Blockers 2018 ***

blockersAnother decent revival for Netflix, Kay Cannon’s Blockers is a low-brow comedy which was something of a secret success on initial cinema release; without making too many headlines, this Seth Rogen-produced romp made nearly $100 million worldwide on what looks like a fairly frugal budget. Rogen’s influence is apparent in the way the film quickly lapses into sophomoric humour, but there’s also traces of his Rabelaisian wit and deft approach to coming-of age. And what’s specifically interesting about Blockers is that it’s a sex comedy that focuses on the parents who want to stop their children having sex after their prom night; sympathies have turned upside down since the sex comedies of the 80’s (Porky’s, Ricky Business).

Leslie Mann is Lisa Decker, a mother horrified when she realises that her daughter has a pact with two other friends to lose her virginity. Lisa pals up with Mitchel (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), a comic who looks like a Mark Wahlberg that’s been left out in the rain, and who projects an ideally dishevelled persona for this kind of hi-jinks. If Superbad was about how difficult it is to cause mischief, Blockers is much more interested in the suppressive efforts of the parents than the teenagers themselves; cinema in 2018 is more about re-enforcing the status quo than challenging authority.

Blockers is carefully gender balanced, but that doesn’t stop Mann and Cena giving stand-out star performances, the best in their careers to date.  And while Rogen has been accused of falling back on cameos rather than jokes, as many comics do when the ideas run thin, the cameos from Gary Cole and Gina Gershon hit the right, dirty tone. Blockers is a easy watch, full of crude slapstick, but with it’s heart in the right place. Cannon graduates from the 30 Rock/Pitch Perfect universe with some skill here; Rogen’s trio-adventure format may be wearing thin, but Cannon deserves credit for managing to casually tap into the comedy audience that the far more accomplished Booksmart failed to capture.

Killer Joe 2012 ***

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More evidence of the formidable talents of Matthew McConaughey, before his Dallas Buyers Club Oscar triumph, William Friedkin takes the reins of this adaptation of Tracey Letts’ play, refashioned by the same author. McConaughey plays Joe, a killer hired by Chris (Emile Hirsch) to bump off his mother Sharla (Gina Gershon). He teams up with her ex (Thomas Hayden Chruch) to do so, but when hired gun Joe arrives, he makes a hard bargain with them, and seems more interested in Sharla’s daughter Dottie (Juno Temple). Killer Joe is partly a Coen-brothers screw-twister, as bad plans provoke bad things to happen to bad people, but it deepens to become a story of sexual sadism and an unpleasant power-struggle between characters with nothing to lose on their precipitous moral decent. The cast are uniformly excellent, but McConaughey hits the heights as Joe; the notorious KFC-eating scene is intensely disturbing, but hard to take your eyes off. Killer Joe is strong meat for those who can take its amoral viciousness in their stride, and a welcome return to form for Friedkin.