Two Wrongs

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“…don’t make the ending right.”

twowrongsThe first half of this is actually well-written, asking some difficult moral questions that left me intrigued, and wondering how they would be resolved. The answer, unfortunately, is by an escalating series of plot twists, culminating in one of the more ridiculous climaxes I’ve ever seen. I could go on to say, “even in a Lifetime TVM”, but that would be unkind, since I’ve seen both good and bad examples from there over the past year. Though as an aside, I note Netflix being increasingly quiet about the ties of films to Lifetime, which is interesting; but given the severe inaccuracy of their synopsis (No, the heroine does not get “sucked into a dangerous underworld”), that’s more likely a Netflix issue.

Sarah (Zinser) is a single mom, devoted to her daughter, who also works as a nurse. It’s clear from the get-go that someone is stalking her, and eventually the daughter is abducted on her way home from school. Sarah is called by the kidnapper, but his demands are not anything like you’d expected. For it turns out, one of Sarah’s patients is trying to escape his own past, where he was accused of kidnapping a young girl himself, who allegedly died while in the trunk of his car. Acquitted on a technicality, he moved away, but the father of his victim – whose mother also suffered a complete psychological breakdown as a result – has tracked the perp down, and is now intent on using Sarah as a vehicle for his revenge.  How far will she go, in order to save her own daughter?

Like I said: it’s a difficult moral question, not least in the early going, when the film maintains a nice sense of ambiguity as to whether or not the target of her second-hand wrath is guilty. If so, then the entire situation becomes a cascading series of wrongness, potentially culminating in the death of at least one other innocent. While a fascinatingly dark scenario, it’s not exactly Lifetime fodder, and things start to go off the rails when Sarah’s mother [from whom she clearly gets her style of “helicopter parenting”] shows up, extracting a confession that removes any ambiguity. He’s guilty as charged, m’lud – and probably guilty of a lot of other things, too. Hanging’s too good for him. From then on, the script staggers from one ill-conceived mis-step to the next, through everyone going on a road-trip and an amazingly coincidental meeting at a gas-station, to an ending that literally drips everywhere. There is, apparently, no loose end which can’t be tied up by someone drowning randomly and floating off downstream, resolving all those tricky moral dilemmas. Though Zinser is solid enough as a mom prepared to do anything to get her daughter back, she could have been Meryl Streep here, and still wouldn’t be capable of papering over the glaring flaws in the later portion of the script.

Dir: Tristan Dubois
Star: Gillian Zinser, Ryan Blakely, Aidan Devine

Taking Stock

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“Bonnie and Clyde? Banal and tired, more like…”

Kate’s (Brook) life has fallen apart: she has just been told the store she works at is closing because the owner is cashing in on a redevelopment offer; her boyfriend has dumped her; and Kate’s attempt at suicide by gas oven is doomed since she failed to pay the bill. What’s a girl to do? The answer is apparently, take inspiration from her heroine, Bonnie Parker. But rather than robbing banks, Kate teams up with her other disgruntled work colleagues, hatching a daring plan to copy the key to the store, seduce the safe combination out of the firm’s accountant, Mat (Williams) and plunder the ill-gotten gains.

This comes in at a terse 75 minutes, and that’s a very wise move, because the script’s actual content is thin to the point of paucity. Even with the short running time, it seems to run out of actual ideas round about the 30-minute mark, then tries to skate by for the remainder of the movie on Brook’s charisma. Which is not necessarily a bad idea in itself: Kate is an appealing character, with whom it’s easy to empathize, and Brook does a rather better job with her portrayal than I’d have expected from someone previously seen only in Piranha 3D – in which it wasn’t her acting talents which were most apparent, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

But the concept of transferring Bonnie & Clyde to a British setting is a poorly-considered one at best, not least because the closest Kate gets to touching an actual gun, is a vague impersonation of Travis Bickle, using a hair-dryer. Really, when it’s so watered down, what’s the point? I suspect the plot started from this ill-conceived premise, before writer-director Murphy quickly discovered it wasn’t working, only for her to plough on regardless, to the bitter end. Which, in this case, involves a getaway chase on bicycles. This perhaps illustrates its aim of being quirky, in the style of an Ealing comedy, yet contemporarily British. Perhaps too contemporary, with references to Nando’s that won’t travel or date well, and its hip-yet-casual attitude quite quickly turns into forced and artificial.

The rest of the cast beyond Brook are something of a mixed bunch. Williams occasionally appears to be channeling the spirit of David Tennant, and while there are worse things to channel, you’re left with a desire to go and rewatch Broadchurch. No-one else makes much of an impression. Did I say “much”? Any at all, would be more accurate. The film is in particular need of a better antagonist, against whom Kate can go up; her boss at the store is so lightly-drawn as barely to register. Indeed, beyond Brook, little of it will stick in the mind: this is cinematic fluff, and as such, its flaws may be a case of unfulfilled expectations. However, when I hear “a British Bonnie & Clyde,” what that suggests is considerably darker fare than this breezy, entirely forgettable romp.

Dir: Maeve Murphy
Star: Kelly Brook, Scot Williams, Georgia Groome, Femi Oyeniran

Treasure of the Golden Cheetah, by Suzanne Arruda

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2

Warning –my review doesn’t contain any spoilers for this book, but it does divulge a major series plot development from the preceding book!

In the 10th century B.C., the kingdom of Sheba (or Saba –the S and Sh sounds were still fluid in the Semitic alphabets of that day) straddled the Arabic and African sides of the southern entrance to the Red Sea, and enjoyed considerable income from its control of that trade route. Both the Old Testament books of I Kings and II Chronicles record a state visit by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. Neither of these writers record her name (it varies in the legends, but the most common name given is Balkis or Belkis –English transliterations vary) or much about her, and written records from Sheba at this time have not survived; but she’s also mentioned in the Koran. Jewish, Arabic and Ethiopian legends (the latter written down in the ancient writing Kebra Negast, or “Glory of Kings”) some of which probably preserve actual handed-down oral history, greatly elaborate the story, and the latter makes Solomon out to be the father of her son and heir, Menelik. (The royal house of Ethiopia historically claimed descent from Solomon through Menelik.) The legends of the Masai and other African peoples south of Ethiopia also credit Menelik with a great (and obviously historically memorable) expedition through their territories. This real-life material provides the basis for Jade del Cameron’s fifth adventure.

It’s now the autumn of 1920, and an American silent film company is in Nairobi, preparing to journey south (into what is today the country of Tanzania) to fabled Mount Kilimanjaro, there to film a movie, set partly in ancient and partly in modern times, based on a supposed legend of Emperor Menelik having climbed the mountain to die and be buried near the summit with his treasure. Ever ready to visit other African locales to do an article and photo shoot for “The Traveler” magazine –based on the real-life magazine of that era “Travel”, as Arruda mentions in her fascinating-as-always Author’s Notes– Jade’s agreed to go along as second-in-command (with primary responsibility for looking after the expedition’s female members) to the group’s guide –though she’s less than delighted to learn that the guide is Harry Hascombe, whom series readers have met before. The trip will also give her a chance to think seriously about, and hopefully finally sort out her mixed feelings, about her beau Sam Featherstone’s marriage proposal. But shortly before departure, things get off to an ominous start with a strange murder-suicide just outside Nairobi’s Muthaiga Club.

Much that I’ve said in my reviews of previous books in the series applies to this one, too. All the things that attract its fans are here: a strong, tough heroine with admirable character and with the guts and physical conditioning to handle dangerous challenges (yes, that knife in her boot on the cover picture is going to have to come out of its sheath!), well-drawn and sometimes likeable supporting characters, adventure and danger in a well-realized exotic setting, chaste romance, good writing with bad language kept to a minimum and no explicit sex, an undercurrent of supernaturalism and mystery that never turns the book into supernatural fiction but that adds a dash of that flavor. But I can say that this is one of the strongest books in the series, and presents one of the best constructed mystery plots –in several of the books, I fingered the culprit early on (and twice in the first chapter!), but I didn’t here! This one kept me guessing (wrongly) almost down to the wire. The behind-the-scenes look at the film industry of the 1920s enhanced the book; and though I didn’t recognize the tie-in to Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (never having read that story) until the Author’s Notes explained it, I can recognize now that it was masterfully done. I also appreciated the personal growth here of Jade’s young Kikiyu friend, Jelani.

There are only (so far) two more books in this series; Barb and I have already started reading the sixth installment, The Crocodile’s Last Embrace. I’m hopeful Arruda will eventually write more of them; Jade’s a heroine we both want to keep on spending time with!

Author: Suzanne Arruda
Publisher: New American Library (Obsidian imprint), available through Amazon, both for Kindle and as a printed book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Texas Lady

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“The Queen of Hearts”

texasladyThe start here is absolutely fascinating. Riverboat gambler Chris Mooney (Sullivan) is getting his ass kicked by an unknown amateur – and, worse yet, it’s a woman. Certain it’s just bad luck, he borrows $30,000… and loses that too. The woman, Prudence Webb (Colbert), takes the money and gives it to a bank. Her father, who had a gambling problem, had embezzled cash, lost it to Mooney, and subsequently committed suicide. To gain revenge, she had learned to play poker, studied his tactics quietly and, when she felt assured of victory, put her plan into action. Talk about best served cold. With the balance of the cash, she buys a newspaper in a small Texas town, Fort Ralston. Why? Why not. But on arriving there, she finds the local land barons, in particular Micah Ralston (Collins), after whom the town is named, less receptive to her new-fangled ways, though his hired gun Foley (Walcott) takes a rather creepy shine to Webb.

Intent on recovering his reputation as much as the cash, Mooney has followed Webb to Fort Ralston, where Foley resents the new arrival, seeing him as a rival for Prudence’s affection. Meanwhile, roused by her newspaper’s editorial stance, promoting developments such as the railroad, the town is beginning to stand up against their landlord. Ralston retaliates by fabricating a claim of unpaid back taxes on the newspaper, for which Webb is deemed liable. When that fails to get rid of her, and the residents revolt by electing their own mayor, sheriff and judge, replacing Ralston’s cronies, he blockades the town, citing his ownership of the land all around it. Will Prudence and Chris prevail, in their efforts to bring the town into the modern era [or, at least, the late 19th century?]

Colbert is an interesting choice. She won an Oscar almost two decades earlier, for It Happened One Night, and was among Hollywood’s biggest stars at the end of the thirties. The romantic aspects here are, at first sight, implausible, since she is in her fifties (easily old enough to be Walcott’s mother, for example) and not what you’d describe as classically “pretty.” But screen presence and personality make up for a lot of that gap, with the strength of Webb’s character well ahead of its time. I almost wish they had made the entire movie about the initial plot to get revenge for her father; it would have made for a unique and fascinating tale in itself. Instead, the film more or less collapses into standard Western shenanigans with Mooney’s arrival in town, the film becoming mostly about his struggle against Ralston, with Webb largely taking a back seat in her own movie. This is much less interesting, unfortunately: Sullivan isn’t as good an actor, and his character is largely a stock white-hat. Collins’ portrayal of the villain isn’t bad; you do appreciate he has something of a legitimate beef, having sacrificed his life to the town and its people, which is more motivation than you usually get.

In the end, the production lives or dies with Colbert. When focusing on her, it’s thoroughly entertaining and innovative. Unfortunately, the second half largely shifts its attention off Webb, and significantly weakens the overall quality of the movie.

Dir: Tim Whelan
Star: Claudette Colbert, Barry Sullivan, Gregory Walcott, Ray Collins

Temptress of a Thousand Faces

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“Face-off?”

temptressThis loopy slice of sixties Shaw Brothers nonsense is best described as a bizarre combination of martial arts, 007 and Danger: Diabolik. The titular supervillainess has Hong Kong at her mercy, robbing at will due to her extraordinary disguise capabilities. The police, in particular detective Ji Ying (Chin-Fei), are aggravated, and matters are not helped by the local media sensationalizing things, realizing news about the Temptress sells a lot of newspapers. They are led by Molly (Ting Hung), who goes as far as fabricating stories entirely, which brings down on her the wrath of Ji Ying. The Temptress is similarly upset by Ji Ying’s public pronouncements condemning her as a threat to society and kidnaps the policewoman, bringing her to a secret lair purely to explain how the Temptress is doing to destroy Ji Ying’s life. This she proceeds to do, by carrying out subsequent robberies while wearing Ji Ying’s face, causing her to be arrested for those crimes. The cop escapes custody, and it seems the only way to prove her innocence is to capture the real Temptress.

There are so many aspects here that are utterly ludicrous; my favourite was like the Temptress’s lair, which is exactly what I would build, if ever I become an evil overlord. It’s all dry ice, pillars and needlessly complex torture devices, though does at least have a pool, in which the Temptress occasionally lounges, being soaped down by pastie-wearing minions. I also enjoyed the way said henchmen, on the numerous occasions when they are sent to capture Ji Ying, will inevitably first try to defeat her in hand-to-hand combat, and only after failing, then resort to pulling out their guns. To offer an honest assessment, the Temptress needs to have spent more money on her recruitment policy and rather less on the facilities. And I haven’t even got to the glorious fight between Ji Ying and “Ji Ying”, when the cop bursts in on the Temptress, wearing her face and snogging her boyfriend. Coincidentally, they’re both wearing the same outfits, and the poor man has no clue which one is the real deal, adding to the scene’s utterly surreal quality.

But, it should be stressed, these hardly detract from the entertainment value to be had here, even if many of them were apparently intended to be taken far more seriously at the time (which would be 1969) than they deserve. The heroine and villainness make for a fine pair, and given the era, it’s especially refreshing that just about all the men involved are incompetent and/or background figures. Accept that you will probably be laughing at the film as much as with it, and you’ll find an enjoyable 76 minutes of nonsense to be had here. [Tip of the hat to Dieter for pointing me in the direction of this one!]

Dir: Chang-hwa Jeong
Star: Tina Chin-Fei, Liang Chen, Pat Ting Hung

Tiger House

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“It’s Die Hard… In an English suburb.”

Kelly (Scodelario) sneaks into her boyfriend’s bedroom, only to find herself stuck there, when a group of criminals invade the home, intending to use his father as part of a robbery. Before being captured, the boyfriend does manage to injure the gang’s leader, Shane (Scott), who is then laid out on the bed to recuperate, while the gang regroup and adjust their plans. Unfortunately, it’s the same bed under which Kelly – who was a promising gymnast, up until an unfortunate accident with a crossbow(!) – has hidden herself. With no apparent way out, can she save the rest of the family and escape her perilous situation?

tigerhouse

An attempt to cross the ever-popular “Die Hard in a ____” and home invasion genres, the performances here deserve a significantly better script, than the largely sorry procession of coincidences and implausibilities we get here. Oh, look! There’s a crossbow in the attic! And, wouldn’t you know it, Kelly still carries around in her handbag, the bolt which ended her sporting aspirations! What are the odds against that? Some of the crooks’ behaviour also falls into the category of idiocy necessary to the plot as well; they seem strangely oblivious to their surrounding for career criminals, even when Kelly is literally hanging off the banisters above their head.

Counterbalancing these problematic aspects, both Scodelario and Scott deliver well-rounded performances – all the more impressive for the latter, since 90% of his screen time is spent lying on his back. Kelly is shown early on to be a strong-minded and independent girl, not reliant on anyone, least of all her boyfriend, who all but vanished from the movie after he leaves the bedroom to investigate a middle of the night noise. Assistance is provided by Callum, the psycho henchman – standard for both the genres – played by Skrein who appears to have gone on to greater things, starring in the recent reboot of The Transporter. The same goes for Scodelario, who is now the female lead in the Maze Runner series.

Notably not yet going on to Hollywood fame is writer Simon Lewis. You can increasingly see why that’s the case, the further this goes on, with Shane inexplicably switching sides and other plot points requiring so much suspension of disbelief, you could use it to build a small bridge. While the idea of interbreeding these two types of action-thriller is not a bad one, and the suburban setting adds a claustrophobic element, the storyline is in desperate need of several stiff rewrites, on its way to an ending that does deliver a satisfactory amount of heroiney goodness – albeit still with a deficiency on the logic front. You’ll have to go through more contortions than the gymastic lead, for your mind to swallow this one.

Dir: Thomas Daley
Star: Kaya Scodelario, Dougray Scott, Ed Skrein, Langley Kirkwood

Tracks

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“Because Cheryl Strayed is a wuss.”

tracks02I am getting an echo of Wild here, even though this actually came out first. Both are based on books by women who decided to deal with their emotional and psychological baggage by striking out on a lone trek through the wilderness. But rather than the relatively civilized world of the Pacific Crest Trail, the heroine here, Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska), heads 1,700 miles across the Australian outback, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean coast, accompanied by four camels and a dog. That’s hardcore, being far more of a solo voyage, with long periods where Davidson is entirely on her own – the sole regular companion is photographer Rick Smolan (Driver), who drops in sporadically to document the trek for her sponsor, National Geographic magazine. We first see Davidson as she arrives in Alice Spring, following her as she goes from a naive woman with no experience of the livestock she’ll be managing, to someone who can handle what’s basically a cross between a cow with a bad attitude and a giraffe.

As with Strayed, there is trauma in the past which, it’s implied, acts as the trigger for the expedition. In the case of Davidson, it’s more childhood trauma, with a mother who committed suicide, and a father who, unable to cope with the aftermath, shipped Robyn off and had her dog put down. This is revealed in flashbacks, and for my money, is handled rather better than in Wild, in part because it doesn’t dwell on this or make it the focus. Tracks is more about the physical journey, with the spiritual one a side-dish, the reverse of the situation in Wild.

This does require a lot more restraint from Wasikowska, in terms of her performance: she has to do more acting and less Acting, if you see what I mean. I prefer that approach, and the smaller, quieter portrayal we get here only emphasizes the enormity of the landscape through which she is moving. The outback is, in many ways, an unspoken character here, sometimes threatening, sometimes staggeringly alluring, though I’d have been interested to hear some more of the nuts and bolts of the expedition: even prosaic stuff, such as, how the hell does Robyn not get incinerated without a hat? Maybe there’s a documentary film that can fill in these blanks.

There’s not much sense of threat on the human side, with just about everyone who encounters the “camel lady” being generally supportive. The worst issue is when Rick photographs an Aboriginal ceremony he shouldn’t be, leading to some friction with the natives, but it’s hardly the stuff of great drama. It’s more of a character study/travelogue, and from what I’ve seen, Wasikowska – best know as Alice in Tim Burton’s Wonderland – certainly looks the part of Davidson. Yet its calm tranquility ends up more a strength than a weakness, and even when there isn’t much going on, the landscapes still hold your attention with their sparse beauty.

Dir: John Curran
Star: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Rolley Mintuma

Tiger of the Seven Seas

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“Good, for the (Spanish) Main part”

tigerofthesevenseasAnother in the flurry of Italian female pirate flicks of the sixties, this stars Canale as Consuelo, the daughter of a pirate captain. After he retires from the buccaneering business, she defeats her lover, William (Steel) in a duel to decide who takes command. Her father is killed with William’s knife a short while after, but they are attacked by the Spanish forces of Governor Inigo de Cordoba (Calindri) before her boyfriend can be hung for the crime. In the ensuing confusion, William escapes, and makes off with the ship. Consuelo and her followers, hijack another vessel and give chase. But is William the real culprit, or is this part of a plan cooked up by the Governor’s scheming wife, Anna (Spina), who seeks to get her hands on the horde of treasure which was buried in a secret location by Consuelo’s father, before his death?

The action is a bit disappointing here, with most of the sword-fights consisting of not much more than the two participants standing at arm’s-length from each other, waving their weapons. The story is also rather predictable, with few if any of the developments being unexpected. We just know William is going to be proven innocent, even if he looks like a young, piratical version of Lou Reed. ]Maybe that’s just me?] What do work, are the characters, who are an enjoyable bunch to spend time with – even the villainous Anna, who is clearly the brains of the marriage. She’s an excellent foil for Consuelo, who is equally smart and brave; she certainly makes a strong first impression, hurling a knife at William, and embedding it in the trunk of a tree by his face.

The spectacle side of things is well-integrated, though I have an idea some of the footage may have been lifted from other pirate pictures, as it doesn’t quite seem to match; it was certainly not Capuano’s sole foray into the genre. Everything builds nicely to the standard adventure film cliche, #37: the masked ball, which Consuelo infiltrates in the cunning guise of…a pirate, to rescue William, after he made an ill-advised attempt to storm the fortress and abduct the traitor. This leads to an all-out battle, perhaps most remarkable for the “raining cannons” sequence, but despite what I said about the plot having no twists, I must admit, the final conclusion is not one I saw coming, with the villainess getting off surprisingly easily, compared to other potential fates. She actually gets the treasure, though at the cost of letting Consuelo and William go. I like to imagine the sequel has them heading back to reclaim her father’s loot, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing more of their adventures, and it’s a shame no such follow-up ever emerged.

Dir: Luigi Capuano
Star: Gianna Maria Canale, Anthony Steel, Maria Grazia Spina, Ernesto Calindri

The Trail

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“God told me to do it.”

thetrailI’m not religious, and “faith-based” films normally have me running a mile, though I confess a certain guilty fondness for the more extreme, Revelations-based work [I mean, have you ever read Revelations? The things that go down are certifiably insane. This is what Hollywood should be making, not Noah or Moses stories]. But it was only at the end of this, with a final title quoting a Bible verse, that I realized The Trail likely falls into the category, as shown by the alternate title; fortunately, it’s very much understated, and can be appreciated even by godless heathens like myself. Amelia (Jandreau) is on her way to California as part of a wagon train with her husband (Brown), when they decided to split off on their own, he believing he knows a short cut. Unfortunately, they are attacked by Indians, and Amelia is left, on her own, in the middle of nowhere, to try and make her way through a vast, unforgiving wilderness.

The closest cousin is Nicolas Roeg’s brilliant Walkabout, not least because Jandreau bears more than a passing resemblance to Walkabout‘s star, Jenny Agutter: both have a similar pale beauty, and habit of opening their mouths just a smidge. The similarity is also in the relationship Amelia strikes up with a young indigenous child (Nash) she meets, that proves crucial to her chances of survival, echoing the one in Roeg’s film. However, the take here is a good deal less earthy and primitive in its themes, and Amelia is a good deal less dependent, instead being a lot more pro-active, which is why it merits coverage on this site, being equally a story of self-discovery and survival against the odds. Indeed, perhaps its main weakness is, rather too much against the odds: while there’s not much idea of the overall timeframe here, she survives blizzards clad only in a light dress (the kid is sensibly wearing furs), and doesn’t seem to do much hunting or gathering beyond a tiny fish. Maybe that’s supposed to represent the power of her faith?

Despite throwing this on late at night, it managed to hold my interest better than you think it might, considering the lack of conventional action sequences: it’s more or less 95 minutes of Amelia versus the great outdoors. It helps that the heroine is given an inner strength of character – again, I presume in hindsight, this is a religious thing – and determination to overcome any obstacle, sometimes with inventiveness, such as when she turns her wedding dress into a fishing-net. The landscapes are fabulous, and the photography does both them and the heroine justice, capturing the latter with an almost luminescent glow. As a different take on the era, eschewing the obvious characters and situations, it’s worth a look if you’re in a more contemplative mood.

Dir: William Parker
Star: Jasmin Jandreau, Tommy Nash, Shannon Brown
a.k.a. Let God

Traitors

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“Punk’s not dead.”

traitorsWhat counts as an “action heroine” is dependent on culture. As was saw in Offside, if you’re Iranian, something as apparently normal as going to a football game can be a dangerously transgressive act. The heroine here, Malika (Ben Acha), has a little more freedom, living in Morocco, but it’s hardly an oasis of feminist freedom by Western standards. Still, she’s pretty out there, being the lead singer in a punk band, the titular Traitors, and also a dab hand with a monkey wrench, working intermittently in her father’s garage. It’s the former that she sees as her ticket out, and a door opens when a producer expresses interest in the band, and offers to help them record a demo. The catch? They have to pay for the studio time themselves: that’s several months’ wages, and it doesn’t help that Malika has just been fired. But a garage customer (Zeguendi) offers her a solution: a one-night job doing a little driving for him.

She’s under no illusions about the reality of what she’s driving, but on the journey from the mountains to Tangiers, she talks to her fellow “mule,” the veteran Amal (Issami), and discovers the unpleasant truths about those she’s working for – worse still, the people above them – as well as that leaving the organization will probably be a lot harder than joining it. When Malika finds out that Amal is pregnant, she hatches a plan that’s either very brave or extremely foolhardy (not that these things are mutually exclusive), to allow her colleague the change to escape. However, doing so will certainly bring down the wrath of her employers, who have a track record of not tolerating employee disloyalty with a forgiving eye.

This is one of those films that is on the fringes of qualification for the site. Malika doesn’t wield a gun or kick anyone’s arse,  but there’s an exchange between the two young women which convinced me of its worth, and that in spirit at least, the heroine is part of the sisterhood we cover here.

Amal: “There was a proverb my mother used to say: if you are the nail, you must endure the knocking.”
Malika: “That’s only half of the proverb. The other part is: if you are the hammer, strike.”

I want that on a T-shirt, and it exemplifies Malika’s attitude perfectly: she’s a hammer made flesh, like her hero, the late Joe Strummer. Of course, the downside of that is, when you’re a hammer, everything else starts looking like a nail. However, Ben Acha does a good job of making a character that could easily have been obnoxious and abrasive, sympathetic instead. The film’s biggest weakness is a script that seems to run out of steam before the end, without anything like a satisfactory climax; instead, it peters out in a not very satisfactory and largely unconvincing manner. Perhaps this is related to this feature being developed out of a short film featuring the same character? Still, it’s a unique little item, and who knew there was such as thing as Moroccan punk – even if it’s every bit as shitty as much of the Western variety!

Dir: Sean Gullette
Star: Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami, Driss Roukhe, Mourade Zeguendi