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‘Hemingway’ is outrageous, ‘Gambit’ is ho-hum and ‘Proxy’ is wicked

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Among the new movies that were released Friday, April 25 are a crime dramedy about a convicted safe cracker, a comedic caper penned by Joel and Ethan Coen and a dramatic thriller that aims to throw viewers off-kilter.

Dom Hemingway

Jude Law plays a notorious safe-cracker who, after spending 12 years in prison for keeping his mouth shut, is back on the streets of London looking to collect what he is owed. (R - 93 minutes)

Dom Hemingway’s” every spoken line of dialogue is violent, profane and perverse but by God is it not also poetic. The new crime dramedy proves that writer/director Richard Shepard has a way with words. It also proves that when star Jude Law delivers said words, the result is a tour de force performance that will sear itself into your memory. Having said that, after a fantastic first half of nothing but non-stop outrageousness, the movie’s momentum comes to a screeching halt and, save for a brief safe-cracking scene, the story slowly rolls to its resolution. (Thumbs Up!)

Gambit

Colin Firth plays an art curator who decides to seek revenge on his abusive boss (Alan Rickman) by conning him into buying a fake Monet. However his plan requires the help of an eccentric and unpredictable Texas rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz). (PG-13 - 89 minutes)

Gambit” is middling at best, failing to arouse any excitement or enthusiasm from its viewers. Perhaps the new comedic caper, which is a remake of a 1960’s flick by the same title, would pass for entertainment if it had been released in the mid-90’s but the ho-hum humor is exceptionally disappointing given the level of talent involved both in front of and behind the camera. Stars Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci turn in charmingly eccentric performances but you would never have guessed that this stock screenplay was penned by Joel and Ethan Coen. (Thumbs Down!)

Proxy

Alexia Rasmussen plays a woman who, having suffered a miscarriage after being brutally attacked by a hooded assailant, finds consolation in a support group. However, friendship and understanding can be very dangerous things when accepted by the wrong people. (R - 120 minutes)

Props to “Proxy” for trying something different and completely unexpected but the new dramatic thriller is so twisted - or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that its characters are so twisted - that it is almost impossible to remain interested and invested in the tale that unfolds. What starts out as a slow trudge through sadness with a few glimmers of intrigue along the way takes a sharp turn at the halfway point and becomes something psychologically wicked. It would have worked if only its characters’ motivations were clearer and its story had not left so many loony loose ends. (Thumbs Down!)

The Railway Man

Colin Firth plays a former British Army officer who, having been tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II, discovers that the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him. (R - 116 minutes)

If “The Railway Man” were a train, it would be one that chugs along the tracks at a pace that could be bested by a handicapped sloth that has been dunked in molasses. Even with the star-power of stars Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, the new biopic struggles to work up enough steam to pique moviegoers’ interest much less keep it for its 2-hour runtime. The worst part of all is that it does not do justice to the man whose story is at the center of it while bouncing back and forth between the past and present. (Thumbs Down!)

The Retrieval

Ashton Sanders plays a boy who, on the outskirts of the U.S. Civil War, is sent north by his bounty hunter gang to retrieve a wanted man (Tishuan Scott). (R - 92 minutes)

“The Retrieval” is such a laboring experience that it feels a lot longer than it really is. Moreover, not a whole lot of actual action occurs in writer/director Chris Eska’s historical western, which is more or less a meditative journey across a volatile landscape during which two people engage in a conversation that encourages viewers to ponder the complexities of morals and self-respect. On one hand, the film is visually stunning - authentically evoking every emotion Eska asks of his audience - and its ideas are admirable. But the timing of this tale is truly trying thereby thwarting the efficacy of said strengths.

Walking with the Enemy

Jonas Armstrong plays a young man who who, in Hungary during the final months of World War ll, sets out to find his displaced family by stealing a Nazi uniform to pose as an officer. He undertakes extraordinary measures to reroute his family and other Jews to safety by disrupting the activities of the German occupiers. (NR - 100 minutes)

“Walking with the Enemy” features some impressive production values given its smaller-studio release and some pretty outstanding performances from its actors - most of whom are relatively unknown and others (ie. Ben Kingsley) who benefit from our familiarity. However, while the new historical drama tells an interesting tale that is fairly original, the entire project feels as though it was cut from a run-of-the-mill mold in that it progresses with a robotic rigidity. Reading more like a textbook than a free-flowing narrative, emotion is all but missing in this otherwise well-meaning movie. (Thumbs Down!)

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