The Hunger Games (12 – Dir: Gary Ross – Stars - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth)
In the ruins of what remains of America – yes we’re there again, deep in the fearful psyche of US decline – a totalitarian nation is divided between twelve districts for the poor and the capitol Panem, where folk are rich and well fed.
Each year two young representatives from each district are selected to participate in the games, part TV entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion.
It’s kill, or be killed, as we follow Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) struggling with the morality of survival at what cost.
The Hunger Games has many sources: the Japanese film Battle Royal, Lord of the Flies, gladiatorial Rome, the Truman Show, even the banal Big Brother, none of which would be a bad thing if it stood in its own right.
It just about manages it, and some of the scenes of the fabulously rich indulging themselves are fun. But there’s an odd blandness about the violence given the life or death struggle, maybe because it was originally a ‘young adult novel,’ and retains a 12 rating here.
Also, these are the 74th Hunger Games. Just as Big Brother is now boring after a handful of shows, this games format would long ago have been replaced by The Celebrity Hunger Games. None of us would mind killing off a few celebrities.
Safe (15 – Dir: Boaz Yakin – Stars: Jason Statham, Catherin Chan)
A young Chinese girl with phenomenal mental powers has memorised the numbers to open a safe full of money.
As a result Mei (Chan) is being chased by ruthless Chinese Triads, ruthless Russian Mafia and ruthless, but corrupt, US cops.
Ex-but-still-honest cop Luke Wright (Statham) takes her under his protection. Why, it’s not really clear, other than to continue the story line, which, from the off is ridiculous. A simple memory stick could have done the job.
Statham’s usual strength, the action, is predictable and routine. Given the central relationship between tough guy hero and vulnerable young prodigy there’s little charm, and in the end the whole project can’t be extricated from the silliness.