VENGEANCE (Hong Kong) dir. Johnnie To
I've never been a Johnnie To fan, and I can't understand why his films continue to screen in Competition at Cannes, but whatever. "Vengeance" tells the story of a former killer, now a chef and father who comes to Hong Kong to avenge his daughter, whose family was murdered.
Kirk Hunnycuut of The Hollywood Reporter writes, "This is a tale of two Johnnies. Renowned Hong Kong action director Johnnie To teams up with iconic French singer-actor Johnny Hallyday for a stylish, whiz-bang revenge melodrama."
Lee Marshall, Screendaily, say it's "A revenge shoot-em-up which fires mostly blanks...As always, the sensuality of To’s visual style and soundscapes and the choreography of the film’s bullet ballet provide reasons to watch, but the contrived plot, some wooden English dialogue and Hallyday’s stilted perfomance derail proceedings well before the final showdown."
Justin Chang, Variety, loves it calling it "a smoothly executed revenge thriller that finds one of Hong Kong's genre masters in assured action-movie form."
KINATAY (France, Phillipines) dir. Brillante Mendoza
On the opposite spectrum of Johnnie To is Brillante Mendoza. He was at Cannes last year with "Serbis", now he's back with what looks like a more mainstream film, the story of a criminology student, is recruited by his schoolmate to work as a part-time errand boy for a local syndicate that collects protection fees from various businesses in Manila.
Mike Goodridge, Screendaily, describes the film as "the indie shocker niche occupied by Irreversible or Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer... a nerve-shredding exploration of crime which is both repellent and grimly compelling. Offering audiences no relief or redemption, it is perhaps most notable for its daring in attempting to capture the moment a young man crosses the line into irrevocable evil."
Maggie Lee, The Hollywood Reporter, seems equally disgusted and intrigued, "Featuring shooting violence, rape and mutilation extensively in real time, from camera angles that make the audience feel like they are watching a snuff film, this full-on experience of forced voyeurism is certain to incite strong (most probably offended) responses."
LE PÈRE DE MES ENFANTS (aka FATHER OF MY CHILDREN) (France) Mia Hanson-Love
(En Certain Regard) A story of a work-aholic film producer with a wife and two kids who when his invisible career starts to teeter is forced to face the possibilty of failure.
Jonanthan Romney, Screendaily, describes is as, "insightful, mature and extremely accomplished...The film not only has brains to spare, and considerable savvy about the cinema business, it’s also guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house."
Justin Chang (Variety) saw it, "Marked by moments of remarkable stillness amid its emotional tumult, the film's classy, perceptive treatment of potentially maudlin material merits wider arthouse attention than it's likely to receive on local release in December. It confirms Hansen-Love as a talent worthy of a following on and beyond the fest circuit."
TZAR (Russia) dir. Pavel Lounguine
16th century. In a plotting Russia in the grip of chaos, Ivan the Terrible strongly believes he is invested by a holy mission. He establishes an absolute power, smashing with an astounding cruelty whoever gets in his way. During this reign of terror, the Head of Church, Filipp, great scholar and Ivan’s close friend, dares to stand up and raise himself against the Sovereign’s mystical tyranny.
Derek Elley, Variety, writes, "laden with Russian brooding and violence, Pavel Lungin's "Tsar" is a brief peep into Ivan the Terrible's heart of darkness via a conflict between the regent and the head of the church" and cites, "rich, atmospheric lensing by Clint Eastwood regular Tom Stern, this is a heavy meal to digest outside the fest arena."
Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter) calls it, "A spectacular Russian retelling of the Ivan the Terrible story..."Tsar" positions itself between Sergei Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible" and Andrei Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev," though without their originality and inspiration."