This weekend ASFF selects five new films from around the world set to be released in UK cinemas. From true-life stories that provide unique perspectives on recent history to fictional blood-soaked thrillers, these movies are packed with enticing themes: loyalty, obsession, race relations and betrayal.
Acclaimed theatre director Trevor Nunn makes a rare foray into film with this story about an elderly retiree accused of being a KGB spy. Based on the life of Melita Norwood, which inspired the 2014 novel by Jessica Rooney, Communist Party sympathizer ‘Red’ Joan Stanley is finally exposed for passing atomic secrets to the Soviets for fifty years, under the belief that she was keeping the world safe. Dame Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson play the fictionalized Joan at different stages of her life.
British director Simon Rumley (Fashionista, Crowhurst) turns to mid-20thCentury London and the criminal rivalries that shook the city’s underbelly for this sweeping drama. Focusing on the rise of two players, Jack ‘Spot’ Comer (Terry Stone) and Billy Hill (Leo Gregory), Rumley’s ambitious film spans two decades as men jostle for power and violence is delivered with the cold flick of a switchblade. Among the stand-out cast, Rumley’s Crowhurst star Justin Salinger and Roland Manookian, as the notorious ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser.
Irish director Neil Jordan, who hasn’t made a film since 2012’s vampire saga Byzantium, returns with another female-driven story. This New York-set potboiler sees Chloë Grace Moretz play a young waitress stalked by Isabelle Huppert’s lonely singleton. An experienced director, Jordan knows how to wring tension out of the pulpy material even if the film’s internal logic is non-existent. As for the cast, It Follows’ Maika Monroe adds some spice, and there’s a mandatory appearance for Jordan regular Stephen Rea as a luckless private detective.
After Bone Tomahawkand Brawl in Cell Block 99, American writer-director S. Craig Zahler is back with another heavyweight genre piece, Dragged Across Concrete. A three-hour crime epic, it stars Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson as two cops, suspended for excessive force, who decide to steal the proceeds of a bank robbery. Featuring Don Johnson, Jennifer Carpenter and the irrepressible Udo Kier, and filled with heightened noir-ish dialogue, it owes a huge debt to the movies of Don Siegel and Sidney Lumet.
In Italy, Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film was shown in two parts. In the UK, viewers are being offered the ‘international’ cut, a truncated version, which will undoubtedly annoy some purists. However this makes you feel, the work of Sorrentino (Youth,The Young Pope) is always worth taking seriously. Here, in a story set between 2006 and 2009, he takes on controversial Italian politician and media tycoon, Silvio Berlusconi, played by his regular actor, Toni Servillo.
All films released on 19 April.
Lead image: Still from Red Joan.