Village Voice 04.19.2017 : Page 47

47 April 19 April 25, 2017 what would normally be a brief shoot-out scene to the majority of the movie’s 90-minute running time. On the sur-face, this reductio ad absurdum has a kind of pleasing Conceptual-art clarity; Free Fire ’s animating idea could serve as the prompt for a performance piece, one that’s all climax, no denouement. But Wheatley’s gallows humor has limsy scaffolding: Only the spectators hang. Free Fire inds Wheatley — who co-wrote and co-edited the ilm with his regular collaborator (and spouse) Amy Jump — returning to the 1970s, the same era of his previous feature, last year’s botched J.G. Ballard adaptation High-Rise . And like that earlier movie, which was conined to a 40-story Bru-talist tower, an ediice in which the ten-ants descended deeper into savagery, Free Fire takes place almost entirely in one building, a derelict warehouse in Boston where bodies start to pile up. Wheatley’s ilms were once full of the unexpected, the uncommonly ex-plored. Down Terrace (2009), his irst feature, about the pathetic dad-son kingpins of a two-bit syndicate in Brigh-ton, plays as a zingy, caustic kitchen-sink black comedy — one clogged up with a fetid hairball of ilial rage, paren-tal scorn, regression, and humiliation. Free Fire is Wheatley’s sixth ilm; follow-ing High-Rise , which does little more than dramatize the tableaux of bedlam and rot laid out in Ballard’s source text, it suggests that Wheatley may now only be interested in staging orgies of vio-lence rather than thinking much about the psychological writhing that leads to them. MELISSA ANDERSON The Promise Directed by Terry George Open Road Opens April 21 T erry George’s The Promise , a handsome but lumpish ilm whose creators are too honest to lie to us about individual heroism, has the rare good fortune of turning up in theaters just weeks after another ilm showed how necessary a movie like this is. The second star-driven war-adventure ilm of 2017 to set a cross-cultural love triangle against the horror of the Armenian Genocide, The Promise would outclass its forerunner, The Ottoman Lieutenant , even if it weren’t manifestly better in its story and acting. George and Robin Swicord have also built their screenplay around three conlicted lovers (played by Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale), but here the history (thankfully) overwhelms the romance. Nobody in The Promise has to point out that their love problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, be-cause that crazy world is forever trying to kill them and everyone they care about. Rather than sweat over who’s crushing on whom, the protagonists endeavor to survive, offer aid to refu-gees, and let the world know the truth about a campaign of mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians. As drama and spectacle, it’s not quite irst-rate — I rarely feared for these characters or believed that I knew their souls, and George is too much of a humanist to wring real-life tragedy for cineplex sus-pense. But as a moral corrective and a call to decency it moved me. How rare is it that so much movie money has been spent on not killing, on demon-strating — here through a corny yet moving coda — that, in a crisis, acts of kindness shape the world for the better for generations to come? ALAN SCHERSTUHL W The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki Directed by Juho Kuosmanen Mubi Opens April 21, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas ho is Olli Mäki, and why should you care about the happiest day of his life? These might not seem like urgent questions if you don’t possess a wealth of knowledge concerning Finnish boxers active in the early 1960s, but co-writer/director Juho Kuos-manen’s answers prove nuanced and endearing. A hit at Cannes (where it won the Prix Un Certain Regard) and its native Finland (eight prizes at the Jussi Awards, including Best Film), The Hap-piest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki tells of the pugilist’s Rocky -like ight with the then-world champion. Like its subject, much of the ilm’s appeal comes from how humble and unassuming it is. This is among the least blustery biopics/un-derdog sports dramas you’re ever likely to see, so much so that it barely be-longs to either genre — anyone un-aware that the “Baker of Kokkola” is a real person might reasonably conclude that Kuosmanen had simply made a ilm about an amateur boxer who gets an unlikely opportunity after turning pro.There’s no training montage (or any music at all, for that matter), and Kuos-manen never makes a villain of the reigning, defending, undisputed cham-pion. Instead we see Mäki quietly at-tempt to become the best version of himself both in and outside the ring while even more quietly falling in love. (Also: a bunch of naked innish dudes blowing off steam by tooling around in the sauna.) Olli Mäki isn’t a knockout, but it does go the distance. MICHAEL NORDINE Film N r: In B&W and Color (with a dash of Chandler) SLACK BAY STARTS FRIDAY! APR 21, 23 27: 1:30 , 4:00, 6:30, 9:00 APR 22: 1:30 , 4:00, 6:30, 9:15 Q&A WITH DIRECTOR BRUNO DUMONT ON SAT, 4/22, 6:30PM SCREENING! VILLAGE 35mm 35mm 35mm Murder, My Sweet Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix The Blue Dahlia Sat., April 22 6:30PM William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Ted Danson Body Heat I CALLED HIM MORGAN APR 19 27: 3:00 , 9:00 Fri., April 21 8:00PM Sat., April 22 8:30PM I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO APR 19 21, 23 27: 1:00 , 5:00, 7:00 APR 22: 1:00 , 7:00 Each film $8 Adults, $6 Seniors & Kids. Combo pricing for seeing more than one. BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK MUST END THURSDAY! FREE! 35mm Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell Plus Live Organ Concert by Nathan Avakian His Girl Friday APR 19 & 20: 12:00 , 2:15, 4:30, 6:45, 8:45 Presented in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of The Jersey Journal Sat., April 29 7:30PM Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center 144 West 65th Street Walter Reade Theater 165 West 65th Street cd Loew’s Jersey Theatre -54 Journal Square, Jersey City -Across from JSQ PATH Station. PATH Trains to/from WTC & 33rd St. run around the clock & on weekends. Discount Parking in Square Ramp Garage 201.798.6055 •

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