Who the fuck are you?
Are you a fan of home-invasion movies where the concept of revenge keeps coming back, then this might be a must see for you. I say “maybe” because you’ll have to wait patiently for the first forty minutes before you realize what it’s all about. The film “Fractured” is unquestionably masterful when the surprising twist kicks in. Trust me on this, it ensures a completely different view on the story. Something that suddenly gives the two main characters Michael and Rebecca (Karl Davies and April Pearson) a completely different personality. A unique momentum in an otherwise very clichéd story. One that stimulates your curiosity so that you’ll sit up straight again.
It starts pleasantly.
It all starts quite pleasantly with a young couple driving an old Volkswagen beetle on English country roads in the middle of the night. On their way to a cottage in the country so they can enjoy a relaxing weekend far away from the stress. I suppose. A flat tire makes sure tension increases with Rebecca, in particular, reacting rather ill-tempered. Tiredness apparently gets to her. And when they stop a bit later at a gas station, the atmosphere becomes grim. Partly thanks to the strange behavior of the attendant. And so the pleasant atmosphere is gone. At that time, I thought these young people would be abducted by a psychopathic, cannibalistic family living in this no man’s land and waiting for innocent tourists. Something similar as in “The Texas chainsaw massacre”.
Look out! Here’s the twist.
Once arrived at the country house, everything seems to be going smooth again. The luggage is being unpacked. Rebecca takes a bath as relaxation. And Michael prepares a nice dinner complete with candles and wine. A romantic moment to recover from the long trip. But Rebecca has a feeling someone’s lurking around and that they are constantly being observed. Her shoes are suddenly gone without a trace and shadows move through the house. And at that moment I thought it was something supernatural that was happening here. Until the film makes a leap back in time and the sneaky twist presents itself. And as the second half of the film progresses, everything becomes a bit clear and you gradually begin to realize what’s really going on. Elaborating more is an unacceptable fact. I certainly don’t want to deprive those who haven’t seen the film of the pleasure of watching it.
Not original, but recommendable.
So this low-budget English thriller is full of plus points. Even though the budget is limited, I thought that the camera work looked solid. And the location where it all plays out was limited but adequate. Perhaps the fact that it was mostly dark, was a bit exaggerated. I still wonder why people go exploring in a house in the middle of the night, without even turning on the lights. The acting was also of a decent level. I thought the acting of Karl Davies and April Pearson was extremely credible. The chemistry between the two was realistic. I especially liked April Pearson (and not just because she looks damn good). The way in which she plays her personality bears witness to certain professionalism. And then also some (minor) negative points. The story itself isn’t really original (except the twist of course). It feels repetitive at a certain point, which is self-evident because of the required flashback. And the end is somewhat disappointing. But the movie is still recommendable. Thanks to the short playing time, this is something you can enjoy in between.
My rating 6/10
The Way Back: Thanks To Ben Affleck This Movie Effortlessly Exceeds The Average
I’m surprised you could keep him out of the bar
long enough to hold practice.
There are lots of similar sports movies like “The Way Back“. Moralistic stories about how a trainer manages to bring a floundering team to unprecedented heights. Preferably, the team consists of a few foul-mouthed hotheads who want to impress the others by acting tough. Usually, they have a talent for the sport they practice, but lack of discipline makes them miss constancy. To the annoyance of the appointed coach at that moment. Of course, they are allergic to any type of authoritarian behavior. Until the new coach comes up. Preferably an old sports star who can look back on a successful sports career and who comes to the rescue by using clever pedagogical techniques. First of all, he gives each of the team members a figurative kick in the butt. Suspends the most rebellious pain in the ass (who of course comes back crawling to ask if he can be re-included in the team because the sport is vital for him). Then the grueling training sessions begin in such a way that this bunch of misfits finally starts winning games and slowly propel them to stardom. You saw it in “Coach Carter”, “Slap Shot” and to a lesser extent in “Major League”. “The Way Back” follows this same scenario. Only here the coach is also struggling with his personal demons.
You’ll always find a reason to start drinking.
I’m not a real Ben Affleck fan. Not that I think he’s a bad actor. Maybe the movie choices he made were a bit unfortunate. With “Daredevil” as the most terrible career choice, in my opinion. But here Affleck shows that he does have acting talent. Perhaps personal life experiences are the reason why he was able to empathize with the role of coach Jack easily. A tormented person who lost everything after a tragic event and sought refuge in drinking. Something Affleck has experience with since he has already admired the inside of a rehabilitation center several times. Probably because of this that the scenes during which he carelessly drinks, look so realistic. As well as the way he behaves when he’s not in a bar. The manipulation, the sneaking around, and the search for excuses. Typical behavior of an addict trying to hide his weakness. “The Way Back” tries to portray this addiction meticulously. If you see the umpteenth beercan disappear from the fridge while a spare one is already put in the freezer to stay cold, you as a viewer know that Jack is not a social drinker but a problem drinker with a fixed routine.
Impressive acting in a not so impressive movie.
Like many other film productions, “The Way Back” has been disadvantaged by the Corona pandemic. Had the original release date not been shifted from late 2019 to March this year, the damage would have been limited. Hence Warner Bross’s decision to release this movie directly on various platforms such as iTunes and Prime video among others. Now, I myself don’t consider it a requirement to watch “The way back” in a cinema. Apart from the admirable acting of Affleck, this film is nothing more than an average film that doesn’t impress in terms of originality. It seems as if a pre-printed checklist has been used for this type of film. A group of young people with a wrong attitude and who, as a basketball team, wallows in the role of the underdog. Check! Ex basketball player whose life is in a downward spiral. Check! Miraculous revival of the despised basketball team. Check! Family tragedy that ruined the coach’s life. Check! Obviously a relapse happens. Check! Once again a miraculous resurgence leading to a happy ending. Check! It feels like a three-pointer every time a check is placed on this list.
Give it a try.
In short. The film won’t win a prize in the category of originality. The already well-trodden paths of previously released sports dramas are followed too carefully. But what Ben Affleck demonstrates here (and I know I’m repeating myself) makes that this movie effortlessly exceeds the average. Only the way and period in which he defeated his demons, felt romanticized. And finally, you should not confuse this film with the 2010 film of the same name about a Polish prisoner who could escape from a Russian gulag with some fellow sufferers. The only similarity the Ben Affleck film has with the latter is that the road followed by the group of young people is also full of obstacles. And giving up is also not an option. So if you run into it anywhere on a VOD channel, give it a try. It’s not really a waste of time.
My rating 7/10
Z: Its Presence Is Clearly Felt In Every Dark Grim Scene
Z likes it dark.
Movies with creepy little boys. With “Z” you also have the feeling you are getting yet another horror in which such a demonic boy is in command. Only recently I saw “The Prodigy” where the son of the house slowly develops a deviating pattern of behavior. That movie was about reincarnation. In “Z” it’s about having an imaginary friend. When Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) introduces his friend “Z” to his parents, they don’t really worry at first. They think it’s probably just a phase their kid has to struggle through. They even think it’s cute, in a certain way. Until suddenly school friends don’t want anything to do with Josh anymore, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) becomes aware of strange things and finally, Joshua is also suspended from school because of intolerable behavior. At that moment, Elizabeth starts to realize that this imaginary friend has a tremendous influence on her sweet son.
Just an ordinary horror, I thought.
Until halfway through the film it seems like an ordinary average horror. Including, something terrible happening to one of Joshua’s school friends (with or without Z’s collaboration) and Joshua revealing a horrible drawing in his bedroom. Believe me. Draw a black top hat on the head of this scary creature and you have the twin brother of “The Babadook” in front of you. Now is the time for Elizabeth to sound the alarm, while dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) is still in a phase of denial and suffers from utter blindness, and get in touch with psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) to present the problem. The well-known tricks from the horror genre are being used in “Z” of course. So again the shady spots with scary sounds. Toys that come to life. And nocturnal wanderings through the semi-darkness (while every sensible person would turn on the light anyway) with a few jump-scares as a result. Even a creepy bath scene couldn’t fail to come.
Hey, it turns out to be completely something different.
And yet the film cleverly changes the mood and shifts the focus from a scary invisible friend to a long-forgotten childhood trauma that set the whole mechanism in motion. And before you realize it, the creepy horror story has given way to a sort of psychological thriller. From here, Joshua is no longer central, but the story focuses on Elizabeth. And frankly, the way Keegan Connor Tracy gives shape to this character was of exceptionally high level. An obviously confused person who slowly but surely sinks further into complete madness as a tormented soul. The father’s character contrasts sharply with that of his family members. In the end, I found it a meaningless person and quite implausible as a father figure. On the one hand, he said nothing about the red notes from school that exposed Joshua’s misconduct. On the other hand, he’s blind with anger when hearing that his son has been prescribed medication without his knowledge. Ah, as always in horror movies, it’s usually the fathers who navigate through the story carefree and never notice anything suspicious. It’s usually the mother figure who experiences strange sensations and concludes that disaster is imminent.
It’s not such a scary movie.
I can’t say the film “Z” was really scary. Maybe deliberately not depicting the phenomenon “Z” explicitly, does cause some tension. A cleverly applied gimmick so the viewer’s imagination has to do most of the work (with a terrifying wall drawing as inspiration). Ultimately, it’s mainly the mood that’s essential in this film. In hindsight, the film covers different topics. Youthful growing pains and parental concerns. Nightmarish phantoms and unresolved trauma. As a parent, you expect your offspring to inherit some of your character traits or personal qualities. However, in “Z” this legacy is not something you’d expect. And even though this delusion isn’t excessively visualized here, its presence is clearly felt in every dark, grim scene.
My rating 6/10
The Banker: A Must-See For Sure
Sometimes you need to take a step back
and enjoy what you’ve accomplished, baby.
What an amusing movie this was. Such a movie you start watching and before you know it, the end credits roll across your screen. Even though the subject won’t get you very excited. The world of real estate and banking. A world populated with stiffs in perfectly fitting suits who prefer to juggle with repayment schedules and capitalization rates while using a jargon that a normal human can’t make heads or tails of. I sometimes have my doubts about whether they understand it thoroughly themselves. And the reason why it became an entertaining film is not only due to the packaging but also because of the Holy Trinity Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. A colorful (pun not intended) cast that effortlessly works through dialogues and plays so naturally that it seems as if they have been working together for years.
The racial issue.
In addition to the real estate market as a subject, there’s also the issue of racial discrimination that was still visible in the U.S. from the 50s. A black man who wants to settle in a white neighborhood wasn’t so obvious. Let alone that he could also take out a loan to buy and sell real estate in such a neighborhood. Hence the idea of Bernard (Anthony Mackie), a Texas-born African-American who is firmly convinced to succeed in his intent to make money from doing business rather than manual labor, to recruit Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) as a business partner and use Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) as a straw man. Well, they aren’t exactly ideal partners. The first is a flamboyant bon vivant and blabbermouth who comes across as an untrustworthy slick. And Matt is a hard worker with a good heart. Only he’s not really blessed with a top-level brain like Bernard.
A light-hearted first part.
The first half of the movie is the more light-hearted part. The start of the Bernard Empire and the process of turning Matt Steiner into a convincing businessman. For me, this was the most hilarious part. The golf lessons where Samuel L. Jackson excels as the extravagant golf teacher and the math part Bernard takes care of. The amusing discussion that Steiner had with a wealthy man while trying to buy his building, was the ultimate climax of this period of training. And when this first chapter is over and the gentlemen are gradually taking over the real estate market in California, the next chapter pops up. The more serious part of the movie.
Bernard’s second plan didn’t go as planned.
The first part not only showed how the two gentlemen managed to circumvent the discriminatory way of doing business in a devious way. It also showed how black people were deprived of the right to develop themselves in American society during that period. Loans and property sales were simply forbidden. Bernard’s plan to subsequently buy a bank in Texas, where segregation was still very much present, in order to support his black fellow man, is what you see in this tailpiece. Needless to say, this wasn’t a smooth operation.
“The Banker” is based on true facts and I believe it truly shows how it went in the U.S. and how people were deprived of decent housing. Perhaps Bernard Garrett intended to act as a benefactor and pave the way for African Americans. Maybe he was doing it out of self-interest, too, simply to prove to himself and his father that you could succeed if you firmly believe in it. Anyway, “The Banker” is a great movie with a serious part and a very entertaining part. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s the cast that takes the whole thing to a higher level. A must-see for sure.
‘The Banker,’ is now available on Apple TV+
PS. I wrote this a week ago. But due to the situation in the U.S. right now, this movie is even more current and confrontational than before.