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last update 26.Jan.12
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dir-scr Darren Flaxstone, Christian Martin
prd Christian Martin
with Alex Anthony, Conner Mckenzy, Jessica Matthews, Oliver Park, Bernie Hodges, Aaron Onuora, Tony Banham, Sean Hogan, Mike Burgess, Marc Laurent, Richard Chan, Gerry King
adloff and reed
release US Apr.11 mglff,
UK 5.Dec.11 dvd
11/UK 1h21
buffering Shot, edited and performed like a goofy sitcom, this British comedy never quite hits its stride, punching the jokes too broadly and never really developing the drama. The simplistic plot helps hold our interest, but only just.

On their anniversary, Seb (Anthony) discovers that his boyfriend Aaron (Mckenzy) has been unemployed for three months. And Seb's work is being cut back as well. So to make sure the mortgage gets paid, Aaron starts secretly videotaping their bedtime romps and uploading them to an amateur porn site. Surprisingly, he starts making a tidy profit. When Seb discovers what's going on, his anger is tempered by their desperate need for the money people are paying to watch them. So he agrees to help make the shows increasingly racy. But everyone has his limit.

The film is assembled in a simplistic, low-budget style that's extremely cheesy, complete with rather camp performances from the two actors at the centre. The stilted interaction, broad silliness and thinly developed characters make the movie difficult to engage with. This is a surprise after Flaxtone and Martin's previous films Shank and Release, which overcame their limited budgets with strong acting and complex storylines. By contrast, this film lurches awkwardly through a straightforward plot, filling scenes with corny jokes and overplayed slapstick.

Still, the film does have its charms, while the story has some intriguing relevance in these grim economic times. While the dramatic scenes are the most strained, Anthony and Mckenzy are quite sexy when they're being playful. Side characters include former housemate Jem (Matthews), who returns at a fortuitous moment with plenty of ideas, and a perpetually shirtless muscle-hunk (Park) next door

But the plot is so basic that the film feels padded out by random montages and even a musical performance (in the basement of a sex shop?). Product placement is blatant in every shot (the pants supplier is obvious), and in the end the film takes an oddly moralistic turn as Seb begins to object to spicing things up, which reminds himself of his embarrassing past and makes him feel like a prostitute. Although at least the final scenes make sure we don't take any of that too seriously.

18 themes, language, sexuality
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The Burma Conspiracy
3.5/5   Largo Winch II
dir Jerome Salle
prd Nathalie Gastaldo
scr Julien Rappeneau, Jerome Salle
with Tomer Sisley, Sharon Stone, Ulrich Tukur, Mame Nakprasitte, Olivier Barthelemy, Laurent Terzieff, Nicolas Vaude, Clemens Schick, Nirut Sirichanya, Dmitry Nazarov, Francois Montagut, Anatole Taubman
release Bel 16.Feb.11,
UK 23.Jan.12
11/Belgium 1h59
The Burma Conspiracy This Bourne-meets-Bond franchise, based on the Belgian comics, continues with another fast-paced international thriller packed with surprising plot twists and a refreshingly offbeat approach to both action and narrative.

Three years before he assumed control of his late father's empire, Largo (Sisley) had gone native in a Burmese village. So he knows that shifting the company into a foundation to address poverty will make the rich and powerful furious with him. Sure enough, he's instantly charged by an international prosecutor (Stone) with complicity in a Burmese massacre. But of course there's a lot more to this story, and as Largo sets out to find the truth he finds himself in one sticky situation after another.

The film kicks off with a frenetic car chase in Bashkortostan and never lets up, through vicious fistfights, explosive breakouts and a heart-stopping leap from a plane. Once again, director Salle makes terrific use of the globe-hopping locations as well as the muscled bodies of his cast members. He also undermines the violence with a cheeky sense of humour that sometimes gets rather corny. But then this is a long film with a continually shifting story. And some of the violence is genuinely horrible.

There's a growing hint of melodrama in the Burmese flashbacks, in which Largo's idyllic life with Malunai (Nakprasitte) is interrupted by political conflict when he meets a hapless French driver (Barthelemy) for a bit of male bonding. Back in the present, Malunai is brought in to testify against him, sparking another series of captures, rescues and chases, plus political complications and financial wrangling. It's thoroughly involving, even if it never quite breaks the surface.

If possible, Sisley is even cooler this time round, as Largo confidently faces each new challenge. Although he's oddly asexual, even in the face of Stone's tenacious vamp and Nakprasitte's natural beauty. At least Largo's uneasy relationship with Malunai provides a romantic slant. But as the plot races through each wrinkle in the story, we're carried along by the engaging performances and assured, expensive-looking filmmaking. The narrative also nicely echoes the themes of the first film. And it leaves us hoping a third is on its way.

15 themes, language, violence
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Largo Winch
aka The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch
dir Jerome Saale
prd Nathalie Gastaldo
scr Julien Rappeneau, Jerome Salle
with Tomer Sisley, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlovic, Melanie Thierry, Gilbert Melki, Karel Roden, Steven Waddington, Anne Consigny, Rasha Bukvic, Benedict Wong, Nicolas Vaude, Bojana Panic
sisley release Bel 17.Dec.08,
UK 2.Mar.10, US 7.Oct.11
08/Belgium 1h44
Largo Winch Based on the Belgian comics, this snappy globe-hopping thriller is a thoroughly enjoyable romp that looks as polished as anything from Hollywood. Although the international range of languages, characters and settings makes it rather offbeat.

When Nerio Winch (Manojlovic) is killed, his estranged adopted son Largo (Sisley) must step up to preserve the Hong Kong-based Winch empire. But Largo is in a nasty Brazilian prison, framed for drug possession by a seductive woman (Thierry). Meanwhile, Nerio's second in command, Ann (Scott Thomas), keeps the company going while the stock market panics. When Nerio's assistant Freddy (Melki) tracks down Largo, he bristles against his inheritance but realises it's what he was raised to do. He also decides to solve his father's murder.

The enjoyably twisty present-day story is punctuated with flashbacks showing Largo's childhood, as he's groomed to take over the business, his identity kept secret until Nerio's death. Sisley's cool, sexy Largo is more of an action man than a boardroom executive, which gives plenty of scope for black comedy and earthy intrigue as he stands up against a takeover from his biggest rival (Roden). And everyone plays it straight down the line, balancing the comic-book wackiness with steely resolve.

The film's tone is tongue-in-cheek, as Largo charges, often shirtless, into a series of crazy chases in colourful locations. This often involves a beautiful woman or another treacherous betrayal as everyone tries to get their hands on his fortune. Sisley is terrific as each freewheeling action sequence highlights Largo's defiant preference for doing things his own way. So he's constantly in danger, but can definitely take care of himself. And look great in the process.

Slick and fast-paced, the film is a real guilty pleasure as it races through each scene, giving the strong international cast plenty of witty dialogue to play with. The way the plot leaps around the continents and time periods is sometimes a bit confusing. And while there are several emotional moments, it's never terribly deep; the one real theme centres on the idea that what you do with what life gives you is what defines you. But it's so engaging that the end only leaves us wanting more.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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The Love Patient
dir-scr-prd Michael Simon
with Benjamin Lutz, John Werskey, Jackson Palmer, Madison Gray, Mike Pfaff, Laura Ulsh, John Kilpatrick, Denis O'Mahoney, Marc Raymond, Andrew Miller, Anabelle Munro, Sherena Rupan
werskey and lutz release US 6.May.11,
UK 23.Jan.12 dvd
11/US 1h35
The Love Patient The inexperience of first-time feature filmmaker Simon shows in this rather corny comedy, which tries to tell a brightly humorous story about a rather serious subject. But it's difficult to engage with characters who are this thinly developed by both the script and cast.

Paul (Lutz) is desperate to get his ex Brad (Werskey) back, and doesn't really care that Brad has a new boyfriend, Ted (Palmer). His plan involves his childhood pal Burt (Pfaff), a doctor who pretends to diagnose Paul with cancer so Brad will rush to his side. Yes, this works as expected. But along with Brad, Paul now has to deal with his bickering parents (Ulsh and Kilpatrick) and his drama queen sister (Gray). And the fake cancer isn't the only secret he's keeping.

Aside from the low-rent look of the film, there's very little that happens in this story that's remotely believable. Characters fall in and out of love (and even change their sexuality) because the script says so, not due to any real connection. So as things begin to get increasingly farcical, it's difficult to care who ends up with whom. And frankly we can't understand why anyone would be attracted to these deeply self-absorbed people.

So it's not surprising that the actors struggle to engage us. At least most of them are easy on the eyes, and they manage to find some charm when they're not trying so hard. But as a writer and director, Simon overstates everything while remaining painfully timid about things that might have given the film some edge. For example, the emotions surrounding Paul's "illness" are never dealt with at all, and every hint at sex is giggled away as if this was made for an American after-school TV audience. (The 15 certificate is earned in the post-credit outtakes.)

There's also a serious problem with structure, as the plot lurches through the various acts without much convincing logic. Events and reactions seem to come out of the blue, as if key scenes were accidentally cut out, and the over-tidy finale feels badly rushed. It's always watchable, sometimes mildly amusing, and there's a decent point to it all. But the end elicits a shrug rather than a sigh.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall