New cinema Steve McQueen’s films – Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave – call to mind a few trademarks: intensity, fearlessness, exploration. So to hear he’s taking a stab at a genre movie might activate your “oh sh*t” sensor. But this still feels very much like a McQueen picture, albeit one that’s respectful of heist drama’s conventions. Here, the robbery is used to explore wider concerns: race, power, and the importance of exploding prejudices. Viola Davis plays Veronica, who attempts a heist to pay the $2m debt left by her late husband (Liam Neeson). She enlists his gang’s widows to help capture the loot, and it’s all masterfully scripted by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects).
Netflix One of those historical epics sustained by three things: shaky shots of charging horses; that “schloop” sound of swords piercing flesh; and a load of blokes absolutely f*cking roaring their heads off. It’s reassuring to see how far masculinity has come from the days of guttural howling and belting it with a sword towards some poor lad. Chris Pine is Robert the Bruce, torturously crafting a small but skilled team to take on the oppressive English occupiers of medieval Scotland, who just happen to have the world’s best army. It’s a reunion between Pine and Hell or High Water director David Mackenzie, so be sure it’s entertaining enough to forgive any liberties with historical accuracy.
The Sinner Season 2
Netflix There might be a town in the world that doesn’t “harbour dark secrets”, but if there is, TV doesn’t want to know about it. Those quaint little Piddletowns we all grew up in, trousering Cola Bottles from the local Woolworths, forever awaiting their day in the spotlight. Season two of The Sinner sees detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman, as trampled as ever) returning to his hometown to figure out why an 11-year-old would murder his parents – and there’s a stack of shady characters to grapple with in the pursuit of truth. Although Jessica Biel, star of season one, plays no part here, she’s replaced by excellence: notably Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts, one of the best character actors around.
Amazon Video Really, it’s no shame that you’ve got a lifetime ban from Berlin clubs for answering “err… Scooter?” when the doormen asked who you were there to see. No shame at all. Because you can peer into those techno dungeons via Beat on Amazon. Beat, played by Jannis Niewöhner (Berlin Station – catch it on All4), is our hedonistic hero, enlisted by the European Security Intelligence to investigate a human-organ trafficking ring thanks to his knowledge of the implicated clubs. There’s a don’t-look-away relentlessness to the whole thing, powered by the music, so committed dual-screeners should make a note to bloody well concentrate.
New cinema Inviting anyone to see Paul Dano’s directorial debut with you feels like an implied criticism: “Of all my intimates, you in particular would appreciate a story of emotional repression and middle-class disaffection.” Jake Gyllenhaal plays a floundering father who, after losing his job, flees the family unit in order to fight a forest fire, leaving his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and 16-year-old son. We see how the young Joe is harmed by toxic parental politicking as both deflect and blame to justify reckless decisions. Dano does a fine job of capturing the sense of stifling grimness in post-war, small-town America that tempts all to escape.