Film of the Week


Heat, Film 4, 11.25pm

Michael Mann’s sprawling, Los Angeles-set crime flick deserves its reputation as a classic, though only just: its glossy, of-its-time feel was perfect for 1995 but a quarter of a century on it’s hard not to fix it with a wouldn’t-get-away-with-that-now label. It barely passes the so-called Bechdel Test – named for its instigator, cult graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, it asks the question: does any work have two women talking to each other about something other than a man? – which is ironic given the acting talent lined up on the distaff side. Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, noted Shakespearean actress Diane Venora and a 14-year-old Natalie Portman all feature. What do they do? Not much. Mostly they hang on the arm and the every word of stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Val Kilmer, except for Portman, who plays a troubled schoolgirl. That aside, Heat is nothing if not slick and its long running time and pleasingly complex plot certainly gives it the feel and shape of an epic. And of course there’s that historic on screen meeting between De Niro and Pacino to enjoy, they first time they had shared a scene together.

De Niro is Neil McCauley, a dapper man-about-town who also happens to be a violent armed robber. Chris Sheherlis (Kilmer) is his trusty lieutenant. Nate (Tom Sizemore) and Trejo (iconic jailbird turned actor Danny Trejo) make up the other members of the tight, four-man crew. When a temporary (and trigger-happy) fifth temporary guns down a guard during a heist, McCauley comes to the attention of wired and obsessive detective Vincent Hanna (Pacino), who sets out to take him down. What follows is an intricate game of cat and mouse based on a weird sort of mutual respect, with McCauley admiring Hanna’s doggedness and Hanna appreciating his rival’s precision and, to an extent, his ruthlessness. Each is able to view the other from a distance and take his measure, and it’s that which builds suspense for the critical scene in which they finally sit down together.


Ray & Liz, Film 4, 11.20pm

Turner Prize nominee Richard Billingham has frequently meditated on family history in his photographs and videos, including the 1996 book Ray's A Laugh, which documented the relationship between his alcoholic father Ray and tattooed, chain-smoking mother Liz. These memories inform his award-winning feature film directorial debut about growing up in a Black Country council flat. Distilled into three chapters, grim vignettes reveal the tensions between Ray (Justin Salinger), Liz (Ella Smith), Richard and his younger brother Jason, which are heightened by the family's lodger Will (Sam Gittins), who badly mistreats Ray's brother (Tony Way). As Richard and Jason become teenagers, their paths diverge and social services intervene.


The Kid, Film 4, 9pm

Writer-director Vincent D’Onofrio takes on the famous showdown between Billy ‘The Kid’ Bonney (Dane DeHaan) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) in his decent Western. While that may be well-trodden territory, the film introduces a new twist in the form of the young Rio Cutler (Jake Schur), who kills his drunken father in an attempt to stop him beating his mother to death, only to then be targeted by his equally cruel uncle (Chris Pratt). So, Rio goes on the run with his sister Sara (Leila George), which is how they end up being dragged into the orbit of the famous outlaw. Even with a new element, it's not particularly ground-breaking stuff, but it will definitely appeal to fans of the genre.


The Drop, Film 4, 9pm

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) is a softly spoken soul, who tends a neighbourhood bar owned by Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, in his final performance) and kindles a slow-burning romance with a neighbour called Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Two gunmen hold up Marv's bar and steal “five large... and change”, as they put it. Detectives Torres (John Ortiz) and Romsey (Elizabeth Rodriguez) investigate and when the police leave, Chechen thug Chovka (Michael Aronov) arrives with goons in tow, impressing on Marv and Bob the importance of replacing the stolen cash. The Drop is a solid crime thriller that hits most of the right menacing notes, while the lean script is peppered with colourful dialogue.


Being AP, BBC Four, 10pm

In more than 20 years as a horse racing jockey, A.P. McCoy has defied the odds and his height – a lofty five foot ten inches, tall for a jockey – to become an icon of the lucrative sport. He has registered more than 4,000 wins and has been named Champion Jockey for 19 consecutive years. As he approaches his 40th birthday and the thorny question of retirement lingers in the air, McCoy allows documentary filmmaker Anthony Wonke to shadow him as he attempts to retain his crown as Champion Jockey. In his quest for further glory, the jockey risks life-threatening injury to triumph over his younger and fitter rivals, which is a constant concern for his wife Chanelle and their two young children. With each race, the dangers increase and McCoy gradually acknowledges that the time has come to contemplate a future without horse racing.


The Blair Witch Project, BBC One, 11.35pm

Three film students (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard) venture into the Maryland woods to explore the local urban legend, The Blair Witch. Equipped only with handheld cameras and some hiking gear, the trio soon get lost in the dense forest. Eerie sounds in the night and the appearance of random piles of stones seemingly out of nowhere send them into blind panic. A year later, the footage of their ordeal is finally found. Even now everyone knows it's not actually a documentary, this influential horror remains completely authentic, completely gripping and genuinely creepy. During filming, the three actors were only given a brief outline of the film's plot so if they look shocked and surprised on screen, it's because they genuinely are. Although commonplace nowadays, the handheld, multiple format camerawork was a revolutionary technique that sucked viewers in from start to finish.

And one to stream …

Sound Of Metal, Amazon Prime


For his role as a rock drummer struggling with hearing loss, Riz Ahmed (pictured above) has been rewarded with a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Whether he can turn that accolade into Oscar gold at tomorrow night’s ceremony remains to be seen – the competition is stiff this year – but it’s a powerful performance nonetheless and it will be a surprise if Darius Marder’s film doesn’t take at least one of the six gongs it’s up for.

Starring alongside another British actor, Olivia Cooke, Ahmed plays Ruben Stone, a heavily-tattooed drummer in a two-piece noise rock band called Blackgammon. Think psychedelic drone monsters Wooden Shjips crossed with The White Stripes. Only louder.

Cooke is Lou, Ruben’s girlfriend and the band’s guitarist and singer. Operating on the unglamorous DIY circuit – a world of tiny venues where you share a bill with other hopefuls and man your own merchandise stall – they travel from gig to gig in a well-appointed RV, or recreational vehicle. Then one day – bang! – Ruben’s hearing goes and so begins the slow reveal about the couple’s troubled past: he’s a recovering heroin addict currently four years clean, she has had issues in the past with self-harming.

After consulting a doctor, Ruben becomes set on cochlear implants. Before he can take that step he finds himself dragooned into a stay at a rural residential centre for deaf recovering addicts overseen by Vietnam vet Joe (Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic. Anger at his predicament matched only by his determination to beat it, Ruben reluctantly gives in to life at the centre – but it’s only when he leaves and re-joins Lou, now living with her wealthy French father in Paris, that the extent of his changed circumstances becomes apparent.

Given the subject, Children Of A Lesser God seems an obvious touchstone, though Sound Of Metal’s uncompromising edginess also recalls Belgian film Ex Drummer, about the world’s least marketable punk band. But if audiences also sense a flavour of what made Derek Cianfrance’s Ryan Gosling vehicle The Place Beyond The Pines so special it’s no surprise: he and Marder and friends and co-wrote both that script and this one.