Welcome to the first of my reports from the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. I thought I’d try something new this year: doing multiple capsule reviews in one post. Hope you enjoy the coverage!
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
New Zealand director Taika Waititi follows up his hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows with this equally funny – albeit in a much different sort of way – film that merges intricate character humour with grand adventure.
We follow Ricky Baker (impressive relative newcomer Julian Dennison) who, after spending time in foster care, is placed in the remote NZ woods with a loving woman named Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her grumpy husband Hector (Sam Neil). When his newfound foster aunt suddenly dies, Ricky finds himself going on an adventure into the woods with a reluctant Hector which spirals into a nationwide manhunt for the two of them.
Charming is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days but Hunt for the Wilderpeople fits the description down to a tee. It’s a beautiful, endearing and often flat-out hilarious film filled with loveable characters – Dennison is an absolute joy as the affably naive and determined Ricky – and plenty of little moments that mix fanciful imagination and nuggets of truth. This is a real gem of a film from one of the most talented comedic filmmakers around. 4/5
To Steal From a Thief
Strong shades of Inside Man, Dog Day Afternoon and The Town (among many others) can be found in this entertaining Spanish-language heist thriller that attempts to mix crime-laden thrills with political intrigue and corruption.
What should have been a straight forward robbery at a prestigious bank in Valencia quickly goes wrong, a group of skilled robbers find themselves with more hostages than they can rightly handle and the police bearing down on them as they race against the clock to steal what they came for.
It does a lot of reminding of other, far better films and struggles once the actual robbery itself fades from focus in favour of some clunkily-handled political statements that are about as subtle as a getting whacked in the face with a shotgun. But thanks to a very strong cast, including Luis Tosar and Rodrigo de la Serna, and an astute handle on what makes an against-the-clock scene tick, it’s a competently entertaining watch. 3/5
Ken and Kazu
Proving that Japanese cinema can merge hard-hitting crime with depth of character as well as any American film can is this powerful crime drama from first time feature director Hiroshi Shoji (expanding the story out from his 2011 short).
We centre on the titular duo, two old friends and literal partners in crime who find their paths diverging when Ken decides to start a family with his girlfriend just as he finds out Kazu has been dealing on the sidelines of their business ruled by the ruthless Mr. Todo.
The film hits some familiar crime-drama beats, not least in the the portrayal of the ins and outs of the drug business in which the eponymous duo operate. But it’s elevated by some great performances, isn’t afraid to show the gritty reality of the duo’s tough way of life and gives an extra layer of emotional depth as we see how things affect the increasingly strained relationship between Ken and his pregnant girlfriend. This one packs a real punch. 4/5