Films on TV round-up: gold heists, sleepless nights and big fights

Ed Williamson

3rd July 2011

It's Sunday and I've got a hangover. Don't suppose The Hangover's on this week, is it? No? Right, that's that angle fucked, then.

Commencing: Monday 4th July 2011

Three Kings (1999) Monday, ITV2, 11.40pm

Now, as everyone knows, rappers, without exception, make good actors. Who among us hasn't marvelled at the performances of Ludacris in 2 Fast 2 Furious or DMX in Cradle 2 The Grave? So it should come as no surprise that a movie featuring TWO of them is double awesome.

The rappers in question here are Ice Cube and Marky Mark, making up two parts of a three-man Funky Bunch completed by George Clooney in a story about three Reservists on a mission to plunder some Iraqi gold at the end of the first Gulf War. But everything gets hellacrazy when Saddam's men arrive, and the people of the village turn to the three for help.

Say what you like about Marky Mark - I usually do - but he's pretty decent in this, and Ice Cube has always been more than capable and is at least that here. It's really director David O Russell's film though: despite the shouting matches he and Clooney had on set he turns in a work of whacked-out, off-beat hilarity which pours water on the idea of a triumphant US return from the Gulf. George H W Bush encouraged the Iraqis to rise up against Hussein, and they were slaughtered for it.
Sleepers (1996) Friday, ITV3, 10pm

Would it be wholly unfair to speculate that, having played a paedo twice that I can think of, Kevin Bacon might, in fact, be a bit of a paedo? I mean, there's no smoke without fire, after all. And he looks a bit paedo-y too, don't you think? If the six degrees of Kevin Bacon theory really holds true, then surely no child in Hollywood is safe.

Here he's abusing boys in his care at a juvenile detention centre, the sick bastard, in the true (albeit disputed) story of four of those boys who grew up to be two criminals, a lawyer and a journalist, and tried to use the murder trial of the former two to expose the institution.

It's got an all-star cast including Robert De Niro, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt and Dustin Hoffman, and the child actors (who will really make or break a story like this) are well-cast and all do a great job. The abuse section is handled well enough using Hollywood paedophilia shorthand (dark underground settings, footsteps down a quiet corridor, loud slammed doors) and you care enough about the kids to want to see their revenge completed, even if the morality is a bit muddled by the end.

I'm watching you, Bacon.
Gangs of New York (2002) Saturday, C4, 10pm

"Course, it's set in 'istory, idnit?" said the kid with the thick Devon accent to his mate while I queued to see Gangs of New York at Exeter Odeon in 2002. "They're not proper gangsters. Not like De Niro and Joe Pesky."

And, for what was probably the first and only time in his life, he kind of had a point. Gangs of New York, for all its bombast, doesn't live up to director Martin Scorsese's work in the 'gangster' genre (say, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Casino), but I'm not sure it should be compared to it, despite the giveaway use of the word 'gangs' in the title.

An epic set in the mid-19th century, it's the story of Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), whose Irish-immigrant community leader father is murdered by Bill 'the Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), a crime boss who wants the Irish out of America. Having grown into a young man, Vallon gains the Butcher's confidence in order to get his revenge, but struggles with his admiration for him.

I never really understood any of the criticisms levelled at this film. The production design is amazingly meticulous (Dante Ferretti built about a square mile's worth of set). The story, while essentially a revenge plot-by-numbers, is expertly complicated by how DiCaprio plays Amsterdam's conflict; Bill is the only father figure he has, and yet he wants to kill him.

And Daniel Day-Lewis ... well, he's a fairly good actor, I suppose, right? In this instance his on-set Method mentalness extended to almost catching hypothermia through refusal to wear a coat between takes - because those provided didn't exist in the time period - and constantly glaring with hatred at DiCaprio off-camera, even deliberately shoulder-bumping him every time they walked past each other. Whatever works, right? But in this case it produced a staggeringly intense performance, filled with menace, occasionally exploding into shocking violence.

Can't wait till he's in Hollyoaks in about 15 years' time.
Also on this week

Beetlejuice Monday, 5*, 9pm
Knocked Up Monday, ITV2, 9pm
Sleeping with the Enemy Monday, Film4, 9pm
Last Man Standing Monday, ITV4, 9.05pm
Rambo: First Blood Part II Monday, ITV1, 10.35pm
Working Girl Monday, C4, 11.10pm
Hot Shots! Part Deux Tuesday, Film4, 7.20pm
United 93 Tuesday, ITV4, 9pm
True Romance Tuesday, 5USA, 10pm
Ransom Wednesday, BBC3, 9pm
The Thin Red Line Wednesday, Film4, 9pm
Hard to Kill Wednesday, C5, 10pm
American Pie Wednesday, ITV2, 10pm
Delta Force II: The Colombian Connection Wednesday, ITV4, 10pm
The Pelican Brief Wednesday, ITV2, 11.55pm
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Thursday, Film4, 6.55pm
The Dirty Dozen Thursday, ITV4, 9pm
Borat Thursday, Film4, 9pm
The Ladykillers (1955) Friday, Dave, 4pm
Terms of Endearment Friday, Film4, 6.25pm
Tango & Cash Friday, ITV4, 9pm
The Devil Wears Prada Friday, Film4, 9pm
Bad Santa Friday, 5*, 9pm
Tigerland Friday, More4, 10pm
Backdraft Friday, ITV1, 10.35pm
Bowfinger Friday, ITV2, 11pm
The Beach Friday, Film4, 11.10pm
Lord of War Friday, BBC1, 11.30pm
Licence to Kill Saturday, ITV1, 3.55pm
The Simpsons Movie Saturday, C4, 7.15pm
Jurassic Park III Saturday, ITV2, 7.15pm
Ocean's Twelve Saturday, ITV1, 10.15pm
Analyze This Saturday, ITV2, 11.10pm
The Hills Have Eyes (2006) Saturday, Film4, 11.15pm

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