Friday, May 7, 2021

Delish 'Truffle' finally shows; Ritchie's 'Wrath' and tiny indie signal 'Action'

It's been promised a while, but my favorite film of  the "Pandemic Era" -- and, perhaps, the most appealing documentary since 2018's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" -- has begun showing up in theaters around the country.

After constant release-date postponements, "The Truffle Hunters" arrives today locally (at the Cedar-Lee in Cleveland Heights) and maybe you already have heard some good things. I mean, it's been around long enough, having premiered in January 2020 as a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival and mostly only various one-shot venues ever since.

I dug up its many surprises during September's virtual coverage of the 45th annual Toronto International Film Festival and still regularly think about the assorted joys put on screen by writers, directors and immensely talented cinematographers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw. 

On the surface, their film follows a few skillful old Italians and their wonderfully smart and personable dogs. Yet, an incredibly quick-moving 85 minutes get filled with so many more moments to digest, naturally featuring one mouth-watering breakfast of eggs topped with the expensive and lushly white Alba mushrooms this group has long lived and, yes, occasionally died for.

Other riches tracked down by these memorable woodsmen from Italy's Piedmont Region likely will stick to body parts besides the stomach, too. A glorious soundtrack and a few beautifully matching images might even reach the soul.   

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some strong language; 1:25; $ $ $ $ $ out of $5

Statham's stoic "H" stirs "Wrath."
Also opening today at several more theaters than the above title, the action-packed "Wrath of Man" brings co-writer/director Guy Ritchie back to what he does best. That would be gathering a bunch of scalawags and arseholes together for a violent ride, all competently led by stone-faced, revenge-ridden anti-hero Jason Statham.

Of course, it was Ritchie who introduced Statham to feature films in both "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) and "Snatch" (2000), then rewarded him with the lead role in the lesser "Revolver" five years later. Partnering again, they make a worthy run at the darkly entertaining here, at least after a first half-hour of silly, boys-will-boys dialogue sets things up for Statham's simply nicknamed "H" in his new job riding shotgun for a Brinks-like, cash-pickup outfit.

Savvy camera work (by Alan Stewart) and a pounding score (Christopher Benstead), both introduced during a pivotal, pre-credits heist, contribute big time throughout. So does a generally swell cadre of players, featuring names such as Eddie Marsden, Josh Hartnett, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood and Andy Garcia crisply turning and twisting through their director's familiarly complex paces.

One excessive moment: A torture scene, orchestrated to an oddly cool version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," is not for the timid.

Rated "R" by MPAA: some sexual references, pervasive language, strong violence throughout; 1:57; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Finally today comes a pair of fledgling filmmakers showing off a smattering of comedic skills while skewering an entire genre with the wittily named "In Action," a legitimate two-hander.

Sean Kenealy, as Sean, and Eric Silvera, as Eric -- what else? -- not only play themselves in their purposely shoestring production, but also co-write, co-direct and even provide voices for an assortment of kooky characters. The latter group mostly is comprised of a few government agents and insurgent types, all of whom catch wind of the film's terrorist plot and mistakenly accept it as the real deal.

Regardless, none of them can stop the constantly bickering Sean and Eric, a couple of college friends apparently never seriously fond of one another, from taking pot shots at themselves and making observations about everything. Book clubs, lamaze classes, cocktail wieners and Hollywood are among frequent topics, but listen carefully or you might miss quickie mentions of funny stuff like Robert Redford's facelift.

Two rather nifty animated story fillers and clever end-credit outtakes showing before-and-after set designs become added bonuses in this bold debut from the promising partners in film.

(After enjoying some success at a handful of film festivals, "In Action" starts today on a couple of digital platforms and Tuesday on all major cable/satellite VOD services.)

Not rated by MPAA: (but with more than enough hard language and bloody scenes to go around); 1:24; $ $ $ out of $5

No comments: