JANE MAYNE reviews

I, TONYA. Directed by Craig Gillespie with Margot Robbie, Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan.

Wow, hats off to Margot Robbie and Allison Janney for a superb double play. Robbie cuts through with an absolute star turn as ballsy competitive ice skater Tonya Harding, and Janney adds fuel to the fire with a scorching embodiment of mother-from-hell LaVona Golden in a colourful biographical replay of the life of the famous figure skater.

Rich characterisation, stellar rink acrobatics and the unfolding drama stacks up a loaded cinematic experience which leans towards offbeat, but probably most so due to the strength of the two leading stars.

This is a winning watch with the kind of substance that appropriately saw I, Tonya feature in the 90th Academy Awards – Janney won for Best Supporting Actress, and the film earned nominations for Best Actress for Robbie and Best Editing. Then it got three nominations at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Supporting Actress for Janney, and at the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards, it won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Janney and was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Robbie). At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, it earned five nominations, winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Janney. Truly, all well-deserved!

I, Tonya is a potent movie about wilful characters – a devilish mother with not a compassionate bone in her body, and a focused athlete implicated in the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. I, Tonya is full of attitude, it’s funny, and sad. No extras.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. Directed by Ridley Scott, with Charlie Plummer, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg.

‘Inspired by true events’, All the Money in the World takes a while to mount up some weight, but eventually succeeds in its retelling of the kidnapping of miserly oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) in 1973.

Gifted with a deadbeat dad, a principled mom, and the richest man on the planet as his granddad, young Paul is something of a pawn in a world obsessed with cash.

As an abduction thriller the tension and action is a far cry from the likes of Halle Berry’s manic push to recover her boy in Kidnap. All the Money in the World is quite a slow-burner that really only picks up when Christopher Plummer breathes his class act into the drama. Wahlberg is totally miscast, and as a pivotal odd man out here detracts from the film’s value. Overall, a fair to middling watch. No extras.

RED SPARROW. Directed by Francis Lawrence, with Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Joel Edgerton and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Director Lawrence worked with Jennifer Lawrence in the last three the Hunger Games, so there’s a synergy here and the young starlet’s physicality is well-suited to the role. But fake Russian accents aside, this spy thriller is a bit of an awkward fit for Lawrence as Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova, whose promising career grinds to a halt after an injury.

Schoenaerts presence as her uncle is one of Red Sparrow’s redeeming features. As the story goes, his immersion in Russian intelligence results in her being enlisted in a secret training program for elite spies – ‘Sparrow School’. Violence and torture abound and Dominika is begrudgingly embroiled in the gritty world of global spy-games. Rampling makes a wonderfully chilly appearance.

Cinematically Red Sparrow delivers, and the Hunger Games star exudes the same kind of on screen integrity we’ve so come to love – but there’s a vacuum that eventually crystalizes with the lack of fizz with co-star Edgerton, which ends up undermining the full effect. EXTRAS: Director Commentary, Deleted Scenes (optional commentary by Francis Lawrence).

JUST GETTING STARTED. Directed by Ron Shelton, with Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman.

A throwaway ‘comedy’ with no laughs. A real lightweight vignette about a couple of old geezers – ex-F.B.I. Agent (Lee Jones) and an ex-mob lawyer in the Witness Protection Program (Freeman) whose rivalry hikes up at a cushy Palm Springs resort.

One often wonders about money-spend for these kind of silly representations of reality. Okay so there’s a mob hit, loads of geriatrics having a swell time, and two old blokes trying to get the girl. It’s all kinda creaky. No extras.

DVD Releases: Nu Metro, Ster-Kinekor Home Entertainment
WS