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Capone's Art-House Round-Up with Rachel Weisz in THE WHISTLEBLOWER, Steve James' doc THE INTERRUPTERS, and POINT BLANK!!!

Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here, with a couple of films that are making their way into art houses or coming out in limited release around America this week (maybe even taking up one whole screen at a multiplex near you). Do your part to support these films, or at least the good ones…

Kind of a surprising movie to come out in the summer, HE WHISTLEBLOWER is a gripping, sometimes nasty, real-life thriller about former police officer Kathy (Rachel Weisz, in one of the finest performances of her career) who takes a job as a contracted United Nations peacekeeper in Bosnia specializing in crimes against women only to discover that many of her co-workers are a part of a sex-trafficking ring. The setting is actually post-war Bosnia, so the UN's job is to help heal and rebuild. Instead, what Kathy finds is a world of kidnapping, brutality and rape.

I was especially impressed with the script by director Larysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan, which points to Kathy's status as a twice-divorced mother, who is forced to leave her children temporarily to make money. Her strained maternal instincts kick in to help these young girls forced to be prostitutes in Bosnia, often for the UN workers. HE WHISTLEBLOWER is punctuated by some great smaller performances from the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn, Danish superstar Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and especially an almost-unrecognizable Monica Bellucci as a soulless aide worker who is so dedicated to clogging the system with red tape that her actions result in protecting the criminals more than the women.

There are a couple of scenes in this movie that are just painful to watch, especially one involving one woman getting punished for leaving her captors to take refuge with the UN peacekeepers. She isn't killed, but what happens to her is simply awful and not for the weak of heart or mind. Kondracki wisely does not go overboard with the violence and torture, but she doesn't exactly soft-pedal the material either. Perhaps what's most interesting is that she tells a parallel story to Kathy's about two Romanian women, Raya and Luba (Roxana Condurache and Paula Schramm), who are lured into this nightmare by people they trusted, and are manipulated by people promising to return them home eventually. This is a lie of course, but false home is perhaps better than no hope at all. HE WHISTLEBLOWER is tough stuff, but if you're in the mood for some counter-programming and a handful of devastatingly strong performances, this is absolutely the film you need to see.

Winning awards wherever it has played, the latest from producer-director Steve James (HOOP DREAMS, STEVIE, PREFONTAINE, NO CROSSOVER: THE TRIAL OF ALLEN IVERSON), along with his producer partner Alex Kotlowitz is a work of documentary perfection that not only spells out the problem of violence in the economically devastated neighborhoods of Chicago but also does the best job I've seen of offering solutions.

THE INTERRUPTERS refers to a group of civic-minded people in the community known collectively as CeaseFire, who attempt to "interrupt" violence before it breaks out. They show up at funerals of gang-related shooting victims to ensure that no retaliatory actions take place. They offers services where people can call if they themselves are feeling overpowered by the need for revenge violence. Most of those running the program came off of the very streets they are no protecting, the most fascinating of those being Ameena Matthews, daughter to Chicago gang leader Jeff Fort. Ameena takes an interest in helping a particularly unruly young woman who continues to get kicked out of school or into prison, usually for fighting.

The film follows several members of the CeaseFire group, as well as some of their more regular clients, including one man who calls them on the verge of killing people he believes turned in his mother and brother to the police. His story arc is without question the most shocking and inspiring. It's incredible how much gets accomplished when one of these interrupters comes to a school with brewing tension and defuses the situation by simply allowing the students to voice their frustrations and anger at someone else's behavior. It was genuinely shocking to be how small some of the offenses are that start guns blazing.

THE INTERRUPTERS is a powerful work that shows this subject from every possible angle. The only element noticeably absent from the film is a police showing. One of the only time a police vehicle shows up, we see it turn around and leave immediately because the situation looks too dangerous. But this isn't really a film about police shortcomings. The folks in this community are trying to take control of a bad situation and make it better. I can't imagine this movie won't impact you on a noticeably deep level. I wanted to shake the hands of every person in this film when it was done. This is a movie about individuals, each with their own dramatic backstory, who have used the drama in their lives to make something good. And I'll smack anyone who sees something bad about that...or maybe I won't.

Cut from the same cloth as TAKEN, French director Fred Cavaye (who wrote and directed ANYTHING FOR HER, which got turned into THE NEXT THREE DAYS stateside) has crafted a relentless story of Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), an everyman hospital worker who inadvertently gets involved with some nasty characters and has his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) kidnapped unless he helps undo what he has done.

Samuel saved the life of a hospitalized Sartet (the great Roschdy Zem of DAYS OF GLORY), a criminal wanted by both the police and gangsters, both of whom seem to want the guy dead. Sartet and Samuel work together to retrieve the wife and get away safe, but nothing in this movie is in any way simple. This movie burns across the screen with jet propulsion-like force. Every type of chase, weapon, and gruesome has a place in POINT BLANK. I also liked that no one can be trusted in this film, so deception and betrayal become almost commonplace; it's almost more shocking when someone acts honorably.

The plot might be a tad more complicated than it needed to be, but it's never confusing. I loved one particular scene where Sartet and Samuel break into a police station by simply calling up the city's criminal element to start breaking out into spontaneous illegal acts on the street so as to clear out and then crowd the station house. POINT BLANK is a whole lot of fun, punctuated with some graphic violence and a swerving plot that keeps you on edge, always guessing. This one is for those of you that dig French films and don't want to give up action movies just yet.

-- Capone
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Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 12, 2011, 5:25 a.m. CST


    by Mr. Waturi

  • Aug. 12, 2011, 5:25 a.m. CST

    si. primero.

    by Mr. Waturi

  • Aug. 12, 2011, 7:33 a.m. CST

    POINT BLANK release is so small that...

    by YackBacker

    Kelsey Grammer's ex-wife mistook it for his wang! ZING! Looking forward to eventually seeing it... the movie, that is...

  • Aug. 12, 2011, 2:41 p.m. CST

    the proms are having a film night...

    by emeraldboy

    included are Sir Richard Rodney bennet's score for murder on the orient express. music by john williams, john barry. etc

  • Aug. 12, 2011, 3:30 p.m. CST

    "T" key not working? "HE WHISTLEBLOWER" thrice?

    by Behemoth

    I was going to make a lewd comment about Rachel Weisz, but after reading about the plot of the film, it doesn't seem appropriate. James Bond is a lucky man, let's just leave it at that.

  • Aug. 12, 2011, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Is it a sequel to "I, Robot"?

    by Behemoth

    You know, "He, Whistleblower."?

  • Aug. 13, 2011, 8:31 p.m. CST

    Proofreading ftw

    by Amy

    Good reviews, interesting movies. But ugh, soooo many errors.