MOVIES: Three find art in tales of robbery, contract killing and

The new films this week include three that I tab as better than the usual. They won praise on the festival circuit, one was the very top winner at Cannes and one is being submitted to the Academy Awards. But don’t expect them to top the list with the paying public. If the predictions I’ve seen prove true the big movie this weekend will be a little horror film called Five Nights at Freddy’s.

It’s based on a series of video games which has a “passionate fanbase” and has surprised theater owners with a huge pre-sale. Josh Hutcherson stars as a security guard trapped in an arcade with killer animatronic mascots. Art it probably isn’t, but I don’t know. These producers don’t preview their films widely for the media, if at all. They and their audience know each other well enough.

I hope they have time for these films too:

Anatomy Of A Fall: 4 stars

The Killer: 3½

The Delinquents : 3½

ANATOMY OF A FALL: This is easily one of the most involving movies you’ll ever see, thanks in part to a very intelligent script, smooth direction and a dynamic performance by Sandra Hüller in the lead. She plays a writer, whose husband, also a writer, is found dead outside the chalet they share in the French Alps. Was it suicide? An accidental fall from the top floor? Or was he pushed? The police think the wife did it, charge her with murder and leave it up to a court to decide. Hard to do. The only possible witness is the couple’s son and he’s sight-impaired. That condition was a source of conflict for the couple, and as we gradually learn, only one of several. But do they add up to murder? The film keeps us guessing right to, and even past the end. Justine Triet won the top prize at Cannes, the Palme d’Or, for this, only the third woman director to have done so.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

It becomes a courtroom drama and a particularly engrossing one. Partly that’s because of the freeform rules in French court cases. Any witness or lawyer can jump into the talk any time. The judge can interview two witnesses at the same time. Facts are challanged and debated right at once. The couple’s relationship is scrutinized in detail through that process. One bit of evidence looks bad but as the Hüller character argues reflects only part of the state of a marriage. Inability to really know your partner is a major theme and gradually the focus shifts to the son’s testimony. He’s learned a lot he never knew about his parents and he asks to take the stand a second time. High drama. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

THE DELINQUENTS: Argentina’s submission to next year’s Academy Awards is long (just over three hours), but entertaining and clever. It grows too arty by the end but is never boring and draws you into an ingenious scam to rob a bank. An impatient employee (Daniel Elías) sneaks a gym-bag full of banknotes out the vault, confesses, takes a prison term which he expects will be 3½ years (hey, better than 25 years working for the bank) and asks another employee (Esteban Bigliardi) to hold on to the money while he’s away. They’ll share it 50-50 when he gets out.

At that point, the film becomes two-sided. One character is in prison having to submit to the tyranny of a powerful inmate who rules the place. He’s offered “protection” but must pay for it.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Back at the bank, the theft is being quietly covered up to avoid alarming investors but a pushy accountant (Laura Paredes) is brought in to investigate and the man hiding the money is her target. It becomes harder and harder for him to keep it secret at home and he gets word from prison to stash the money under a giant rock out in the countryside, which becomes a symbol for the freedom they crave.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Both men have been in there, met a woman who charmed them and also a crew of amateur filmmakers. That’s where it gets too arty. Still entertaining, though, musing on the concept of freedom which both the prison and that bank are not. The prison tyrant and the bank boss are both played by the same actor. And five characters have names that are anagrams of each other: Moran, Roman, Norma, Morna and Ramon. Tricky, though fun. (In theaters) 3½ out of 5

THE KILLER: David Fincher is one of today’s most reliable directors so anything new by him is an event. This is no Social Contract, Se7en or Fight Club but his pin point precision is there, abundant actually, and it draws you into the world of a character you should hate. A contract killer. You don’t hate him; you follow his every step to do his job and listen as he repeats his rules every chance he has like a mantra. Don’t improvise. Stick to the plan. Don’t trust anyone. Those are just a few of the rules he reiterates every job he’s on.

Courtesy of Netflix

He’s a perfectionist. His pulse rate, as shown by his watch, has got to be just right, before he pulls the trigger. But he accidentally breaks that rule, misses a target businessman in Paris and shoots a visiting prostitute instead. In retaliation, his wife is roughed up and his house is trashed. He’s furious in his stoic way. He goes out for revenge travelling from the Dominican Republic, to Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and other locales, each time with credit cards and passports in fake names. He’s icy and meticulous. And he plans well to blend in with the crowds. He says he always dresses like a German tourist because “Nobody wants to interact with one of them.” It’s a step by step observation of a man doing his work and it’s magnetic in Michael Fassbender emotion-less but compulsive demeanour. (In select theaters, Netflix soon) 3 ½ out of 5

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