ROCKETMAN is a dazzling, genre-hopping fantasia that captures Elton John’s crazy excesses far better than any straight biopic could.
The action is ferocious in a third outing for Keanu Reeves’ super-killer John Wick — if only the constant mythologising would get out of the way. And John Cusack rides into town as a sin-soaked horseman of the apocalypse in the somber Western Never Grow Old.
DVD of the Week: Rocketman
(15) 121 mins, out Monday
LESS a biopic than a genre-bending musical fantasia, wilder in spirit and more daring in its execution than Bohemian Rhapsody, with which it has inevitably been compared. It’s more fun than the Freddie Mercury flick, too.
Despite the outfits, Taron Egerton is less showy as Elton John than Rami Malek’s Mercury, leaving room for scene-stealing support turns from Richard Madden as John’s villainous manager and, in particular, Stephen Graham as record-label boss Dick James.
It’s hard to know just how candid this is. Certainly, John is never portrayed as a saint. Indeed, his corruscating self-loathing comes through in every glittering frame. Unavoidably, the narrative beats are familiar. Cautionary tales of rock’n’roll excess are ten a penny, after all.
But it’s all carried off with such joyful abandon — even grim scenes of drug addiction are played for devil-may-care laughs (Never has getting your stomach pumped looked so glamorous).
A giddy, flamboyant, occasionally exhausting watch. Rather like the man himself.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
(15) 128 mins, out now
WE all get flabbier and more prone to repeating ourselves as we get older. That’s true of the John Wick franchise, which started out so light on its feet. Cut twenty minutes from this and nobody would miss it.
Hitman Wick’s wife is still dead, dogs keep getting shot as plot points and Keanu Reeves again convincingly buries his natural charisma beneath that morose exterior.
The action is ferocious, thrillingly creative and squelchier than ever, while a couple of visual gags land brilliantly. But the deeper Wick delves into its own mythology, the further behind it leaves what made the first movie such fun. Everyone is just so… serious.
Lance Reddick, Ian McShane and Lawrence Fishburn are back, while Halle Berry, Angelica Huston and Jerome Flynn come on board in unnecessary supporting roles — a sign of the sort of bloat that ruined the Matrix movies.
Devotees will love it. Newcomers will wonder what all the po-faced pontificating is about. Hopefully next year’s Chapter 4 is a leaner, more focused affair.
Never Grow Old
(15) 99mins, out now
SOMBER, ruminative Western with Emile Hirsh as the compromised family man whose coffin-making business booms when villainous John Cusack rides into town. Their weird codependency is at the heart of the film, as Hirsh is drawn into Cusack’s self-defeating cycle of violence.
Unexpectedly, Cusack proves the weak link. Perhaps the actor is just too likeable a presence to convince as a sin-soaked horseman of the apocalypse. Hirsh is better, though his character’s arc is as familiar as the themes of sin, guilt and redemption explored here.
Irish director Ivan Kavanagh and cinematographer Piers McGrail conjure some moments of stark beauty early on — and the film is at its best in its quieter, stiller moments. But the moralising is heavy-handed and the profundity its makers strain for proves elusive.
The Queen and I
(PG) 73 mins, out Monday
LAUGHTER-free satire, broader than a battleship’s backside, with David Walliams the republican PM who does away with the monarchy. Samantha Bond is Her Maj, sent to live on a council estate.
Based on Sue Townsend’s 1992 novel, it feels painfully dated. Why it wasn’t dragged into the present day is a mystery, given the issues around which it pussyfoots so meekly — economic inequality; social upheaval; anger at the ruling classes — are more pertinent now than ever.
There are likeable turns from the cast of comedy pros but it’s all so gentle. It feels every inch the festive telly special it is, having debuted on Sky last Christmas.
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