Murder by Numbers (2002, Barbet Schroeder)
A little thriller, loosely based on the infamous Leopold & Loeb case. It stars a very young Ryan Gosling and a very fat Chris Penn (the pills and other stuff were definitely taking their toll by this time) and also features a bizarre scene with a baboon that seems to serve no real purpose at all.
I haven’t seen ROPE (which was also based on the case) in ages, so I can’t compare the two movies, but this one was much better than I had expected. Sandra Bullock is top-billed but the movie belongs to Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling as the Leopold & Loeb wannabees who kill a girl in order to prove that they can get away with it. In real life the two young men were both highly intelligent and were like mirror images of each other, in the movie Pitt is the nerdy mastermind while Gosling is the ultra-cool guy, the type all peers look up to. Things lead to an inevitable climax, but thanks to a clever build-up we keep wondering what happened exactly, and who has been manipulating who.
Code 37 - De Film (Belgian - 2011, Jakob Verbruggen)
A feature length movie, made immediately after the popular (at least in Belgium) Tv-series Code 37, about a vice squad in the city of Ghent. While investigating a vicious assault on a writer of detective stories who was doing some ‘research’ in the red light district, the team leader (Veerle Baetens) starts receiving mysterious clues concerning the childhood trauma that made her want to become a police officer in the first place: as a girl she was forced to watch how her mother was raped during a home-jacking.
Beautifully made (it was compared to Fincher’s Se7en) and well-acted, but suffering from a cluttered, overly busy script. Not bad, but could have been a lot better …
Redbad (Dutch - 2018, Roel Reiné)
The movie tells the story of Frisian (pagan) King Radbad - in Dutch Radboud - and his wars against Pepin of Herstal, Lord of the (Christian) Franks. Redbad is presented as a warrior while in reality he was a calculating, authoritarian ruler who most probably never set foot on the battlefield (he died at old age from a disease). The movie was also criticized for the portrayal of missionary Willibrord (revered as a Saint by the Church) as a madman.
Redbad was not as bad as I feared after all those negative comments, but a Dutch Gladiator or Braveheart it ain’t. There’s some decent location work and the action scenes are appropriately bloody - but after the fourth or fifth battle scene things become so repetitive and mind-numbing that I don’t even remember who won the final battle. Well, maybe it was a draw.
Trance (2013, Danny Boyle)
As stylish as ever, but this late descendant of the director’s far superior Shallow Grave is a rather shallow affair. Again there are three leads (James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell and Rosario Dawson) but the convoluted story about a Goya painting, memory loss and the blurry lines between reality and fantasy promises a lot, but fails to come up with anything substantial. A major disappointment. Apparently the movie production was put on hold to give Boyle the chance to work on the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London and picked up again afterwards. Things do feel a little crumby and fragmented