The Suicide Squad (M18)
132 minutes / now showing / 4 stars
The standalone sequel (right) to the 2016 film comes with an M18 rating and so is as properly blood-splattered, swear-laden and nihilistic as it needs to be for a movie about ugly people (and ugly human-like creatures) forced to carry out shady missions in foreign lands by a morally compromised American government.
Once more, government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a task force of criminals and low life for a suicide mission: to destroy a sinister weapons lab on the island of Corto Maltese.
Members such as Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the fish-human hybrid King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) are sent to the island, but find that there is more to the mission than they bargained for.
There is not much that can be said about the plot without ruining its best parts, but it can be noted that this is very much writer-director James Gunn's movie.
This is a work with narrative coherence and a singular visual style with everything that Gunn enjoys.
He has helmed the comedy-tinged anti-hero movies Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 1 and 2 (2014 and 2017) and the ordinary-guy-as-superhero film Super (2010). And his heart is with the underdogs, the underpowered characters who start as nonentities, but gradually grow in importance until they become the film's most memorable and moving elements.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (NC16)
97 minutes / Available on HBO Go/ 4 stars
This daringly simple 2020 drama asks one thing of the viewer: Be with Autumn (Sidney Flanigan in a remarkable debut) during some of the most difficult days of her young life and simply feel.
Writer-director Eliza Hittman's screenplay is information-sparse. Autumn is tight-lipped, even to her best friend and cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). When she chooses to have an abortion, the audience is not privy as to why.
Hittman adopts a documentary-like mode of quiet observation. Sidney and Skylar, in making their way from their conservative state to the more abortion-friendly New York, are forced to grow up before their time.
This is a project that feels tailor-made for melodrama, but Hittman never reaches for the big notes.
In one heartbreaking scene, Autumn is run through a sexual abuse checklist with a set of answers that gives the film its title.
In another that illustrates how politicised abortion is in the United States, she is given bad advice by religiously motivated medical professionals. When one is young, poor and vulnerable, this is the help one gets - or none at all.
Lady Vengeance (R21)
115 minutes/ Available on Netflix / 4 stars
It is not clear when this 2005 thriller was added to Netflix Singapore, but the film - titled Sympathy For Lady Vengeance when it was first released here - is worth watching.
Directed by Park Chan-wook, South Korea's master of stylish bleakness, this film is the third in his Vengeance Trilogy - preceded by Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002) and Oldboy (2003), the most famous of the three.
Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) is released from prison after serving time for murder and kidnapping. She is a woman on a mission. Through flashbacks, the circumstances that give rise to her lust for retribution are shown, but how she will do it remains a mystery till near the end.
Typically of Park, when that end comes, his psychologically tortured characters find a closure that is grand, bloody and cathartic.