Tag Archives: Ray Winstone

Review: The Beaver

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence

Director: Jodie Foster

‘You’re nothing without me, Walter. Nothing. I’m the only part of you that works.

After two years of severe depression, toy executive Walter Black retreats completely and begins communicating with his long-suffering family through a glove puppet. Meanwhile, his estranged elder son fights to avoid becoming his father.

Having been trapped in limbo for over a year, waiting for the dust to settle on Mel Gibson’s public meltdown, The Beaver is finally released into the world. And it’s hard to imagine a more fitting role for Gibson to have chosen, even if it was chosen and performed before the event.

Walter Black, so lost in a black hole from which he feels there is no escape that he is forced to hide within an alternative persona, is such a perfect fit for Gibson that it’s hard to believe that he was second choice for the part and equally hard to believe that original choice Jim Carrey could have brought half the pathos that Gibson delivers to The Beaver. With every flicker of his eyes, every hunch of his shoulders, Gibson portrays a man trapped in his own personal Hell, while still managing to mine the ridiculous premise for nuggets of comedy. Foremost in this regard is the English cockney accent Gibson utilises for the beaver puppet itself. Apparently coached by Ray Winstone, you would swear in several places that Winstone was dubbing the puppet himself, so accurate is Gibson’s delivery. It’s the ideal voice for a puppet that becomes increasingly sinister as the movie progresses.

The always excellent Foster who, like Gibson, is no stranger to acting and directing in tandem, turns in a solid performance as Walter’s exasperated wife, torn between wanting to escape her husband’s destructive condition and wanting to save him from it. Anton Yelchin is not entirely sympathetic as Walter’s teenage son, who keeps a list of similarities between himself and his father with the intention of ridding himself of each one. It’s a sub-plot that, like The Beaver itself, is weakened by skipping over the depth, never quite fulfilling its potential.

Where the movie as a whole fails is in its rather half-hearted exploration of Walter’s underlying depression, or analysis of why he chooses to disengage from himself the way he does. That he creates a persona through a glove puppet for his own rehabilitation is a fascinating conceit. It deserves to have been explored with a little more depth, rather than simply rely solely on Gibson’s nonetheless accomplished performance.

I was going to make a gag about hands in beavers but this is a family site. Sort of.

The Beaver is by no means a bad movie. Foster has an assured touch behind the camera and the movie has real heart at its core. It is also anchored by one of Gibson’s best performances, without which it would certainly have been less of a success. By turns heart-breaking, sinister and funny, rarely has an actor seemed more at home in a part. However, the titular character itself never quite manages to become more than a puppet on the end of Walter’s arm, which seems like a failing given the importance it plays.

Ultimately, The Beaver gets caught up in trying not to be too much of any one thing. Torn between the tragic and the comedic aspects of Walter’s tale, it never quite reaches the heights of either.

Rating – 3 Stars

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Review: London Boulevard

Starring: Colin Farrell, Keira Knightly, Ray Winstone, David Thewlis

Director: William Monahan

Freshly released from Pentonville prison and determined not to return to his criminal past, Mitchell finds work as a minder for reclusive movie star Charlotte, with whom he develops a relationship. However, old friends embroil Mitchell in the plans of East End crime boss Gant and Mitchell is forced to confront him.

I have a very low tolerance for British gangster movies. There’s only a handful that have ever really engaged me. The Long Good Friday, Sexy Beast and Get Carter rank among those few. London Boulevard, unfortunately, doesn’t. Which is a shame because, with a cast like this, it should have had something going for it.

Based on the novel by Ken Bruen, London Boulevard is the directorial debut of screenwriter William Monahan, who penned the excellent The Departed for Martin Scorsese. And while I’m very much looking forward to Monahan’s recently announced Becket, it’s not down to any overwhelming promise on display here.

I’ve never been one to condemn a movie simply because it doesn’t have a particularly original storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the most unoriginal movies of the last year. But when you’re churning out yet another criminal-trying-to-go-straight-but-unable-to-escape-his-past tale, you have to bring something extra to the table and this movie just doesn’t do that.

Colin Farrell, who usually brings an abundance of personality to his roles, struggles to imbue Mitch with anything remotely approaching character. But that may be because he’s having so much trouble nailing the London accent. Instead, Mitch is one of those protagonists that leave you rather cold. Noble as his attempts at redemption may be, you never really care if he achieves it or not. He’s just the wrong side of being a dick to really care about.

Knightly seems equally adrift in a role which gives her little to do except look miserable and offer pouty looks to Farrell, who returns the favour by raising his eyebrows a bit. The chemistry between the two is non-existent and the development of their relationship is hurried, clumsy and far too restricted by the need to proceed to the next tough-guy scene.

Enter Ray Winstone as sinister, powerful psychopath Gant. Entertaining as his scenes are, this is the kind of role that Winstone can do in his sleep. And sometimes he looks and sounds like he might be doing just that. Maybe he’s just as bored as we are. In a movie crammed with completely unsympathetic characters, at least Gant is supposed to be.

Colin is less than impressed with Ray’s Michael Caine impersonation

The only actor who really engages is David Thewlis as the wasted, acerbic and surprisingly violent actor Jordan. His is a character that truly surprises, the only one in the movie that does, and the film sparkles just a little whenever he is on screen. Sadly, he’s not on screen long enough to rescue London Boulevard from being just another boring British gangster movie filled with another group of boring characters.

Still, it does have a good soundtrack.

Rating – 1 Star

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