The Best Films of 2015

Caren Pistorius in Slow West

There’s a tendency among people who watch a lot of films to boost ones that stand out rather than ones that are good. This can lead to some perverse choices in the “best of” lists that proliferate at this time of year. So that probably explains the rogue nature of the list below – ha ha. If you’re expecting to find Spectre (not at all bad) or the latest Marvel movie or Jurassic World, look elsewhere. These are just the films, of the maybe 350 films or so that I’ve watched in the past 12 months, that jumped out and grabbed me. Some of them are 2014 releases.

Ten Best

Paddington (dir: Paul King)

Operating in Mary Poppins territory, this adaptation of Michael Bond’s books is charming, funny and clever, has jokes for kids and some more thoughtful though never intrusive observations for adults, integrates the animated bear from darkest Peru with the live action brilliantly and there’s even an action-star gag by support-playing baddie Nicole Kidman that’s aimed at ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Wild (dir: Jean-Marc Vallée)

The redemptive drama is a hard sell, but this one about a broken woman’s long trek to self-realisation works in every way. Reese Witherspoon is believably frail as the wee girl dwarfed by her huge rucksack (metaphor), director Jean-Marc Vallée uses music perfectly and does something many directors have forgotten all about – he structures his film visually, using the editing suite to full advantage. His compositional work is remarkable.

Ex Machina (dir: Alex Garland)

Just as we are realising that technology’s grip is icy, and Google might not be our friend, along comes Alex Garland’s directorial debut, a dystopian slab of hard sci-fi in which geeky Domhnall Gleeson falls for robot Alicia Vikander while hipster tech uberlord Oscar Isaac looks on. A three-hander – give or take – getting perfect performances from all concerned, and it glistens like a tiny, beautifully cut gem.

Kajaki (dir: Paul Katis)

A gaggle of British squaddies with names like Tug, Spud and Smudge wander into a minefield and suddenly their casually homophobic banter is replaced by focused professionalism and a sharp interest in staying alive. Gruesomely tense, horrific in its depiction of the damage inflicted by IEDs, is this the best British war film since Ice Cold in Alex? It’s a great war film by any standards.

It Follows (dir: David Robert Mitchell)

Sexual intercourse as an engine of death isn’t new in horror films, but It Follows finds a simple and brilliant new way of telling the story all over again – zombies who are “slow but not dumb” and might appear any time, any place, anywhere, dressed in nightwear or perhaps not very much at all. A lurchingly subjective camera, expressionistic framing and Disasterpeace’s Wendy Carlos-alike score help rack up the intensity even further.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (dir: Ana Lily Amirpour)

The Muslim jilbab as a kind of vampire’s cape – what a brilliantly observed idea that is in one of the strangest horror films of recent times, which combines something of the mass-observation aesthetic of photographer Sebastião Salgado with the disjointed cool of early Jim Jarmusch. Shot entirely in California, yet clearly a film about and for Iran, it’s a fascinating, Middle Eastern take on the Let the Right One In “innocent vampire” genre.

Slow West (dir: John Maclean)

Michael Fassbender’s astonishing run continues with this out-of-nowhere debut by John Maclean, an exquisitely wrought western making clear its debt to old pulp novels and their love of hard-tack glamour and salty danger. Tense as hell, in fact the whole film is one long, slow build towards a great finale. And it looks the business too.

Aferim! (dir: Radu Jude)

There hasn’t been a great Romanian film for about ten minutes, but here’s a slightly different sort than what we’re used to – a historical picaresque following an 1830s cop and his son as they seek to capture a Gypsy and return him to his owner, a rich boyar whose wife has been too free with her favours. Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon inspires some of the look and pace of it, and Don Quixote is clearly also a reference, though Cervantes didn’t finish on as gruesomely gripping a high as this does.

Theeb (dir: Naji Abu Nowar)

It takes a while for it to sink in, but what we have in Theeb – as we follow the exploits of the youngest son of a Bedouin tribe in the Laurence of Arabia-era desert – is a story straight out of Rider Haggard territory. It’s the sort of ripping adventure that once upon a time emboldened Spielberg and Lucas to make Indiana Jones but is done without a cocked eyebrow here, with genuine danger, tough decisions, cruel fate and a bit of socio-economic background (the collapse of the Ottoman Empire) all adding spice.

Mommy (dir: Xavier Dolan)

With Tom at the Farm it became clear that Xavier Dolan was something of a genius. Mommy is further proof, a tough drama about the stumbling relationship of a flaky mother (Anne Dorval), her aggressive, firecracker ADHD teenage son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and their nervous neighbour (Suzanne Clément). It wears its emotions out there on a selfie stick – “fuck off” in this film often means “I love you” – and there are at least two scenes so powerful you might have to remind yourself to breathe.

Honourable Mentions

Victoria Almeida in What's Left of Us
Victoria Almeida drives the boys crazy in What’s Left of Us


Appropriate Behaviour (dir: Desiree Akhavan)

The life and times of a second generation Iranian, or of a confused bisexual, or of a girl in the big city, or of a struggling 20something – Desiree Akhavan gets it all just right in this through-the-fingers New York comedy.

Maps to the Stars (dir: David Cronenberg)

Still Alice won her the acting accolades, but Julianne Moore is actually better in this return to nightmarishness for David Cronenberg, as a fading star and member of a family for whom the term fucked really doesn’t cover it. The Player meets Sunset Boulevard.

Life After Beth (dir: Jeff Baena)

Aubrey Plaza gives it her absolute all as a newly dead zombie trying to have a relationship with old boyfriend Dane DeHaan – who finds her a whole lot more into him than she used to be – in a genuinely inventive comedy made all the better by the presence of John C Reilly and Molly Shannon as Plaza’s concerned parents. Dead funny.

The Tribe (dir: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy)

Shot entirely in Lithuanian sign language, acted by first-timers and set in a school for the deaf where a new boy finds that the descriptor “sex and violence” barely covers what’s going on, this film sounds like a stunt – and it obviously is to some extent – but it’s a stunt that works. And the lack of dialogue is no bar to understanding when emotion this direct and action this unambiguous is concerned.

 The Babadook (dir: Jennifer Kent)

There’s a touch of The Innocents in this highly atmospheric Aussie horror about a mother driven to desperation by her needy child. Or is it the child we need to feel worried for? Sure, it goes slack in the middle, and becomes over-focused on telling us that writer/director Jennifer Kent has seen a whole load of old horror movies, but wait for the finale – barking, scary and brilliant.

The Book of Life (dir: Jorge R Gutierrez)

A Mexican flavoured animation with a Day of the Dead theme and a plot with a distinct Orpheus and Eurydice flavour – she’s dead and he goes after her into the underworld (ish). The visuals are spaghetti western meets Ren and Stimpy, the songs are jaunty and mariachi-flavoured and the voicework (Ice Cube in particular) is exemplary.

Pictures of the Old World (dir: Dusan Hanák)

“The best Slovak film ever made”, the reputation of Dusan Hanák’s disarmingly simple documentary from the early 1970s – about the dirt poor lives of ancient peasants up in the back of beyond – is entirely deserved. “I’m going to die this year, I can feel it,” says one old timer. And that’s what it’s about – quite starkly. Death.

Two Night Stand (dir: Max Nichols)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, It Happened One Night and The Dick Van Dyke Show are all in the mix in this subversive comedy about a girl (Analeigh Tipton) who has hook-up sex with a stranger (Miles Teller) and then gets stuck in his apartment. Old-school screwball romance follows, charmingly, smartly and at speed.

Predestination (dir: Michael and Peter Spierig)

Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi story All You Zombies provides the backbone for the Spierig brothers’ follow-up to the similarly idea-crammed Daybreakers, a “guy walks into a bar” tale of a hermaphrodite (Sarah Snook) who walks into Ethan Hawke’s bar and tells him a story about time travel and the paradoxes that erupt from it. Refreshingly hard sci-fi.

Frequencies aka OXV: The Manual (dir: Darren Paul Fisher)

Strip away the romance and what is human courtship about? Status, clearly, according to this lo-fi, highly fascinating film about “what happens when a high frequency meets a low frequency” – hot, smart girl meets average guy, in other words. It’s patchily acted and a bit speechy towards the end, but there are enough ideas in this bizarre film for about 12 Hollywood blockbusters.

 Turned towards the Sun (dir: Greg Olliver)

A simple and revelatory documentary about 90-something poet and Second World War hero Micky Burn, a long-form visual version of a Daily Telegraph obituary whose power lies in the richness of Burn’s Zelig-like life. He was – just one for-instance – the guy in the secret radio room at Colditz.

What’s Left of Us aka El Desierto (dir: Christoph Behl)

A simple but powerful Argentinian zombie movie about a girl, a boy and another boy all locked up together in a house while the world goes to hell in a handcart outside. And inside, it turns out, once sexual dynamics and the fallout of a fetid love triangle start to exert themselves. Victoria Almeida is a powerful and provocative lead, the sexy counterweight to the hothouse atmosphere of death.

Tusk (dir: Kevin Smith)

Kevin Smith reminds us how good he can be with a film about a guy (Justin Long) being turned into a walrus by a demented surgeon (Michael Parks) while his much-cheated-on girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) searches for him. A simple film, it somehow manages to be funny and appallingly gruesome at the same time.

Face of an Angel (dir: Michael Winterbottom)

Michael Winterbottom’s drama takes the bones of the Meredith Kercher/Amanda Knox case and constructs a brilliant meditation on the modus operandi of the media, as well as a modern-day Dante and Beatrice tale in which film-maker Daniel Brühl is smitten by virginal Cara Delevingne, as anyone watching probably will be too.

While We’re Young (dir: Noah Baumbach)

Not-as-young-as-they-once-were couple Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts try to keep up with hipsters Adam Horovitz and Amanda Seyfried in a very Jewish New York comedy – smart, dry, a touch bitter – about the importance of being not just true to yourself, but of doing this absolutely and totally properly.

 White God aka Fehér Isten (dir: Kornél Mudruczó)

Kicking off with a quote by Rilke, this unique Hungarian film is like a Disney animal flick about the adventures of a mongrel, except done as existential sci-fi – what exactly would happen if dogs had the same degree of consciousness that humans have?

The Salvation (dir: Kristian Levring)

Director Kristian Levring used to be a Dogme man, but shouts “I’m so over all that now” with this remarkable western that’s like a fusion of Sergio Leone, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah and Robert Aldrich, with a perfectly cast Mads Mikkelsen as a Clint Eastwood-alike quester after vengeance. If looks could kill…

Run All Night (dir: Jaume Collet-Serra)

Another of Liam Neeson’s geri-actioners, though this time he’s back with director Jaume Collet-Serra for a deliberately retro dash for the finish in which strong, silent Neeson takes on the good guys, the bad guys and eventually the whole of New York. Hugely overwrought, entirely satisfying, it’s genre done properly.

Still the Water aka Tutatsume no mado (dir: Naomi Kawase)

If Douglas Sirk had been Japanese he might have come up with this overheated love story about teenage lovers hedging towards full penetrative sex as the waves crash, storms rage and their families conspire against them. Leisurely, beautiful, lusty and lovely, an unusual mix of the entirely natural and the gigantically metaphorical.

Phoenix (dir: Christian Petzold)

The latest of a string of dark, intelligent films that director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss have made together is a revenge drama set in the aftermath of the Second World War where Hoss, just released from a death camp, is recruited by her own husband to play his dead wife – he doesn’t recognise her, obviously – and she plays along. Oh deary deary me.

 Marshland aka La Isla Mínima (dir: Alberto Rodriguez)

Stunningly good-looking policier about an ageing Franco-supporting cop and his younger more democratic sidekick investigating a murder out in the photogenic Guadalquivir marshes in 1980. Brilliantly acted and shot, with locations and music to match, it even does a car chase in an entirely new way. Did I mention how good it looks?

Little Accidents (dir: Sara Colangelo)

Old school 1970s-style humane ensemble drama with a standout Boyd Holbrook as a survivor of a terrible mining disaster whose testimony about the event at an upcoming hearing is going to decide the futures of a whole lot of people in town. An ambling drawl of a movie, with Elizabeth Banks and Jacob Lofland almost as good as Holbrook, surely a star of 2016.

 Turbo Kid (dir: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoan-Karl Whissell)

Utterly on-the-nail pastiche of 1980s straight-to-VHS movie-making, a post-apocalyptic Total Recall meets Mad Max story of a BMX-riding kid, called Kid, gaining special powers, falling for a special girl (a special Laurence Leboeuf) and saving the world. Funny and gory, with in-jokes for nerds, and a fabulous John Carpenter-like soundtrack by Le Matos.

Mad Max: Fury Road (dir: George Miller)

Pedal-to-the-metal furious punk-funk madness, with a barely speaking Tom Hardy as Max, the road warrior on the road with badass Charlize Theron (the film’s real star) while director George Miller obsessively choreographs the relentless chase/action mayhem around them.

Tomorrowland (dir: Brad Bird)

Whatever happened to the futurism of jet packs and flying cars? Brad Bird answers the question with jaw-dropping visuals in a modern-day Wizard of Oz quest-adventure coolly received by critics with ass/elbow disassociation disorder.

Cop Car (dir: Jon Watts)

Another of those great Kevin Bacon movies he comes up with every few years, with our guy as a really bad cop on the trail of a couple of kids who have nicked his car, unaware there’s something in the boot they really don’t want to be discovering. A high-concept B movie of real distinction, lean, simple and with smart, believable dialogue, especially for the kids.

Palio (dir: Cosima Spender)

A remarkable documentary about the Palio, a horse race run in Siena, Italy, twice a year, which takes such pains to introduce us to its characters – chiefly, the young buck hoping to steal the grizzled champion’s crown – that when the race kicks off, you’re really in the medieval square with the riders.

 Minions (dir: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin)

After the boring Despicable Me 2, who’d have thought that a spin-off – the backstory of Gru’s little yellow helpers – would have worked this well. Brilliantly animated and written, it’s a breathless, idea-packed, funny, inventive animated comedy.

I Believe in Miracles (dir: Jonny Owen)

Even if you have no interest in the 1970s, or British football, or managerial legend Brian Clough, this documentary about his astonishing success and idiosyncratic style will have you hooked. “The most charismatic man I ever met,” says one former player, part of the team of underdogs he willed to European Cup success, twice.

And if you want to watch or buy any of the films, this Amazon link will allow you to do just that – enjoy!

I am an Amazon affiliate

© Steve Morrissey 2015

27 July 2015-07-27

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria

Out in the UK This Week

Clouds of Sils Maria (Artificial Eye, cert 15)

Olivier Assayas follows Something in the Air, his largely autobiographical personal meditation on the aftermath of the events of May 1968, with a different type of dramatic reflexivity. Clouds of Sils Maria is a meditation on acting, performed by a trio of actors at the top of their game. Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz are the three, all channeling vague versions of themselves. Stewart plays the personal assistant to Binoche, an actress now about to play the older role in a remake of the punishing two-hander that made her name years before. But who to play the younger role? Together, after a bit of international jet-setting and entourage-ing about, master and servant hit upon Jo-Ann (Moretz), a bad-girl actress currently riding genre movies to the top, and whose CV sounds not unlike the real-life Stewart’s. Though in the film for the least amount of time, Moretz is the most believable of this talented threesome. Perhaps because, over Assayas’s crypto-commentary on acting, young actors, living life in the public eye and so on, he lays a kind of meta-distancing effect by having Binoche and Stewart give slightly stilted line readings, unless their characters are meant to be acting, as when PA Stewart helps Binoche rehearse, in which case they’re remarkably believable. It’s a strange, very meta, very French thing to have them do. Stewart won a César (the French Oscars) for her role, the first non-French woman to do so. And since the film is, really, about her, and she is never less than magnetic (which she can’t help) and committed (which she can), it is kind of appropriate. Watch the scenes where her boss is about to meet Moretz for the first time, and Stewart gives her a crib sheet briefing on the actor. It is essentially her own story (fucking up in public, breaking up with a big name actor etc). Then try and work out whether the discomfort on Stewart’s face is acting or not.

Clouds of Sils Maria – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (StudioCanal, cert 18)

To be bracketed with Let the Right One In, Byzantium and Only Lovers Left Alive as an essential recent vampire film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is shot in California but is in effect an Iranian movie – everyone wears traditional garb, everyone speaks Persian. It tells two stories – of a lonely female vampire, and of a troubled son of a junkie dad, whose car is repossessed by a local dealer sick of carrying the father’s debt. The Vampire as Victim is the idea (like Let the Right One In), with a hint of the “more in regret than in anger” bloodletting of Only Lovers Left Alive in the way that our mournful Undead (Sheila Vand) reluctantly, and only when all else has failed, decides to suck blood in a manner that recalls that awful “jumping sack” moment from Audition. Its black and white, almost Sebastião Salgado looks and slight naiveté recall early Jarmusch, and it has Jarmusch’s drollery too – wait for one of the most spectacular meet-cutes between the two key players and I guarantee you’ll smile if not laugh out loud (no spoilers). And notice something that director Ana Lily Amirpour clearly also has – that the traditional black jilbab and a flowing vampire cape aren’t exactly that dissimilar. If vampire films are always a metaphor for something, here it appears to be the dulling of consciousness – you’ve only got one life; please live it! And if vampire films generally tend, like vampires themselves, to overstay their welcome, this does rather overdo the lingering arthouse pans through the night-time demi-monde here and there, though to be honest the cinematography is so spectacular (how can you shoot against naked white light like that?) that you might well let that go.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

While We’re Young (Icon, cert 15)

Childless metrosexual couple Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts meet Adam Horovitz and Amanda Seyfried – hipper, younger versions of themselves – and they start to hang out. Stiller is a documentary maker struggling for the next hit, Horovitz is in the same game but is on the rise. Both men genuflect before Charles Grodin, Watts’s father and revered old man of the form. Once he’s got these biographical details in place, writer/director Noah Baumbach unleashes a satire that has a Billy Wilder ferocity in a film structured like Steve Martin’s LA Story. The superb first half takes potshots at modern life (the midlifers and their iPhones and Wikipedia; the hipsters and their vinyl and typewriters, and so on) and the oldies’ unwillingness to admit youth has flown. Then there’s the more straightforward conservative second half, when life lessons are learned, plot ends are tied up and a homily is delivered. Horovitz emerges as the star of the piece, as the younger man, whose wide eyes hide the fact that he is actually a player on the make. What’s the message? Grow up, it seems, the real barbs being aimed at the ones being greedy – ie Stiller and Watts. Seen another way, it’s all about that Jewish New York attitude that drives new generations to take the familiar and rework its meaning – so now Rocky 3, Baumbach’s little joke, is an interesting cultural text. All summed up in a final montage where Baumbach contrasts the viewpoints of three different generations of film-maker – same material, different cultural meaning – to dazzling effect.

While We’re Young – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

That Sugar Film (Soda, cert 12)

What’s odd about That Sugar Film is how closely it cleaves to the Super Size Me format – one man goes on a special diet for x days and reports back the results – and yet how it almost fucks it up. Australian documentarian Damon Gameau gives us a preamble about how his hot girlfriend first encouraged him into the ways of healthy eating and now, pregnant with their first child, how she’s trepidatious about his big idea – to consume the same amount of sugar that the average Australian does, but without resorting to the obviously sugary things. So, no cola, instead fruit juices; no cakes, instead lots of low-fat “healthy” foods which, Gameau tells us, use sugar to replace the missing calories, mouthfeel and hit of the fat that isn’t there. So, off he goes, down Morgan Spurlock Avenue, having first had his body calibrated by a team of people in white coats. Gameau bulks out his experiment with detours – to the aboriginal community who ran a healthy eating program with spectacular results, until it was shut down by the government; to the 17 year old kid whose addiction to Mountain Dew (37 teaspoons of sugar in a 1.5 litre bottle) has reduced his teeth to stumps; with a bit about the work done by nutrition scientist Ansel Keys, who demonised fat and exonerated sugar; to some investigative rummaging into the funding of much nutritional research by Big Sugar. And so on. In spite of the fact that Gameau quite blatantly drops his “healthy diet” experiment at one point, to pig out on white sugar – making a point about the 40 teaspoons a day the average Australian unwittingly consumes – the scientific results after 60 days are stark. Even though he’s consumed the same number of calories, and eaten only OK stuff (his mad Al Pacino-style dive into sugar to one side) his liver levels are off the scale, his body fat is way up, his cholesterol is through the roof and his waistline is up 10cm. In truth, That Sugar Film looks like propaganda for the high fat diet – Gameau’s vague description of what his normal diet consists of would seem to place him in the paleo camp (meat, fat, vegetables, little starch or sugar). And in some ways I wish that that’s the film he’d made – except a man who’s doing a Super Size Me cannot make a film about switching to a diet he’s already on. Another thing: in exactly the same way that Morgan Spurlock never said to his partner when she aired her concerns about his consumption of a billion Big Macs, “But honey, I’m doing this for our future – to make our fortune,” the same unspoken subtext hangs heavy throughout the film. Interesting findings though, and I also learned about the concept of TOFI (Thin Outside, Fat Inside) and that Gameau has no idea how bad a rapper he is.

That Sugar Film – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

Listen Up Philip (Eureka, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

A portrait of extreme artistic narcissism, starring Jason Schwartzman as Philip, a young version of the Great American Novelist, and Jonathan Pryce as the mentor he leans on, an older version of the same. Philip Roth is the template, apparently, and there’s a novelistic voiceover spoken with well modulated, wry “I see what you don’t” gravitas by Eric Bogosian, a jazzy kind of soundtrack, a resort to Maysles brothers’ handheld sun-in-the-lens style of beat-cinematography – like the Great American novel, it’s all very 1950s/1960s. And like Schwartzman’s Philip, it’s hard to like. It’s also hard to work out whether Listen Up Philip’s slightly arch, self-important tone is another satirical stab at the Great American Novel or whether writer/director Alex Ross Perry is simply disappearing up his own assessment of himself. At bottom, once Schwartzman and girlfriend Elisabeth Moss have split up – which is all the paper-thin plot consists of – and Jonathan Pryce has revealed himself to have feet of clay, it slides into what many attempts at the Great American Novel slide into – a campus novel of failed hopes and self-sabotage, Pryce being particularly good here. Is it worth watching? I wouldn’t want to watch it again, but it’s a rare film that comes right out and says that artists are assholes, that their obsessions are often self-obsession lightly disguised, or that the public’s obsession with them ignores the demand end of the equation – there are lots of people engaged in artistic work; society chooses who “fits” and discards the rest. The attribute of brilliance is accorded to the successful, not necessarily the gifted. Artistic production as delusional private enterprise – discuss.

Listen Up Philip – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (Mediumrare, cert 18)

A cult item from 1991, now restored the better to be able to see the wounds. It’s a distant cousin of Kung Fu Hustle, a hybrid of pantomime, kung fu and the splatter movie, and follows the Bruce Lee-like Riki (Fan Siu-Wong) into prison, where he has to fight the malevolent drug-baron Mr Big to retain his self-respect, and, being pretty, his ass. No, no, it’s really not that sort of film. Instead it’s the sort where one of Mr Big’s thugs runs at Ricky, and Ricky, having taken off his shirt to reveal his splendid abs, slashes him with a knife, leaving with assailant with no alternative but to pull out his own intestines from the gaping wound and try to strangle Ricky with them. Don’t expect psychological depth – there’s isn’t a move or action, reaction or set-up that doesn’t spring from nowhere – this is a Golden Harvest production and they generally paddle in those waters. Nor is there any sort of throughline. One minute it’s machine guns our hero is fighting against, the next he’s in a dungeon being filled with liquid concrete. You’ve got to admire the energy, and its audacious physical effects, and its ridiculousness. That’s not bad for starters.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

Get Hard (Warner, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

Plot: rich white guy Will Ferrell is about to go to jail for some major financial irregularity. How can he avoid being bumfucked to death? He employs the services of a carwash guy who works in the garage beneath his office. This guy, being black (it’s Kevin Hart), will know what to do to prevent anal penetration, and other degradations. And off we go with Get Hard – one half jokes about race, one half jokes about gay sex. And when those two wells run dry, there’s also the fact that Ferrell is very tall and Hart is quite small. Like Ferrell’s character, this is a tremendously flabby film, but there are genuinely funny jokes in among the folds, not that you’ll be congratulating yourself on your sophistication for laughing at Ferrell’s demonstration of the storing of shivs up the rectum, or his attempts at trash-talk (“I’m gonna punch you in the fuck”), or Hart cajoling him into learning how to suck cock – “When life puts a dick in your mouth, you make dickade,” Hart says to him. “Dickade doesn’t sound like a significant improvement over dick,” Ferrell replies. I laughed. I’d have laughed a lot more if it had been about 20 minutes shorter.

Get Hard – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

© Steve Morrissey 2015