SALT * * *
Cert 12A, 100 mins
Just weeks after sleeper Russian spies were unearthed in America comes this highly topical movie – with Angelina Jolie playing exactly that. Perhaps.
We’re not sure of her allegiances at any point in the film.
Evelyn Salt works for the CIA in Washington. Then a Russian agent walks in, claiming he wants to defect and revealing a long-established programme the Soviets have had for bringing up children to be perfect spies and infiltrating them into American society.
One in particular is about to kill the US president – and her name is Evelyn Salt.
Her boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) wants to believe her protestations of innocence but colleague Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a lot more suspicious.
So she goes on the run and proves to be remarkably resourceful. She has a clever use for her underwear, she can scale buildings in a tight skirt and make a flamethrower out of a fire extinguisher and household objects.
A chillingly cool customer (except in flashbacks featuring her husband, designed to give her a heart), we don’t really understand what she’s doing half the time and whether she’s a double or triple agent. But the movie zips along with some good stunts and there’s a twist or two in the tale.
Salt is certainly no Jason Bourne, but Jolie adds a good pinch of seasoning to the action genre. RL
THE EXPENDABLES * * *
Cert 15, 103 mins
The only reason to watch this film is to see some of the world’s most famous action stars returning for one last bout of mayhem.
Anyone who spent the 1980s wondering why we could never see Messrs Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis in the same film can now have their wish fulfilled in a larger-than-life story about a team of mercenaries heading to South America to overthrow a dictator.
It’s Stallone’s movie from start to tedious gun battle climax.
As the writer and director, Stallone has given himself the best part (well, wouldn’t you?) and the Bruce and Arnie scene is but a sideshow, albeit one with a very good presidential gag.
Although Jason Statham is still comparatively young enough to punch his way out of a paper bag, even he doesn’t get that much to do compared to Sly.
Stallone’s face might be an immovable force these days, but his torso – revealed when he decides to get an extra tattoo – is still impressively defined for a man of 64. Shame he didn’t put as much work into the script.
Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke add extra muscle, but precious little in the way of brains. GY
MARMADUKE * * *
Cert U, 88 mins
If live action talking dog movies with fart gags aren’t your thing, then doggie-do run a mile from this movie.
Children in need of entertainment during the summer holidays, though, will find it seeks out their natural born sense of the absurd.
Director Tom Dey’s Shanghai Noon actor Owen Wilson voices the titular character in his own inimitable style.Based on a newspaper cartoon character, Marmaduke is a Great Dane with a tendency to wreak havoc.
When his family move house and he has to meet some new neighbours, he’s going to have to learn to stand taller than ever before if he’s to fend off the unwarranted interests of a bully Rottweiler called Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland) and to win the heart of Jezebel (Stacy Ferguson).
Marmaduke – or Marmadooook to give him his screen term – is as predictable as children’s films come. But for it to be listed as the 98th worst movie ever made on one internet site is harsh.
Unlike many expensively produced human movies which are painful to sit through, this film generally has its heart in the right place, there’s some good slapstick and you have to admire the patience of filmmakers who are prepared to work with this many animals on one set. GY
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE * *
Cert 18, 92 mins
In possibly the most bizarre and repulsive plot of the year, mad German surgeon Dr Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser) tries to use his skills at separating Siamese twins, but in reverse.
His bonkers experiment is to join three people together, using plastic surgery to attach mouths to a part of another’s body that they really don’t want to be touching. It gives a whole new meaning to a tongue-in-cheek film.
His victims are two American airhead girls and a Japanese man, having killed a truck driver earlier because: “You don’t match. Don’t take it personally.”
Thankfully there aren’t too many graphically gruesome shots, but Dutch filmmaker Tom Six leaves the horror to our imagination, which is worse.
Although it’s stomach-churning at times, it’s never really scary.
Six fails to build much tension and we never care about the fate of the characters, of which we know absolutely nothing.
The Human Centipede has a certain schlocky horror appeal and some darkly humorous lines, but I’m certainly not eagerly awaiting the sequel, which is already under way. RL