Neil Fox on film: Haywire, J. Edgar, W.E.

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Haywire

The best of this week’s new releases is a throwback to one of the worst eras in mainstream cinema – the 1980s.

However, in the hands of chameleon director Steven Soderbergh it’s a riot of action and tongue-in-cheek global espionage.

It’s the familiar tale of a special agent who is double-crossed and who needs to clear their name and seek revenge, all wrapped up in a beautifully slick and scored package.

The locations and the male arrogance recall the 80s but interestingly so does the casting of the lead role.

Soderbergh saw the mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano and thought she would make a good action star and lo, the era that gave us Van Damme and Lundgren is reborn.

Although those movies never boasted the likes of Michael Fassbender among their ranks, that’s just one of the joys here.

Carano is a fantastic performer in the action sequences though her acting is, well, mixed is a polite way to put it.

But the film aims to entertain, pulling no punches and wearing its cheesy heart on its sleeve, and it’s a hoot because of it.

J. Edgar

Altogether more serious in its aims is the latest directorial effort of Hollywood royalty Clint Eastwood, whose recent films have become somewhat workaday and overly earnest.

This epic is written by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote Milk with Sean Penn, but here there is none of that style or verve, or maybe it has just been directed out.

Leonardo Di Caprio is his usual superb self, grappling with the complex life of another American icon.

Like his Howard Hughes in The Aviator, Hoover is a troubled man with control issues who would go on to leave an incredible imprint on American life.

This is a standard biopic in the truest sense, lacking cinematic punch or a real vision to make it seem out of the ordinary.

Clint can still deliver, but even he needs people to tell him where he falls up short, or he risks the horror of his art mirroring Hoover’s life.

W.E.

This is a tribute to the power of celebrity.

Only Madonna – well, and perhaps her recent husband, too – can make films that are reviled, booed, misunderstood and ridiculed and keep on getting not only work, but bigger, more expansive projects. It’s the brand that allows it – call it star quality.

This is an hilariously overwrought, naive, badly scripted, shoddily acted farce and the lady’s dismal direction doesn’t help.

Although it purports to distort history, it has nothing to say on anything.

Will it stop her making films? I hope so, but I doubt not. Awful.

Underworld: Awakening

Did we need another instalment of this weak vampire/werewolf franchise? No. Will we go watch it? Maybe. Will it sink without trace? Probably.

Does Kate Beckinsale need to remember how to act and go and do a decent movie again? Definitely.