dir. Scott Roberts
Opens Fri June 27 at the Metro. The eternally greasy-do'd Guy Pearce leads a band of saucy, sassy robbers in The Hard Word, an Australian caper film whose dirty eccentricities are the only things that set it apart from its other caper-heist ilk (like this past spring's Confidence). Pearce plays the cool-headed (that's what keeps the Crisco in his hair from melting) Dale, who leads his partners in crime, baby-faced Shane (Joel Edgerton) and pig-butchering Mal (Damien Richardson), in and out of prison between armed robberies. Seems Dale's shady lawyer Frank (Robert Taylor) is not only bailing them out to then put them on yet another heist, he's also boffing Dale's scheming sexpot wife Carol (Rachel Griffiths--brazen, blonde, and boob-y) while Dale's in the pokey.
Between the rapid-fire patter and the money-grubbing schemes, a bit of character development happens too. Pearce, the man of the Extreme Cheekbones, keeps a thin lid on his feral rage as he puts two and two together, and the power of Griffiths' knowing sneer is only equaled by her juicy, uh, juicer. It's all done in wicked, kick-to-the-groinage fun, but by the time the boys get to their last heist at a racetrack, The Hard Word starts to peter out--and no amount of ensuing gun violence helps jazz it up. But don't worry--the "bad" guys get their comeuppance and the crew walks off into the sunset, making The Hard Word ultimately a soft one. SHANNON GEE
The Legend of Suriyothai
dir. Chatri Chalerm Yukol
Opens Fri June 27 at Seven Gables. In Hollywood, people who make movies are often called royalty. In Thailand, this is literally the case. Royal Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol has been making movies for decades, following in the filmmaking footsteps of his father, just as his own son and daughter are following in his. During a recent publicity tour, I asked Prince Yukol if he knew of any other royal family members who made movies, thinking there wouldn't be any. Off the top of his head he mentioned the king of Cambodia and the son of the Kaiser in Germany, as well as a movie studio run by the king of Jordan and a belief that Prince Edward is a documentary filmmaker. As it turns out, it is a much more common vocation for royalty than I had initially thought.
Dressed in jeans and a black short-sleeved Izod shirt, Prince Yukol had a good grasp of English but a pretty thick accent. He gained this knowledge firsthand, having apprenticed in Hollywood many years ago. Over the years he stayed in touch with former classmate Francis Ford Coppola, and when he started to conceive The Legend of Suriyothai--an epic historical drama about different dynasties fighting to unite and take control of 16th-century Siam (now Thailand)--Coppola helped him out. Prince Yukol remembered, "Francis Ford Coppola made a suggestion [that it's] something like a Mafia in New York. You've got so many families, and only one can rule."
The resulting film is epic in its scope; Prince Yukol utilized 400 crewmembers, 3,500 extras, 160 elephants, and 17 months of production. The Legend of Suriyothai was originally conceived as an eight-hour miniseries in Thailand before being trimmed down to a three-hour theatrical film and then, with the help of Coppola, to an American-release cut that was under two and a half hours. A huge hit in Thailand, it doesn't quite translate to our shores. Too many important events happen offscreen and the acting comes across as flat, though there are some impressively choreographed battle scenes and plenty of beheadings. The character of Princess Suriyothai, who sacrifices everything for her bland king and country, is probably better served by the history books. But for a movie made by literal royalty rather than Hollywood royalty, it is certainly much more than just a vanity project. ANDY SPLETZER
dir. Danièle Thompson
Opens Fri June 27 at Guild 45th. Jean Reno is a frozen-food magnate. Juliette Binoche is a glitter-lidded beautician. If life were really like this, I'd be eating TV dinners with my hair coifed and my nails drying every night. Danièle Thompson, who directed the deft and deep family-drama-at-Christmas French hit La Bêche, takes an approach lighter than a misting of hairspray in this romantic comedy, which falls a little short on both the romance and the comedy. Reno's Félix traipses around a Paris airport during a transportation strike, barking into his cell phone and periodically falling into sudden panic attacks, while Binoche's Rose tries to escape her mean old boyfriend Sergio (Sergi López) by taking a salon job in sunny Acapulco. They've got nothing in common, but she needs his cell phone to make a call. Of course, this gets them into a shared hotel room where, after a hot shower and room service, they begin to see that maybe opposites just might attract.
There is some talk about reconciliation with distant fathers and liberation from debilitating relationships, but the only thing that comes through here is simply Reno and Binoche, whose very screen presences are more intelligent and watchable than the wafer-thin plot. If anything, Jet Lag provokes the question of when these two will pair up again. Hopefully it will be in something as smart and magical as their faces and talent command. SHANNON GEE