Tag Archives: Michael Apted

Michael Apted’s Class Action

A father/daughter courtroom drama starring Gene Hackman sounds like a recipe for something glossy, showboating and melodramatic, but Michael Apted’s Class Action gives us a mature, emotionally potent and very character driven film that one wouldn’t expect from the slightly sensationalistic trailers. Hackman is a San Francisco attorney who takes on the prosecution of an auto manufacturing giant with a line of suspicious exploding cars. Opposite him as defence for the corporation? His own daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), with whom he has a rocky history with. He’s a philandering hard ass who was never pleased with her and she blames him for the dissent in her family from his womanizing ways years before. The case itself serves as framework for for the very real, raw interpersonal drama that unfolds between them, and their relationship feels grounded and truthful. The key scene is them together in the kitchen cooking; idle small talk leads to harshly flung accusations, emotions are laid bare and by the time the argument reaches a screaming fever pitch, both are quaking with rage, self reflection and sad regret. It’s a powerful scene of performance from both actors, and you’ll scarce breathe for the duration. Hackman is fire and brimstone as per usual, but there’s also a wounded aspect I’ve never seen in him before, something brought out by Mastrantonio who is spectacular in her calmly devastating turn. The late Donald Moffat is great as her steely firm boss, a man governed by fierce logic who has no qualms in casually covering up key evidence. Fred Dalton Thompson is nicely slimy as the reprehensible auto CEO whose soulless disregard for human life is unsettling, Jan Rubes steals his scenes as a loopy ex engineer with ties to the auto giant and Laurence Fishburne (during his ‘Larry’ days) quietly plays Hackman’s firm partner and family friend. I wouldn’t have probably ever known about this film if I hadn’t have come across it in a thrift store, and I’m glad I did. Forgotten these days it seems, it’s now one of my favourite courtroom pieces out there, for letting the characters tell this story, for making it personal and for flowing through the beats organically. The stately San Francisco architecture and melodic score by James Horner give it a personality as well, but Hackman and Mastrantonio rule the roost and probably give their career bests. Highly recommended.

-Nate Hill

Michael Apted’s Enough

I’ve always liked Michael Apted’s Enough, a slick, scary girl-power flick that’s given heart and personality by Jennifer Lopez, who brightens and classes up anything she headlines. It’s also got a subtly eclectic supporting cast of ice cool character actors/actresses and uses them to great potential too. Despite being predictable (a story like this usually will be in Big Hollywood), the motions it goes through somehow just feel fresh and engaging in ways that not all films like this might be able to whip up. J-Lo plays Slim here, a battered housewife who has the misfortune of being married to Billy Campbell’s Mitch, a terrifying sociopath who beats her senseless. Worse still, he’s a rich and powerful dude with a lot of high profile connections, which makes escaping his tyrannical dominance a tad tricky. She’s got a young daughter (Tessa Allen) who’s caught in the crossfire, and for Slim, enough has become enough. On the run, changing her name and decking herself out with some gnarly hand to hand combat skills are all part of a journey to both freedom and empowerment, an arc that Jennifer makes us believe with her soulful conviction and bruised spirit. Juliette Lewis is a low key scene stealer as her good friend who aids in the escape. Fred Ward does a quietly anarchic turn as her somewhat neglectful father Jupiter, who is clearly not the most compassionate fellow but does his best to right the wrongs of yesteryear with his considerable wealth and resources too. Noah Wyle does a charming scumbag shtick as a dirty cop in Campbell’s pocket who hunts her like a wolf, Jeff Kober is cheerfully menacing as one of his gung ho faux FBI Agent lieutenants, and watch for work from Dan Futterman, Brent Sexton, Michael P. Byrne, Bruce A. Young and Bill Cobbs too. The training J-Lo uses is Krav Maga, a viscerally intense martial art that’s taught to Israeli special forces, and it’s a rush to see her beat the absolute fucking shit out of her shitty asshole husband with it in some close quarters, emotionally charged bone breaking and appliance slamming beatdowns. Her and Campbell have some warped, freaky chemistry too, he’s like some demon who’s been imprisoning her and her the dark angel who strikes back fiercely. Great flick.

-Nate Hill

Michael Apted’s Thunderheart

Thunderheart is a terrific effort that coasted by to fine reviews back in the 90’s and has since not only aged well but earned just a smidge of cult status. It’s a politically charged, racially themed, hard boiled mystery thriller set in and around a troubled Sioux Native Reservation in the badlands of South Dakota. Val Kilmer is the rookie FBI agent assigned to the case, and here’s the kicker: he’s a halfbreed, part American, part Native, and as such the stakes couldn’t be higher or the moral ground more complex for an investigation that’s anything but routine. Politically charged and full of dead ends, red herrings and setups, it’s a knockout of a flick that genuinely keeps you guessing. Kilmer’s character has two mentors, which I saw as the conflict that exists within him from being both a white American lawman and and having Native blood. His senior partner Sam Shepherd is the cynical, jaded hard edge of the bureau, a persona he himself is starting to cultivate, while motorbike riding, salt of the earth Native reservation cop Graham Greene calls attention to his past, the land he’s now on and the people that came before. There’s a lot of ancestral memory tied into the story too, as we see him have visions from hundreds of years ago that guide him through the dangerous and unpredictable mystery he’s trying to solve. Fred Dalton Thompson has a bit as the senator who sends the two agents out there to see what’s up, and character actor Fred Ward is nasty business as a local mercenary who’s perpetually up to no good and almost seems to be based on a real life individual, uncanny that. It’s pulp that makes you think, and has a beating heart behind every bit of intrigue, a film that’s long been underestimated but has a lot more to say than the lurid action movie cover art might suggest. Highly recommended.

-Nate Hill