An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome surprises from Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven. Told in four chapters that unfold out of sequence, the film's brutality is almost balletic as it explores the horrors of this rampantly male-dominated society. It's also gripping, and the characters and themes are seriously haunting.
The main setting is a small desert town, where the mute Liz (Dakota Fanning) is the local midwife. She lives with her gentle husband Eli (William Houston), their daughter (Ivy George) and his son (Jack Hollington) from a previous marriage. Then a new Reverend (Guy Pearce) arrives in town, and immediately takes exception to Liz. As their feud escalates, the Reverend preaches hellfire and damnation messages specifically about Liz. He's also secretly stalking her and making threats that escalate into serious nastiness. But all of this is connected to Liz's past as a young girl (Emilia Jones) living in a brothel, and earlier with her mother (Carice van Houton) as she encounters a desperate fugitive (Kit Harington).
The further back we go, the more interconnected everything becomes, with unexpected revelations that link the characters. There are also huge plot twists and earth-shattering events that don't always ring true. All of this is anchored by Fanning in a remarkably alert performance that requires her to convey (or attempt to conceal) her thoughts and feelings with her expressive eyes. Opposite her, Pearce is practically twirling his moustache as the sadistic villain, a terrifying psycho without any other sides to him. Thankfully, he's surrounded by characters who are layered and fascinating, providing both a blast of earthy realism and some very deep emotions.
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Vlad III Tepes is the Prince of Wallachia and a warrior with a fearsome reputation. Thought of by many as a hero with the ability to defeat armies of men, and by others as a powerful and often cruel adversary, Vlad is facing a huge challenge. Sultan Mehmed II is preparing for battle and he needs a thousand young boys to join his army, and thus Vlad's son is being dragged into the conflict. Determined to protect his family, he sets out to find a way to protect his people single-handedly, so that no children must face the dangers of war. It's then he comes across a dark beast with the power to transform him, and he becomes Dracula; an immortal, blood-drinking demon with the ability to morph into a bat and defend whole cities of civilians. Unfortunately, few are welcoming of his new form and it seems that even those he is striving to protect will turn against him.
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In 1892, the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead; his death is ruled as suicide, according to Scotland Yard detective Inspector Lestrade. But Sherlock Holmes knows that this isn't true: all the evidence suggests that the Crown Prince was murdered, by one Professor Moriarty, whose genius is matched only by Holmes'.
Corporal Rains is a young yet committed soldier, when his unit is ambushed behind enemy lines, Rain's formulates a plan to lead his men to safety but when he returns to safe territory he's imprisoned in military prison for insubordination. The only person who sees potential in the willing recruit is a man by the name of Captain Jones, he offers Rain's a way out of prison if he joins his new elite task force, the 30 Commando unit.
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In 1940, Captain Jones (Bean) is assigned to lead a clandestine mission into occupied Norway to capture German technology that could turn the tide of the war. He recruits a team of crack commandos, including the brave hothead Rains (Dyer) and the Norwegian-Yank Steinar (Hennie). But they have a very rough landing in Norway, their spy contact (Miko) isn't who they expect and the ruthless Nazis quickly catch up with them. Can they get in, do their job and get out? Or will they need plan B?
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The result is two films slapped together. Neither of them are very good on their own, and combined they make little to no sense at all, since the stories bear no resemblance to one another at all.
Continue reading: The Gambler (1997) Review
13 was released on this day (March 15th) in 1999.
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