Denmark’s one of the most renowned directors, Nicolas Winding Refn, hits all of the right notes with his sixth film Bronson, in which he incorporates all of his highly-developed techniques that he took with him from the successes and failures of his past five films, which includes the Pusher trilogy. As its title gives it away, the film follows Charles Bronson, the man who was known as Britain’s most violent prisoner. The protagonist’s horrifying actions are perfectly portrayed by Tom Hardy, whose performance in Bronson might be one of his best in his entire career.
Of course, Refn proceeded to direct even greater films after Bronson, such as the widely known and critically acclaimed Drive, but the haunting and doom-and-gloom atmosphere of Bronson combined with Hardy’s impressive skills that no one knew he had until this film should be enough to grant this film a rewatch, and much more so if one has not seen it at all. – Alper Kavak
Cemetery Junction (2010)
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s joint directing adventure Cemetery Junction follows three close friends in 1970s in Reading, a rough part of Berkshire. Whilst being Gervais’ second feature film after The Invention of Lying of the previous year, Cemetery Junction is actually the first time Merchant has tried his hand for the big screen and saying that it is a success would be an underrepresentation of the wonders the duo did.
Slight, directly political comments may be found here and there, but the main angle the film plays at is the socio-political side of England of the 1970s whilst refraining from letting go of the usual comedic style of both Merchant and Gervais. The actors are likewise aptly cast, with the main names including Felicity Jones, Tom Hughes and Ralph Fiennes. As such, Cemetery Junction is a wonderfully sweet film which flows so well that one would not get bored even if it was three hours long instead of being barely over ninety minutes. – Alper Kavak
Pain & Gain (2013)
In preparation for Ambulance, I decided last month to go through all of the critically panned, commercially successful, brain-melting filmography of the vulgar American action auteur Michael Bay. While I wasn’t particularly enthused by the majority of his films, I also didn’t hate most of them either; there’s a certain lurid quality to the way his crude style of fast cutting, practical destruction, and unpleasant sense of humor all come together in one grotesquely watchable explosion of reprehensible geopolitics and reptilian-brain maximalism. There are variations in his formula, to be sure – Bad Boys II and 6 Underground are undoubtedly the purest, ugliest expressions of his style, while The Rock, Armageddon, The Island, and Ambulance are more straightforward action thrillers, and the Transformers movies are tentpole spectacle blockbusters.
Pain & Gain is the only Michael Bay film that is not at all an action movie (even Armageddon and The Island, despite their high concept sci-fi elements, ultimately pivot to action). It is one of the most memorable films in his catalog for this precise reason, not only because his characteristic sequences of destruction are conspicuously absent, but because the hole left by their void necessitates a pared down – or at least slightly different – approach to his filmmaking.
Loosely based on a real story about three bodybuilders (played here by Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) who kidnapped, extorted, and ultimately attempted to murder a wealthy Floridian businessman, Pain & Gain is essentially a 129-minute montage of three incompetent criminals bumbling their way through a series of absurdly moronic crimes, first with miraculous success, then with disastrous failure. It is astonishingly funny for how ultimately vile and horrifying it is (compounded by the fact that Bay is making a total mockery of real people’s lives), a compulsively watchable yet totally exhausting spectacle closer to Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street (another maximalist epic released the same year) than anything else in Bay’s filmography. I was completely entertained by it for its entire runtime, then felt gross afterwards. In other words, a perfect Michael Bay movie. – Ben McDonald
One particularly underrated film comes from Sam Esmail as his debut, who later directed the majority of the episodes of the critically acclaimed TV-series Mr. Robot. Starring established names such as Emmy Rossum and Justin Long, Comet tells the romantic story of a couple’s six-year-long relationship in a parallel universe, and that premise is as unique as it sounds. While it may be categorized as a romantic comedy, the comedic aspects only represent the lighter tones of the film, and romance only applies to the setting. This is mostly because Esmail borrows elements from multiple genres and blends them together beautifully. Thus, not only elements from comedy or romance are here, but also hints of drama and science-fiction. – Alper Kavak