John Reed: Look, what does a capitalist do? Let me ask you that, Mike. Huh? Tell me. I mean, what does he make, besides money? I don't know what he makes. The workers do all the work, don't they? Well, what if they got organized?
In Sweden we have an abundance of investigative crime-thrillers, but "Jägarna" or "The Hunters" Directed by Kjell Sundvall qualifies as one of the best. Although it was released about one month prior to Fargo you could almost call it the Swedish counterpart. Not that the two stories closely resembles each other when looking at the big picture. The similarities is in terms of tone, basic concept and the way the film makes hilarious fun of locals in a desolate area.
After recovering from taking a bullet, in the line of duty as a police officer, Erik played Rolf Lassgård returns from the capital Stockholm to the small desolate Norrland's town where he grew up, located in one of the most northern parts of Sweden and there he attends his fathers funeral. Being shot has prompted Erik to start working as a police officer in Norrland and he moves in with his brother Leif played by Lennart Jähkel, in a house that they both inherit from their father. The first assignment Erik gets is to solve a series of organized deer and Elk poaching cases, but he soon remembers how difficult and unpopular it can be to perform investigations in a town where everyone knows each other, and as the investigation moves forward the poachers gets increasingly pressured which causes the situation to spiral out of control.
Director Kjell Sundvall hasn't been at all afraid that his target audience will be turned of by violence, graphic scenes or how honest he is when depicting the amount of racism that runs rampant in some parts of the country. Deer poaching was and still is a large problem in Sweden since a lot of these deers belong to and help make a living for an ethnic minority of natives called Sami people. Adressing a real issue and not being afraid to take it one step further is part of what makes this film better than most other Swedish films in the genre. Rolf Lassgård delivers a good performance as the main protagonist, Erik, but the best performance of the film comes from Lennart Jähkel in the role as Erik's brother, Leif. All smaller performances comes from locals of Norrland so the dialect is always spot on. The only major problem with the film is the main female character, a prosecutor named Anna played by Helena Bergström. The problem has nothing to do with her performance, but with the fact that the character seems to have been squeezed into the story without any purpose, just for the sake of having a female character, apart from that "Jägarna" is a very inventive, violent and capturing crime-thriller.
I will start this review by stating that I don't think this Western-drama will appeal to everyone, but if you liked "There Will Be Blood" or "Dead Man" in terms of tone, content and tempo you might find this interesting. The film doesn't have a typical Hollywood beginning and as we get into the story the obvious starting point have already taken place and a group of eight individuals have already left a large caravan of European settlers in order to take a shortcut towards their destination, guided by a man named Meek, but as it turns out Meek have basically no idea what he's doing or which way to go and the group seems to be completely lost in Native American land. This is the plot the viewer is presented with at the beginning and it doesn't change much during the course of the film, which takes a slow, detailed and even realistic approach to the situation. With no duels, bandits, sheriffs or bounty-hunters this is a western as revisionist as they come and having enough backbone to take your film into uncharted territories can go a long way with me.
Meek's Cutoff is certainly not an uneven journey it keeps the same extremely slow-moving yet suspenseful tempo and eerie mood throughout the entire duration. For large parts of the film there is basically no dialog, but the actors still manage to successfully communicate the feeling of utter despair and even transfers the adversity of their massive undertaking unto the viewer's shoulders, making this film difficult, but rewarding to watch. The story is told from the women's point of view and since this takes place in a less progressive time where the women do not get to take part in the important decisions and even though one of them is the sharpest member of the group, they along with the viewer are left out while the men make decisions equally important to the fate of the female characters as it is to the plot. Very frustrating, provocative and brilliant filmmaking from director Kelly Reichhardt. The strong female lead is played by Michelle Williams, who also gives the strongest performance of the film. Not that her performance is the only one that stands out, Bruce Greenwood convincingly performs the task of playing a very particular form of antagonist as Meek. Paul Dano plays a minor character, but is still memorable and Rod Rondeaux plays a Native American without any use of Hollywood stereotypes or clichés. Meek's Cutoff is very different and uneventful, but worth seeing for a lot of reasons.
Leave it to Tim Burton to make a tribute to the art of filmmaking through a biopic on a person who is generally considered one of the worst directors to ever make films, Ed Wood. The fifties sci-fi and horror film director who basically have been called everything from the most incompetent filmmaker of all time to an oblivious avant-gardist and misunderstood poet. The story starts with Edward D. Wood Jr as a struggling young screenwriter and director who is having trouble to find a studio willing to finance his first picture, when a film about the controversial topic of sex change comes to his attention. Ed desperately tries to convince the producer that he is the best man for the job on the grounds that he's a cross-dresser, but is rejected. Later that same day Ed has a run in and forms a friendship with the out of work acting legend, Bela Lugosi, a former horror-star with a severe morphine addiction. He returns to the studio and offers to get them Lugosi for their sex change film if he's allowed to direct and filming of the first, Edward Wood Jr, film Glen or Glenda begins.
Ed Wood is a very rare film in many ways and not the average type of character study. It only depicts the rise, if you might call it that and not really any fall or many downs. Ed wood as a character is dealt with in a very comedic and lighthearted fashion making it the ultimate feel-good film. The fascinating friendship between Ed and Lugosi take as big a part of the story as the career of Ed and the two characters are brought to life through incredible performances from Johnny Depp and Martin Landau. The supporting cast is a solid bunch consisting of Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, George Steele, Max Casella, Brent Hinkley and Bill Murray. Costuming and makeup are both perfectly done to resemble the fifties and the film is shot in very atmospheric black and white intended to mirror Ed Wood's own films. Tim Burton probably decided to direct this film out of true admiration for the cult-filmmakers passion and loyalty to his vision, which really sets the tone for the entire film and sends the message that even the most popular filmmakers today have something to learn from this small time director of cheap b-movies.