‘Jason Bourne’ DVD Review (The Hollywood News)

jb-1The last entry in the Bourne franchise was 2012’s The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner. While that became a one-off, it’s worth examining the character’s true legacy before diving in with this review. The original trilogy helped cement Matt Damon‘s position in Hollywood. Paul Greengrass‘s involvement from part two onwards gave the series an additional layer of quality. More than anything, the films had an impact on movie action in general. When Daniel Craig took the role of 007, it was no coincidence his adventures were “back to basics” in nature, a single shot saying more than a million bullets out of a machine gun ever could.

Identity through to Supremacy appeared to offer a complete journey for Jason Bourne. Despite this, Damon and Greengrass have got the band back together for their riskiest mission yet: an extra helping that tries not to tarnish what has gone before. Have they succeeded? Well, on the whole yes, though there are a few bumps on the road as they go.

Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse have developed their hero’s personal odyssey further by revealing hitherto-unknown information about Bourne’s involvement in Operation Blackbriar (the covert assassination league he blew wide open during his last outing). When former ally-turned-Snowden-esque-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) contacts a broken-down Bourne about this explosive development, the scene is set for him to return from his exile as a bare knuckle boxer and set the world to rights one more time. It’s a logical but well-worn approach, though in fairness the strength of the franchise was the way it put a new spin on hackneyed spy thriller clichés rather than innovate itself.

Drawn back into the fray like a chiselled moth to a flame, Damon’s Bourne runs up against an impressive trio of villains. Tommy Lee Jones‘s weathered CIA chief Robert Dewey wants the rogue operative permanently erased. Alicia Vikander‘s ambitious and fetching Heather Lee represents the changing face of intelligence, believing Bourne can be brought back into the fold. Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s “The Asset” becomes the latest relentless Euro-henchman to be put on Damon’s tail, a man of steel with old scores to settle.

Inevitably it’s more of the same controlled chaos, with Greengrass’s handheld camera roving amongst the fist fights and destruction at breakneck speed. The unflinching pace doesn’t make up for repetition and an overall lack of meat. However some intriguing snippets of Bourne’s character are in evidence – most notably the way he distances himself from Nicky’s counter culture activities. He may be fighting the system, but at heart he’s an establishment man, a strand which gives credence to Vikander’s belief he secretly wants to return to duty.

She is the film’s strongest element, Lee possessing equal capacity to wear either the white hat or the black. Damon can do this sort of thing in his sleep and the same can be said of Jones, who is a welcome presence. Cassel’s ageing hard man is also highly watchable. Like a lot of these big action projects, it could have done with being a bit shorter and not all the fresh ingredients work. Riz Ahmed‘s social media mogul doesn’t add much to the narrative, aside from making the basic point that Dewey’s world is changing.

Ironically the climactic chase has all the extravagance of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, a sign that maybe the series is running low on inspiration. The team have had a good run, and made a sizeable mark on the genre – as Moby’s excellent Extreme Ways kicks in over the end credits, it might be time to admit those ways are now the old ways.

 

This review first appeared on THN.

Sometimes They Come Back: ‘Jason Bourne’ Feature (The Hollywood News)

md-jb-2For a while it looked like Matt Damon had left the action-packed life of rogue operative par excellence Jason Bourne far behind. Jeremy Renner starred in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy and was set to continue in the visceral vein of his predecessor. However, fans got a surprise when Damon announced his return to Robert Ludlum‘s butt-kicking chronicle, bringing regular collaborator Paul Greengrass along for the ride.

The star’s reappearance in one of his defining roles is a bit out of left field, but certainly not unprecedented when it comes to celluloid heroes and heroines resurrecting themselves for that extra sack of box office loot. So as Damon comes back to Bourne, let’s check out some other notable names who decided the show wasn’t quite over yet…

SEAN CONNERY: JAMES BOND

jb-nsna

The rugged Scotsman made his name wearing the tuxedo of Ian Fleming‘s infamous superspy. Yet his attempts to leave the legacy behind were twice thwarted. First he was persuaded to get the Walther PPK out for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, after replacement George Lazenby‘s stint turned into a one-off.

Twelve years later he got another call, this time to pit an ageing Bond directly against the Roger Moore era for Never Say Never Again. The reworking of Thunderball ultimately lacked the class of the established franchise. On the other hand it was fun to see Connery back in the saddle, strongly supported by Kim Basinger and Rowan Atkinson.

KATE BECKINSALE: SELENE

kb-uThe actress with enough charm to get the pants off King Kong made two Underworld flicks before seemingly moving on to pastures new and unbloodied. 2009 prequel Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans starred Rhona Mitra as a younger version of rubber-clad vampire and werewolf-buster Selene. Here we saw how the ludicrous battle between the fanged and the furry got started in the first place.

Beckinsale must have figured there was life in the old dog despatcher yet, returning to the fold for Awakening in 2012. The film had Selene defending herself in a dangerous future where vamps and wolves were acknowledged by the general populace. Forthcoming chapter Blood Wars will continue the saga with the star very much at the forefront.

VIN DIESEL: XANDER CAGE

vd-xxxDiesel has made a better fist of reviving his well-known characters than most. Luckily he’s been the mainstay of three eye-catching series; playing Riddick from Pitch Black onwards, Dominic Toretto in the turbo-charged monster of the Fast & Furious movies; and now he’s pumping iron for xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage, set for release next year.

The belated threequel will come fifteen years after the original installment, which posited the brooding actor as an extreme sports junkie turned 007-esque adventurer. He declined the next mission for part two, with the lead role taken by the unlikely shape of Ice Cube. The new chapter finds Cage engaged in that staple of the genre, the testosterone-laden conspiracy thriller.

MATT DAMON: JASON BOURNE

jb-1It’s a tough gig finding out you were a trained assassin in a former life. Jason Bourne should know – he’s been living the nightmare for the past fourteen years. The Bourne Ultimatum appeared to give him his long sought-after identity back. Though when you’re as up to your neck in calamity as this guy, you know it’s only a matter of time before yet more trouble ensues.

Helmer/co-writer Paul Greengrass has reportedly succeeded again in handing Bourne his action credentials in another exploration into what makes the chiseled chaser tick. Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Vincent Cassel make up the opposition trying to take the hero down a peg, whilst Julia Stiles resumes her role as Nicky, on hand to get Damon out of the mother of all jams, spooned into the jar in just the right amount by one of Hollywood’s hottest teams.

 

This feature first appeared on THN.

“There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit…” Interview with ‘Jason Bourne’ writer Christopher Rouse (The Hollywood News)

jb-3As Matt Damon brings the high octane adventures of Jason Bourne into your home this week, now is a good time to interview the man who puts those heart-stopping action sequences together: editor and co-writer Christopher Rouse.

Rouse occupies an intriguing position in the Bourne firmament. Having began his association in the cutting room, he now takes on script and production duties alongside director Paul Greengrass. This strong partnership crafts the franchise behind the scenes, while Greengrass and Damon cause a storm front of camera. As the torch bearers for Robert Ludlum’s character, our first question naturally concerned the immense task they faced…

jb-crTHN: Did you and Paul Greengrass experience any trepidation in continuing Bourne’s story?

Christopher Rouse: Well I think we both have incredible respect and admiration for the franchise. We didn’t want to embark on a process or a script idea unless we believed there was a real story to tell, that would do justice to the franchise and his character. So we were cautious all the way through it certainly.

Tell me about how a Bourne action sequence evolves, from the original idea to the page and then on to the shoot…

Like any sequence, action has to be rooted in story and character. It has to have stakes and clear goals and obstacles for the people involved. Once that’s defined it’s a matter of calibrating that, in terms of what might be visually interesting and exciting. Once we get something on page then Paul will take it and work with his second unit director and a very talented stunt team. Then the piece will evolve even further. Where it’s shot, that’ll give rise to other ideas… the location may dictate certain restrictions to what we’ve originally imagined. I’ll receive it in the cutting room, it’ll continue to evolve and I’ll shape it as I see fit through the post-production process. It’s like any other scene, or aspect of the story. There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit. The piece is always imbued with new ideas and different types of energy.

jb-1Paul Greengrass is known for having multiple camera set-ups, so you’ve got lots of footage to play with in the editing suite. Would you say your films with him are primarily made in the edit?     

I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization. They certainly take shape there in many ways but Paul is a visionary filmmaker and I think the film is in his head very early on.

It strikes me as a complicated way of working, to shoot so much to begin with!

It is a lot of work and at the end of the day I’m trying to put together a film that makes sense to me, and that is in concert with Paul’s vision. Having done six films now with him, one of the great things is that we know each other well, we share a common world view. We’re interested by the same types of things. We have the same artistic sensibilities. It’s very easy for us to lock in together, I’m highly attuned to what he believes the piece is as it evolves. Even though I get a tremendous amount of footage, if I’ve done my job and I’m anchored in story and character when I start putting things together, it’s actually most times a straightforward proposition. I’m not saying there isn’t any heavy lifting because there is. It’s shaped in the cutting room but not made there, which is an important distinction.

jb-2The film is also another reunion between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. What is it about that relationship that you think works so well?  

There’s deep affection between the two of them and they’re exceedingly hard workers. You wind up with a special relationship. And then there are loads of tangibles, having two types of superb artists married together, there’s that symbiotic connection that occurs where you get a lot of magic, spontaneously and unexpectedly. It doesn’t happen often.

You started off as an editor and now you’re co-writing and producing. Do you fancy directing at some stage?

I’ve been approached to direct several times, in fact I’ve written for many years myself. My father (Russell Rouse) was a screenwriter and I’ve written short stories, poetry and screenplays on my own. I’d consider directing. One of the things I really enjoy with Paul is the tremendous amount of creative freedom. It allows me to express myself in ways I wouldn’t in a normal editing situation. This is a long way of saying yes, I would consider being a director if it were the right project, not doing it for the sake of directing. I want to direct something that matters to me.

One of your first big editing jobs was working on Desperate Hours with Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), who sadly passed away this year. That must have been a hell of a formative experience…

Also I worked with Hal Ashby (Harold & Maude) for three years, a superb editor and director. I learnt a tremendous amount from Hal at a very young age. Michael gave me plenty of opportunities to express myself creatively and I’m very appreciative for that. He was a complicated man, he could be very generous and very difficult at the same time. I’m very grateful for what I learned from him and what he gave me.

What’s coming next down the line?

Paul and I are actually writing together right now, it’s an original idea we’re playing around with. When I hang up with you I’m going to call him up and talk about the day’s work.

Can you tell me anything about it?

I can’t at this point, I’m sworn to secrecy! But I think the piece has a lot of potential and Paul is very excited about it. We’ll see if we get anywhere…

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

Harrison Ford: Top 7 Death-Defying Movie Scenes

hfAs a production company learned last week, Harrison Ford is pretty indestructible. However the lesson cost them dear – after accidentally breaking his ankle during the filming of Episode VII, they’ve been fined over a million and a half in terrestrial pounds. Ford weathered the injury and went on to wipe the floor with The Force Awakens.

With the cosmos’ favourite hard man in the headlines this week, this article takes an action-packed backwards glance at all those times the Teflon-coated Mr Ford nearly met his mortal end in the movies. And what better number to focus on than lucky number seven, surely the star’s favourite digit?

We’ll go to a galaxy far, far away of course, but also further afield back in time, as well as coming back down to earth with a bump… or is it a splash? So without further a-derring-do, let’s pay tribute to a man who has stared real life calamities such as plane crashes in the face and not blinked first.

7. RETURN OF THE JEDI

Let’s start things off on a slow burn with a less obvious example of Ford’s balls-to-the-wall onscreen bravery. This entry comes direct from Star Wars Episode VI: the Sarlacc sequence, where master criminal and slug-for-brains Jabba The Hut planned to feed his Rebel captives to the ultimate sandpit.

It’s easy to be distracted by Luke doing Jedi acrobatics and swishing his lightsaber about, Leia in “that” bikini and the double whammy of Jabba and Boba Fett’s respective demises. But Han Solo is easily the bravest and coolest of the lot. Not only is he fresh from a carbonite freezing and blind for his trouble, he also manages to ice Fett without even trying.

However it’s mere seconds before our hero is caught up in a yet greater peril, risking life and limb by dangling upside down to retrieve pal Lando Calrissian, who is about to be consumed by the pit. Relying on his wits, Solo must blast the Sarlacc’s tentacle, allowing Lando to break free. He may not be the flashiest participant in this scene, but Ford is definitely the star traveller with the biggest kahones.

6. FRANTIC

The next choice goes from a galaxy far, far away to a capital city closer to home and all too familiar. It was in Paris that Ford faced his next brush with death, courtesy of Hitchcockian thriller Frantic. Before Liam Neeson got mean and moody looking for his missing wife under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Taken, Ford lost his spouse in France’s premier metropolis.

Whilst getting mixed up with wild girl Emmanuelle Seigner he was forced to venture out onto the rooftops to evade some Gallic nasties, almost plunging to his end in the process. If that wasn’t enough he was walking on the tiles in moccasins and had to remove his massively impractical shoes and socks so he could crawl to safety.

Like Hitchcock, director Roman Polanski wasn’t known for giving his actors an easy time of it. The controversial helmer took full advantage of Ford’s trademark hangdog bewilderment as he pushed himself to extremes to keep himself alive in order to solve the riddle of his better half’s disappearance.

5. THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

It’s no surprise to see Ford’s battered adventurer Indiana Jones on the list, though the selected scene for pulp instalment no.2 The Temple Of Doom might not be what you expect. Say “death-defying” in this context and the mine car chase or rope bridge nail-biter spring to mind.

But for a key example of Dr. Jones sticking two fingers up to the Reaper, look no further than the opening minutes. A suited and booted Indy was poisoned by devious crime boss Lao Che at Club Obi-Wan and had to get his hands on the antidote. Unfortunately there were an assortment of obstacles in his path, including gun-toting gangsters, screaming patrons, a sea of ice cubes and even balloons for him to contend with first.

That’s all without mentioning feisty singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who gave the hero earache as he desperately tried to flush out his innards. Steven Spielberg crafted a mind-boggling and creative sequence for Ford to fight his way out of. Impromptu skydiving, child labour and human sacrifice were just some of the delights to follow after this thrilling scene-setter.

4. BLADE RUNNER

The clue’s in the title. Though he spends a fair amount of time skulking about the streets of a future LA eating sushi and pointing guns, replicant hunter Rick Deckard (Ford) is chasing along a sharper blade than most. He got a pounding from amoral yet aesthetically-pleasing robots Pris and Roy Batty. Yet for the most shocking attack he received during the course of Ridley Scott‘s movie, gangly assassin Leon’s took the bionic biscuit.

For starters he ambushed Deckard right on the street, at a point when he was most vulnerable. Ford’s face said it all, expressing an almost child-like surprise and fear as the vengeful android laid brutally into him like a cat with a ball of yarn.

Having been beaten to a pulp, he then almost got his eyeballs poked out. If gorgeous rescuer Rachael hadn’t intervened with a bullet his last view on earth would have been Leon’s dirty fingernails. A grim fate indeed. It’ll be intriguing to see how much rough-housing an ageing Ford does in the upcoming sequel. Knowing this tough guy, I’m sure Scott has a slice of action specially reserved for him.

3. A NEW HOPE

Arguably the defining entry on Han Solo’s resume of Reaper avoidance occurs during his introductory scenes. Mos Eisley cantina was the perfect setting to find the space-based scoundrel, and while the roguish charmer felt at home he also knew the smoky bar was festooned with enemies.

Having made a sweet deal with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his friends to get them to Alderaan, Ford’s Solo prepared to blast off in the Millennium Falcon. However rubbery foe Greedo had other ideas, forcing Han at gunpoint to a table where he was determined to settle his score with the mercenary for hire once and for all.

We could have been saying goodbye to Ford before we’d even got halfway through the flick. Thankfully you can’t deal with a slippery customer by simply grabbing hold of him. Different edits have caused controversy over who shot first, but it’s safe to say Han was ready to stare death in the kisser, blowing Greedo away before the bug-eyed henchman had the chance to carry out his dastardly plan.

2. THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

The last time we saw Indiana Jones, it was in disappointing fourth chapter The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Sure, it was fun seeing the gang again but overall the project suffered from a mish-mash of elements that never quite gelled. One of the movie’s major achievements in the process was to bring us the whip-cracking wonder’s most epic escape from the bony fingers of his ultimate opponent.

You can see Ford’s Indy maybe beating the Nazis, or the primal forces of the Temple Of Doom. A nuclear explosion on the other hand? That’s a tough nut to crack and no mistake, and the very predicament he found himself in when trapped on a test site populated by homespun furnishings and shop window mannequins.

Never underestimate the resourceful Dr. Jones though. Hardy to the last, he hid inside a lead-lined refrigerator, emerging with more bruises than a supermarket nectarine and several miles away from where he started, yet alive and kicking for more adventure.

  1. THE FUGITIVE

Playing a beleaguered doctor named Richard in Frantic clearly rubbed off on Ford, for almost a decade later he repeated the same trick for big screen reboot The Fugitive. Here he became Dr. R Kimble, who was wrongfully accused of his wife’s murder thanks to a mysterious one-armed man.

The real pleasure of Kimble’s pursuit lay in the cat and mouse antics between him and Federal Marshal Sam Gerard, brought to life by Tommy Lee Jones, an actor who put the blood into bloodhound. Their awkward relationship came to the mother of all heads when Gerard cornered Kimble at the exit to a water pipe. Well I say cornered. There weren’t many corners involved in the death plunge which lay before Ford.

Of all the entries on the list, this is the one where the chiselled star was seriously nose to nose with the undiscovered country. That face was as readable as John Le Carre: Ford can’t quite believe he’s going to jump, yet he does. It seems this is one stunt too many for the desperate escapee. However this is no ordinary man on the run – this is the unbeatable screen presence of Harrison Ford. Endanger him at your peril.

Rod Lord short story

It was thirty-seven years ago, in a time not unlike our own. Rod Lord, Britain’s number one pornography star, was sitting in the offices of Kenneth Tree off Wardour Street. Tree was not a man for pleasures. His face called to mind an Easter Island head sprayed teak. He was strictly a money man and regarded his own product with bafflement. He simply understood a good investment when he saw one and here, tanned and wearing a blue jumpsuit adorned with gold jewellery and a carefully-arranged helmet of chestnut hair, was his nest egg, Rod.

There had been an unusually long silence in the room, even by Tree’s standards. Rod suddenly realized the man had been attempting to make pleasantries with him, aside from the usual small talk.  Tree was working his way up to something big, and as he put his tweed elbows on the desk he finally came out with three words: “Look behind you.”

Rod twisted. There, against the back wall, out of sight but all too apparent, was an object that almost touched the ceiling. It looked like a cabinet. Something long and shiny protruded from it, profiled against the back window. With a cautious glance back at Tree, Rod stood up and made his way over to where the thing was idling. A reel to reel tape deck took up the top half of its broad front, like eyes. A ticker tape read-out of a mouth had been stopped mid-flow. There was an array of buttons, switches and vaguely utilitarian attachments.  Rod did his best to take it all in.

“What is it?”

“This is the Sexus 3000 and it is the future of our industry.” Tree joined Rod and tugged at a chunky lever on the side of the cabinet. It began to chitter and bleep.  The reel to reel span this way and that. The ticker tape expunged frantically and Rod suddenly understood what the shiny protruberance was as it began quietly undulating.

“You mean…” Rod started. “A sex computer?”

Tree’s eyes gleamed with an imperial lustre. “Oh it’s a computer Rod… but it’s so much more. Imagine the productivity of a device such as this. Never sleeping.  Never tiring. It could keep Kenneth Tree Industries in business twenty-four hours a day.”

“But what about women? You’re going to need women.  If anything you’ll have to employ more. It’ll cost money.”

“One step at a time. This is a modern business Rod.  Men have to move with the times, or get locked out.  This machine can do the work of ten men twice as fast.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go. The Sexus 3000 can do your job from now on.”

Rod’s surgically-tautened eyelids widened. “You can’t fire me! Being a pornography star is all I know!”

“It may sound harsh Rod but sometimes you have to cut off the tail so the cat can escape from under the garage.”

And with that bizarre proclamation Rod Lord’s career in pornography was over. As he stumbled dejected into Wardour Street the shade of his jumpsuit visibly diminished in the afternoon light.

Rod didn’t have a clue what he was going to do. He’d been in the pornography game for as long as he could remember and life outside it seemed cold and barren.  He bought a local paper and sat in his spacious flat with its decadent Swedish furniture, perusing the classifieds.

“Woman seeks man with love of fine dining, excellent table manners and an innate proclivity for sexual gymnastics…” Now that sounded like a job worth applying for.

It took Rod an hour to work out that he was supposed to be looking at the employment rather than the dating section. Under “situations vacant” he found the exact position he wanted – plumber.  Plumbing was an easy job. He’d played a plumber in three films. All you had to do was show up with your wrench, the woman takes her top off and several bursts of steam later you were done.

He presented himself proudly at the employment exchange. He’d changed into his best leather driving jacket with cream open-necked shirt, blue denim flares and moccasins with a domino motif. Around his neck was a medallion reading “Plumbers Do It Best”.

The pretty young thing behind the desk did not give him the reaction he expected. “Are you sure you’re a plumber?” she asked.

“I’m the plumber and I’ve come to sort out your pipes,” he replied in a loud, commanding voice. It was the only line he remembered from the productions he’d starred in, though to be fair there were never a great deal of lines supplied.

Having made this declaration of his skills, Rod was sent to the location of the job, an impressive thirty acre estate near Heathrow. Rod was taken to the mansion buildings in a golf cart by a butler named Gregory, a tall, balding man who regarded him with utter disdain at every conceivable opportunity. Gregory explained that their usual plumber had been indisposed after someone on the grounds had dropped a fruitcake on him from a great height.

Escorted at speed through any area where he could possibly be acknowledged by the public at a rate of knots, Rod was taken below stairs. He proceeded to strut through a network of ornate, musty corridors. The air was alive with the sound of clanking and footsteps hurrying back and forth. Gregory opened a wooden door like he was opening a plane at forty thousand feet and bustled Rod inside.

Rod found himself in a small room. The space was dominated by a wall of piping, interconnected almost by osmosis, which had clearly seen better days.  Approximately every twelve seconds a lance of steam would jab from one of the valves.

“Well?”  asked Gregory, with pinched features.

“Nice steam man,” said Rod. “It’s a real pipe show down here, yeah?”

Gregory stared at him, alarmed. “Where are the remainder of your tools?”

“Are the women coming out soon?” Rod was beginning to feel anxious. What sort of a plumbing operation was this? He started swinging his wrench suggestively from hand to hand.

“The women are all upstairs. What are you talking about? Look, I have to attend to the service, are you going to be alright left on your own?”

“I’ve come to sort out your pipes,” Rod intoned with as much authority as he could muster. Gregory gave him a conflicted look before sweeping out of the room and closing the door. Rod stood there for several minutes, his demeanour interrupted by the escaping steam.

After another couple of minutes he carefully opened the door and peered out into the ancient corridors. He stepped out of the room and started making his way to where he thought the upstairs might be. Gregory the intimidating butler had mentioned something about women being there and Rod thought he may have been directed to the wrong room.

“Are you alright?” came a soft voice from behind. “You look like you’re lost.”

Rod wheeled round with the wrench and the owner of the voice jumped. He found himself faced by quite a strange-looking person. “I’m the plumber,” he explained abruptly. “Do you know where the women are?”

“Oh.” The person, clutching a stack of dirty plates, looked disappointed. “Yes, they’re upstairs.”

There was something about this individual Rod couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“If you go to the end of this corridor and make a left you’ll see a staircase to the banquet hall.”

“Are you a woman?” he asked. The young woman looked appalled. Rod’s question must have seemed quite offensive but to him she was unlike any woman he had ever encountered before. She didn’t have a hefty bosom for a start and her hair was scrunched back into a sort of ball.

“Yes I am,” she snapped, her sweet but slightly disproportionate features flushing with a silent fury. “I presume you’ve finished with me now?”

“Yes,” replied Rod, oblivious. The young plate carrier hurried past him and into the subterranean gloom.

Rod found the narrow stone staircase and made his way up into the banquet hall. This was a space like a varnished aircraft hanger, a mighty chandelier dangling several feet above the visitors’ heads. However, Rod’s attention was entirely taken up by the orgy that was taking place in the majority of the room.

It worked its way out across a seething glut of nakedness, flesh colliding into itself like blood cells along a test tube. Rod took all this in, staggered back into the staircase and was violently sick. This may have seemed like a weird way for a pornography star to behave, but Rod was from the softest end of the market, so to speak. The closest he’d gotten to actual brass tacks was thrashing around a bit with a comely co-star.  One afternoon his fellow performer Sandra Plume had invited him back to her flat, supposedly on the proviso of coffee, but this had turned into something a lot darker and Rod had fled. Confronted with the trembling mechanics of the pursuit en masse led Rod to palpitate and sweat. He dropped his wrench and stumbled back down the steps.

As he steadied himself against the masonry he was approached again by the young woman whose biology he had called into question just moments earlier. As she fetched him a glass of water and helped him quell his giddying nerves, the woman, whose name was Kathy, saw through the layers of bravado to the sensitive soul beneath. Rod in turn found himself drawn to this mysterious feminine creature, who tended to him so carefully and who certainly wasn’t looking to get her pipes fixed.

Three short months later Rod and Kathy were married.  She found him a job drying the plates at the establishments where she worked and together they produced a beautiful baby boy, who they named Eddie.  Rod even turned down the offer to rejoin the pornography business when the Sexus 3000 broke down after having claret slung at it in the Ivy.

Yet despite a new-found feeling of contentment there was still something burning in Rod’s breast that he couldn’t ignore. He had seen the world outside of pornography and he found it overall a sad one. The faces of the men who dashed the plates into the soapy water for Kathy to wash and him to dry were perpetually miserable. The people around him were slaves to their wages and the more he learned to live without money the more Rod became convinced that money was the currency of the terminally depressed.

He gathered together all the prominent pornography stars whose noses had been put out of joint by the mechanization of the industry. They decided to form a party, the Rod Party, who put forward a proposal that Britain should be driven entirely by love, not cash. The country took to Rod’s cause and at the next General Election he was swept to power as Prime Minister. He immediately assuaged a war between America and Russia by shutting their Presidents in a honeymoon suite with some champagne and luxury chocolates. The men emerged several hours later flushed and determined to reconcile their differences.

Intercourse rapidly inherited the mantle of exchange from the banking sector, which led to trade becoming a lot more pleasurable, though Christmas was still a stressful time.

So from losing his livelihood, to finding love, right through to discovering the meaning of life again, Rod Lord, former pornography star, ended up becoming the greatest force for change his country ever produced.

The Commitments At 25: Robert Arkins, Ken McCluskey & Dave Finnegan Interview (The Hollywood News)

tc1Extraordinary as it may seem The Commitments has reached its quarter century. This unlikely smash hit followed the fortunes of a group of young Dubliners scaling the cliff-face of soul to find fame and fortune. Their journey captured the imaginations of audiences around the world and made stars of its then-unknown cast.

The movie is a bittersweet story but one which had a happy ending for the actors, many of whom were given a unique opportunity by veteran director Alan Parker, bringing writer Roddy Doyle‘s novel to the screen.

We had the pleasure of catching up with Robert Arkins (band manager Jimmy Rabbitte), Dave Finnegan (mad drummer Mickah Wallace, who joined the interview part-way though) and Kenneth McCluskey (bass guitarist and butcher) for a trip down their respective musical memory lanes.

Robert Arkins

Robert Arkins

THN: Does it feel like twenty-five years?

Robert Arkins: We can’t forget! We’re reminded of it every day! (Laughs) You can’t avoid it, you can’t hide…well you can try! It would maybe seem like more to some people…

Ken McCluskey: It’s amazing isn’t it? Twenty-five years ago we were all young chaps and here we are now. The film is legendary, we’ve travelled the world. I don’t think there’s anywhere the movie hasn’t been.

THN: I presume you’re all good friends so it feels natural for you to get together…?

RA: Yeah exactly. It becomes a part of life, we have a bit of fun, but the film as films go is fantastic. It’s spread the word of the music to a lot of people and made a lot of people very happy so that’s the main thing.

Kenneth McCluskey, Félim Gormley & Dave Finnegan

Kenneth McCluskey, Félim Gormley & Dave Finnegan

THN: A big part of why the film succeeds is the way it combines a cast who were unknown back then with a seasoned director, Alan Parker. What was it like working with him?

RA: For me, the fact that he chose us individually and made up his mind gave me confidence to go in and do something I’d never done before. He was looking for a bit of this and a bit of that. A bit of light and shade. That was pretty much what he’d say most of the time for me! I don’t know, how do you feel about it Dave?

Dave Finnegan (having just entered the room): Feel about what?

THN: Is that Dave? Did you hear the question?

DF: No. (Laughs)

THN: I was just asking about the filming and how it all went…

DF: The movie was like an open thing. Usually with films actors have agents and it goes through that process. They advertised these auditions in shops and pubs so everybody went for it. I was spotted playing in a band, I didn’t even see the posters to be honest with you. The casting directors came and looked at us and said: ‘This section can go for this character, and that section can go for that character…’ Eventually when I met Alan Parker and auditioned he tried to get that aggressive character out of me, and he succeeded. He knew just by looking at people what he could get out of us, you know? And unfortunately I got the wild guy! (Laughs)

THN: Do you have an abiding memory of the shoot?

RA: There’s a scene where Joey “The Lips” (Johnny Murphy) is driving down the lane on his motorbike. I’m down the lane standing behind the camera with Alan and the crew and Johnny, who’s not very good at driving the motorbike, it was probably his first time… basically he comes down the lane, goes to try and park, smashes into the wall and falls over. We all cracked up and it ended up staying in the film!

tcTHN: A key element was creating a convincing band. How did that come together in terms of rehearsals and shooting the gigs?

RA: Well the film was shot in sequence. But we did two weeks of rehearsal where we ran through all the gig scenes and all the scenes where everybody was together as a unit, the backstage thing so we could get the synchronization working.

KM: Yeah, we got our characters to develop. Alan Parker actually started changing the book. Some of my lines were switched with Outspan (Glen Hansard) so he could develop it properly. When we were filming he’d say ‘I want you to say this instead of this.’ That’s the way he worked. He knew what he was doing, he had it all in his head. He was a genius, having all these characters in his head and knowing what he was going to do.

THN: Was Roddy Doyle involved much in the filming?

RA: No, I met him on set and had a chat. He just wanted to come down, he was curious. You know how it is, writers hand over the baby, depending on the deal. They don’t really have much of a look in after that.

KM: He wanted to come down to see what had happened to the characters. He seemed happy.

Ken McCluskey

Ken McCluskey

THN: The Commitments provides a nice antidote to the Simon Cowell method of nurturing talent. Do you think it’s a good film for aspiring musicians to watch?

RA: (Laughs) There is a good lesson to be learned for young people. If you’re going to get into it, get in for the joy and pleasure of playing the music and the craft. Then at the end of it the band breaks up, so the reality of it is not everyone becomes famous. It’s about luck. There’s a lot of people out there who are very untalented and become very successful. And then there’s the opposite, people who are extremely talented who don’t get lucky at all.

DF: That’s very true. The Commitments wasn’t a band as such, we all came from different kinds of bands. We were jamming in our bedrooms and playing in pubs. Nowadays it’s different.

This review appeared on THN.

The Commitments 25th Anniversary DVD Review (The Hollywood News)

tcTime for people of a certain age to start feeling old. It’s been a quarter of a century since director Alan Parker introduced us to an unlikely soul combo whose legacy still lives on via a hit stage show and countless concerts. So while their onscreen fortunes turned out to be mixed, The Commitments‘ place in popular culture is assured.

Opening with a bustling Dublin street market with second hand goods, fiddle players and horses, this marks itself out from the blockbusters of the time as a gritty take on Roddy Doyle‘s source novel. Fast-talking wannabe music mogul Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) has a simple idea: reasoning that the oppressed Irish are “the blacks of Europe”, he wants to assemble a world class soul outfit from local talent. But like the best band stories the road to success is paved with false starts, egos and copious amounts of drink and swears. In fact the production may hold the record as the most expletive-laden popular movie of all time, if not the twentieth century.

Sitcom stalwarts Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were the perfect pairing to guide Doyle’s salty characters and quotable dialogue to the big screen (they even manage a cheeky reference to their defining show The Likely Lads along the way). Saxophone player Félim Gormley explains how he came by his instrument – “My uncle gave me it when his lung collapsed.” – and lead singer Andrew Strong gets the job after Arkins sees him giving an impromptu drunk performance at a wedding, one his star turn can’t even remember doing!

What contributes to the longevity of The Commitments is Parker’s decision to go with unknown actors. Some of them went on to greater things (notably Bronagh Gallagher, who appeared in The Phantom Menace) but on the whole this was their first and only shot at world domination. This means the film still has that layer of authenticity which could have been diminished if you spent two hours spotting the famous faces. The cast are likeable and clearly revelling in the easy going yet edgy atmosphere Parker creates. They’re all good, but special mention must be given to Gallagher and Johnny Murphy‘s Joey “The Lips” Fagan, who gets his pick of the women and who may or may not be a raging fantasist. Then there’s Strong, with his weathered vocals and extraordinary range of facial expressions.

The power behind the story is the filmmaker’s ability to deliver a convincing band, as well as conveying the rough and ready nature of creating musical fusion. Whether winging it through a chaotic set or flowing together like cream and coffee, you buy into their tale, and even hope they find the notoriety they crave. It’s a particularly inspirational movie for a generation all-encompassed by the Simon Cowell approach to talent nurturing and speaks to viewers on all levels.

For this milestone, a solid range of extras has been added for the release. Parker himself is on commentary duties and the way it all came together is chronicled via several documentaries from past and present. If you Try A Little Tenderness you’ll find yourself rooting for this Chain Of Fools, whose distinctive journey will keep you laughing through to The Midnight Hour. I’ll shut the f*** up now.

This review first appeared on THN.