The Negotiator

Set in 1980s Beirut, The Negotiator stars John Hamm as a former US diplomat who goes back to Lebanon to attempt to secure the release of an old friend who has been taken hostage. Writer Tony Gilroy’s intelligent script and director Brad Anderson’s depiction of a specific time and place are the stand outs. Hamm’s back story, making him yet another troubled hero with a drinking problem is a little trite and the few action moments are not as convincing as the talky scenes.

A complex political situation is depicted without any clumsy exposition and this is a pretty gripping film.

Rating: 7 out of 10

The Negotiator has a very small cinema release but is available to rent at home. I have also caught up with some other films that had a theatrical release earlier this year…

Nothing Like a Dame is a simple documentary featuring a group of acting dames, including Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, share stories about their lives and career. The ladies are all great but it is a thin premise for a feature length film. Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars charts the life story of the seminal guitarist. Fans will love it and the man talks frankly about his mistakes. However, 135 minutes is an excessive running time and I found the first half provided the most interesting moments. It certainly had more than The Slits: Here to be Told. As fine a group as they were, this documentary about their career had little for anything other than die-hard fans

Never Steady Never Still has it’s heart in the right place but ultimately, this story of a woman’s struggle with Parkinson’s and her son’s coming to terms with his sexuality is totally predictable and very dull. It does have an impressive lead performance from Shirley Henderson and I wish I could say the same about Clint Eastwood’s disastrous The 15:17 to Paris. Telling the true story of how three young American men stopped a terrorist attack on a Paris bound train in 2015, Eastwood inexplicably made the decision to have the heroes play themselves. None of them can act and the depiction of their childhoods and especially their holiday that they are returning from is incredibly tedious.

Den of Thieves and Roman J Israel Esq have one thing in common apart from their L.A. based setting. I found it incredibly hard to connect with either of them. The former is a gritty crime drama that lacks any tension and the latter is a meandering legal drama that is elevated a level by Denzel Washington’s Oscar nominated performance.

I seem to be on a downer with this selection so I will end with two I can recommend.

Red Sparrow is a pleasant surprise as long as you are not looking for John Le Carre level of complexity to this Russia-based spy thriller. There are a number of good action set pieces and a satisfying enough plot, elevated by a cast headed by Jennifer Lawrence and featuring Joel Edgerton and Joely Richardson. It is too long though. Lawrence’s training camp sequences could have been severely cut down as they slow the momentum of the film too much.

Game Night is a hilarious comedy starring Jason Bateman and Rachel Mcadams as a game loving couple who get caught up in a kidnapping plot. The two leads have terrific chemistry and the bullet extraction scene had me in stitches…pun intended! The best comedy of the year so far.

Nothing Like a Dame: 6 out of 10
Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars: 5.5 out of 10
The Slits: Here To Be Told: 4.5 out of 10
Never Steady, Never Still: 4.5 out of 10
15:17 to Paris: 3 out of 10
Den of Thieves: 5 out of 10
Roman J Israel Esq: 5.5 out of 10
Red Sparrow: 7 out of 10
Game Night: 8 out of 10