Neil Fox on film: The Dictator, The Raid, Two Days In New York

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The Dictator

Described as ‘the heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed’, we know we are in the hands of arch provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen.

The third cinematic collaboration between the man who gave us Ali G and director Larry Charles is a move on from the verite aggravations of the brilliant Borat and the less successful Bruno, into scripted territory.

The story tells of a dictator, deposed and ending up working in an organic café in New York, who is mistaken for an activist by a girl (brilliantly played by Anna Faris, finally getting a comic role of worth), causing love and trauma to ensue.

What makes this such a joy is both the Chris Morris level of borderline offensiveness Cohen treads, coupled with a spontaneity that comes from a lifetime of shooting on the hoof, trying not to get shot by secret service agents.

Hilarious in parts it is also a smart, crushing satire of the idea of democracy, that makes us realise we claim to be civilised and libertarian in the West, but really we are victims of draconian ways as much those elsewhere in the world. Frank and funny filmmaking.

The Raid

Sometimes, a film comes along that is so viscerally thrilling you lose your mind, and all sense of reason. The Raid is such a film.

It’s a simple story. Crime boss is holed up on the top floor of an apartment building. Elite cops are trying to get to him. There are 30 floors between them. That’s the plot. The film is watching it unfold, and boy does it unfold.

Welsh director Gareth Evans is a filmmaker with a passion and understanding of Asian cinema who has forged a great career out in the Far East and now has conjured an action movie of pure adrenaline and unbridled skill that will see him move powerfully into the mainstream.

It’s a remarkable, chest-pumping feast for the eyes and the ears. It’s nonsense, really, but wow is it impressive nonsense that balances British humour and Far East fighting artistry.

All the more impressive that it has just come out of nowhere to floor everyone and show that you don’t always need massive budgets to deliver a knock out punch, you just need imagination, passion and conviction. Breathtakingly fun.

Two Days In New York

Unlikely to play locally, but it will be around and provides a refreshing antidote to the testosterone fest of The Avengers, The Raid and The Dictator.

Director and star Julie Delpy follows up her sweet and memorable 2 Days in Paris with this tale, which sees her relocated to New York with child.

She is preparing for an exhibition and living with her new boyfriend played by Chris Rock (playing serious) but a surprise visit from her family, and ex, means a weekend of tough questions and confrontations. Funny and intelligent and delicately delivered, but not without bite.