Nov 21-27 Shining a searchlight on our darkest desires, CRIME FEST brings you the best in thrillers, mysteries, neo-noir and prison drama from far and wide.
Nov 28 - Dec 11 "Watch this brilliant and pitiless critique of marriage and masculinity with someone you love." — Dana Stevens, Slate
Congratulations to all the winners of the juried and audience-chosen awards at the 33rd Vancouver International Film Festival. Pictured: The Vancouver Asahi.
Join the VIFF community and enhance your film experience. Members enjoy discounts, advance purchasing options, and exclusive events.
September 25 - October 10, 2014
THAT'S A WRAP! Thanks to all the filmmakers, volunteers, sponsors, staff and enthusiastic audiences who helped make the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival a resounding success. VIFF 2014 set a new box office record, seeing a 10% increase on 2013 festival. Between September 25 and October 10, 2014, VIFF presented 549 public screenings of 349 films from more than 70 countries, confirming its status as one of the continent's largest film festivals...more
Bad Turn Worse
Nov 21, 2014 - 6:30pm
"Cowboy noir was almost a movie thing in the 1980s and ’90s, thanks to movies like Blood Simple, One False Move and Red Rock West. The genre is informed by the great pulp novelist Jim Thompson (The Getaway, The Killer Inside Me), whose shadow looms large over Bad Turn Worse, a solid entry in a current indie revival of the form that includes Blue Ruin and Cold In July.
The motor of the story is the complicated relationship between three teenagers — with the daring, outgoing B. J. (Logan Huffman) sinking his smarter, more cautious, more ambitious friends into trouble partially through deeply buried malice and envy, to forestall his girlfriend Sue’s (Mackenzie Davis) ambition to leave town for college and the likelihood that she’ll also hook up with the more bookish, fatally meek Bobby (Jeremy Allen White). Directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins and screenwriter Dutch Southern make B. J. more than a simple sociopath, but he’s a troubled and dangerous character, perfectly played as appealing yet subtly offputting by Huffman.
This has a twisty plot involving a real robbery and a sham heist, with schemes within schemes and reversals that serve to get affable nice guy Bobby and whip-smart Sue — a devotee not only of Jim Thompson but Nancy Drew — deeper into trouble. Cowboy noir depends on a juxtaposition of old Western hats and a roundabout way of speaking with the rusting detritus of a post-industrial contemporary America — as the [original] title [We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place] suggests, this West is somewhere you escape from rather than light out for. Here, a huge cotton factory makes a suitably picturesque, grim backdrop for a climax where the threats finally spill over into violence, with friendly face William Devane showing up as a local kingpin at precisely the point when things need to get worse."
— Kim Newman, Empire
"A crackling small town thriller that deserves to be sought out." — James Marsh, Twitch
"This juicy tale of a reckless robbery and its spiraling bloody aftermath is enjoyably overripe pulp, steeped in grubby textures and flavorful atmosphere." — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
It's Only Make Believe
Nov 21, 2014 - 8:30pm
Keenly poised between compassion and violence, this gripping slice of Nordic noir is a suspense drama that doubles as a character study. It’s also a rare crime thriller with a sympathetic female protagonist at its heart. In the movie’s crisp prologue, Jenny (Silje Salomonsen) is a foolish teenager in over her head when a drug deal turns sour. Released from prison nine years later she has every intention of putting her life back on the right track and winning custody of the child she was forced to give up, but the universe seems to have other ideas. Past associates crawl out of the woodwork and laugh off her claims to have paid off her debt to society. In order to get what she wants Jenny is going to have to wipe the slate clean with them first...
"When a real, engaging new cinematic voice comes to light, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. It’s the stuff of true discovery. That’s what instantly comes to one’s mind following a screening of the new Norwegian film It’s Only Make Believe (aka Eventyrland). From director Arild Ostin Ommundsen, this moving and unflinching character study may have a premise that would make any knowing cinephile roll his or her eyes at its cliché-ridden log-line, but will hopefully have those same film nerds buzzing after seeing just how gorgeous this real world cinema gem truly is… As moving a melodrama as they come and as visually inspired a character study, this is a film that may be hard to check out, but if the chance arises, it’s an absolute must-see." -- Joshua Brunsting, Criterioncast
"Stylish... Impressive... Delicate and brutal." -- Hollywood Reporter
A Hard Day
Nov 21, 2014 - 10:15pm
"Right in the middle of his mother’s funeral, homicide detective Ko Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun) is called out by his team members to hurry back to the station, as the rat squad (internal affairs) is raiding their office. While speeding down the pitch-black highway, he swerves to avoid hitting a beagle and ends up running over a man. Braving the most conscience-pricking stare from his pooch witness, he hastily stashes the body in his trunk and keeps going. His attempt to make it through a roadblock guarded by officious traffic wardens is just the first of many nick-of-time scrapes that will hold audiences in suspense.
Things come to a head at the funeral parlor, when his chief (Shin Jung-keun), together with his teammates, try to make him take the heat for their collective racketeering (the rat squad busted open Ko’s drawer to find stashes of bribe money). In a morbid example of necessity being the mother of invention, Ko hits upon a novel way of disposing of the body (albeit one that puts his mom in a tight spot), in an extraordinary stunt sequence that melds Hitchcockian tension and Keatonesque slapstick.But the more Ko tries to cover his tracks, the deeper he’s digging his own grave…" Maggie Lee, Variety
“A masterclass in throat-squeezing, stomach-knotting suspense loaded with smart plot twists, dark humor and high-gloss visuals. . .A Hard Day is full of smart surprises and darkly funny lurches." Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
"A total blast." Jessica Kiang, Playlist (Indiewire)
A Fuller Life
Nov 22, 2014 - 12:30pm
"The biggest crime story of the century!" That’s how Sam Fuller described WWII, a typically punchy declaration from a guy who knew what he was talking about: Fuller was a tabloid reporter and crime novelist before joining the infantry in time for D-Day. Fuller returned to Hollywood and made noir thrillers (Pickup on South Street; Underworld USA; Shock Corridor), groundbreaking war pictures (Verboten!; Steel Helmet) and B westerns (40 Guns) with singular conviction. This is his story, as told by daughter Samantha.
"A former crime reporter, he envisaged his viscerally dynamic camerawork and hard-hitting stories in terms of cinematic headlines… Though seldom subtle, Fuller’s films were dramatically powerful and, thanks to their dark ironies, complex in depicting America as a melting pot constantly boiling over into insane, violent aggression. In particular, few film-makers have been so brutally explicit about racial tensions… In short, Fuller’s sensibility was inherently cinematic, and the meaning of his work is embodied in its raw confrontational style." - Geoff Andrew (The Director’s Vision, 1999)
"If you don’t like Sam Fuller, you just don’t like cinema.” - Martin Scorsese
"Those intrigued by an indelibly influential persona that combined showman-like flamboyance, old-school masculinity and die-hard personal integrity to disarming and intoxicating degrees, will find much to chew on here." Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
Cold in July
Nov 22, 2014 - 2:45pm
How can a split-second decision change your life? While investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989, Richard Dane puts a bullet in the brain of a low-life burglar, Freddy Russell. Although he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane soon finds himself fearing for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father, Ben, rolls into town; hell-bent on revenge. However, not all is as it seems. Shortly after Dane kills the home intruder, his life begins to unravel into a dark underworld of corruption and violence.
Twists and turns continue to pile up as the film reaches its inevitable destination: a gore-soaked dead end. Michael C. Hall brings a shell-shocked vulnerability to his portrayal of Dane that contrasts perfectly with the grizzled "badasses" portrayed by Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. Directed with an excellent eye for the visual poetry of noir, this pulpy, southern-fried mystery - adapted from a Joe R Lansdale novel - is a throwback to an older breed of action films; one where every punch and shotgun blast opens up both physical and spiritual wounds. Cold in July is hard to shake as an east Texas summer.
"One of those movies that arrives every now and then with no fanfare but a canny sense of how to grab our attention and hold it in a tightening grip." Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
"A character-driven thriller with more twists than an off-the-map dirt road, awards-quality performances from the three leads, a rare sensitivity to the after-effects of horror and a sure directorial hand." Kim Newman, Empire
"It is a brutal, beautifully shot movie that starts out to be about revenge but then becomes something more, something even more primal and disturbing." Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
Nov 22, 2014 - 4:45pm
Bud Gordon (Corey Stoll - from House of Cards and Midnight in Paris) once had it all—a nice apartment, fame, public love and admiration—but a quick jab to the chin wiped that slate. Now living in a dingy studio with no business, no fans and no purpose except to help train an up-and-coming boxer, Bud longs for his former Manhattan glory. With promises of restoring his shattered image and ego, he makes a deal with JJ (Billy Crudup), a crooked restaurateur. But as Bud further entangles himself in JJ’s affairs, he finds himself framed for murder and faces a choice between his integrity and his aspirations. Capturing the moral dilemmas that emerge from the compromises we make for success, Noah Buschel writes and directs Glass Chin with a distinctive, vibrant style that channels pulp film noir into something both familiar and strange.
"One of the strongest films ever to grace the international narrative competition at the Tribeca Film Festival — a boxing picture without a single fight, a thriller with a murder takes place off screen, a slow burn modern neo-noir with dialogue as memorable as Mamet’s that wears the cadences and uninflected, symmetrical compositions of an Ozu picture effortlessly, mixing these influences in a way that seems all its own. A back-to-the-basics throwback that nonetheless contains more than its fair share of bravura directorial choices and performative turns, Glass Chin confirms Buschel to be among the most interesting voices lurking in the margins of American cinema." Brandon Harris, Indiewire
"Buschel may be mining classic B-movie territory, but between his script and Stoll’s performance, Glass Chin finds fresh humanity in a seemingly exhausted genre." Peter Debruge, Variety
"Buschel’s micro-noir has a rare and potent sense of menace […] viscerally direct and spontaneous, like that last, swift jab that puts an opponent on the mat." Chris Cabin, Slant
"In a starring turn of suppressed despondence and frustration, the charismatic Stoll makes a strong bid for earning his own shot at superstardom." Nick Schager, Village Voice
The Evolution of a Criminal
Nov 22, 2014 - 6:30pm
How does a 16-year-old evolve into a bank robber?
In The Evolution of a Criminal, filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe explores what led him to pull a heist as a teenager in Texas, and returns to the scene of the crime. By interviewing family members, close friends, and mentors, we learn about his transformation from a joyous childhood to the moment he realized the severity of his family’s financial problems, and how their struggles changed his outlook on his own life.
"Vital, thoughtful, and deeply personal, first-timer Darius Clark Monroe’s autobiographical doc stands as a testament to the power of movies to stir empathy. At age 16, honor-student Monroe had grown sick of seeing his hardworking family struggle to keep up with its bills. He had dabbled in employee-theft at the Venture store where he worked after school. Next, restless and foolhardy, he set his criminal sights higher, corralling a couple of friends and busting into a Stafford, Texas, Bank of America. Monroe wore a skeleton mask, one accomplice wielded a sawed-off shotgun, and a couple hours later Monroe’s mother found a shoebox on her bed filled with thirty grand. Monroe’s film is an inquiry into who he was becoming — and who he became during a five-year prison sentence… The film is a triumph, as moving as it is courageous." — Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
POST SCREENING PANEL: JORDAN BUNA in conversation with filmmaker DARIUS CLARK MONROE
Jordan Buna is an advocate for at-risk youth who has first-hand experience within gangs.
Mr. Buna has completed an Associate’s degree in Psychology and is nearing completion of his Baccalaureate degree in both Psychology and Criminology. Mr. Buna also works with Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Acting Together CURA Project, a gang prevention and research project which currently operates under a million-dollar grant from the prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). In interactive presentations he has given to many BC schools, Mr Buna lays out the facts surrounding his own involvement in the gang world, and focuses on what he calls the “critical choice points” that led to his own “ganglife” and eventually to his successful re-entry into society.
Nov 22, 2014 - 8:50pm
19-year-old Eric (Jack O’Connell), arrogant and ultra-violent, is prematurely transferred to the same adult prison facility as his estranged father (Ben Mendelsohn). As his explosive temper quickly finds him enemies in both prison authorities and fellow inmates - and his already volatile relationship with his father is pushed past breaking point - Eric is approached by a volunteer psychotherapist (Rupert Friend), who runs an anger management group for prisoners. Torn between gang politics, prison corruption, and a glimmer of something better, Eric finds himself in a fight for his own life, unsure if his own father is there to protect him or join in punishing him.
Written by prison system therapist Jonathan Asser, Starred Up is a merciless, uncompromising portrayal of a dehumanizing life behind bars, and the most accomplished film of David Mackenzie’s career; as father and son, Mendelsohn and O’Connell give extraordinary performances, charting a path that resembles Greek tragedy.
"Starred Up is an edgy, teeming thriller, brilliantly disorienting, making strange a world we thought we knew, at least from other movies." David Edelstein, New York Magazine
"O’Connell bristles with terrifying hair-trigger unpredictability. Watching him, you feel like you’re witnessing the arrival of a new movie star." Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
"Brutal and boisterous… Turns the complicated dynamic between a young prisoner and his problematic mentor into a ferocious psychodrama that locks you in and refuses to let you go." AO Scott, The New York Times
Nov 23, 2014 - 2:30pm
Marking the 40th Anniversary of the release of this solid gold classic with a restored DCP screening, this is a rare chance to see one of the most acclaimed Hollywood movies of the last half century on the big screen.
When Bogart played Philip Marlowe in the 1940s, the detective was a white knight, troubled but untainted by the corruption he encounters at every turn on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Predating Marlowe historically, but unmistakably tainted with the jaundice of America in the 1970s, Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes is an altogether seedier proposition, a two-bit snoop whose cynicism may be his best quality. He spends most of Chinatown jumping to wrong conclusions about what crimes have been committed, by whom, and for what reasons. He’s in over his head, but even that’s beyond him. He keeps on going and only makes matters worse.
Robert Towne’s original screenplay is regarded as one of the finest private eye movies ever written, though we have director Roman Polanski to thank for the devastatingly bleak ending. Forty years on, the film’s inkling that the future has long since been sold to the highest bidders still resonates. Nicholson plays the second half of the movie with a large white bandage across his nose – and worse, without a car – but there’s no question who drives the picture. It’s a great performance and a movie you won’t forget.
"Flawless" Philip French, The Observer
"Unmissable." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"Unforgettable." Neil Smith, Total Film
Nov 23, 2014 - 4:50pm
Someone is killing aboriginal girls on a remote stretch of road, but no one seems to care… That’s the set up for this evocative Australian thriller, a genre movie which doubles as a critique of post colonial racism and corruption and which should echo loud and strong in British Columbia.
"Imagine a racially charged Outback Chinatown and you have the
measure of this terrific Aussie noir written, shot, directed, edited and scored by Ivan Sen. As Aaron Pederson’s aboriginal detective returns home to investigate a murder, he discovers a township driven by corruption, where the fug of meth and malaise has made life lose all value.
Deliberately paced and expertly acted by a weathered ensemble including Hugo Weaving, Mystery Road also boasts some of cinema’s most gorgeous magic-hour photography even if, elsewhere, light is in perilously short supply." 4 stars, Matt Glasby, Total Film
" Mystery Road has the evil, epic sweep of LA Confidential, but a grimmer grasp on reality, burning a long trail of TNT to a final, point-blank showdown." Nick Hasted, The Arts Desk
The Blue Room
Nov 23, 2014 - 7:15pm
A perfectly twisted, timeless noir, Mathieu Amalric’s adaptation of Georges Simenon’s domestic crime novel also tips its hat to Alfred Hitchcock/Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. A country hotel’s blue room is the scene of erotic rapture, but the adulterous man (Amalric) and woman (a boldly sexual Stéphanie Cléau, co-author of the script with Amalric) who meet there have different visions of their future. Calamitously so. Amalric’s direction is brutally spare, as is his performance of a man caught in a vise—a situation of his own making. The classic aspect ratio (1:33) and Grégoire Hetzel’s turbulent, insistent score heighten the sense of entrapment. Léa Drucker as the deceived wife and Cléau as the desperate mistress make strong impressions, but Amalric, who has the most eloquent eyes in contemporary cinema and uses them here to convey lust, guilt, bewilderment, is unforgettable. New York Film Festival
"An elegant psychological freak-out about adultery and other madness, [a] dark, delectable, shivery tale." Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"The Blue Room is a story about sexual desire as an overwhelming force, incapable of being ignored or mistaken, and about the ambiguity of almost everything else: memory, language, actions and motives." Stuart Klawans, The Nation
" A great little film… It has a headlong rhythm, skittering between timeframes with the skill of a pianist nailing Prokofiev…. Everything’s told in shards, and Amalric does very well to create a sense of emotional continuum amid all the procedural detail. His own performance is fantastic, jittery and disheveled.” Tim Robey, The Daily Telegraph
Child of God
Nov 23, 2014 - 8:40pm
"Child of God is dominated by Scott Haze’s fearless performance, a theatricalized fusillade of full-throttle feral craziness loaded with blood, snot, spit, shit and bile […] Haze plays Lester Ballard, a repellent outcast who stalks the hill country of East Tennessee but, as the early voiceover narration intones, is “a child of God much like yourself perhaps.”
Set in what looks to be the 1950s, the story opens with the auction of the family home and land Lester has lost, during which he cocks his rifle in a bid to drive the crowd away before being clobbered over the head with an ax handle. That initial violence marks the beginning of a steady process of dehumanization as societal rejection pushes him deeper into a sordid private world of madness and malediction.
[…] As a character study of a figure said to be partly inspired by Wisconsin murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein (also an influence on the killers in Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), the film succeeds on its own terms. That is in large part down to Haze’s unstinting commitment to the role. Looking wild-eyed or shifty, Lester twists his toothy mouth into sick grimaces or foams with vicious imprecations, barely audible grumblings, or the garbled stream-of-consciousness ravings of a diseased mind.
Shuffling around his wilderness domain with his rifle tucked under his arm, hunched over in pain, scratching and twitching, Lester is a memorably bizarre figure. He’s a monster but also a sad example of America’s dispossessed rural poor, who fittingly invites both disgust and sympathy." David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Nov 24, 2014 - 6:30pm
Seeking a better life, Oscar Ramirez and his family decide to move from the poverty stricken rice fields of the Northern Philippine mountain ranges and journey to the capital mega city of Metro Manila. Upon arriving in the big city, it isn’t long before they fall foul to various city inhabitants whose manipulative ways are a daily part of city survival.
This award winning feature marks a startling change of pace from talented UK director Sean Ellis (Cashback; The Broken). It was Britain’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards last year.
"It begins as a swirling drama of survival in the Filipino capital - but then suddenly it slips off down an alleyway, only to emerge a scrupulously engineered, Christopher Nolan-ish crime thriller." Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph
"One of the most enrapturing experiences I’ve had at the movies in 2013: fiercely, grandly humanist, and almost unbearably tragic." MaryAnn Johanson
"The influence of Ken Loach makes way for the dynamics of a Quentin Tarantino-style heist. The result is an expertly crafted heartbreaker that cuts to the core of desperate lives." Allan Hunter, Daily Express
Nov 24, 2014 - 8:40pm
A hitman for the Sicilian Mafia, Salvo is solitary, cold and ruthless. When he sneaks into a house on an assignment, he discovers Rita, an innocent young blind girl who must stand by powerlessly while her brother is assassinated. What follows is an intense exchange fueled by adrenaline and fear between the killer and his witness, one that changes their two lives in an instant. The darkness is lifted from Rita’s eyes just as Salvo decides, against his murderous instincts, to spare her life. From then on, both haunted by their brief encounter, these two damaged souls will attempt to navigate their dangerous next steps side by side.
Writer/director team Fabbio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza are masters of tension and have a grip on tone rarely seen in a feature debut, marking them as two very exciting talents to watch.
“Moody… fully immersive… effortlessly intense.” Boyd van Hoeij, Variety
"A soulful romance, an existential action flick and something of a miracle movie - the appealing slow-burner "Salvo" hovers at the crossroads of genre." Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"A sparse and languid Italian thriller that carries a debt to Melville." David Parkinson, Empire
Life of Crime
Nov 26, 2014 - 6:30pm
In the first of our two-part tribute to the late great crime novelist Elmore Leonard, a kidnapping plot hits a snag when it turns out the corrupt developer played by Tim Robbins doesn’t particularly care to get his wife back. In fact he was on the point of filing for divorce, so the kidnappers (yasiin bey and John Hawkes) could be saving him considerable alimony. To complicate matters further, Louis (Hawkes) finds that he’s naturally protective of his captive - in fact Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) may be the the smartest, most sympathetic woman he’s met in a long, long time.
Daniel Schechter’s film may not top Out of Sight, Get Shorty or Jackie Brown on the list of all-time great Elmore Leonard adaptations, but at least it belongs among the top tier - it’s a slick, ingenious thriller with lots of comic character touches on the edges (the supporting cast includes Isla Fisher, Will Forte and Mark Boone Jr). As a bonus, this adaptation of The Switch features a trio of the same characters - Louis, his partner Ordell, and the opportunistic Melanie - who later cropped up in Rum Punch, filmed by Quentin Tarantino as Jackie Brown (where they are played by Robert De Niro, Samuel L Jackson and Bridget Fonda). Which makes Life of Crime a prequel, of sorts, and makes for a peculiarly savoury double-bill.
"This is a droll and well-observed comedy thriller that recreates the 1970s in convincing fashion while retaining enough of a sense of menace to avoid ever drifting off into whimsy." Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent
Nov 26, 2014 - 8:20pm
Jackie Brown is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch - a sequel to The Switch, the novel that introduced the characters of Ordell, Louis and Melanie (and the basis for the new movie, Life of Crime, screening earlier this evening).
While it’s plotted with Leonard’s typical off-hand intricacy, the set-up is simple enough. Take half a dozen characters who know they’re in a fix, and give them half a million dollars to fight over. On the wrong side of the law, we have a ruthless gun dealer, Ordell (Samuel L Jackson), his prison-happy buddy Louis (Robert DeNiro), and the reliably duplicitous Melanie (Bridget Fonda). ‘I don’t have to trust Melanie, I know her,’ Ordell tells a blankly incomprehending Louis. On the other side, there’s a slick, eager cop, Ray Nicolet (Michael Keaton) and the worldweary bailbondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Meanwhile air stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is stuck in the middle with the money, wondering if she can’t play both ends against each other and get away scott free.
Tarantino’s first movie after Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown has a surprising grace and gravitas, it’s a "lived-in" film, and maybe for the only time in QT’s work we actually care about the characters. For once the soul isn’t relegated to the soundtrack.
"The movie that proves Tarantino is the real thing." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times