It seems like all of Patrice Leconte's movies deal, in one way or another, with strangers colliding by fate, and his Monsieur Hire is no exception. Short on length (79 minutes) but not pathos, Leconte's 1989 adaptation of the Georges Simenon crime novel follows the title character (Michel Blanc), an antisocial tailor who spies on his gorgeous neighbor (Sandrine Bonnaire), both of them suspects or accomplices in the murder of a girl. The film's tone is colder than many of Leconte's later, humor-infused films; Monsieur Hire feels decidedly Antarctic until its final reels, when it takes on an unexpectedly moving emotional heft. Its centerpiece scene finds Blanc and Bonnaire engaged in a symphony of eroticism in the stands of a boxing match. It's handled with elegant precision by Leconte; ditto the way his gliding camera movements subtly anticipate his character's actions. Monsieur Hire is an early indication of the work of a controlled master, his fission of fate and fatalism flourishing long before The Girl on the Bridge and The Man on the Train. —John Thomason
It's not without morbid curiosity that most people are going to rent Zoo — a doc that tackles the subject of a Boeing engineer who died from a perforated colon after having sex with a stallion. Mr. Hands, as he was known, was part of a zoophilic group in Washington — one of a few states that had not explicitly prohibited bestiality. When news of his death hit the media it became known as the "Enumclaw Horse-Sex Incident." Due to the subject matter, director Robinson Devor found that most people wouldn't appear on camera. Instead, he interviewed people who were involved in the incident, including some of the "zoos." Their disembodied voices make up a loose narrative to Devor's artful re-enactments. As for Zoo's, uh, money shot, human-equine sex, it's only depicted ambiguously; you can appreciate Devor for not going for a tabloid rehash of the incident. (Adventuresome folks can check out Mr. Hands' graphic real-life sex acts easily on the Web.) This doc strives for some greater insight but remains as nebulous as its odd cast of characters. Devor's monotonous and dreamy bucolic visuals induce yawns and are ineffective in helping understand "zoos." Nor is there much to glean from the stilted interviews, except that "zoos" are an isolated and socially awkward group. Gee? Really? Wow.
Zoo sleepwalks through its 73 minutes and makes an interesting and dicey subject like zoophilia into the cinematic equivalent of Ambien. —Paul Knoll
Perhaps 2007 will go down in history as the year the phrase "How black do you have to be?" took hold. The answer for the timid black conservative couple in Redrum with no innate sense of rhythm or passion is ... two dead bodies. That's how many people they kill before deciding they've found the ultimate Afro-disiac — something they can do together that allows them to shed their nerdy shackles and react physically to hip-hop and slow jam R&B.
Given that these two are the whitest African-Americans this side of whoever that soul brother on The McLaughlin Group is, the transformation is pretty drastic. What prevents Redrum from being an urban Arsenic and Old Lace is that these mercy killers are questionable do-gooders, murdering horrible people that they think deserve it — like the neighbor who doesn't return anything he borrows, the guy who's mean to his kids and the midget from Seinfeld. But that they dismember their victims with a chainsaw crosses a comedic line that makes it hard to find much empathy with them and their psychotic behavior. With Tyler Perry leaving behind his more cartoonish creations for comparably more sophisticated comedic fare like Why Did I Get Married, director-writer-star Kenny Young could have the whole morality playing field to himself. Despite a few genuinely funny moments, this implausible comedic compromise is stuck between really going for the sick Saw comedy-horro crowd and trying to appease the crowd that just wants Stella to get her groove back. —Serene Dominic
Dark Horse Indie
A horror movie based on the abuse at a prison-like "attitude-adjustment camp for troubled youths," starring Diamond Dallas Page (The Devil's Rejects) and directed and co-written by Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs), holds a modicum of promise. Weaving supernatural elements into the already-surreal and hostile environment engendered by these inhumane dumping grounds may seem unnecessary, but the idea of a ghost wandering the halls of a torture camp is generally a no-lose proposition. Unfortunately, Sullivan and his below-par cast of actors — most of whom come from shows like Laguna Beach and 7th Heaven, though star Raviv Ullman was the main character on Disney Channel's Phil of the Future — appear undecided on their roles in Driftwood. Is it going to be a scared-straight look at the horrors of life on the inside of one of these teen-storage facilities? Is it going to be a spooky thriller? A profanity-laced tale about bonding on the inside and sticking it to an abuser? It's all of these and none of these; ultimately, the thin production values, overblown acting and confused plotline make Driftwood little more than a contender for Lifetime After Dark. —Jason Ferguson
You know the scene. A near-dozen survivors stuck in a broken, abandoned steel mill surrounded by mindlessly violent brain-dead people who want to claw their way in and eat fresh human innards like Hot Pockets. Yet several times in the movie main characters are reprimanded for calling these damaged people "zombies." That's because there are nearly hundreds of "Z" movies but relatively few hinting that our corrupt government may have further pushed the civil liberties envelope by testing out a dangerous toxin on the general populace.
If you close your eyes, this mostly talking heads picture with a few flesh-eating episodes to break it up sounds like a great War of the Worlds-styled radio play, especially since lead actor Ken Edwards sells every syllable with deadpan severity. But as you look at the less talented actors surrounding him, you wish someone would just green screen some credible emotion on their faces. Or that the flesh-eaters start with mug meat first. —Serene Dominic