guy with a terrific story to tell.”

Read the New York Times review and here’s Charles Fleming’s website.

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THEATRE REVIEW: ‘Parade’ at the Donmar Warehouse

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Tony-winning choreographer Rob Ashford’s Donmar Warehouse revival of the 1998 American musical “Parade,” which is based on the notorious 1913 murder trial of Leo Frank, is an enthralling testament to the wisdom of revisiting strong material with a fresh vision.

With a rich variety of musical influences including ragtime, gospel, folk, and blues, Jason Robert Brown’s songs illuminate all the raging emotional and political currents of the period and his lyrics rank with Stephen Sondheim’s. The acting and singing are splendid and Ashford’s choreography makes great use of the small Donmar stage.

The show, co-conceived by Harold Prince, won Tony Awards for its book by Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Last Night of Ballyhoo”) and music and lyrics by Brown (“Urban Cowboy,” “The Last Five Years”). But it had just 85 performances at the Lincoln Theater Center’s Vivian Baumont Theatre and received lukewarm reviews.

The story of Leo Frank, a Jewish bookkeeper from Brooklyn who was convicted of murdering Atlanta girl Mary Phagan and subsequently lynched, became a national scandal just before World War I.

It spawned a great many books and was the basis of a highly regarded 1937 feature film titled They Won’t Forget directed by Mervyn LeRoy. A miniseries, The Murder of Mary Phagan, starring Jack Lemmon, Richard Jordan, Robert Prosky, Charles S. Dutton and Kevin Spacey, was a hit on NBC in 1988.

The musical, named for events that take place on Georgia’s celebration of Confederate Memorial Day, was criticised in America for its loaded emphasis on the martyrdom of an innocent man hanged by bigots without providing the necessary context, and for the muted attention it paid to the love story of Frank and his wife Lucille.

In directing the revival, Ashford (who was assistant choreographer on the original New York production) has done much to illustrate time and place. He uses Brown’s excellent songs to portray a volatile Deep South era that mixed Civil War regret with unresolved racism and the influx of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia.

While the tragedy and horror of Leo Frank’s fate are rendered fully, Ashford’s staging also puts the marriage of Leo and Lucille at centre stage, which allows Bertie Carvel and Lara Pulver to balance the story’s grim elements with the soaring optimism of genuine love and devotion.

Carvel makes Frank appear cold and distant until late in the play and Pulver is heartbreaking as Lucille. Escoffery delivers a sly and powerful chain-gang blues song and Stuart Matthew Price makes Mary’s jealous boyfriend seem both innocent and sinister.

The basic facts of the case were simple. New Yorker Frank had moved unhappily to Atlanta to take a job at his southern Jewish wife’s uncle’s factory where he fussed over every dime. When young Mary Phagan (Jayne Wisener) went to pick up her pitiful paycheck, he was the last to see her before she was found murdered.

Astonishingly for that time and place, a black witness named Jim Conley (Shaun Escoffery) was believed when he accused Frank of the girl’s murder. Ambitious local politicians and ruthless newspapermen conspired to ramp up emotions with the evil rationalisation that it would make a change to hang a Jew rather than a black man.

The aftermath of the Leo Frank case saw the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan and the founding of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. In 1986, the state of Georgia pardoned Frank on the grounds that the state had failed to protect him. Society’s tendency to rush to judgment and the media’s willingness to fan the flames remain, however, and the final scenes of Parade are all the more powerful for being still so sadly topical.

Venue: Donmar Warehouse, runs through Nov. 24; Cast: Lara Pulver, Bertie Carvel, Britt Craig, Gary Milner, Jayne Wisener, Shaun Escoffery, Stuart Matthew Price; Book: Alfred Uhry; Music & lyrics: Jason Robert Brown; Co-conceived by: Harold Prince; Director: Rob Ashford; Choreographer: Rob Ashford; Designer: Christopher Oram; Lighting designer: Neil Austen; Musical director: Thomas Murray; Sound designers: Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster for Autograph; Orchestrator: David Cullen; Piano & percussion: Thomas Murray; Violin: Shelley Van Loen; Viola: Lesley Wynne; Cello: Ben Trigg; Bass: Stephen Warner; Clarinets: Steve Pierce; Horn: James Palmer; Percussion & drums: Neil Rowland; Accordion & piano: Ian Watson.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter

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FILM REVIEW: Jodie Foster in Neil Jordan’s ‘The Brave One’

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By Ray Bennett

Director Neil Jordan says that “The Brave One” is a vigilante story that he shot as a horror film.

Jodie Foster plays an intelligent woman who discovers that she is capable not only of wreaking violence on the thugs who killed her lover and beat her within an inch of her life, but also of rendering street justice to other perpetrators.

Jordan says, “It’s the story of a woman who finds this thing inside her that she didn’t know was there. It’s like an out-of-body experience. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of justifiable payback; that the victim has the right. What interested me was the spectacle of this woman and the strange way that my sympathies never departed from her.”

Foster’s star turn will please audiences but the film cannot escape its core theme, which is that anyone is capable of becoming a killer and might just get away with it. The issue goes back to “Death Wish,” the 1974 Michael Winner film starring Charles Bronson, based on Brian Garfield’s novel.

To put the gun in a woman’s hand raises many questions that the film, as good as it is, does not attempt to answer. The film is very well constructed with New York made to look dark and threatening in Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography while Dario Marianelli’s score serves both action and intrigue effectively.

Foster is outstanding as the troubled and extremely resourceful radio reporter who picks up a gun to fight not only her demons but also those of other people. Terrence Howard is equally strong as a cop who befriends the woman and then begins to suspect what she is doing. Nicky Katt delivers some funny lines as a fellow detective and Mary Steenburgen is good as the radio boss.

 

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