The Past is Unwrapped in Joel Edgerton’s The Gift

The Gift opens on ominous shots of an abandoned, modernist mansion, grey stone and brown wood gleaming dully in the afternoon L.A. sun. Soon, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), a professional couple from Chicago, will be escorted through the hollow house by a real estate agent. But for now it lies dormant, the…

Shrew’s Nest (2014)

The nation-centric film festivals that flit their way through Australian capitals tend to offer the same sort of fare, for better or worse: a mix of arthouse indies, accessible comedies and the occasional crime drama. As a horror/thriller film, Shrew’s Nest is an outlier in the 2015 Spanish Film Festival lineup. Directors Juanfer Andrés and…

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)

Is there anything more reliable in cinema than the crime drama? We have our middle-aged, grizzled police officer. He chain-smokes, drinks heavily, and seems to send his shirts to be custom-ruffled daily. He doesn’t get along with people – he’s taciturn, gruff, and so forth – but, dammit, he gets results. You will be shocked…

Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen in The Two Faces of January (2014)

The Two Faces of January (2014)

The Two Faces of January is set in 1962, but it could just have easily been made in the same year, or even a decade earlier. The film – from Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini – is a close facsimile of the thrillers of half a century ago, to the point where it could be a…

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin feels like a feature-length version of the suspenseful, often silent showdowns found within understated thrillers. I’m thinking Coen Bros specifically – the climax of Blood Simple, or the hotel showdown between Chirgurh and Moss in No Country for Old Men. Executed right, these scenes practically define the cliché “on the edge of one’s…

Piolo Pascual in On the Job (2013)

On the Job (2013)

On the Job is a grim yet likeable Filipino crime thriller, where cops and hitmen are pitted against one another while corrupt politicians pull their strings. It’s a familiar story, and while there are surprises lurking within an impressively dense narrative, there’s no spark of originality to distinguish it from any number of other crime…