Topsy-Turvy, Film 4, 11.25pm

Some people were initially surprised by the idea of director Mike Leigh, famed for his semi-improvised films about working class lives such as Life Is Sweet and Secrets & Lies, making a movie about 19th-century playwright-composer duo Gilbert and Sullivan. However, period drama Topsy-Turvy turned out to be a triumph. When it begins, Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) and WS Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) are the kings of London theatre, but their run of hits comes to an end with the flop Princess Ida. Sullivan thinks that they need to get back on track by moving away from comic opera and into something more serious, but his collaborator has other ideas.


Drive, GREAT! Movies, 9pm

Driver (Ryan Gosling) performs death-defying stunts in big-budget films but when he’s not on a set, he works as a mechanic for his good friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston) – and also performs illegal jobs, which invariably involve high-speed getaways from crime scenes. When one heist goes wrong, Driver is marked for death at the hands of hoodlums Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). There are romantic complications when Driver falls for pretty neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac) has just been released from prison. Director Nicolas Winding Refn hits the accelerator in the opening scenes and barely touches the brakes as the plot skids with sickening inevitability towards its bloody resolution.


The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Film 4, 9pm

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is one of the best protection agents in the business until a sniper takes out one of his clients. Michael loses his triple A rating and is relegated to shadowing low-value assets. Out of the blue, he is contacted by old flame Amelia (Elodie Yung). She is an Interpol agent, who should be shepherding hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) to The Hague, where he is due to testify against an East European dictator (Gary Oldman). Amelia needs someone ‘out of the loop’ to shadow Darius and prevent the fugitive from contacting his jailbird wife (Salma Hayek). The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a testosterone-saturated romp that borrows the basic premise of the 1977 Clint Eastwood thriller The Gauntlet and orchestrates mayhem around the fractious on-screen chemistry of its leads.


The Manchurian Candidate, BBC Four, 9pm

The 2004 remake has its fans, but director John Frankenheimer’s original psychological thriller remains the best due to its masterly blend of Cold War paranoia and sharp satire. Laurence Harvey stars as Raymond Shaw, the son of a political family and a decorated Korean war hero, who has secretly been brainwashed into becoming a remote-controlled killing machine. Frank Sinatra has one of his best roles as Shaw's fellow former POW who is plagued by nightmares and begins to piece together the plot. There's also a great turn from the Oscar-nominated Angela Lansbury, who plays Shaw's scheming mother, despite being only three years older than Harvey.

Film of the week


Kick-Ass, BBC One, 12.10am

Who hasn’t thought about buying a wet-suit on eBay and turning themselves into a masked superhero along the lines of Marvel and DC Comics favourites Spiderman and Batman? New York high school student Dave Lizewski does exactly that in Mark Millar’s potty-mouthed, genre-subverting 2008 comic Kick-Ass, here adapted for the big screen by British director-writer-producer team Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (aka Mrs Jonathan Ross).

In keeping with the material’s provenance on this side of the Pond (Millar is from Coatbridge), there’s a strong British presence in the cast and parts of the film were shot on location in London and at Elstree Studios. Mark Strong, Dexter Fletcher and Jason Flemyng all feature, and the role of Dave Lizewski goes to Aaron Johnson, fresh from his breakout performance as John Lennon in Sam Taylor-Wood’s 2009 biopic Nowhere Boy. The star turns, however, belong to a pair of American actors: Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Inspired by the comic books he and his nerd friends devour at the local record shop, Dave sets himself up as a masked crime fighter, though his early attempt at sorting out the bad guys end up with him being stabbed and hit by a car. But he persists, saves a man from a gang attack (handily captured on CCTV), adopts the name Kick-Ass and sets up a Myspace account (yes, that’s how old the film is). However when he steps in to help out high school crush Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), who is being hassled by a drug dealer called Rasul, things go badly wrong. He’s on the verge of meeting his maker when up pop Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit-Girl (Moretz) to save him. They’re a father and daughter crime-fighting team who, unlike Dave, are the real deal. Before long, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are taking on local Mob boss Frank D’Amico (Strong) whose son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) happens to be Dave’s classmate and who also takes on a superhero moniker – Red Mist.

Black comedy and rude humour are the order of the day. Most of the laughs come from Hit-Girl and her expletive-strewn pronouncements (Moretz was 12 at the time Kick-Ass was filmed), but there are also knowing nods to the more po-faced superhero offerings, and even a sly reference to Cage’s own back catalogue: Face/Off, his 1997 collaboration with Hong Kong action maestro John Woo.

And one to stream …

The Harder They Fall, Netflix

Sharing its title with Humphrey Bogart’s last film, a 1956 adaptation of a Budd Schulberg’s novel, and nodding to Perry Henzell’s cult 1972 drama The Harder They Come – reggae great Jimmy Cliff as a gun-toting Jamaican outlaw – this debut feature from British director Jeymes Samuel takes true-life African-American outlaws Nat Love and Rufus Buck and spins around them a splashy (blood mostly) revenge saga which has the look and feel of a Sergio Leone epic crossed with a rap video. The proper term, apparently, is ‘revisionist Western’. Among the producers are Quentin Tarantino’s go-to guy Lawrence Bender, who worked on Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, and one Shawn Carter, better known as the rapper Jay-Z. Samuel, brother of musician Seal, has a parallel career as music producer The Bullitts, and provides much of the soundtrack.

The film opens in classic Leone style, with a preacher and his wife being murdered by a man with gold-plated revolvers. Only the preacher’s son is left alive, though he has a cross carved into his forehead. Fast forward some years and the boy, now grown up, has a price on his head and revenge on his mind. This is Nat Love (Jonathan Majors). The mysterious killer, we learn later, is Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), and it is Nat’s life’s work to track him down and kill him – a task made both easier and harder when Rufus is freed from prison by his own gang during a bloody assault on the train which is carrying him locked in a safe. So, two gangs, each set on mayhem, and in the middle of it all a US Marshall, Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo).

The violence is extreme at points and there’s a fair bit of slack in the 139 minute running time, but the cinematography and set design are exquisite, and the script (co-written by Samuel with Boaz Yakin) fairly zips along. Chief among the strong supporting cast are Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary, Regina King as Trudy Smith, Lakeith Stanfield as Cherokee Bill and Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee. Perhaps the film’s greatest feat, however, is to shine a light on real historical figures whose lives evince the Black experience of the Wild West, a subject too rarely broached on screen.