Tagged Stephen Graham

Taboo – Episode 3

FX’s Taboo
Episode 3
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-53-49-pmWith James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) having been stabbed, and having stabbed back, at the end of Episode 2, what’s left of the man as last we saw he was lying, bloody and dying in an alley?
As far as the attacker goes, the man with the silver tooth, he lies dead on the shore where young thieves pick him clean. They also notice his heart is gone. Eaten by sea creatures, or gone by some other means?
Well James, he’s being worked on by Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly), who stitches him back together again. Luckily the doctor had someone follow him after he left the office previously. He also warns James a bit about his “peacock” swagger around London. James wants word sent to Thomas Jefferson and the US, but Dumbarton’s not particularly forthcoming in his intentions to help any of that. He’s actually trying to get Nootka Sound from Delaney, although that’s not entirely easy, either. James has his own ideas on gaining a “monopolyfor all the tea in China.” This is something Dr. Dumbarton actually understands.
In other news, Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) gets caught up on all the Nootka Sound business by his man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins). On the horizon might be war, who knows. Coop tells the Prince Regent of James Delaney, as an “adventurer of very poor repute.” Ought to be interesting to see how George IV and Delaney come together in some way. Could make for some fun writing.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-56-27-pmBack at the Delaney house, Brace (David Hayman) continues with helping his old friend James with all his madness. They patch him up a bit before the man of the house feels compelled to run off again on another adventure. He’s essentially waiting now for more people to come kill him. “So, we are besieged,” Brace laments, as if to say: here we go again. Another Delaney, same bullshit.
More Atticus (Stephen Graham)! Bless his heart. He and James are doing a bit of business, though Brace believes the man to be a snake. We’ll see. He’s brought James guns, they discuss what Atticus thought was a partnership; could this drive a wedge between them? For the time being James has wounds that need tending to, but his tough guy stubbornness won’t allow him rest. They’re headed off, he and Atticus. They’ve gone to see Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). To make a will, supposedly. Then one of the lawyer’s men goes to the East India Company to see Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) about Delaney. Seems he’s left all his possessions and holdings to “the sovereign nation of the United States of America.” And Sir Strange is all but frothing at the mouth over what’s next: they can’t kill him, they must keep him alive. A strange turn of events, though all due to the cunning of James K. Delaney; he’s playing the lesser of a few evils being in danger only from the Americans at this point.
There’s still all the spookiness of whatever James experienced while in Africa, whatever he did while there and so on. In the dungeon-like basement of the Delaney house, James finds Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood). She cut out James’ would-be killer’s silver tooth out to bring him. She wants to be taught “about magic.” He knows that anywhere he goes, especially at home, is no safe place for anyone, especially a young person such as herself. There’s a Gothic feeling about Taboo, which makes every step further into the world of James Delaney eerie, like a ghost story. He wanders through the decrepit home of his father, memories of Africa and witchcraft of some kind in his head. And he ventures further into the house, finding secrets, unearthing messages out of his own past. It’s stunning as a Gothic slice of London, just before the Victorian Era.
Now James tries unravelling the story of the bird, branded on his back. Found in the base of a chimney in his house. All leading back to the trail of his mother, the supposed mad, savage woman.

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Sir Strange receives visit from Solomon Coop, on behalf of the King. They speak of Delaney, whose will is no surprise to Coop; they have plenty of spies. “Then you know we have a problem that cannot be solved with a musket or a knife,” says Strange. Well, Coop and the Crown have already received an offer from Delaney about a monopoly. None of this is making Strange a happy man, at all. Coop and the Crown are playing the game, taking land and money where they can. And Coop’s also got an idea about why James seeks revenge against the East India Company so relentless.
Widow of Horace Delaney, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) is sought out by Coop at her latest show. More shady deals, no doubt. Meanwhile, James is off in a dark, seedy part of London where, in drag, he finds Godfrey (Edward Hogg) – one of Strange’s men at the EIC. Ah, a bit of blackmail using the secrets James finds. Everyone has their spies. What’s more is that James doesn’t try to hurt Godfrey, he only wants information. They’ve known each other many years, and Godfrey’s been in love with him most of that time. “Ill protect you,” James tells him tenderly. Wow. A moment of beauty amongst the darkness I never expected.
Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) is written another letter by James. He talks of his plans, of the “greater good” he is seeking. She writes back about the “depth of our sin” in knowing what they did together, whatever physical love they shared, was wrong. The montage of moments cut over the writing and recitation of letters between the half-siblings is EXTRAORDINARY! Excellent score on top makes this one of the best scenes so far in these three episodes. The narration by both Chaplin and Hardy is fascinating, too.
Zilpha: “Please, Im your sisterlet all else lie.”
At the Delaney house Lorna’s turned up to tell James she has a lawyer now, that the house is half belonging to her. Seems like Coop has been up to nasty business. Doesn’t particularly worry James. Until she goes on, about owning half of Nootka Sound, as well. So either James gives up his half of the house, or she owns half of that land. He appears fine with working on things with Lorna. He also feels she’s in danger.


James runs into brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall), who wants a bit of a chat. He’s interested in the ship Delaney recently bought. Wants to insure the thing for him. But James is already insured, and has no need for the patronising tone of Thorne, or any of the other nonsense he comes in with to boot. “Since you came back our fucking has become almost murderous,” Thorne taunts him. This, as rotten as it is, sticks a dagger in James’ gut.
Later, he goes to meet with Zilpha herself. In a church. And they embrace, lustily for a moment. “Now, I never want to see you again,” she claims. I doubt she’s seen the last of James. At home things are about as equally as awkward with Thorne checking the laundry to see if Zilpha’s menstruating. Weird. She’s really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thorne is a pig. Even if James is her half-brother, he doesn’t talk to her the way Thorne does, with such a misogynistic disdain.
At Lorna’s next show, James lurks to make sure nobody is threatening her, or trying to turn her to their cause any further. There’s always a plot afoot. When Lorna leaves a woman stops so she can share her carriage. The woman says she’s an “admirer from the darkness” and tries laying lips on her. She’s taking Lorna somewhere nasty, a paying suitor. Only Lorna isn’t a woman with whom to trifle, as well as the fact James is following with a gun. They make off into the night together.
James tells Lorna she must head to Paris, to stay there until all the business with Nootka Sound is finished. At home, he plans for more people to come for Lorna: “And they will come.”


A bruiser of an episode! Really loved this one. Lots of good things happening, lots of darkly interesting things. Excited to see more, and to see what further deception lies in wait for James K. Delaney and Lorna Bow.

Skinhead Subculture vs. White Nationalism in This Is England

This Is England. 2006. Directed & Written by Shane Meadows.
Starring Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Rosamund Hanson, Andrew Ellis, Perry Benson, George Newton, Frank Harper, & Jack O’Connell. Warp Films/Big Arty Productions/EM Media.
Unrated. 101 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★★
POSTER Shane Meadows is a British National Treasure. His films are snapshots of British life in various ways. Above all else, his directing and writing gives us insight into the struggle of the lower class, from people living in council flats to those fighting war and coming home to a dreary life to skinheads and white nationalists struggling to discover some kind of place in the hierarchy of English citizens. Regardless of theme, his subjects are usually a part of the lower socioeconomic ladder. This technique is proper because the best films often illustrate the complexities of its issues, something Meadows is able to do time and time again.
This Is England tells two stories: that of skinhead subculture and its reappropriation by white nationalist groups, as well as the tale of a young man in a low class neighbourhood trying to find his way, fed up with being bullied and with nowhere else to turn but a damaged group of neo-Nazis. The realism of the film is what gives Meadows his edge. In the tradition of other well respected British filmmakers such as Ken Loach, this movie and the style of Meadows in his directorial choices makes This Is England an important piece of cinema. Not simply in terms of British film, but rather it is a hugely influential, emotional, provocative work that begs attention from the world. Best of all, though, it definitely has given the British film industry hope in the 21st century to have someone like Meadows making such excellent films.
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Effectively, Meadows turns a personal story into one that attempts to demarcate the end of being a skinhead simply as an apolitical lifestyle, an attitude and a way of dress, before the white nationalists adopted it into a part of their system. The central story is about Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), his being a member of the lower class and slipping in amongst the cracks eventually almost right into the grasp of a dangerous ideology. However, around that with the influence of Combo (Stephen Graham) comes the major examination of skinhead culture. Today, you say the word skinhead and just about every last person you ask will associate that automatically with neo-Nazism. Rightfully so, as we see throughout This Is England. Because the apolitical nature of the original skinhead subculture clashed so brutally, often violently with the resurgence of Nazi ideologies in the 1960s through to the ’80s; of course there are still groups out there, but it seems up until the ’80s, maybe early ’90s was when the heyday of neo-Nazi subculture raged. In this sense, the situation between Combo and Milky (Andrew Shim) can be seen as a microcosm of the entire national situation in England with the skinheads and the white nationalists bumping up against one another. That emergence of senseless violence in Combo is like the turning point of where the white nationalism overtook skinhead subculture and made it their defining look.
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To my mind, Graham is one of the best actors working today. He is consistently amazing from one project to the next, and his energy is undeniable. There’s this thing that Hollywood, and the movie industry as a whole, has with male actors of smaller stature where they don’t usually get enough attention, other than some of the classic guys from the 1970s like Dustin Hoffman, even Al Pacino who isn’t that big. They were able to break past any of that foolishness and impress with their style. Graham is one of those, whose size determines nothing about his performance. He is downright threatening, menacing to the extreme even in his quieter moments. The explosiveness of his temper as Combo is startling. Without him, this story would not come as effective as it does because his raw intensity, the emotion he coils up underneath the character is fascinating. One favourite moment, even though it’s so hard to choose: after Lol (Vicky McClure) leaves him alone in the car, Combo does all he can to prevent bursting out into tears, shaking and crying; a scene of wild emotion, very subtle, very personal.
Aside from Graham and an altogether spectacular cast, young Thomas Turgoose is a major reason why the character of Shaun and his whole story comes across so honest. Before this film he’d never acted. Apparently he’d previously been kicked out of his school play for bad behaviour, even demanded five quid for his audition. Amazing. But his lack of experience as a formal actor, or even amateur, pays off. His reactions, his timing, it’s all genuine and there’s no pretense in him whatsoever. I’m sure an experienced actor could’ve played the character of Shaun, but for a personal, truthful, tragic story and character someone like Turgoose was the perfect pick. The kid has charisma and he makes Shaun into an interesting character that in the hands of a professional actor might have been caught up in method over something more organic.
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Shane Meadows wrote and directed one of the greatest films in the past couple decades. Certainly one of the best of the 21st century, and will remain so until the end of time. The cast is spot on, natural, led by the fantastically riveting performances of Stephen Graham and newcomer Thomas Turgoose. Keeping things natural and opting for a style akin to realism, Meadows captures the violent clash of subcultures in England through the eyes of a lost and lonely young boy. Not enough films are honest. This Is England comes across as some of the more honest cinema, British or otherwise, I’ve personally ever seen. The hardest truths to confront are most important, and Meadows does perfectly well navigating tough subject matter to create an engaging story that should resonate with many, today and long after tomorrow.

The Hypnotic Criminal Lure of Hyena

Hyena. 2014. Directed & Written by Gerard Johnson.
Starring Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell, Elisa Lasowski, MyAnna Buring, Richard Dormer, Gordon Brown, Tony Pitts, Orli Shuka, Gjevat Kelmendi, Thomas Craig, Lorenzo Camporese, Shaban Arifi, Alfred Doda, and Mem Ferda.
Film4/Number 9 Films.
Unrated. 112 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★★
MV5BMTk1ODk1Njg3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjA5MjQxNTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ With the endorsement of Nicolas Winding Refn right on the film’s poster, there is no doubt in my mind anyone who has seen the Pusher trilogy will definitely find a likeness here in Hyena. I don’t find any crossover in terms of ripping it off, though, but merely the situations and feel of the plot definitely have that sort of vibe, a very realistic and low budget rawness that Refn also had in his crime films.
The last film Gerard Johnson wrote and directed, also starring Peter Ferdinando, was an amazing dive into the black mind of a quiet serial killer living in a tiny council flat, Tony (you can find my review here). I absolutely loved that one and I’m inclined to enjoy this even more. While the Refn vibe is absolutely present, I feel between Ferdinando’s acting and the directing/writing on the part of Johnson this movie takes on a life of its own without having to rely on predecessors with similar style.
Hyena is a savagely intense, visceral crime thriller in regards to its plot and story. At the same time, Johnson instils his film with an incredible amount of visual flair. Not only is there a gritty, raw style, Johnson opts for a lot of great imagery often involving colour and shadow. Most of all, the character Ferdinando plays and the story surrounding him is enough to hold you for a little under two hours. Not once was I bored, between the screenplay’s action, its turns, and the high tension involved as the stakes for the main character seem to never stop skyrocketing, right up until the bitter end.
69862564319377227606Michael (Peter Ferdinando) is a detective in London, his crew includes Martin (Neil Maskell) and Keith (Tony Pitts) among others. On his own, Michael takes care of the Turkish criminals as much as he can, getting a piece of the action. When several Albanians murder one of his Turks in horrific fashion while Michael watches on in hiding, things begin to change. At first it’s merely the disappearing presence of the Turkish criminals he’d been dealing with all along. Soon, Michael himself becomes the target of another law enforcement officer with whom he has history, Nick Taylor (Richard Dormer).
Forced into dealing with the same Albanians which he was forced to watch murder his Turkish friend, Michael enters into a scarily tenuous relationship with these newly moved in gangsters. What follows is part crisis of conscience, part survival of the fittest, as Michael must figure out how to live off the scraps of all the carcasses beginning to pile up and topple into the streets.
image_banner.phpSomething I thought that’s more evident here, both explicitly and implicitly, is how the brutality amongst the gangsters in the world of Hyena feels even more vicious than anything in Refn’s Pusher films (not knocking them because they’re some of my favourite crime films ever). For instance, the Albanian gangsters are pretty damn awful with their level of savagery. One early scene just after the first half hour sees a woman at their hands get cut them her wound is salted (I think it’s salt; could also be detergent of some kind) – it’s like another day at the office for them, each stone faced and uncaring, almost enjoying watching the woman’s pain. Not everything is perfectly explicit, as I said; some of the violence comes offscreen. Like when Michael’s Turkish gangster friend gets chopped by the Albanians. Though, we do see the aftermath, the actual violence itself is offscreen, which is something I’ve always found effective: show us the consequences, let us deal with those, but refrain from showing the acts of violence themselves. There’s a particular sort of gravitas that comes out of that technique I find works well for certain films. In Hyena, writer-director Johnson serves his film and story greatly by not having all the violence and murder displayed openly. Instead he sort of edges along the cliff – giving us pieces now and then, to satisfy the bloodlust, then merely teasing us, wetting our beaks slightly in order to ramp up the tension. It’s the same way Johnson went about his previous serial killer flick Tony, which didn’t have as much blood and violence in it as you’d expect for a story like that; he reveals only what is necessary to keep the tension and the suspense flowing at high volume.
hyena_f3As for the previous Johnson film, musician Matt Johnson composed the perfectly fitting score for Hyena. Some of the pieces he put into the score are beyond foreboding and full of darkness. As I always say, a movie that has music which compliments its visual style can really create an intense atmosphere and tone. One aspect of this movie I love is the ever pervading atmosphere that keeps us uneasy, unsettled, as if anything might happen at any time – particularly anything bad. The score has plenty of interesting sections. Some are full of this pulsing electronic rhythm, many others have this mysterious thriller styled music with beautiful foreign instrumentation and percussion which really puts you in the middle of these Albanian run neighbourhoods, the Turkish spots, et cetera. You almost get, in the music alone, a look into the multicultural side of London; albeit the gritty, criminal side, but still it’s fascinating stuff. I think my favourite bits, though, are the electronic pieces in the score because there’s a wildly scary quality just through these sounds which helps Johnson easily put together shots to hold us in that place of stasis he needs. Then when Johnson uses the visuals again to bring us out of that lull and SLAM US with something intense and visceral, the music also pumps up the emotion and the film charges at us in these moments. Another great instance of a film where audio and visual elements work together creating a wonderful atmosphere, as well as this combination helps set and hold a tone the director aims to attain.
My favourite instance of this involves a MASSIVE SPOILER – when Michael (Ferdinando) takes David Knight (Stephen Graham) to meet the Albanians, and as David is violently murdered Johnson slows everything down – time nearly stands still, the scene happens in slow motion while the score is just mesmerizing. You won’t believe it until you see it. Afterwards, the music still pumping, Michael runs and runs down the streets of London, fast as he can. It’s an incredible sequence which starts a minute or so before the one hour fifteen minute mark.
MV5BNDAzNTIyNTA2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg1MDg2MjE@._V1_SY576_SX1024_AL_Peter Ferdinando does a great job with his character Michael. Further than that, I think the character itself was written well by Gerard Johnson. There’s parts of Michael with which I found myself empathizing – he’s sort of trying to stay relevant while also hoping to keep alive and out of jail. Other times, I wondered how the hell he managed to get himself down into the dirty quicksand so abruptly. Michael also seems to me like someone who can be slightly naive at times, even for such an obviously seasoned detective, no stranger to dealing with violent, insane criminals; he willingly walks himself into too much at various times throughout Hyena. However, despite the character’s flaws Ferdinando plays him spot on. I love the last ten minutes of the film because you can almost chew on the tension watching Michael, it’s all in his face and his eyes, everything about him speaks to how strained and stressed this man is, which makes you feel as if you’re sitting right alongside him. Ferdinando does great things as an actor with plenty of range in him, from this to Tony alone he has proved to be fantastic.
HyenaThis is a 5 star crime thriller film to me. Not much out there in the past couple years as good and slick as this, nor as interesting in terms of visuals and the score. Tons of great things happening underneath the surface. Some critics and filmgoers online would have you believe the ending is not satisfying. Me, I’m the type of person who also loved The Sopranos and how it ended. There’s something about the last few moments, watching Michael, the music washing in over us again heavier, heavier, then when things come to a head and the credits cut in I feel more satisfied than anything. Sure, there are no concrete answers, but think about it: can you imagine ANY situation in which Michael would’ve been all right afterwards? There’s no possible scenario that would’ve worked out appropriately for him in the end, so Gerard Johnson gave us a poignant, quiet end with no resolutions only an anticipation of the WORST TO COME. I love the way the credits come in afterwards, the title card nice and stylized in blue ink, and there’s an amazing song playing in the background.
See this and enjoy it or not – one of the greatest crime thriller films of the last 5 years easily. I can only hope others might find the same fascinating elements in Hyena that I have. So far, I’ve seen this about a handful of times now and I highly suggest heading over to iTunes at some point soon for a copy. I’m definitely going to watch it again soon.. again.