JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Hotel Mumbai | Bull | Us (Directors: Anthony Maras, Anne Silverstein, Jordan Peele) - December 20, 2019
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Hotel Mumbai | Bull | Us

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Three disparate films

Here are three films that tried their best, but fell somewhat short of compelling cinema.

Hotel Mumbai
123 minutes, 2019
Anthony Maras
Three stars

It couldn’t happen here

The horrific attacks in Mumbai (2008), gave the world pause yet again to wonder, collectively, why we can’t get along. In Maras’ (along with co-writer John Collee) take on only the siege of the Taj Hotel (there were many targets: 172 dead), the emphasis is more on the bloody action than anywhere near a thoughtful discourse as to how this could have and happened and why the Indian authorities were so ill prepared. No worries on that count: it’s a movie, not a debate.

A few devices are employed to keep the plot moving and, hopefully, add depth to character. One of the least satisfying is waiter Arjun (Dev Patel artfully uses his visage to speak volumes when words fail to capture the intensity of facing almost certain death at any moment), arriving at work without proper dress shoes, then forcing his large feet into the executive chef’s (stoically done up by Anupam Kher) much smaller spare pair. Having a couple of the married guests (Arnie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi—both hitting all of their markers) try to keep themselves and most especially their newborn child out of harm’s way, eventually has its payoff with the incantation of a prayer the frantic, infidel mother ought not to have known (according to the uncaring gunmen: Amandeep Singh, Suhail Nayyer, Manjo Mayar, Dinesh Kumar were all up to the task of convincingly committing heartless murder and mayhem before going to their great reward).

The question remains whether a film such as this will at least shed light on these horrific events from both sides of the divide, or further inspire the slaughter of more innocent people in the name of any god. JWR


Bull
105 minutes, 2019
Anne Silverstein
Three stars

Send in the clowns

Silverstein’s first dramatic feature tries too hard to live up to its title. Ray the bulldog loves to eat nearby chickens. Next-door neighbour, Abe Turner (Rob Morgan serves up a finely nuanced performance as the long-past-his-prime Rodeo king), seems more forced into situations (sexual, stoical, dramatic) than “this must come next”.

Trying to hold the production together is Crystal--Amber Harvard does her best, but never really settles into her “what the fuck?” skin.

The film simply ends rather than completes itself.

Ironically, the feisty bulls deliver more drama than their riders. JWR


Us
140 minutes, 2019
Jordan Peele
One star

Never run with scissors

Oh dear. Like a comedy without laughs, a horror film without chills just doesn’t, er, cut it. This generational tale of one family trying to do away with themselves never really takes narrative flight. It’s as if a compendium of previous scary flicks has been summoned, then dressed up in new clothes (who can’t recall the sound of scrapping shears/blades from countless other films which left viewers unable to sleep at night—Straw Dogs comes to mind…).

Nuff said: on to the next! JWR

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