Trolls, Assassins and a French Thriller

Once more into the breach. As always, the movies discussed here are available on DVD, streaming, etc.

This week’s theme: Fun with Subtitles.

Point Blank

This French action film has two of my favorite ingredients:

1. Action

2. Short running time (86 minutes)

Gilles Lellouche stars as Samuel Pierret, a nurse who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. A thief named Hugo (Roschdy Zem) has been brought into Sam’s hospital after an accident and his associates want him out before the police can haul him off to prison.

To ensure his escape, Hugo’s cohorts kidnap Sam’s pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) and use her as leverage to get Sam to get Hugo away from the authorities. As is usually the case in these kinds of swaps, things don’t go according to plan, leaving Hugo and Sam in an unlikely team-up as they try to unravel this tangled plot.

“Point Blank” is a tight, effective thriller if you can get past the whole “average joe put in extreme situations can do extreme things” angle. I have a problem with it, myself. The things Sam does in this movie are not the kind of things you’d expect a nurse to pull off.

Aside from that, it’s a decent flick, but the least of what we’re talking about today.

13 Assassins

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good samurai movie, and “13 Assassins” is a really good samurai movie.

A remake of a 1963 film, the story is set in the waning days of the samurai era. The shogun is about to put his violent, sadistic half-brother Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) in a position of authority. Everyone thinks this is a bad idea but no one is willing to confront the shogun.

So Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) hires the samurai Shimada (Koji Yakusho) to terminate Lord Naritsugu with extreme prejudice. Shimada finds 11 like-minded samurai to join him. Along the way a half-crazy bandit hooks up with them, making it 13.

But can a baker’s dozen assassins take out Lord Naritsugu and his 200-man honor guard? Maybe, if they can lure them into an elaborately designed trap.

Director Takeshi Miike delivers a very violent, very entertaining action movie. While the first half might be a bit slow for some, once the fighting kicks in in the second half it doesn’t let up. I’ll admit I had trouble keeping the characters straight, especially early on, but that’s the only flaw I found.

Trollhunter

I don’t generally watch a lot of Norwegian cinema, but the buzz was strong for “Trollhunter” so I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did. It’s an absurd mix of humor and horror that pokes fun at the oh-so-deserving-to-be-mocked style of filmmaking made popular by such films as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield.”

We’re told in the opening that what we’re about to see is edited down from several hours of raw footage that was mysteriously dropped off at a television station. We’re also told that no one can confirm that this is doctored footage, so what we’re seeing must be real.

Norway, it seems, has a problem with bears and only licensed bear hunters are allowed to deal with it. When silent, surly Hans (Otto Jespersen) shows up in his beaten up truck and stinky trailer, everyone thinks he’s a bear poacher. Thinking this is a big story, a young filmmaker named Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) and his two-person crew chase after Hans.

Turns out, as you may guess from the title, Hans isn’t hunting bear — he’s hunting troll. Norway, it seems, also has a problem with trolls, but that’s kept under wraps by a secret government organization. An organization that blames all the trolls’ mischief on bears.

At first Hans doesn’t want a camera crew following him around, but after a while he figures — what the heck? He’s an underpaid, unappreciated government employee, why not let the world know what he’s doing? And so Hans takes Thomas and company through the hills, caves and forests of Norway to hunt down a variety of trolls.

 “Trollhunter” is a fun, clever movie. I don’t know much about the mythology of trolls but director André Ovredal does a nice job of laying out the ridiculous rules of troll life and troll hunting. The trolls themselves are an interesting lot, although since trolls can’t stand sunlight we mostly see them through the green of night-vision lenses.

The film builds to a thrilling climax as the final troll Hans deals with is a giant. “Troll Hunter” isn’t great but it’s one of the most inventive films I’ve seen this year.

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