2020 Oscar Nominated Shorts Live Action/Animation

The Documentary shorts were not playing at my theater so I will have to look for them, but here are just some brief comments on the two sets of Oscar Nominated Shorts that I did get a chance to see.

A Sister

This was a dramatic short based on a call to emergency services by a woman who is being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance and is being driven around by her assailant.  She has to make the call seem as if it is innocuous because she is in danger. It was quite taught and we never see anyone except the Emergency Services dispatcher clearly. It was quite tense.

Brotherhood

I can’t say it is an apology for the ISIS fighters in Syria but it is a different perspective which is certainly it’s intent. The lives of a family in Tunisia are affected by the choices made by one of the sons. The narrative takes a couple of twists that would be more meaningful to someone with knowledge of the internal legal system of that Middle Eastern nation. The whole experience has got to be miserable, lucky us we get to share it.

The Neighbors Window

This one starts off slightly salacious and then it’s tone shifts. The perspective we see for most of the story is  not the only one and that is the point. In the end it was quite moving. As a story it is very clever and the lead Actress was very effective, especially at the end.

Saria

Maybe the most depressing of the short films on the program. Particularly since it based on rel world events. An orphanage in Guatemala is more prison camp than home for teen girls. The young actresses are solid with very little backstory to inform their characters. You will be infuriated at the end of the movie, it is an advocacy docudrama that is only barely a fictional narrative.

Nefta Football Club

There is an element of danger is this second short film set in the Middle East.  In the end however it turns out to be the most comedic of the films and the one that you can enjoy on a pure entertainment level.

Instead of posting the individual Trailers, let me direct you to the site where you can see all of those trailers and find information about where they are screening near your location. Click Here.

Animated Shorts

This program included the five nominated films plus four or five others that I neglected to write down so my memory will be hit or miss on those.

Daughter

 

This was done in an interesting medium but not necessarily one that is attractive. The abstract nature of the story makes it somewhat hard to relate to despite the universal themes that it appears to be drawing on. Obviously done with meticulous care because each frame looks like stop motion although I can’t say for sure that it is not a combination of computer and hand drawn work.

 

 

Hair Love

This was a Kickstarter funded project and the animation looks very traditional. There is a twist at the end that will tug on the heartstrings a bit, and it ends up being one of the least depressing of the animated shorts on the program. There is a good chance this will be the winner because of it’s take on the complicated relationship of those with African heritage and their hair in Western Culture.

Kitbull

This was my personal favorite although it is unlikely to win. This was done by some of the folks at Pixar and it is as usual, a perfect blend of sentiment and art told without words. I am a sucker for animal stories and this features two animals that I found charming and well personified by the artists.

Mémorable

This French entry may be the most depressing animated film I have seen in a long time. It is a Twelve minute mediation on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, told using a form of claymation. It looks odd at times but it is very effective at conveying the confusion and desperation of those suffering from the disease and those who love them. It is sad to think about the number of people who will experience some of the things depicted here.

Sister

This one was the most surprising of the animated shorts. It comes from China and there is a reason that is the source of the story. The animation is stop motion with fuzz covered figures that look like stuffed versions of people. The relationship of a brother to his sister in this ultimately sad story is explored with some humor but a lot of pathos.

Recommended

Henrietta Bulkowski

A young woman with a severe back deformity, which forces her to always look down, seeks to become a pilot, even if she has to build her own plane. It features a vocal performance by Actor Chris Cooper. The animation is odd, it looks like stop motion using dolls. I’m not sure why it would not have made the cut against some of the other films that were included.

Hors Piste

The most clearly comic film included in the animated shorts. It is reminiscent of a Looney Tunes Roadrunner cartoon, with a series of unfortunate incidents befuddling a mountain rescue team. The computer animation is excellent, and you will cringe and laugh simultaneously.

Maestro

The shortest of the short films, it is basically a musical interlude performed by a number of critters that you might find in the backyard or nearby woods. The animation is very detailed computer work. I guess I’m just a sucker for the animal tales because I loved this one as well.

There was at least one other short that played in this mini-festival, but I can’t remember it at the moment. If it comes to me I will come back and share it.

I can include at least two of the animated films here for you to watch, as they are available on YouTube.

 

LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

brad and company

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We here at the LAMB love Oscar talk, not so much because the Awards are so meaningful, they often are not, but because they focus our attention on all kinds of details. We get five or more nominees in twenty four categories, many of which would not normally be the subject of our usual discussions. This category is one of the big eight so you might have had a little discussion on these choices, so get prepared for a little more.

This year, in this group, there are no first time nominees. In fact, everyone in this classification already had an Academy Award. They all have multiple nominations in the past, and two of the nominees have multiple awards for acting. So this is old hands time and not really a place to make up for a past injustice. Only Brad Pitt has not won an acting award from the Academy, but he has the comfort of a Best Picture Oscar as a producer on “12 Years a Slave”.

The range of characters represented here is impressive. A Union boss, a gangster, a TV Icon, a Pope and a down at the heals Stuntman. All of these characters come alive in a variety of ways and probably deserve the nominations they received. Looking around, I don’t see any significant Snubs in this division. So let’s celebrate each of the nominated performances with some gusto.

Anthony Hopkins-The Two Popes/Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Anthony

It’s been 22 years since Sir Anthony Hopkins was a nominee, which seems hard to believe. His performance as Benedict is quiet and confounding at times. We are never quite clear on what motivates this man of high intellect and deeply held religious convictions to surrender his papacy, especially to a man with whom he has significant doctrinal disagreements. We can however see the humanity in the man and his desire to advance the church in troubling times. His nomination may in part be a reflection of mastering Latin and a little bit of German. At the end of his trail, is a warm relationship with his successor and a sense of relief on his mind which we can see in the actors face. Hopkins does indulge in what I have always seen as his most obvious acting tic frequently. He has a particular way of saying the word “Yes” that he falls back on three or four times in this film.

Joe Pesci-The Irishman/Russell Bufalino

Gangster Pesci

Mr. Pesci is batting .500 in this classification up to this point. His previous nominations came in Martin Scorsese projects, and surprise, he gets a third nomination after coming out of retirement for another Scorsese film. Again he is a gangster, but this time a more mellow and thoughtful hood than the volatile Tommy DeVito of Goodfellas. This role is not particularity showy and in fact, I thought it could have been played by a number of other actors. What he brings is the gravitas of his past performances to pump up a character who is largely peripheral to the main plot. He does have some nice scenes with DeNiro as he nudges the Irish thug into his crime family so there is something here, I would be surprised if this was his second win.

Tom Hanks- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood/Fred Rogers

Mr. Hanks Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers was such a culturally recognized figure that it takes a pretty delicate performance to avoid doing an impression that would end up as a parody. There have been plenty of those over the years. Tom Hanks uses his quiet distinctive voice very effectively in bringing Rogers into the story. His deliberate pacing and even modulation are pitch perfect. It helps that the lines are also so well written. The most brilliant aspect of the performance is the recognition that Fred Rogers is not really the protagonist in the story, he is a critical secondary character.  Rogers was known for being famously kind and polite, so it made perfect sense to have the man that many would say is the nicest guy in Hollywood portray him. Hanks is not a doppelganger for Rogers, but hair, makeup and costumes also go a long way in making this a truly credible performance.

Al Pacino-The Irishman/Jimmy Hoffa

Hoffa

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Hoffa was as famous a public figure as any President or Senator or Governor. He was a powerful man who had a loyal union and he was not shy about battling the government over his authority. Al Pacino has been frequently bellicose in his performances since winning the Best Actor Oscar for being just that in “Scent of a Woman” in 1992. This is his first nomination since then, maybe it is a sign that he needs to adjust his style, because when he did so in “The Irishman”, he was so much more effective. He still plays a tough guy but he is disarmingly quiet in many of the big moments in the film. The way he seems to connect with the main characters daughter, effortlessly is a good example of that. Pacino conveys the pig headed nature of the Union Boss, and the obtuse way in which he responds to the gangster partners he has made is demonstrated in many scenes in the film.  He is the standout in this his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese.

Brad Pitt-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood/Cliff Booth

brad

This character is one of the most appealing features in a film stacked with actors doing great work and Tarantino moments that will stick with us for a lifetime. Pitt takes this detached, knockabout companion of TV star Rick Dalton, and turns him into a charming, sharp and ultimately lethal character.  It is never clear to me, how the line between Leading Actor and Supporting Actor is drawn. Pitt uses his magnetic smile and aw shucks demeanor to great effect when he faces down Bruce Lee, the Manson Family and his own dog. Cliff holds his posture in a manner that suggests he is casual, but in any situation we can see he is really the alpha, even if he is willing to pretend otherwise. He takes many of the essential qualities of Kurt Russell, and underplays them, especially in his few scenes with Kurt himself. The clincher of Pitt’s performance however is the stop at the Spahn Ranch where he deals with those damn hippies. This is my pick for the winner in this group.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words

He is not known by a clever turn of an Acronym like “the Notorious RBG”, and it is unlikely that he will be a bobble-head available at Hot Topic or Spenser’s Gifts, but he certainly is a well know and controversial figure. I’d guess that he was one of the Justices that the average American would be able to name from the Supreme Court, and that may not always be for good reasons. Regardless of how you feel about his judicial perspective and role  on the court, I think you would find this film interesting in the way many biographical documentaries are. This one also has the benefit of his personal narration.

Maybe narration is the wrong term, exposition might be more appropriate. The sub-title of the film is incredibly accurate, this is Justice Thomas as he sees himself. The director and producer had thirty hours of first hand, single camera interviews with him and they have culled the story down to a manageable two hour narrative of the Justices life. It can basically be broken down into a three act structure, with a bit of an epilogue. He describes his childhood, being raised mostly by his grandfather up through the seminary school he dropped out of angry over the indifference of his class mates and the Catholic church to the assassination of Martin Luther King. The middle section describes his political evolution in college and then as a law student and young lawyer. He falls into public service with a Republican, which was the last thing he ever expected. Finally, there is the professional career that should be crowned by his appointment to the highest court in the land but was overshadowed by accusations of sexual harassment.

The first half of the story is told in much the same way that Ken Burns tells his stories. There are archival pictures and film clips used to create the exposition as Thomas speaks. In some places there are simple filmed segments of places that Thomas grew up in or simulations of the viewpoint he might have had. There are no actors in the film however so it never feels like a docudrama. There are some musical underscores but none of them has any heavy drama to them, this is not a film about recreating the emotional experiences that he went through.

The photographs and archival material gives way as Thomas becomes a public figure in the Reagan administration and there is video and film footage that can be plugged in to provide historical context. Of course the greatest amount of that material comes during the hearings on his nomination in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired at the time by Senator Joe Biden. The Vice President and now candidate for President, does not come off very well in the few minutes he is on screen. The rogue’s gallery of Senators in the hearing also seem slightly sinister, whether they were advocates or opponents of his nomination. The other narrator that we hear from extensively in this section is Mrs. Thomas, who aggressively defends her husband as he is being grilled by the panel and raked over the coals by the media.

Justice Thomas explains the basis of his judicial temperament and the originalism that drives that perspective. There is a bit of a coda that tells us a bit more about him as a person in this day. He is a Nebraska Cornhusker Fan, and an RV enthusiast who likes to travel the backroads of America. If you admire the Justice, you will certainly appreciate the film, but even if you are a critic and opponent of his views, I think you will find it an interesting and even handed telling of his story, and that story is important.

 

Best Picture Showcase Day One

This year there are only seven of the nine films nominated because Netflix did not make The Irishman and Marriage Story available for exhibition.  Day one of the Showcase features Ford v Ferrari,  Joker and Little Women.

Ford v Ferrari

I loved this movie when I first saw it and my opinion has not changed.  This is a great story with several terrific performances.  Matt Damon literally chews the screen because he is either eating or working a piece of gum in 90% of the scenes he is in. Christian Bale is the real star, the physicality of his performance is amazing in those shots set in the cars he is driving. There are several racing scenes and he manages to match the tension in each of them with just enough to not oversell it. It’s a shame the Academy could not find room for him among this year’s lead actors.

Two other things impressed me even more as I was rewatching the film. The editing of the movie is very effective at showing the characters and building excitement into the story. The music was also a strong asset to the storytelling,  I liked how it created an aura of the 1960s without using source music.

Joker

This film gave me conflicting reactions when I first saw it. The story bravely confronts the stigma of mental illness and shows that society is Ill equipped to manage it. It is also a bit of a cheat since we can never be sure that what we are seeing isn’t just the mental machinations of a disturbed mind. That bothered me far less on a second viewing,  I had an idea this time about how the inconsistency might work , so when an incident is shown I could look at it two ways more readily.

I’ve seen some criticism of Todd Phillips directing nomination, but he is the one responsible for the composition of the shots, some of which mirror traditional comic book iconography,  but there are others that subvert them in various ways. This is a patient film that doesn’t rush to simply get to the thrilling parts. The performance by Joaquin Phoenix is even more impressive on a second viewing because you can get past the physical transformation and watch the emotional wreck that Arthur Fleck is, and see the stewing eruptions with nice subtlety. The music for this movie is also hauntingly disturbing,  as it should be.

Little Women

For the life of me I have a hard time understanding how Greta Gerwig isn’t nominated as director, this film looks great,  the performances are top notch and it is emotionally satisfyingly. She did a retooling of the story to make the three love stories work better than they have in the earlier versions.  The final sequences also allow the film to have it both ways in regards to Jo and her Independence.

The only problems I had were a couple of tin eared woke lines that drew attention to themselves.  The interactions with the Mr. Dashwood character worked well enough on its own to convey the frustrating perspective that women Submitted to a century and a half ago.

These were all fine films but I suspect that the big contenders will be in next week’s line-up.

The Rhythm Section

EON films, who bring us the 007 pictures, have branched out only slightly with this gritty espionage revenge film. It is still a story filled with hidden agenda’s, violence and international intrigue, but unlike Bond, it is stripped of any glamour. No one is going to want to sleep with the hero or be the hero, it’s not that kind of a movie.

Actress Blake Lively has been cast against type here. She plays not a glamour girl, but a young woman, drowning in sorry who has flushed her life away. Her self loathing at surviving a tragedy that took her whole family has lead her to the most degradation you can imagine. It is only the spark of revenge that stirs her from the soon to be death she is earning herself and leads her to become immersed in a nearly equally degrading vocation.Imagine bits of Le Femme Nikita crossed with  Munich and then take out any sense of fantasy and you get this plot.

The transition from near dead flotsam, to capable undercover operative is achieved using a long more drawn out process than we usually get in a movie like this. Most of the time, there is a rush to the action sequences and the intrigue, here the story labors over the misery that this transition will require. It is pretty effective at showing what rot it is to think someone can become an expert at hand to hand combat in twelve easy montages. Stephanie, our lead character attempts to slip on the skin of an international assassin who has been killed. She needs to use that cover to pursue the mysterious figure behind the deaths of her parents and nearly 300 others. To sell that however, she has to do some dirty deeds that she may not be ready for.

There are a few threads that don’t quite add up but as the story picks up steam, we are not necessarily going to care about that. The credibility of this film goes up with the awkwardness of Stephanie’s evolution. She never becomes a lethal instrument that is finely tuned, there is too much humanity left in her, at least until the climax. We have a pretty good idea what is coming and fortunately it does not require ninja skills and martial arts, but something that is in her skill set.

Jude Law is a mentor figure with his own motives for assisting her, but you would never know he thought she could accomplish anything. The indifference in the training section was a nice change of pace for that trope. The only other actor that I was familiar with was Sterling K. Brown, who plays a connection that might lead her to the unknown person she is pursuing. I know him from his series of appearances on “Supernatural”, some of which are discussed on our podcast.

I can mostly recommend the film. It is not the entertaining Liam Neeson  revenge substitute I was hoping for, but it still made me glad I saw it. The early slog of misery and slow burn is rewarded with some craft and emotional depth, even if the ultimate resolution is a little too pat.

The Last Of Sheila (1973)

Another night at the movies with an old friend from the 1970s.  “The Last of Sheila” is a terrific murder mystery set among the Hollywood elite and on the French Riviera. It features an all star cast and a delightfully convoluted plot that finishes with one of the most cynical endings you will ever encounter.

The most interesting aspect of the film from my perspective is that it was written by Composer Stephen Sondheim and Actor Anthony Perkins. The moderator of the discussion last night, told us he had visited Sondheim’s apartment to interview him on several occasions and that the entry hall was filled with puzzles and games.  Sondheim and Perkins were famous for throwing parties that featured elaborate mystery games and scavenger hunts. It seems that they were encouraged to adapt their hobby into a script that could be made into a film based on the kinds of puzzle searches that made up for their parties. Of course there has to be a spine for the story and that is provided by the types of people that they would have at their parties, you know, Hollywood types and entertainment professionals.

There are seven principle performers in the story. James Coburn is a movie producer, who’s rich wife was killed in a hit and run accident a year before. He plans an elaborate week on his yacht in the South of France for six guests who were at the party the night his wife died. He has discovered a variety of secrets about them and he uses those as cruel clues to torment his guests as part of the game. The main reason that they put up with such bullying behavior is that they each need something from their friend, a job, financing for a film project, or paying off a long held personal favor. The story then plays out through the game over the days cruising the ports and nights playing scavenger hunt puzzles to solve the game.

Of course there is a murder and everyone is suspect. During the course of the film, there are lots of clues dropped as characters interact and scramble to solve the puzzle. Actor Ian McShane, who is a ubiquitous presence in movies and tv shows these days, plays the hanger on husband of starlet Raquel Welch. He looks incredibly young and handsome in contrast to his older craggy self in films like the John Wick series. Raquel is the weak link in the film, whispering most of her lines but still looking the part. Her best scene is her final brushoff of her secret lover.

Dyan Cannon plays an talent agent based on her own agent Sue Mengers, a legendary Hollywood figure. Cannon is always a hoot in the films she appears in. Her role in this movie is mostly for comic relief as her character has only minor connections to the murder plot. If you are interested in seeing her in a more developed part in a murder mystery, I strongly recommend “Deathtrap” where her costars are Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. She was one of the guests for the conversation following the screening so more on her later.

The late Joan Hackett has a sympathetic and juicy role as the rich wife of screenwriting hack Richard Benjamin. They played off of one another really well and the complicated little game they play between each other regarding their consumption of beverages is one of the clues that move us forward in the game.

The film however, belongs to three performers who take the screen and make it crackle in dialogue, emotional desperation and cleverness. Richard Benjamin as the needy screen writer is also the clever guest who appears to be at the head of the pack when it comes to playing the game. The greatest moment in the film comes from his character Tom, when he explains that he doesn’t have any gloves. I nearly bust a gut at that moment. Coburn is brutally charming and repellent simultaneously. He uses his amazing smile as a weapon to deflect responses from the victims of his cruel asides. His manipulation of everyone else still does not justify what happens but each time he is on screen, the tension level for all the party guests goes up.

No one will be surprised that James Mason’s fading director is the acting apex of the film. He feigns interest in the game quite effectively, but on his face you can see he is really evaluating all the other contestants more that the clues. In the confrontation sequence in the climax, as he explains what has been happening, his voice never waivers but his eyes and body give way to the insecurity he suddenly finds himself in. His denouement is perfect in reflecting the cynical power structures in Hollywood, I loved his performance.

The Conversation

After the film had screened, film Historian Foster Hirsch interviewed the two guests for the evening. Dyan Cannon and Richard Benjamin. Both of them were engaging and free with stories, although most of the information they shared was already well known.
Cannon talked about how she modeled her performance on her friend and agent Sue Mengers, who knew that she was in fact the inspiration for the character that she was asking her client to play. Dyan told us about enjoying the time filming on the beaches of southern France and about adding some pounds to her frame to play the agent, still not unflattering.
Richard Benjamin recounted how he traveled one day on a break from filming with his costar James Coburn in his newly acquired Ferrari. Neither of them had their passports with them as Coburn flew down the coast at 140 mph toward the Italian border. When asked for their papers Coburn took off his sunglasses and smiled and the border guard said “Ah, Mr. Flynt, welcome” and waived them through.  When they returned to France, virtually the same thing happened with the gendarmes controlling the French Border.
Benjamin also mused about how much luck was involved in the business. He was fortunate to be cast in a play, that lead to several other jobs and ultimately allowed him to direct as well.  He mostly allowed events to move him into the job of director. Dyan Cannon, who has also directed a few things contrasted his experience with her own, a woman in the 1970s trying to get a directing gig needed a much more organized plan.
Cannon has several projects she is working on, the one she spoke of at the TCMFF a couple of years ago is still on her plate, a musical based on her life. The play will include material on her life as Mrs. Cary Grant and she intends to star in it. She looks like she could nail it, she seemed to be a healthy octogenarian with good doctors and plenty of energy. Benjamin quipped that he was available.
I also had the pleasure of being seated with one of my podcasting friends Kristen Lopez from Ticklish Business and Journeys in Classic Film. She was there with her mother who was a big fan of the film, and there was a small service dog who sat quietly next to me on Mom’s lap through the whole film. We chatted a bit before the movie and I said good bye to them as we moved through the lobby of the Egyptian Theater. Had I waited a few more minutes I might have been rewarded, Kristin posted a picture of herself with Dyan Cannon that must have been taken just a little while after I said goodbye. Nice for her.

The Gentlemen

If ever there was someone who clearly benefited from the rise of independent cinema through the wedge of Quentin Tarantino, it was Guy Ritchie.  His take on English gangsters propelled him into prominence and he has had some great opportunities ever since. Maybe all of his films have not been successes, but after shepherding the live action remake of Aladdin to a worldwide box office of over a billion dollars, his failures will be overlooked for a while. He returns to his natural milieu with “The Gentleman”, a violent comical take on the economics of the marijuana business. It is filled with the sort of off kilter characters that “Snatch”, “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Rocknrolla” also overflowed with. Even though Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham are missing, “The Gentlemen” will take it’s rightful place alongside those rough cut gems.

The cast is chock full of Richie regulars but features some newcomers as well. Co-producer Matthew McConaughey is given star billing and while he earns it, there are several standout performances along the way. Charlie Hunnam, who starred in the Ritchie misfire “King Arthur” is a sturdy second banana to McConaughey’s crime lord.  He is all quiet coiled professionalism, waiting to be provoked into action. Henry Golding who has made a name for himself as a romantic lead in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Last Christmas” gets to play a heavy in this film and he is cynically effective as a self absorbed hoodlum on the make and maybe stretching past his reach too soon.  Eddie Marsan, a veteran of the two Guy Ritche Sherlock Holmes movies, plays a belligerent newspaper publisher. The resolution to his part of the story is one of the images we are fortunately spared from viewing.

It is two big names playing supporting parts that steal this movie and make it so enjoyable to watch. I could have sworn that Colin Farrell was a veteran of the crime films Ritchie made in his early days, but this seems to be their first film together. You know how Tarantino has filled the mouth of Samel L. Jackson with amazing dialogue in their collaborations? while this feels the same way. Farrel delivers the lines that Ritchie has written as if they have worked together for decades. He gets the intonations, relational status and emotional equivalency exactly right. Some things just go together perfectly. So to the list of milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, and James Bond and Martinis, add Colin Farrell to Guy Ritchie.

As great as Farrell is in his almost tangential role, there is another well established actor who basically steals the film in a wholly unexpected manner. Hugh Grant has been a light romantic comedian for most of his career. As he is aging out of the romantic lead casting, he has found his true niche as a character actor. In “Florence Foster Jenkins” he gave a sympathetic performance backing up Meryl Streep. In “Paddington 2” he delightfully plays the villain and deserved even more awards attention. Unfortunately, this fil gets a January release here in the States and by next December, people will have forgotten how great he is here. Grant plays a investigator/journalist/detective who tries to take what he finds out about the drug kingpin as a way of both blackmailing the gangster and breaking into the movie business. He is also the narrator of the film, who provides exposition, transitions and color to the events being described. Usually Grant has a proper sounding pronunciation and delicate manner of expression, but not his character Dexter. He is a foul mouthed, dirty minded, over confident and smug creature. Visually he is barely recognizable as the world famous actor he is, but vocally and with many mannerisms, you will not know that this is the same guy who wooed Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock and many more.

The dialogues, violence and complicated machinations of the plot are the things that you expect in a Guy Ritchie crime film. The elegant turns of phrase that McConaughey uses as he engages his potential business partners and his enemies is a great example of the screenwriter’s strengths. Hunnam and Farrell with their mild deferential styles contrasted to what we see both are capable of are a plus with the dialogue and the action. Although it seems that the events in the story are spinning out as a series of unplanned obstacles, there is always a way that those moments tie back into the plot, usually in a surprising way.  At least it will be a surprise if you have never seen one of Ritchie’s earlier gangster films. If you have, you know to expect the unexpected, but you will be able afterwards to say, Of course.