Film Of The Week

Dogman, Channel 4, Sunday, 1am

A Sunday-into-Monday showing for Matteo Garrone’s 2018 crime drama, which takes many of the elements of Gomorrah, his acclaimed 2008 film about the Camorra crime gangs of Naples, and adds a few of the more fantastical flourishes he showed in later films such as Tale Of Tales (Necromancers! Sea dragons!) and his 2019 adaptation of Pinocchio which starred Roberto Benigni as Geppeto.

Marcello Fonte, who won the Best Actor award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, plays Marcello, owner of a dog-grooming business in a strange, dilapidated, run-down coastal suburb of an un-named city (the film was shot mostly in Villaggio Coppola, a ghost town just north of Naples built illegally in the 1960s with Camorra involvement). Marcello is separated from his wife but dotes on his young daughter Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria) and together they pore over online travel brochures dreaming of holidays together in the Maldives or the Red Sea. When he scrapes together enough money, he pays for her to take diving lessons. Or appears to: cue dreamlike underwater interludes which may or may not be real.

Upsetting Marcello’s otherwise placid existence are his love of cocaine and his reluctant relationship with Simone (Edoardo Pesce, best known as Ruggero Buffoni in hit Italian crime series Romanzo Criminale). Simone – large, shaven-headed, always dressed in an Adidas tracksuit – is the neighbourhood thug. A bully and a petty criminal, he extorts money from the local businesses and drugs from Marcello. Step by step, the two men find themselves on a collision course which will become increasingly violent.

Where Gomorrah was so redolent of Naples and its violent crime gangs, Dogman is untethered from a sense of place, a feeling heightened by Garrone’s habit of shooting most scenes either at dawn or dusk. But the two films bookend the same themes: crime, Italian masculinity and the violence and desperation that lie beneath the surface of Italian life.

Monday

Murder On The Orient Express, Film 4, 9pm

The little grey cells of moustachioed sleuth Hercule Poirot are rigorously tested in Kenneth Branagh's handsome 2017 reimagining of Agatha Christie’s famous snowbound murder mystery – as are those of as anyone watching who is unfamiliar with the plot of the 1934 novel. Poirot (Branagh) finds himself on the Orient Express in a cabin next to slippery gangster Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), who offers to pay the Belgian to ensure his safety. The detective declines, but then a murderer strikes. Suspects include Ratchett's secretary Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), former soldier Dr Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr), widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Princess Natalia Dragomiroff (Dame Judi Dench) and her maid Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman), and missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz).

Tuesday

Scream, 5STAR, 11.05pm

The premise of this 1996 horror comedy from Wes Craven is simple enough: assorted high-school students are systematically stalked and murdered by a masked figure. What gives it a twist is that both the killer and the prey are well-versed in horror movie cliches (as was the writer, Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson). Meanwhile, one of the teenagers (Neve Campbell) notices the crimes don't just parallel her friends' favourite slasher flicks – there also seems to be a link between the deaths and her mother's murder one year earlier. Although the sequels would stretch the joke too far, this first film in the franchise skilfully negotiates the line between affectionate parody of the horror genre and a genuine chiller. If the scariness peaks during the genuinely unnerving opening, which stars Drew Barrymore, the game cast and smart script make sure the entertainment factor never flags.

Wednesday

The Great Wall, Film 4, 9pm

Every 60 years, hordes of flesh-hungry, green-blooded monsters called the Tao Tei rise to punish avaricious mankind. A secret military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and brilliant strategist Wang (Andy Lau), exists solely to repel these hideous beasts from atop China's Great Wall. Mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) stumble into the middle of this brutal conflict. The Great Wall is a special effects-heavy monster mash elevated to entertaining hokum by directorial brio – none other than the great Chinese director Zhang Yimou of Hero and Raise The Red Lantern fame – and solid performances from the international cast. Damon's accent is a wonder of the world, ricocheting between Irish, English and gruff American from one scene to the next.

Thursday

The Lone Ranger, BBC Four, 9pm

Handsome lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) arrives in Texas in 1869 on the newly constructed railroad controlled by Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). Soon after, outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) escapes custody and John’s brother, Texas Ranger Dan Reid (James Badge Dale), leads the search party with John in tow. The chase ends in carnage and John wakes from a bullet wound to meet Tonto (Johnny Depp), a quixotic Native American who also has good reason to want Cavendish dead. Tonto encourages John to find his hero within by donning a mask and together they hunt the outlaw. Helmed by Pirates Of The Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and unfairly lambasted by critics on its cinema release, The Lone Ranger is an entertaining action adventure distinguished by Depp’s theatrics and Bojan Bazelli’s stunning cinematography.

Friday

Detroit, BBC Two, 11.20pm

Kathryn Bigelow’s slow-burning thriller picks at the fresh wounds of divided race relations in America by reliving one tragic night in a fractured city that resulted in the deaths of three black teenagers. Released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the shootings at the Algiers Motel, Detroit skilfully weaves together multiple character arcs, building to a protracted sequence of gut-wrenching terror that draws uncomfortable parallels with the present day. Screenwriter Mark Boal employs his journalistic training to distil personal accounts into a rich, textured portrait of civil unrest, intimidation and injustice. Hand-held camerawork stokes tension and sweat-drenched performances from a fine ensemble cast, headed by John Boyega, are horribly believable. The audience has nowhere to hide from the film’s crushing emotional blows.

And one to stream …

HeraldScotland:

The Trial Of The Chicago 7, Netflix

With the members of the Academy having handed six Oscar nominations apiece to Shaka King’s Judas And The Black Messiah and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7, it’s clear the events of the late 1960s are coming under serious scrutiny Stateside. King’s film is a biopic of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton and deals in particular with his assassination during a police raid in Chicago in December 1969. Sorkin’s magisterial legal drama describes the trial which was going on at the same time in the same city: that of a group of anti-war activists lead by Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden, all of them charged with conspiracy following the riots which took place a year earlier at the Democratic National Convention. It was a notorious episode in American history, though only one of many in that turbulent decade.

Hampton features here, though only briefly. There’s more of Bobby Seale, head of the Black Panthers and initially one of the co-defendants in the trial. But essentially the drama revolves around Hoffman, Rubin, Hayden (who would later marry Jane Fonda and become a respected politician) and their co-accused Rennie Davis and David Dellinger; their defence team of Bill Kunstler and Lenny Weinglass; and high-flying young prosecutor Richard Schultz, the man charged with putting them in prison on what were effectively trumped up charges for the purpose of a political trial.

Sorkin being Sorkin – in other words an Oscar-winning screenwriter and the creator of ace political drama The West Wing as well as a director – the script absolutely sings, and even British audiences unfamiliar with the real-life characters and the events in which they participated will have no trouble following what’s going on thanks to the clever use of archive footage, flashbacks and super-subtle exposition. There’s plenty of British interest in the cast as well, with Hoffman and Hayden being played by Sacha Baron Cohen (pictured above, right) and Eddie Redmayne respectively, and Mark Rylance taking the role of Kunstler. Elsewhere there are notable performances by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Seale, Jeremy Strong as Rubin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Schultz and, in a small but important part, Michael Keaton as former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is one of those films where you want to jump to your feet and cheer at the end, which is about as high a commendation as you can want, really.