Meandering chase thriller GONE (15: Entertainment In Video) is driven into a succession of dramatic dead ends. So what could have been a tense and involving story loses its grip on the suspense.
Amanda Seyfried gives a wide-eyed performance as Jill Parish, a young waitress who returns home from working a night shift to discover that her sister, Molly, has disappeared.
She’s convinced it’s the work of the same serial killer she escaped from a year earlier, although the police still believe she fabricated her own abduction.
After harassing potential witnesses with a gun, Jill is pursued by the authorities and desperately tries to avoid arrest before the kidnapping becomes a murder.
The publicity blurb for the DVD release says Jill “embarks on a break-neck ride” and “races the sinking sun in a heart-pounding chase”.
In truth, the film is let down by sluggish pacing, unexplained plot turns and stilted dialogue.
> Hot on the heels of Henning Mankell (Wallander) and Stieg Larsson (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), there’s a new member of the Scandinavian literary crime pack.
Norwegian author Jo Nesbo gained his place with a series of violent novels about hard-drinking detective Harry Hole.
But HEADHUNTERS (15: Momentum) is a stand-alone crime caper altogether more escapist than the author’s trademark fare.
Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a wealthy business recruitment officer who hides a secret from his trophy wife. To pay the mortgage he moonlights as an art thief, stealing rare works from the homes of his clients.
Brown is introduced to former special forces soldier Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a smooth-talking Dane who now works in the electronics field, and discovers that his new friend possesses a priceless painting.
He makes plans to take it, not realising that he will be the prey in the ensuing game of cat and mouse.
Nesbo’s name is associated with darkness and the film’s lavatorial humour won’t suit everyone, but Hennie’s hangdog hero makes this a relentless and entertaining ride.
> Underwhelming British chiller ELFIE HOPKINS (15: Kaleidoscope) messily juxtaposes gothic horror with tongue-in-cheek splatter.
Jaime Winstone’s slacker Elfie turns amateur detective with her geeky pal Dylan (Aneurin Barnard) to investigate a family of posh weirdos that’s moved into their sleepy Welsh village.
Elfie discovers that the newcomers are killing and eating missing people, but she faces an impossible task to get others to believe the grisly truth.
The film is initially uneventful, focusing on Elfie’s verbal suspicions and the exaggerated nature of both her sinister new neighbours and the caricatured locals, including Ray Winstone’s awful yokel butcher.
It’s only when her extreme allegations are abruptly, and predictably, proven true that the flimsy and contrived storyline gathers pace, accompanied by a switch from creepy atmospherics to over-the-top gore.
> A retired rock star (an almost unrecognisable Sean Penn) living as a recluse in Dublin finds renewed purpose after his father’s death returns him to the United States in THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (15: Trinity).
The deathbed reunion leads to revelations about his father’s experiences during the Holocaust and propels the sheltered rocker into a journey across America in search of a Nazi war criminal.
Penn, sporting black eyeliner and a back-combed goth hairdo, delivers a witty performance that almost makes amends for the film’s wayward strorytelling, while Frances McDormand is excellent as his firefighter spouse..
But on the whole it’s a disjointed affair whose ultimate purpose is somewhat perplexing.
> Mark Strong and Antonio Banderas play rival leaders who spill blood and oil in the Arabian desert in the 1930s in BLACK GOLD (12: Warner).
After establishing a no-go area to guarantee peace between their tribes, the agreement is broken when the Americans detect oil in this buffer zone. Strong oozes charisma as the noble warrior and Banderas relishes his turn as the sneering villain of the peace, although Tahar Ramin has the meatiest role, playing Strong’s scholarly son.
It’s all very glossy, yet remains an emotionally arid affair