Tag Archives: Archie Madekwe

The Man Who Craves More


by Hope Madden

Somewhere on the other side of Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers lurks Emerald Fennell’s bacchanal, Saltburn.

Oliver (Barry Keoghan), a loner attending Oxford on scholarship, is befriended by the most beautiful, richest of the rich, Felix (Jacob Elordi, so good earlier this year in Priscilla). They become such good friends at school that Felix invites Ollie home to Saltburn, his family’s honest to God castle, for summer break.

A tale of casual cruelty versus calculated cruelty, Saltburn flirts with any number of have-nots in a have land stories: Rebecca, The Little Stranger, and most evidently, The Talented Mr. Ripley. That doesn’t mean the Oscar winner who penned Promising Young Woman lacks an original thought on the matter.

Fennell’s film is a seduction, sensuality dripping from every frame, every image – the interiors, the grounds, the bodies. On display is unimaginable wealth, and the fantasy of decadence and isolation that accompanies it. Felix’s family is drawn to Ollie like vampires to human flesh and blood. That they will tire of him is inevitable, and that he will do terrible things to remain in their graces is also inevitable. But that’s not truly the story.

And even if you have a clear sense of the direction the story will take, the tension will break you.

Not everything works in Fennell’s film, but man, Keoghan does. No one plays the vulnerable, potentially dangerous outsider quite as he does. Elordi is tender and lovely in an appropriately superficial way, and Gran Turismo’s Archie Madekwe nails the insecure wealthy-by-technicality cousin with ease.

The image of vacuous wealth becomes cartoonish, however wonderful Richard E. Grant and Rosamund Pike are as Felix’s wildly oblivious, inhumanly privileged parents.

It’s tough to watch a film that asks you to empathize with, much less pity, the grotesquely wealthy. Luckily, Fennell doesn’t. Her effort is far more cynical, finding obscene wealth and the desire for obscene wealth equally unappealing, if not equally villainous.

The filmmaker loses her way before she gets to the magnificent final dance scene. We relive clues and take a hard turn that feels too genre for what had been a glorious mess. In the end, Saltburn often feels like a story you’ve seen before, told with more style and meanness. But style and meanness count for something, and this cast understands that.

Driver Education

Gran Turismo

by George Wolf

When I used to coach youth baseball, I would sometimes encourage the use of video games to teach the young ones about rules, game situations and strategy.

And then one day the Major Leagues called up one of my best players!

Nah, that would be crazy. Almost as crazy as the true story at the heart of Gran Turismo, a trope-laden but surprisingly engaging mix of product placements and underdog sports heroics.

Orlando Bloom is Danny Moore, a UK marketing exec for Nissan who worries that young people are caring less about driving cars and more about driving simulators, specifically Gran Turismo on PlayStation. So, Danny proposes a contest that would fuel excitement for real driving.

Find the 10 best “sim” racers in the world and send them to GT Academy boot camp. The academy champion will join Team Nismo and compete in actual races against seasoned pros who will hate them.

The fact that this actually happened to Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) in 2011 is mind-blowing, and director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) presents the racing action with an engaging fantasy/reality mix of burning rubber and game graphics that seems fitting.

Madekwe (Midsommar, Heart of Stone) gives Jann a sense of wounded determination that is easy to root for, but it’s David Harbour’s turn as no-nonsense driving instructor Jack Salter that consistently comes up a winner. Harbour’s chemistry with Bloom is antagonistic and amusing, while Jack and Jann eventually develop a bond of respect and affection that carries some warmth.

But getting there is a long 135-minute road, with some hazards.

Screenwriters Jason Hall, Zach Baylin and Alex Tse hamper Blomkamp’s foot-on-the-gas highlights with cliches, manufactured rivalries and the overwrought dramatics of Jann’s struggle to connect with his father (Djimon Hounsou). And while the constant instructions to Jann and his fellow drivers are a nicely organic way to keep the rest of us updated on the stakes, mounting distractions kill the buzz too often.

The hook here is a gamer earning his racing stripes, and the attempts at some Rocky-esque search for dignity aren’t strong enough to support it. But – much like Jann himself – when Gran Turismo is free to fully embrace what it is, the film can shine with a thrill of unexpected victory.