Wilder

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“Solid acting helps overcome questionable plot elements; Grier still has the power.”

The first ten minutes of this seem intent on running out every stereotype possible: Pam Grier as a hot-headed black cop, juggling her job with life as a single mother, taking on prejudiced neighbours, etc, etc. Even her name – Wilder – sounds like something generated by a cliche machine. But as the film goes on, it twists away from the murder-mystery it starts as, eventually corkscrewing off into conspiracy theory, the black market in radioactive materials, illicit medical experiments and corrupt big business.

Adding to the fun, the chief murder suspect is Dr Charney, played by genre legend Rutger Hauer, and the pair have a weird chemistry that works, in spite of everything you might think. There are certainly aspects of the storyline which are questionable. A DNA test which would have cleared Charney is carried out, then not mentioned again, while the most eyebrow-raising sequence has Wilder and Charney break into the morgue, carry out an unofficial autopsy, get attacked, then depart, taking a pair of corpses with them. I guess security on evidence for murder cases is a little lax in Chicago.

I’m a mark for paranoid thrillers, and if you’re not, this probably isn’t really worth your time. Even I found the feminist subtext a bit hard to swallow, and suspect that in the real world, Wilder’s investigative technique would have led to her ass being fired from the police department early in Act One. But Grier is in fine form, even butt-kicking her partner when necessary to the plot, and Hauer is, as always, worth watching. Together, they’re the oddest couple of investigators I’ve seen in a while, and that’s no bad thing.

Dir: Rodney Gibbons
Star: Pam Grier, Rutger Hauer, Romano Orzari, Eugene Clark

Killing Time

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“Probably the second-best thing to come out of Newcastle that isn’t in a bottle.”

We Brits don’t do girls-with-guns movies: too busy drinking tea and arranging matchsticks, I imagine. This is a rare exception, and works not badly, combining a striking ‘Italian’ hitwoman in Maria (Torgan), with the bone-dry sarcasm of Guy Ritchie – at least, before he started making movies starring his missus, Madonna. Maria is brought in by Newcastle cop Bryant (Fairbrass) after the local crime lord (Leach) leaves a fellow policeman nailed to Bryant’s front door. Only, Bryant can’t afford to pay her, so blackmails some local thugs, led by Charlie (Thirkeld) to kill her after she’s done the job. Needless to say, things don’t quite go as planned, and the dead bodies start to accumulate, in a most non-British way.

The least convincing aspects of this are actually the action – it seems that everyone in Newcastle has a gun, but no-one could hit a barn if they were standing inside it, and a lengthy gunfight in the main railway station attracts no attention from police or bystanders (actually, the film has no bystanders. Everyone in the movie, is in the movie…). That aside, and the tinny, synthesized soundtrack, the dialogue alone is worth your attention; it’s almost Tarantino-esque, though comes off with far less pretension But I note, with interest, the presence on the video cover of the same Trek quote used to open Kill Bill, Volume 1…and, also, the credits containing the classic Godard quote about a movies, a girl and a gun.

Fairbrass has been in some real cinematic stinkers, such as Beyond Bedlam, but this is much better, with memorable characters and situations, not to mention the same setting as the best British gangster film of all time, Get Carter. Obviously, this isn’t in the same league, but if you’re in need of…well, Killing Time, there are many worse ways to go about it. Co-writer Neil Marshall would go on to write and direct other pics reviewed here, including The Descent and Doomsday, and if you enjoyed those, track this one down too.

Dir: Bharat Nalluri
Star: Kendra Torgan, Craig Fairbrass, Nigel Leach, Stephen D. Thirkeld