Richard Jewell

Since 1971, actor Clint Eastwood has directed a film almost every year. The quality of his directorial works have varied from classics to forgettable duds. What they usually have in common is a sense of realism where anything can happen. Based on true events, ‘Richard Jewell’ looks at ‘fake news’ before the term was invented. It’s a timely reminder in this Twitter/Facebook era not to believe everything you read where it’s best to always err on the side of caution.

Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) works as a security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and notices a suspicious package under a bench at a crowded concert. Discovering it’s a bomb about to detonate, he warns revellers to keep away. Hailed as a hero, the unscrupulous actions of others, including journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), soon sees Jewell labelled a criminal. With the help of lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), Jewell tries to avoid a media hounding for his blood as his life becomes a nightmare.

‘Richard Jewell’ is a lesser of Eastwood’s work. Whilst performances are sound, the script and direction are below expected standards. Although a true story, the way events and people are depicted lacks genuine authenticity. Barely any of the individuals elicit sympathy, except for Rockwell’s role. This is a fatal flaw for a film wanting audiences to relate to Jewell’s plight.

It perhaps would have been better had Eastwood made a documentary instead of a semi-fictional/factual tale. His past biographies haven’t been his best movies as it’s clear ‘Richard Jewell’ is beyond his story-telling skills. It isn’t as compelling as expected with the script pushing the boundaries of taste and cliché-written archetypes.

‘Richard Jewell’ is a hodgepodge of facts and events painted in very broad strokes. It’s interesting in parts but never rises towards what it could be. Eastwood’s 21st Century output hasn’t been as good as his previous century ones. His determination to still tell any type of story is commendable however even if his latest isn’t up to his usual high mark.

Rating out of 10: 5

Birds of Prey

‘Birds of Prey’ is another in a very long line of superhero movies. Whereas in the early to mid 20th Century Westerns were all the rage, in the early 21st Century it’s sci-fi or superhero films. Coupled with the rise of anti-hero figures, the genre has boomed. ‘Birds of Prey’ is a reasonably entertaining mid-range entry in this cycle. Filled with colourful ladies doing wicked deeds that should easily please its target audience.

After breaking up with her deranged lover the Joker, equally dangerous criminal Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is at a loose end. While forlornly roaming around Gotham City, she meets the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Both are vigilantes determined to bring down evil crime Lord Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). The trio of femme fatales aim to clean Gotham’s dirty streets no matter how explosive things become.

As with most in the genre, ‘Birds of Prey’ is a huge spectacle. Lots of action and amazing set designs are on full display. In this regard, ‘Birds of Prey’ succeeds in offering an authentic comic-book experience. It’s a visual feast that attempts to distract from the clunky script and uneven performances.

Despite Robbie’s enthusiastic rendition of Harley, she and her fellow actors are let down by poor pacing and a jumbled narrative. ‘Birds of Prey’ never knows if it’s a comedy, drama or something else. This stylistic hybrid doesn’t fully work and often takes you out of the story. To their credit, Robbie and company give it their all and join in the physical antics with aplomb.

‘Birds of Prey’ could have been much better. The screenplay needed more work with more depth needed. Audiences can accept a complex script if done well with ‘Birds of Prey’ not being nearly as brave as its characters in delivering a consistently fiendish time.

Rating out of 10: 5