Tag Archives: thriller

Crime d’Amour (2010)

I love watching Kristin Scott Thomas in French films. For one thing, she’s easier for me to understand than native French speakers, but apart from that, there’s just something about her; she’s so tightly wound, you know that when she does something nasty (A Handful of Dust) or unravels (Leaving), it’s going to be spectacular. This brings me to the 2010 film, Crime d’Amour (Love Crime) from director Alain Corneau.

The film begins as an exploration of the relationship between two women–icy executive Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her younger protegé, Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier). The two women work in the French office of a global corporation which is headquartered in New York. The film opens with a scene of the two women working late at night, but it’s not all work, and Christine’s moves are … how shall I say it … more than a bit inappropriate. This clever scene establishes the subtle power politics between boss and employee. The boss, Christine, in this case, has a certain leeway when it comes to her behaviour, and this leaves Isabelle in the position of being confused by the relationship. Is Christine crossing the line because she sees Isabelle as a protegé, is she trying to be friendly, or is there a sexual undercurrent underfoot? Before there’s an answer to that intriguing question, Philippe (Patrick Mille)– Christine’s homme du jour appears and breaks up the evening. Status wise, Philippe is another underling, and Christine’s choice of man seems to speak volumes of what she wants in a relationship.

On some level, Christine and Isabelle appear to be a study in contrasts. While Christine’s home is sumptuous, elegant and yet still colorfully comfortable, Isabelle’s home is sterile in its meticulous order. This attention to detail makes Isabelle a great employee, and that leads to Christine glibly putting her name on Isabelle’s work. This skullduggery may lead to a promotion for Christine to the New York office. Isabelle doesn’t seem to mind working under Christine’s shadow and allowing her boss to reap all the credit for her work. This changes, however, after Isabelle goes on a business trip with Patrick.

There’s one great moment (before Isabelle goes on that business trip) when Christine advises Isabelle to “do something” with her hair. Isabelle obediently releases her shoulder length blonde hair from a tight bun, and Christine tells her to put it back up. Ouch: the implication is that Isabelle looks bad no matter what she does to herself.

After Christine realises that Isabelle is no longer under her thumb and may jeopardise any potential promotion to New York, Christine begins punishing Isabelle through office confrontations. And Isabelle, the employee, must take these subtle insults or move on to another job, but as the film continues, the insults become more transparent and even more humiliating. Isabelle absorbs a certain amount of humiliation from Christine, and these actions appear to erode at the younger woman’s confidence.

The film moves from the treacherous quagmire of office politics to thriller, and while this is done seamlessly, it’s also a disappointment for this viewer. The film shows Christine’s cruel cat-and-mouse manoeuvres with Isabelle who takes it … up to a point. Crime d’Amour is an unusual film for its exploration of the unique, unfathomable and sometime torturous relationship between boss and employee. Outsiders initially notice nothing, and the tension between the two women is real and untenable, but when the film morphs to thriller, well, it becomes much more predictable and at times the plot stretches credibility. In spite of its faults, however, the film is still good entertainment, and it’s well worth catching.

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Take Me (2001)

 Take Me is a six part, made-for-British television thriller starring Robson Green as cutthroat businessman Jack. When the film begins Jack and his attractive wife, Kay (Beth Goddard) are house hunting and fall in love with a brand-new home in a swanky suburb. Waving their city friends goodbye, Jack, Kay and their two children move into their grand new home.

take-meIt’s not long before we realise that the new home is a feeble attempt to revive a troubled marriage. Kay, it seems has had an affair with Jack’s best friend and work colleague, and while Kay has promised to now behave, the new home is supposed to represent a fresh start.

But Jack and Kay picked the wrong neighbourhood….

The boxes are barely unpacked when Jack and Kay are invited to a neighbourhood party. Upon arrival, someone greets Jack with a container full of car keys, and Jack is asked if he’d like to make an offering. Jack may be a cutthroat businessman, but he’s a straight arrow, and it takes him a while to catch on to the fact that he and Kay have stumbled into a nest of wife swappers.

One of the biggest problems with the film is that it’s just too long. Things didn’t really get peculiar until episode three, and in the meantime there’s wife swapping galore. And some of this gets just plain silly. Kay’s sister and her hubbie, for example, are part of the wife swapping set. It doesn’t take Einstein to guess that these parties–based on opportunities for sex and games that involve sex will become awfully difficult if they involve your sister and brother-in-law. And that’s not even mentioning the neighbourhood psycho. Add sex tapes, a distinct lack of common sense, and a lack of contraceptives and you have a lurid Peyton Place sort of scenario complete with characters who can’t see trouble until it hits them upside the head.

Robson Green delivers a credible performance, but he’s still hampered by a script that makes little sense. The blame-game scenes between Jack and Kay were simply laughable. How can these two harp on about saving their marriage when they are ditching their kids and hopping into the sack with all and sundry? They certainly didn’t convince me that they wanted to ‘save’ their marriage, and personally I think they just stayed married so they could keep getting invited to those damn parties.

Take Me also includes some silly, meaningless subplots that could so easily been trimmed–Jack’s father and his silly letters, for example. This made for a painful 300 minutes, and while I kept expecting this to get better, it didn’t

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Secret Smile (2005)

 

secret-smileSecret Smile is an intriguing two-part, made-for-British television thriller that charts the chain of revenge that follows the break up of a casual one-night stand between London architect, Miranda Cotton (Kate Ashfield) and the creepy Brendan Block (David Tennant).

Career-minded Miranda takes a chance on a complete stranger and rapidly lives to regret it as the sociopathic Block smarms and worms his way into the lives of Miranada’s family and friends. Soon her life is a complete nightmare, but Block is so smooth, so amenable that no one–including Miranda’s family–believes that Block is a total psycho. It’s not long before Miranda begins to wonder just what Block is capable of and how far he’s prepared to go to make her pay. But it takes Miranda a while to realize that the manipulative Block is playing with her and that he dictates both the game and the rules. With someone like Block, you either walk away or change the rules. Miranda chooses the latter.

Block as the enigmatic, calculating ex-boyfriend from hell is entirely credible. I did, however, find myself getting rather annoyed with Miranda, and saying things such as, “you idiot” to the screen when Miranda caves and Block scores a point. But my annoyance with Miranda was really just a manifestation of how wrapped up I was in the drama.

The ending was a little implausible, but it was definitely dramatic enough to match the rest of this tale. Based on the novel by Nikki French, the film is directed Christopher Menaul.

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Soundless (2004)

“He tailors his method to his victims.”

The German film Soundless (Lautlos) begins with a high-tech surveillance team spying on a man who’s drinking a glass of wine outside of his apartment while a blonde woman sleeps soundly in bed just a few feet away. For all their high tech equipment–including sophisticated bugging devices–the surveillance team misses the sneaky hooded assassin who shoots the man they’re supposed to be watching. After killing his victim, the assassin robs the apartment, and ogles the sleeping blonde–a one-night stand named Nina (Nadja Uhl).

The hired assassin is Viktor (Joachim Krol)–a man who is–as the title suggests–a “soundless” professional. And from this point, an investigation begins with determined policeman Lang (Christian Berkel) doggedly pursuing any clues the assassin left behind. Viktor is portrayed as the ultimate professional, and he’s supposed to retire after his next job. While Lang hunts for the identity of the assassin, a relationship springs up between Viktor and Nina, and there’s obviously a lot more to Nina than meets the eye. Written and directed by Mennan Yapo, Soundless is a highly stylized, glossy thriller that unfortunately falls down when it comes to plot. Viktor is portrayed as this assassin who possesses almost superhuman qualities–so he is able to off people with cold mechanical precision, and yet the film immediately makes Viktor commit a very stupid error when he strikes up a relationship with the tasty blonde.

Detective Lang is supposed to be Victor’s juggernaut, and he’s also portrayed with superhuman qualities–which result in a sort of ESP connection with his quarry. The plot’s holes, fancifulness and hopeless improbabilities tested my patience, and ultimately Soundless reminded me of a German version of a Matt Damon thriller. Now if you’re a fan of Matt Damon thrillers (The Bourne Identity), then you may enjoy Soundless–even if you don’t normally like German films, but I was hoping for something along the lines of Run Lola Run or The Warrior and The Princess, and this film did not reach that level. In German with English subtitles.

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Nadie Conoce a Nadie (1999)

“I often have the feeling that I’m passing through my life.”

The slick stylish Spanish thriller Nobody Knows Anybody (Nadie Conoce a Nadie) is set in Seville during Holy Week in the year 2000. Newspaper crossword puzzle developer and would-be writer Simon Cardenas (Eduardo Noriega) is struggling as usual with his novel when he receives a cryptic telephone message ordering him to use the word “adversary” as an answer to an upcoming crossword clue. Since the message also contained threats, Simon does what he’s told, and he soon finds himself embroiled in a nightmarish sequence of events.

Directed by Mateo Gil, Nobody Knows Anything opens with a scene of a man stabbed to death with a crucifix through his heart, and this scene is one of the ideas that feeds the notion you are about to see some sort of horror film with religious overtones, but the plot moves away from the horror aspect into straight thriller territory. The film–which owes much of its style to American thrillers–is slickly produced, and the exotic settings of the sights and sounds of Seville help, but the preposterous plot with its huge gaps in logic and implausibility ultimately left this viewer disappointed and feeling a bit cheated by the experience.

I was intrigued at first by the film and drawn into the plot. However, once the plot and the mystery aspect became clear (and I can’t give away too much here), the film became silly and trite. There’s little character development–our hero is a flat, dull passive character, and the film’s emphasis is on the thrill aspect. A slick product that is ultimately empty and really ridiculous, this film is in Spanish with English subtitles.

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