Reel Life mini-review: 'Bounty Killer'
This is one bad, bad, bad movie.
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Deliberately bad. Roger Corman bad. So bad, we marvel at how characters force corny dialogue out of their mouths as if giving painful birth to mutant sentences.
In the post-financial-apocalyptic world of "Bounty Killer," corrupt corporate financiers (the ones in the white business shirts and yellow ties) are dangerous criminals tracked by bounty hunters who don't bother with the "or alive" part.
A hunter called Drifter (Matthew Marsden) teams up with a hot old flame named Mary Death (Christian Pitre, decked out in 1960s vintage go-go-girl apparel). They are rock stars with guns, on the job to wipe out white-collar villains.
Like a pro golfer, Drifter has his own "gun caddie" (Barak Hardley), responsible for making sure his boss has the right tools for the job as they wander through a "Road Warrior"-inspired western.
"Bounty Killer" -- co-written and produced by Arlington Heights native Colin Ebeling -- might be dismissible junk, but it bears the unmistakable touch of promising talent in Martin Bernfeld's trigger-tight editing that moves David Conley's cartoon-composed visuals with sweeping power surges.
Henry Saine's direction commits totally to the roots of low-budget exploitation flicks. That turns out to be the movie's greatest asset -- and its chief liability.
Note: Watch for Gary Busey and Beverly D'Angelo in key bit parts.
"Bounty Killer" opens at the Streets of Woodfield Theaters in Schaumburg. Rated R for violence, blood, language, sexual situations, nudity. 92 minutes. ★ ½
Reel Life mini-review: 'Afternoon Delight'
Westchester native Kathryn Hahn establishes herself as a heavy-hitter with major acting chops in Chicagoan Jill Soloway's bold exploration of sex and malaise in her serio-comic "Afternoon Delight."
Hahn, known mostly for memorable comic characters in such films as "How Do You Know" and "We're the Millers," plays Rachel, a comfortably middle-class mother and wife who has it all: kids, successful husband (Josh Radnor) and a house in L.A.'s affluent Silver Lake neighborhood.
Yet, Rachel feels empty, wasted and trapped in a meaningless existence with her fellow Jewish wives.
That changes when she befriends a homeless stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple) and invites her to stay in her house.
What follows is a curious, complicated collision of McKenna's casual carnality and Rachel's irresponsible and risky reach for something more.
Hahn goes for broke in this movie, courageously exposing herself in far more than physical ways, and inhabiting her complex character with invisible grace. Coupled with Temple's portrait of a deceptively simple survivor, Hahn proves herself to be a force of acting nature.
Soloway's movie gives a 21st-century twist to Frank Perry's snapshot of 1970s social mores, "Diary of a Mad Housewife" (with Carrie Snodgrass buckling under the pressure of her "perfect" life).
Likewise, "Afternoon Delight" captures a snapshot of young, affluent white women with remarkable accuracy and decisive detail.
Note: See Chicago's Jane Lynch make magic out of a dismissible role as the world's worst shrink.
"Afternoon Delight" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Renaissance Place in Highland Park. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexual situations. 99 minutes. ★ ★ ★
Reel Life mini-review: 'Winnie Mandela'
Chicago's Jennifer Hudson pulls out all the dramatic stops as the noble, suffering title character in Darrell J. Roodt's disappointingly linear and superficial bio-drama about the controversial wife of South African activist Nelson Mandela.
"Winnie Mandela" starts with Winnie's fiery independent streak as a girl, with the soaring score and sumptuous widescreen visuals pre-emptively forecasting her greatness as the "mother of the nation."
Except that by the story's end, Winnie has evolved into a gangster boss whose embrace of violent tactics precipitates the cold execution of a 13-year-old boy, the opposite of what the quietly suffering Nelson Mandela (played with spot-on power and charisma by Terrence Howard) fights for during his 27 years in white-run prisons.
Roodt doesn't really know what to make of Winnie's unheroic transition, so he falls back on thinly written characters inhabiting a safe, formulaic tale that declines to take any stand on its titular figure.
"Winnie Mandela" opens at the South Barrington 30, Northbrook Court and River East in Chicago. Rated R for violence, language. 107 minutes. ★ ★
A finely aged program
Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "Senior Moments: How Hollywood Portrays the Aged" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights. Free admission for holders of AARP membership cards (and everyone else, too). Clips from "Cocoon," "On Golden Pond," "Grumpy Old Men" and 11 other movies. Go to ahml.info.
For fall film calendars
Don't forget these important autumn movie events coming up:
• "This is the End," the nuttiest, funniest, grossest, most daring adult comedy of the year so far, returns to 2,000 theater screens this weekend. Don't miss it. bit.ly/ZACHx4.
• The After Hours Film Society presents the Danish thriller "A Hijacking" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. afterhoursfilmsociety.com.
• The Naperville Independent Film Festival runs Sept. 14-21. naperfilmfest.org.
• The Woodstock International Film Festival is Sept. 18-22. (Bumped from its original January date because of construction at the historic Woodstock Theatre.) bit.ly/18AIVxU.
• Digitally remastered version of "The Wizard of Oz" plays Sept. 20 only at IMAX theaters. thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com.
• The Chicago South Asian Film Festival runs Sept. 20-22. csaff.org.
• The Elgin Short Film Festival is Sept. 21. hemmens.org/annualfilmfestival.html.
• The Chicago International Film Festival takes place Oct. 10-24. chicagofilmfestival.com.
• "RiffTrax Live: Night of the Living Dead,"a "Mystery Science 3000" treatment of George Romero's horror classic, runs Oct. 24 at local theaters. fathomevents.com.
• The Chicago International Children's Film Festival is Oct. 25-Nov. 3. cicff.org.
• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!