Part Two of my Edinburgh International Film Festival Round-Up sees films centering on a KFC-loving hitman, an apocalypse, and homelessness respectively.
Opening this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival was Killer Joe, a controversial film about a family is desperate need of just about everything.
Chris (Emile Hirsch), the son, is in desperate need of cash, he owes a local drug lord a lot of money. He finds out his estranged alcoholic mother has a life insurance policy for $50,000, so approaches his father (Thomas Haden Church) to concoct a plan to kill off the mother and get the money. Rather than carrying out the deal themselves, they decide to hire Joe (Matthew McConaughey), a police officer with a side business in killing.
The only problem is they don’t have the $25,000 Joe needs to carry out the deed, however Joe agrees to take Chris’ other-wordly sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as ‘collateral’ until the family gets their cash.
As the description suggests this is a black comedy at its very blackest. It is clearly not a film interested in the morality of the characters (since aside from Chris and perhaps Dottie) they have none. Instead, it seems more interested in the deranged situations such amoral characters can find themselves in.
Each actor is perfectly cast and carries out their role to perfection. In particular Juno Temple adds layers to a young, innocent character trying to find her identity in an environment no young person should be near.
In many ways, however, Killer Joe felt a bit pointless. Unless you’re a fan of this blacker than black humour, there’s not much in terms of character development, story or theme to chew on.
It reminds me of the final scene of Burn After Reading in which J.K. Simmons’ CIA character muses on the movie’s events by saying, “What did we learn?” and failing to answer the question goes onto say, “I guess we learned not to do it again.”
Likewise with Killer Joe it’s a film that actively avoids analysis and instead opts for a series of apparently pointless events. In short, not my kind of film.
Heralding from Taiwan, Young Dudes was probably the most disappointing of the films I saw at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.
It concerns two young men who believe the apocalypse is coming, and so start a kind of online cult to try and build an ark that will save them from the end of the world. They soon enlist the help of an Eastern European female, and the three do a series of web shows and publicity stunts which capture the imagination of the world’s media. However, it’s not long before one of them gets abducted by beings out of this world.
The problem with Young Dudes was that while the concept and humour the piece was engaging, its characters and their relationships were not. It’s a film which seems interested in the internet and popular culture, but what it’s actually saying about these things is unclear.
In fact most of the film seems purposefully unclear. As such, I was just left pondering what exactly I had seen and why it was important. Young Dudes is certainly an imaginative film, but also one lacking in the traditional story-telling techniques to allow me to engage with its themes.
NFA, on the other hand is a film with a clear theme and narrative. Homelessness is on the agenda, as the film’s main character, Adam (Patrick Baladi) finds himself in a hostel with no recollection of how he got there.
Things get stranger as he tries to make his way back to his house only to discover its abandoned and the police claim there is no record of his residence there. Could it be Adam, articulate and thoroughly middle class really is homeless?
The film is mainly well done, and is carried through to its conclusion without the type of over-the-top ridiculous twist that could have blighted such a story. As it zips along, it deals well with the real issues those who find themselves homeless in Britain must come across.
Nevertheless, once you realise what has happened to Adam and consider the events of the film post-credits, it starts to unravel a bit. As such, the main problem with the film is that in choosing a middle class character to be the film’s homeless lead, it seems like there’s too many hoops it has to jump through to make it work.
Rainbow, the film’s director, used to work in a homeless shelter, and said he came up with the idea for the film after hearing so many answer the question “How did you end up homeless?” with “I don’t know.”
I must say, I would have rather heard a more realistic story based on all the people he met, than the contrived version we ended up getting, presumably to make middle class audiences more engaged with the film’s theme.
It seems ironic that in trying to get middle class people to engage with the issues of the film, Rainbow felt it necessary to put them at the heart of the movie rather than the people it actually effects.