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“Wind River” is a western with wit

A western with wit

Taylor Sheridan’s movie mastery, and Stephen King’s “Mr Mercedes” on television

Taylor Sheridan’s movie mastery, and Stephen King’s “Mr Mercedes” on television

August/September 2017

FILM

Rough at the edges
It’s not often that Hollywood screenwriters get as much attention as directors. But Taylor Sheridan became a brand of sorts after he scripted “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”. With just two films, he established himself as a master of the contemporary western: at home in America’s wildest territories and writing the kind of swaggering dialogue actors rarely get the chance to deliver. Wind River is the first film he has directed as well as written and his stamp is all over it. Inspired by a true story, it’s a soulful, socially conscious detective yarn set in and around a snowbound Native American reservation in Wyoming. When a young woman’s body is found, miles from anywhere, a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) is flown in to investigate. But the film’s real hero is a rugged local hunter (Jeremy Renner, above left) whose words are as well-aimed as his bullets. “Luck don’t live out here,” he says, with Sheridan’s typical concision. “Luck lives in the city.”

In America from Aug 4th and Britain from Sept 8th

Oh what a night!
After two brothers botch a bank raid, one of them is arrested and the other (a revelatory Robert Pattinson) spends a long night hurtling around New York’s seediest neighbourhoods, lying and stealing to scrape together $10,000 in bail money. That might not seem the most original premise for a low-life, urban-crime thriller but, for all its debts to Scorsese, Tarantino and Refn, Good Time is unique. Non-professional actors and real locations give it the chaotic authenticity of a fly-on- the-wall documentary, while squalling electronic music and psychedelic lighting evoke a horribly vivid bad dream. The film is a reputation-making triumph for Josh and Benny Safdie, the visionary brothers who directed it. What’s more, Benny plays one of the onscreen brothers, and he is as astonishing in front of the camera as he is behind it.

In America from Aug 11th

From dishrags to riches
An audience favourite at this year’s Sundance Festival, Patti Cake$ is set to be one of those heartening showbiz dramas in which the heroine’s rise to fame is mirrored by that of the person playing her. The heroine in question is Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald), an overweight waitress and bartender who is known in her dead-end New Jersey home town as Dumbo, but who would prefer to be known as Patti Cake$ or Killa P. Dreaming of a future as a blinged-up hip-hop superstar, Patricia has to conquer her own self-doubt and win over the sceptical locals, including her embittered, alcoholic mother (Bridget Everett, excellent). First-time writer-director Geremy Jasper shrewdly balances the conventions of a crowd-pleasing star-is-born fairy tale with the grungy specifics of a semi-autobiographical indie movie. But the icing on “Patti Cake$” is the revelatory central performance from Macdonald, an Australian actress who is utterly convincing both as a gutsy rapper and as a born-and-bred American.

Opens in America on Aug 18th

 

TELEVISION

Too close for comfort
Adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Mr Mercedes is a painfully topical cat-and-mouse drama. It opens with a ghastly sequence in which a masked figure drives indiscriminately into a crowd. The killer, chillingly played by Harry Treadaway, is a white teenager working in an electrical shop and living in his mum’s basement. Two years on, preparing for another atrocity, he contacts the ex-detective who failed to solve the case (Brendan Gleeson, above) and taunts him into picking up the thread.

Knackered policemen coming out of retirement for one last job are hardly virgin territory, but Gleeson gives a masterclass as the splenetic Bill Hodges, all set for a depressed retirement until the killer reignites his love of the chase. The dialogue crackles, and the drama, with its homegrown, internet-troll terrorist and claustrophobic small-town backdrop, bites deep. Gripping, nasty and surprisingly touching.

On Audience from Aug 9th

Bizarre bedfellows
It’s a simple premise: each episode of Room 104 takes place in the same room of a clapped-out motel. Everything else – plot, period, levels of comedy and ambient weirdness – is up for grabs. The series is produced by a pair of off-the-wall indie film-makers, Mark and Jay Duplass, blending work by several young writers and directors with perhaps unsettlingly varied interests. In one creepy almost-comedy, a boy straight-facedly informs the babysitter that his murderous alter ego is lurking in the bathroom. Another is a wordless film shot and lit like a 1980s pop video, in which a chambermaid and a possibly imaginary guest undertake an experimental dance piece. It’s low-budget, achingly edgy stuff, but the episodes that work are sharp and agile.

On HBO from Jul 28th

Keep off the grass
Ozark opens on a doomy tone of violence and threat, as Marty Byrde, a harried white-collar money-launderer (Jason Bateman) watches his drug-baron boss gorily execute several of his business partners. With $8m to repay, Byrde must “disappear” his reluctant family, moving from Chicago to a run-down lakeside resort in Missouri, where he hopes to restart operations.

But as the episodes roll by the mood shifts, and what started as a grisly thriller edges towards other genres: fish-out-of-water comedy, redneck family drama, even dysfunctional sitcom. Add in sharp work from Laura Linney as the discontented Mrs Byrde, Julia Garner as the precocious boss of the local mob and Jason Butler Harner as a sociopathic fbi agent, and you have an enjoyably unbalanced show that is more than the sum of its influences.

On Netflix from Jul 21st

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