Wild Bunch, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 145m) ****½ d. Sam Peckinpah; w. Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah, Roy N. Sickner; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Jerry Fielding. Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, L.Q. Jones, Emilio Fernandez, Albert Dekker, Bo Hopkins, Dub Taylor, Paul Harper, Jorge Russek. An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them. Ultra-violent statement from Peckinpah symbolising the passing of the Old West and the introduction of modern warfare. Immaculately shot and edited with a percussive doom-laden score by Fielding. Veterans Holden and Ryan in particular are superb and are well supported by a strong stalwart cast. Opening and closing shootouts are brutal. 
Get Carter (1971; UK; Metrocolor; 112m) ***** d. Mike Hodges; w. Mike Hodges; ph. Wolfgang Suschitzky; m. Roy Budd. Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland, John Osborne, Tony Beckley, George Sewell, Geraldine Moffat, Dorothy White, Rosemarie Dunham, Alun Armstrong, Petra Markham, Bryan Mosley, Terence Rigby, Glynn Edwards, Bernard Hepton. When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances in a car accident, a London gangster travels to Newcastle to investigate. Quintessential British gangster movie with Caine’s iconic performance setting the bar for others to follow. Hodges directs with flair and Suschitzky’s photography evocatively captures the bleakness of the North-East landscape. Budd’s minimalist score adds to the menace. A genre classic. Based on the novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis. Remade as HIT MAN in 1972 and again in 2000. 
Air Force One (1997; USA/Germany; Technicolor; 125m) *** d. Wolfgang Petersen; w. Andrew W. Marlowe; ph. Michael Ballhaus; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Glenn Close, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Tom Everett, Jürgen Prochnow, Donna Bullock, Michael Ray Miller. Hijackers seize the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family, but he (an ex-soldier) works from hiding to defeat them. Those who buy into the premise of this outlandish thriller in the DIE HARD mould will find much to enjoy in Ford’s heroics. Oldman relishes his bad guy terrorist role and Petersen’s classy direction helps keep this just the right side of comic book territory. 
Wicker Man, The (1973; UK; Eastmancolor; 95m) ****½ d. Robin Hardy; w. Anthony Shaffer; ph. Harry Waxman; m. Paul Giovanni. Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter Carr, Ian Campbell, Leslie Blackater, Roy Boyd, Peter Brewis, Barbara Rafferty. A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there. Chilling and disturbing thriller shot on a low budget and dominated by religious symbolism. Woodward’s portrayal of the Christian policeman horrified by the pagan society he enters is superb. Lee is also excellent as the island’s lord of the manor, whose family are responsible for the islanders’ livelihoods. The final shots are amongst the most memorable in screen history. Heavily edited from 99m to 87m on release to fill B-feature slots, the film has since been restored to a 95m version, something close to its original length. Remade in 2006. Followed by a “spiritual sequel”, THE WICKER TREE (2011). 
Shallows, The (2016; USA; Colour; 86m) ***½ d. Jaume Collet-Serra; w. Anthony Jaswinski; ph. Flavio Martínez Labiano; m. Marco Beltrami. Cast: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Janelle Bailey, Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo, José Manuel Trujillo Salas, Diego Espejel, Pablo Calva. A young surfer becomes trapped off shore when a great white shark strays into the waters. Tense, bare bones thriller with an excellent performance from Lively in a demanding role. Avoids most of the conventions of the deadly shark attack genre for the majority of its nerve-jangling running time until the very end, when Hollywood conventions kick in. 
Kong: Skull Island (2017; USA; Colour; 118m) ***½ d. Jordan Vogt-Roberts; w. Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins; ph. Larry Fong; m. Henry Jackman. Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Eugene Cordero, Marc Evan Jackson, Will Brittain, Miyavi, Richard Jenkins, Allyn Rachel, Robert Taylor, James M. Connor, Thomas Middleditch. Re-working of KING KONG (1933). In the 1970s, a diverse team of explorers is brought together to venture deep into an uncharted but beautiful isolated island that goes by the name of Skull Island, in the Indian Ocean. They soon discover that the island is home to a wonder of colossal proportions — the gigantic and prehistoric ape known as King Kong, who possesses great strength and semi-human intelligence. Fast-paced and CGI heavy monster-fest is great fun with a witty script. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in spectacular breath-taking action set-pieces. Hiddleston is wooden in the lead, but Reilly excels as a discovered veteran who had been trapped on the island 28 years earlier. Jackson adds brio and Larson is appealing. Kong may be an impressive computer-generated creation but lacks the personality of the 1933 original. Also shot in 3-D. 
Concorde … Airport ’79, The (1979; USA; Technicolor; 113m) * d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth, Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, George Kennedy, Sylvia Kristel, Eddie Albert, Bibi Andersson, Charo, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Jimmie Walker, David Warner, Mercedes McCambridge. This film is the last of the AIRPORT genre which stars Kennedy who has to contend with nuclear missiles, the French Air Force and the threat of the plane splitting in two over the Alps! Nonsensical final entry in the series is dragged down by preposterous scenario, risible and often embarrassing dialogue and wooden performances. The series was laid to rest with this one. The film reached UK theatres a year later, and was renamed upon its release there. Raye’s final feature film. [PG]
JACK CARTER’S LAW by TED LEWIS (1974, Syndicate Books, 222pp) ****
Blurb: It’s the late 1960s in London and Jack Carter is the top man in a crime syndicate headed by two brothers—Gerald and Les Fletcher. He’s also a worried man. The fact that he’s sleeping with Gerald’s wife, Audrey, and that they plan on someday running away together with a lot of the brothers’ money, doesn’t have Jack concerned. Instead it’s an informant—one of his own men—that has him losing sleep. The grass has enough knowledge about the firm to not only bring down Gerald and Les but Jack as well. Jack doesn’t like his name in the mouth of that sort. It should be an easily solved problem for London’s suavest fixer, except for one slight problem: Jack has no idea where the grass is hiding.
Jack Carter’s Law is Ted Lewis’ follow-up to his highly influential Jack’s Return Home, which was filmed as, and later retitled, Get Carter. This second book in the series is set prior to the first. Whereas Jack’s Return Home gave Lewis’ anti-hero a personal vendetta as motivation for the ensuing mayhem, here Carter is acting in his role as fixer/enforcer for one of London’s biggest criminal gangs. As such, there is little for the reader to root for in a cast of characters that have few, if any, redeeming qualities. That said, Lewis masterfully keeps you engaged through his first-person perspective. Written in the present tense, not a popular style but effective here, the action feels immediate and the tension is kept high. Lewis also has a penchant for long descriptive paragrpahs, punctuated by salty and humorous dialogue. The book is not for the faint-hearted – there are several moments of brutality and cruelty – but for fans of gritty pulp fiction this is a great example of the genre. Lewis became something of a cult figure in the world of gritty crime fiction and unfortunately died young (aged only 42) after a battle with alcoholism.
Airport ’77 (1977; USA; Technicolor; 114m) *** d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Cacavas. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, James Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, James Booth. Art thieves hijack a 747, hit fog and crash into the ocean, trapping them and the passengers under 100 feet of water. Strong cast adds value to this third entry in the series. Good production values and a tense final act overcome the by now obvious characters and familiar situations. Developed from a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle. Network TV version added one-hour of additional footage. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979). [PG]
Stormy Monday (1988; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 93m) ***½ d. Mike Figgis; w. Mike Figgis; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Mike Figgis. Cast: Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, Sean Bean, James Cosmo, Mark Long, Brian Lewis, Ying Tong John, Mick Hamer, Ian Hinchcliffe, Andrzej Borkowski, Caroline Hutchinson, Les Wilde, Desmond Gill, Benny Graham, Derek Hoxby, Catherine Chevalier, Brendan P. Healy, Clive Curtis, Heathcote Williams. A crooked American businessman tries to push the shady influential owner of a nightclub in Newcastle, England to sell him the club. Atmospheric British gangster thriller pays homage to the Hollywood movies of the 30s and 40s. Bean is effective as out-of-work drifter drawn into a stand-off between Sting’s jazz club owner and Jones’ American gangster over a new property development. Griffith oozes appeal as the moll caught between her ties to Jones and her love for Bean. Well-judged script and neat camera work add to the noir feel. Followed by the TV series Finney in 1994, which ran for just one season.