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Prisoners [DVD]
Prisoners [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: £5.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, tense and compelling, 30 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Prisoners [DVD] (DVD)
With its comparatively unimaginative title and mainstream-maiden director, PRISONERS seems to have bounced in from left-field somewhat. I was utterly unaware of its existence until I found myself outside a West End cinema in one of those rare spontaneous moments where I had a couple of hours to kill. I chose PRISONERS because (a) the ace Jake Gyllenhaal is in it and (b) I would have had to wait at least half an hour for any of the other movies to start. This was obviously serendipitous because I went to see it twice more after that and was front and centre when it came out on DVD.

The story is kick-started by the sudden disappearance of two young girls after a Thanksgiving dinner. Fathers Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) lead a frantic search, but quickly call the cops when the proximity of a suspicious campervan suggests a kidnapping.

A determined Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads the responders, but with insufficient evidence to bring a case, he is forced to go back to the drawing board, earning the mistrust of the frantic families who become increasingly convinced the police aren’t doing enough to find the girls. From here, suspicion, paranoia and the buried secrets of a small town create a rising tension that carries you through two-and-a-half-hours-plus without a hitch.

The characters are complex, flawed and troubled, but while Hugh Jackman's wounded-bear portrayal of impotent rage and frustrated piety is compelling, it's Jake Gyllenhaal's powerhouse performance as Detective Loki that really steals the show. Besides his determination to find the missing girls (and an unfairly bad press from the locals), we find out very little about him. That's not to say Loki is two-dimensional, rather that we are left to infer the finer points of his character from his greasy hair, acreage of tattoos and twitching mannerisms. He truly is splendid to watch, and he is the closest thing to a hero in the piece. David Dastmalchian’s supporting performance is also worthy of mention, somehow managing to elicit repulsion and sympathy at the same time.

The movie skilfully tackles themes of parenthood, vigilante justice and the insidious power of small-town suspicion with an entirely colourless and unlovely setting. This is a bleak American midwinter, with most of the cast on the breadline and a crime that causes their fragile community values to come dangerously close to unravelling completely. It isn’t always comfortable viewing, but with some superb acting and a potent atmosphere it really is an excellent and intelligent film.

Bad Sons (Booker & Cash Book 1)
Bad Sons (Booker & Cash Book 1)
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let your son draw down on me..., 16 Feb. 2014
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BAD SONS represents the first in a third distinct series by the getting-to-be-prolific Oliver Tidy, and is another corker of a story. The first in the Booker & Cash series sees Mr Tidy taking yet another new direction in the crime genre, this time down the oft-trodden path of private investigation.

This is not a world of dingy offices, reluctant trilby-clad gumshoes and chocolate-flavoured birds of prey, however. Chief protagonist David Booker arrives home in Dymchurch to help his aunt and uncle close up their bookstore business - only to find said relatives have vanished. Booker, motivated by the need for answers he can't get from a slipshod police investigation, goes out on his own. The story snowballs from there, with buried secrets, curmudgeonly-and-possibly-crooked police inspectors and high-tide homicides aplenty.

The story itself is tight, pacy and packed with suspense. It follows a fairly linear structure - no red herrings or deus ex machina here - but the perhaps-expected last minute moustache-twirling twist of lemon is jettisoned in favour of the titular theme, and the end result is far more effective.

There are several elements that make this book stand out. First of all, the character of David Booker. Leaving a life of chaotic loose ends behind in Istanbul, he arrives in Kent in something of a fug of displacement. This is compounded when he finds the temporary rug he was hoping his aunt and uncle might provide has been pulled out from under him before he has even arrived. Thus, when we meet him, his equilibrium is already at zero, and rushes quickly into breathless negative numbers. This creates a strange, almost surreal instability about him, like returning home with extreme jetlag, or what it might feel like to come home after a long stretch inside. We never quite find out what normality looks like for him, and we are with him as he seeks answers in the name of justice.

Secondly, the `Booker & Cash story' subtitle on the cover brought to mind half-formed notions of partnerships akin to Holmes/Watson, Tubbs/Crockett, Kenzie/Gennaro or (possibly) the Lone Ranger and Tonto. So when one discovers that Cash is a cop while Booker is a victim/witness/suspect/reluctant private investigator, it injects a romantic/sexual tension that positively simmers throughout. On the back of this is Cash herself, who is well-drawn and intriguing but whose motives and ambitions remain nicely ambiguous.

Finally, the physical setting. If you've ever been to Dymchurch, Hythe, Dungeness and the wider expanses of Romney Marsh, then you'll recognise the atmospheric bleakness as painted by the author. If you haven't, then this is as good a place to start as any before deciding if you want to visit. Couple that with the real sense of history and local knowledge in the book and you have a real depth to the setting that complements the story nicely.

BAD SONS is a gem. It has believable characters whose strengths and weaknesses are - sometimes reluctantly - brought to the surface when Fate lays events and obstacles before them; it has an intelligent and well-crafted story that excites without being sensational or gimmicky; it has an atmosphere you can almost taste and the title itself is weaved cleverly throughout as an undercurrent that gives the work a real depth. The future of the Booker & Cash partnership is wide open, and I am really looking forward to their next outing in whatever form it takes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2014 10:17 PM GMT

The Medici Legacy
The Medici Legacy
Price: £2.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Medium sweet, 3 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Medici Legacy (Kindle Edition)
The opening chapter of THE MEDICI LEGACY reads like a lesson in how to grab the reader – it cranks the story up mercilessly while skilfully dropping in key elements of setting, atmosphere and character (physical description, background, mannerisms/foibles and the like). Like rain falling on a speeding train, these details cover the story, but don’t slow it down.

After the intriguing eighteenth-century prologue we are introduced immediately to Deputy Inspector Antonio Ferrara, a Florentine investigator who, from the off, is thrust into a series of Italian investigations where apparently unconnected victims are being kidnapped by a mysterious Asian gang.

Troubled by an old case that he feels he didn’t try hard enough to solve, Ferrara angers his superiors with his unshakeable dedication to doing the right thing by the victims that pitch up in his in-tray, and soon finds himself alone in the investigation as he uncovers connecting theories no one else is able or willing to see.

Ferrara is a compelling protagonist – he is sensitive, intelligent and boyishly naïve in the ways of romance. He is also young and idealistic, and his occasional lapses of confidence are equally endearing – when the going gets really tough he asks himself what his grizzly elder partner would do if faced with similar.

The first third of the book is gripping reading, with the historical elements finely drawn and the Florentine flavours alive on the page. [I had already drawn comparisons to Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE by the time the author himself name-checked Mr Brown on the page – no doubt with a wry smile – and I guess it depends on how you view DB’s books as to whether this is a fair comparison or not.]

Unfortunately, from about the halfway point onwards, the story starts to lose its way. The research into historic cases that may help Ferrara find the baddies becomes confusing and protracted and seems to have no real significance to the main plot, while the POV hopping between Ferrara and the gang themselves becomes laboured after a while. By the time the chase takes Ferrara across the globe, I had lost my way with it, and the ease with which Ferrara finally tracks and corners the kidnappers – and the way the loose ends of the chaos Antonio has left in his wake are tied up – left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.

I desperately wanted to give THE MEDICI LEGACY more than three stars, but in the end, it unfortunately falls disappointingly short of the ripping historical thriller it promised to be.

Rope Enough (The Romney and Marsh Files Book 1)
Rope Enough (The Romney and Marsh Files Book 1)
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tidy Up!, 16 Nov. 2013
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The review fields surrounding Oliver Tidy's work can be a rum old place, not least because the author takes the time to comment on each and every one. Considering that the cumulative number of reviews across all five of his books is currently 650+, this is no mean feat (LOOSE ENDS and DIRTY BUSINESS, the first two in the Acer Sansom series, have only been out two months, but have already gathered 42 reviews between them).

The reason the reviews are, er, a bit contentious, is because Mr Tidy's comments will mirror the tone of the review. Exactly. If you leave a thoughtful and considered review, even if you didn't like the book, you'll get a thoughtful and considered review back. If you didn't like the book and whack only a couple of stars on it but without arguing your case, you'll get something similar back. If you do his legs and leave a one-star troll-fest...................well, just pray he doesn't find out your address.

So, having read a couple of the more negative reviews with interest, I opened ROPE ENOUGH half-expecting brutal and tasteless sexual violence, institutionalised police misogyny , wafer-thin female characters and latent xenophobic attitudes towards Eastern Europeans (not to mention doddery editing).

I didn't find any of these, and I think a number of reviews are perhaps unfairly misleading, particularly where the editing is concerned. ROPE ENOUGH is an intelligent and multi-layered thriller with a real richness about the setting and some skilful handling of subject matter that clearly some people don't want to read about, but which is an unfortunate part of life for some, and everyday life for the police.

DS Joy Marsh - ambitious, young, brimming with integrity, and DI Romney - grizzly, weather-beaten, not borne of patience - are thrown together like bumper cars to investigate a rapist targeting victims apparently indiscriminately around a bleak Dover backdrop. The first victim's boyfriend is a particularly nasty piece of work with links to organised crime in the town, and matters unfold from there with lines of enquiry identified through some fairly diligent detective work.

The Dover setting - particularly in the final quarter when the net starts to close in - is a carefully-painted and effective backcloth for the action, and lends a real gunmetal-desolate atmosphere to the story. The characters' own personal journeys are weaved in nicely around the main plot - which is itself rounded off very neatly - and there is clearly plenty of scope for the Marsh to develop her own path in future works. The characterisation - particularly of the main villain, who was extremely nasty indeed - was especially well done, and the story rocketed along nicely at a fair old lick.

ROPE ENOUGH is clever without being gimmicky, pacy without being superficial, engaging without being melodramatic and realistic without being drab. A lot of people seem to have a thing about being able to guess the baddie (in any book), and use this as a benchmark to determine the overall quality of the work. This is not an issue for me if the characters are engaging and the overall texture and pace of the work makes the book a rewarding reading experience - which ROPE ENOUGH definitely is.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2013 10:38 AM GMT

The Life of Ling Ling: A Novella About Iraq
The Life of Ling Ling: A Novella About Iraq
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Desert Nihilists, 4 July 2013
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At the start of Hunter Thompson's legendary 1971 work, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, there is a quote attributed to Dr Johnson: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." It's a slightly foreboding nod to what follows, but it's one that seems equally applicable to THE LIFE OF LING LING.

Indeed, this extremely clever and honest novella features one or two references to HST - see if you can spot them - as well as having a deadpan, occasionally sardonic style that carries shades of Joseph Heller. War is a perpetually-popular - and difficult - subject to both write about/film, and one often wonders how many new approaches there are to take. It's easy to tip over into the clichéd, the melodramatic and the just plain silly.

No such problems with Jerad Alexander's work. The book follows Charlie Company on routine deployment in Iraq, where its Marines' existences veer from the mundane to the shockingly violent and back again. The eponymous Ling Ling, a hobby-horse borne of boredom and a need for amusement, represents a desperate, almost pathetic attempt by nihilistic protagonist Sergeant Square to keep one foot rooted in civilisation and whatever is awaiting him back home. Ling Ling's own journey - such as it is - begins and ends within the confines of the barracks, and her brief foray onto the main stage is cast aside as carelessly and easily as those being dropped by sniper fire from behind the lines.

That's not to say THE LIFE OF LING LING makes a big show of Metaphor and Social Comment . As mentioned above, it's all too easy to try to say something important about the subject matter - the futility of war, etc, has been done to death. This is not death-or-glory charges - this is mangy dogs, dreary exercises, sudden and shocking sniper attacks, ham-fisted farm raids built on suspicion rather than intelligence and toe-curling attempts at recreation.

The writing in THE LIFE OF LING LING is crisp, understated, subtle and its power is in its small details. The imagery is striking and visceral, and so naturally does the barracks atmosphere flow that I doubt if anyone other than a former serviceman could have written it. The descriptions of violence are necessarily evocative, and the entire piece has a cinematic quality to it - Alexander has a real knack for bringing scenes to life in a way that even some of the finest war films don't quite manage. Particularly skilful is the gradual and inexorable sliding of the Marines into total institutionalisation, and their self-alienation from civilised life as a consequence.

Reservations are minor - there are one or two dubious same-scene POV shifts, and the book is too short to handle the number of characters it introduces. While there are valiant attempts to make each one memorable (witness the injured Wilson), a number of them fall by the wayside (and not just from shrapnel injuries). This is not necessarily a bad thing, because THE LIFE OF LING LING certainly has the mileage to be developed into a full-length work in order to accommodate the company - something I would most definitely welcome.

Overall, a well-crafted, quietly-impactive and moving tragi-comic work, which showcases some highly impressive talent.

Cars and Girls
Cars and Girls
Price: £3.16

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reservoir Cougars, 17 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Cars and Girls (Kindle Edition)
This neat collection of four longish short stories by four authors from the Pankhearst collective handles issues of buried secrets, bloody violence and explosive Revenge with the rough beauty of a cornering Firebird. America's open road is a ubiquitous metaphor for the characters' own journeys; sex is at best a weapon, at worst a commodity; while men - friend and foe alike - are generally disposable. From the minute the collection opens with 500, by ZOE SPENCER, we are coshed, bundled into the boot of the waiting Lincoln and whisked across the globe at a pace that barely lets up except to fill the martini glass.

500 is the story of Emily Maltravers, a blue-blooded young woman yielding to a powerful need to stave off the trappings of aristocracy long enough to exact revenge on the psychopath that raped her as a child - then a lowly gamekeeper, now a criminal kingpin. The plot is concisely structured and the action driven by the Emily's own goals - short stories demand more precision and structure than longer works, and the relevant back story is cleverly dropped in at appropriate points without slowing the pace. It's a strong work, with its only weakness the fact that the denouement seems to come around rather more suddenly - and wrapped up more easily - than I was expecting.

The violence in CARS AND GIRLS is raw and graphic - and so is the sex. Some might describe it as gratuitous, but remember, other people - men - robbed these women of their right to privacy and innocence. In short, if you don't like the detail, imagine what they themselves had to go through, then take your complaints elsewhere.

The only slight reservation I would have on the explicit sex front is at the - very moving - conclusion of ROAD RUNNER by TEE TYSON, where I feel less would have almost definitely been more. `RUNNER is a powerful tale of Holly; robbed of motherhood, her doomed thirst for revenge leads her on a journey back through her past. TYSON spins her craft expertly, bringing each scene to life in vivid detail and pulling you into Holly's emotions until you are right alongside her on the bucket seat. This story was a real punch in the gut, and would dearly benefit from a screen adaptation.

MADELINE HARVEY'S BARRACUDA is another hot summer yarn about two sisters - Susie is wronged, so elder Loretta leads her through a carefully-orchestrated - and bloody - revenge plot. It's a straightforward and linear narrative, with the righteousness of the action causing a cleverly-placed moral vacuum as you start to worry less about the law showing up and more about the dudes in question getting their respective comeuppances. You can taste the dirt in the wounds, the sweat on the skin and the iron in the blood, and by the time CROWN VICTORIA - the third car-as-metaphor title - rolls around, you're likely to be late getting the kids from school.

In EVANGELINE JENNINGS'S offering, we follow two blissed-out young lovers as they eat up the miles - and each other - across America, drumming jacketed rounds into their foe almost indiscriminately. `VICTORIA has a dreamy, euphoric edge to it - as well as a clever twist at the end - and yet again the moral lines become blurred as you get high on the supply and start rootin' for our couple to get wherever they're going (not just `off').

Don't make the mistake of writing off CARS AND GIRLS as trashy pulp. It has more heart - and, ironically, balls - than many other contemporary offerings. Make no mistake, it isn't for the faint-hearted (although the awesome cover art negates the need for a Parental Advisory label) but these authors know their stuff. They're a disciplined bunch who grab your head and heart before dishing out the punishment - and such is the visceral nature of all four narratives that by the end you feel like you've been turned inside out and under the skin of our protagonists. First-rate.

The Rum Diary [DVD] (2011)
The Rum Diary [DVD] (2011)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rum punches, 28 May 2013
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This review is from: The Rum Diary [DVD] (2011) (DVD)
Anyone familiar with past efforts to film Hunter S. Thompson's work will know that the results have been something of a mixed bag - which could be putting it mildly.

Bruce `Withnail' Robinson, one of several directors mooted for 1998's adaptation of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - and who flatly turned it down, sadly - takes the helm of the cinematic adaptation of THE RUM DIARY. The book was one of Thompson's first to be written - and one of the last to be published - as such, Robinson arguably benefits from having a more linear narrative than some of Thompson's later work from which to cleave a script.

After impressing many - including Thompson himself - with his turn as Raoul Duke in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, Depp effectively reprises his role as another one of Thompson's half-crazy, wired alter-egos. He is Paul Kemp, a would-be novelist who arrives in Puerto Rico to work for the San Juan Star, a local rag that is rapidly sinking amidst empire-building, civil unrest and the cost of keeping the American Dream alive. Journalism provides Kemp with a full-time excuse for not pursuing his career as a novelist, and he finds himself drawn into political scandal, sun-fuelled lust and long hot nights filled with cockfights and witch-doctory.

As you might expect, alcohol and chemical abuse features among Kemp's misfit cronies as a supporting cast member, but it is incidental (compared with some of Thompson's work, anyway) to a story that focuses heavily on its place in the sun - namely a relatively carefree era brought to an end by greed, corruption and a blind eye to the symptoms of poverty in Latin America. Robinson's direction is deft, with his influence obvious in both the score and photography - the vivid colours and images perfectly convey both ends of the Latin economic spectrum, and you can almost smell the sweat and expirated booze of the gambling pits and bars.

For me, the union of Depp (the obvious choice to play Thompson again) and Robinson was made in heaven and long overdue. The script is unmistakably Robinson's, with moments of incisive genius in the dialogue that could only have come from his cannonball of a brain. The ever-brilliant Giovanni Ribisi almost steals the whole show as the psychotic (and Withnail lookalike?) Moberg, Aaron Eckhart is delicious as the sleazy Sanderson, while Amber Heard is a perfect casting choice for the positively ethereal Chenault.

Although the movie appears to distil Thompson's world-view into some fairly simplistic chunks - the exchanges between Kemp and Lotterman, while effective, tend to spoon-feed the viewer - it's important to remember Thompson was only 22 when he started the book. More is made of the political intrigue element of the plot than in the book, which is arguably necessary to prevent it from becoming just another series of stand-alone scenes, and it is sometimes a little hard to reconcile Depp's portrayal of the laconic, booze-addled Kemp with the champion of liberty and integrity that he periodically waxes grandiose about.

It does suffer from some pacing problems towards the middle, and it probably isn't for everyone - particularly if you're not a Thompson or a Depp fan. But I do believe that if you come to the movie cold and are prepared to unwind and pay attention to every line (there are some key blink-and-you'll-miss them moments) then you may very well enjoy this slice of sun, sea and sextuple-vision.

The Sportswriter
The Sportswriter
Price: £5.39

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Melancholy ruminations with a dash of inspiration, 12 May 2013
This review is from: The Sportswriter (Kindle Edition)
It seemed somehow apt that I found my copy of THE SPORTSWRITER in a charity shop - the 1996 Harvill Panther edition with the monochrome cover and the stark typeface. Indeed, it was the cover that grabbed me - I had never heard of Richard Ford or Frank Bascombe; the second of whose adventures, INDEPENDENCE DAY, won the 1996 Pulitzer.

Narrative-wise, the premise is simple - Frank is a thirty-eight year-old man (the titular sportswriter) trying to make his way in the world in the wake of bereavement and, latterly, divorce. The book is essentially a first-person monologue - great chunks of which are internal ruminations and observations - framed by 'normal' events: a trip to Detroit with his new girlfriend, Easter Sunday lunch with her family, numb conversations with his ex-wife and maritime sojourns with the Divorced Men's Club. Frank struggles to find meaning in everyday mundanity, and soldiers on; trying to be positive and find reasons to go on.

That said, Frank is not given to melodrama - themes of death, aging, identity, success and failure are handled delicately, and his own failures (his marriage, his novel, the loss of his son) are dealt with internally and almost matter-of-factly. He craves neither attention nor sympathy, and the undercurrents of despair and melancholy that lace his words remain exactly that - perhaps partly because throughout the course of the book we seem to meet people who are worse off than he is.

Aside from interviewing a disabled former pro-ball star, Frank seems to perform precious little in the way of sportswriting, but that is the point. Sportswriting is a vocation in name only; rather, it is his lifeline to the real world, his mask, his common ground for interacting with his ordinary fellow man (whom he seems to neither understand nor trust). It is also his consolation prize for giving up on his novel, the implicit suggestion being that, like relationships, writing is only a profession that earns respect if you are a success.

This disregard for his own career stops just short of self-loathing (and just as well, probably), but Frank's self-awareness leads him to analyse every single trifling exchange with other people, regardless of their significance in his life, loading each nuance and unspoken word with meaning. He is trapped inside his own brain and memories, cruising through the alien suburbs of the American Midwest as if on the other side of a window, craving a simple life of paid-off bungalows, innocuous leisure and retirement utopia. This `dreaminess' - the retreat into himself following the loss of his son - leads him to cling to the past, reverting to adolescent sexism and calling up old girlfriends out of the blue in acts of toe-curling spontaneity.

Much is made of the `dreaminess,' and I almost feel it is a state you have to achieve yourself in order to properly enjoy this book. I read it early in the morning and late at night, undisturbed and in a kind of meditative state. It is a book that speaks to your own vulnerability, and if you find it boring the first time around, switch everything off and try again.

Jack Reacher [DVD]
Jack Reacher [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Cruise
Price: £2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cruise saves the day (and the movie...just), 9 May 2013
This review is from: Jack Reacher [DVD] (DVD)
Filming Jack Reacher was always going to be a challenge - such a distinct and well-drawn romantic character is he that the art of making him visible came under almost as much scrutiny from the purists as, say, Fleming's Bond or Conan Doyle's Holmes.

Lee Child's ONE SHOT provides the narrative vehicle for Jack Reacher's inaugural foray onto the big screen - a rock-it-up case of an ex-military sniper accused of losing the plot and taking out innocent members of the public with a rifle. Facing overwhelming evidence and the death penalty, said accused demands the only man that can help him - our eponymous hero, who arrives reluctantly on scene to point out that the prosecution case is perhaps not quite as clear-cut as it seems. Cue baddies, political wrangling, intrigue, dodgy land deals and other stuff.

I was a little bit dubious about Tom Cruise taking the lead role (I actually thought Idris Elba would have been perfect), but, height aside, he pulls it off very well indeed. He does the leathery, battle-hardened ex-military swagger with little effort, and his little flashes of logical insight and ability to find significance in tiny details overlooked by all others - arguably the essence of Reacher - works very neatly indeed; you genuinely feel that no one else but Reacher could solve this case. He's too cool for the ladies, is gentlemanly enough to give his opponents the opportunity to walk away before getting a whuppin,' and his moral compass has a little bit more flexibility than those bound by the law - and he serves up justice accordingly.

In the hands of Christopher (THE USUAL SUSPECTS; VALKYRIE) McQuarrie, such fare would seem perfect for suspense, paranoia and a shallow-breathing pace. And it is - but, unfortunately, only for the first half hour or so. While the premise of the story is set up, we have steadily building tension with rapid-cut scenes, tight photography and a jittery score. Thereafter, however, it descends into thriller-by-numbers with the plot fading into insignificance in favour of lethargic fight scenes - although some of the action is fairly violent - and a pretty bemusing denouement. The pursuit scenes are well handled, but too little is made of the motivation for the assassination - and the machinations of the shadowy people behind it all. As such the movie falls into the fairly standard trap of a lot of action but without the emotional backbone to shore it up; as such, you're sort of left thinking "So what?" especially when the extent of the villain's reaches (no pun intended) are revealed.

In fact, were it not for Cruise's handling of a very popular and finely carved literary character - and, to a lesser extent, McQuarrie's stewardship - this movie would have been far less agreeable, and might even have bypassed cinemas altogether.

Merry Baker: A Cyber Crime Thriller
Merry Baker: A Cyber Crime Thriller

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish, unfortunately..., 15 April 2013
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The ability of authors (who would otherwise remain unheard of) to nowadays self-publish their work is as well documented as it is popular. There are literally millions of self-published indie titles to choose from, and the supposed toppling of traditional print publishing's monopoly has deflected attention away from the substance of these choices. In short - the possibilities of what the revolution COULD achieve rather overshadow the question of whether it SHOULD.

To me, MERRY BAKER exemplifies this issue. It is, on the surface of it, a neat little thriller about a race to reap the proceeds of a massive cyber-raid on a number of bank accounts. Participants in said race include our unwitting hero - an easy-going, likeable American named Jake Furner - some horrible London villains and a computer expert working under duress to name a few. Among the supporting cast is a bent cop, a sadistic hitman and a hospitable ex-girlfriend. Loyalties are tested, identities are stolen and there are double-crosses aplenty - revenge is a key theme - all set against a backdrop of various locations including Atlanta, Acapulco and Europe (airport terminals feature quite heavily).

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the book was clouded by a number of cardinal sins that would probably be ironed out during the normal course of a beginners' creative writing, er, course. Two-dimensional characters wander in and out of the story with hundreds of pages between their appearances and with little service of the story's progress (the bent cop being one example), viewpoints shift wildly from one character to another during a single section, while the plot relies as much on coincidence as it does on the increasingly-implausible and unbelievable choices that the characters tend to make. Add to this some fairly weak dialogue and a catalogue of proof-reading errors (`the wheels of the train began to creek') and you have a book that isn't really even at first-draft stage (the question of whether the author possesses the innate skills/talent required to get it up to a proper standard is not one to discuss here). The overall effect of this was what seemed to be a pretty decent little story struggling to get out of a fug of amateurism.

I bought the book after getting an email recommendation from Amazon, and, at 77p, I won't die in a ditch over the quality of the product. It does, however, lead back to another self-publishing debate - do you get what you pay for? Or should you expect a polished product, even for 77p? (I note that many reviewers appear to have confused this author with the Steve Robinson of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogy series, whose books appear to have done very nicely indeed - and at least one of which is also available for 77p.)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2015 11:30 AM GMT

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