It's over. This weekend the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival concluded its 10-day grande bouffe of celebrity sightings, endless queues and 312 features. The People's Choice prize, voted by the TIFF audiences, went to Danny Boyle's Bollywood saga Slumdog Millionaire, which will hit real theaters in November. But there are plenty of movies still to consider some awaiting theatrical release, some hoping for a distributor. Here are five, of varying quality, that you'll be hearing about.
Pride and Glory
Directed by Gavin O'Connor. Written by Joe Carnahan and O'Connor, from a story by O'Connor, Gregory O'Connor and Robert Hopes. With Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, Jennifer Ehle. From the U.S.
In a drug bust, four NYPD officers are ambushed and killed. The men were under the command of Capt. Francis Tierney (Emmerich), who comes from a family of Irish cops: his dad (Voight), brother Ray (Norton) and brother-in-law Jimmy Egan (Ferrell) are all on the force. So when Ray reluctantly takes the job of investigating the crime, his sleuthing leads to evidence of an inside job, and forces him into conflict with one or two bad apples in the Tierney brood. With its twisty plot that has Ray trekking through the lower depths of Harlem and Brooklyn, and the higher depths of cop corruption, this movie (in theaters Oct. 24) should have been way better than it is; it lurches between the numbingly banal and the laughably awful.
The convergence of an Oscar winner (Voight), an Oscar nominee (Norton), an Oscar wanna-be (Farrell) and a Tony winner (Ehle) ought at least to provide solid acting, and in stretches it manages that. Voight, navigating some dreadful dialogue, doesn't make a misstep; Norton executes his usual business of revealing little but threatening plenty; and Ehle, her head shaved as a cancer patient, deftly underplays her function of providing the poignant feminine touch. But by the the movie's climax, which discards the standard sibling shootout for bare-knuckles barroom machismo, and throws in the instant insanity of a secondary character that nearly stokes a race riot, Pride and Glory has waived all rights to a dispassionate verdict. It's glum and goofy enough make to We Own the Night, the requisite serioso cop drama from last year's festival circuit, seem a masterpiece by comparison.
Public Enemy Number One, Part 1
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Screenplay by Abdel Raouf Dafri, from the book L'Instinct de mort by Jacques Mesrine. With Vincent Cassel, Cécile de France, Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis. From France
Bearing as many aliases aka Mesrine, aka L'Instinct de Mort as its subject, this true-crime bio-pic traces the exploits of the Clichy-born criminal who made mischief on three continents in the 1960s and 70s. (A 1984 film, Mesrine, told the same story.) His life, at least as related in the prison autobiography that is the movie's source, put him in collusion or collision with all the gangster archetypes: a grizzled crime boss named Guido (Depardieu), a loyal and resourceful henchman (Dupuis), a tough-n-sexy babe (de France) to play Bonnie to his Clyde. And some political relevance: Mesrine questioned insurgents while serving his Army hitch in the Algerian uprising. There's not much suspense in whether he will survive Part 1 (the sequel has already been completed), but each episode detonates plenty of tension, and the movie leaves a residual gut-wrench part revulsion, more fascination.
Richet, who did the 2005 remake of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, is one of those French directors Luc Besson (The Professional) and Pierre Morel (District B13) are others who have renounced the glacial minimalism of their national film style for the wild vigor of American B movies. As briskly as the Mesrine story hurtles through its heists, holdups and hair-breadth escapes, the camera moves faster, but always purposefully. Richet brings all the characters to plausible, entertaining life, but Cassel easily dominates the action. Often, as in Eastern Promises, he plays the strutting punk with more bravado than brains. Here he's the unchallenged star, the total movie criminal: smart, daring, ruthless, indomitable. At least till Part Two.
Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri. Written by Frederic Benudis and El Mechri. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Francois Damiens, Zinedine Soualem. From Belgium
The initials in the title may lead some to think the movie is about Jesus getting the clap. But action fans will recognize the acronym of a once-renowned action star the former European middleweight karate champ known as the Muscles from Brussels in such middling fare as Universal Soldier and No Retreat, No Surrender. Van Damme's career trajectory over the last decade has been direct-to-video; so he must have figured that, when he was offered the chance to play himself, more or less, as a hapless has-been who gets enmeshed in a bank robbery, he had nothing to lose. He was right: JCVD is the best movie he ever made (granted, not the highest encomium), and a cogent, probing critique on celebrity in its downalator phase.