FILM REVIEWS: Westside cinemas offering extra choices for Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day on Wednesday 14 February, and Westside’s amazing range of pubs, bars and restaurants across Broad Street, Brindleyplace, Broadway Plaza and Gas Street Basin should all expect to be extra busy for the midweek date.

Whether you fancy Indian, Chinese, English, Italian, French or more, there’s something for every taste around every corner. Meanwhile, our two giant multiplexes are pulling out the stops to offer extra entertainment, too – so why not double up and make it an extra special evening of ‘food and flix’?

As well as the current slate of movies including Migration, Argylle and American Fiction, Cineworld Broad Street’s line-up on Wednesday includes a 25th anniversary screening of Notting Hill (15, 123 mins), a re-release of Les Miserables (12A, 158 mins), and a 25th anniversary screening of 10 Things I Hate About You (12A, 98 mins).

Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza is also screening Les Mis as well as My Favourite Things: The Rodgers & Hammerstein 8 (PG), featuring a 40-piece orchestra filmed at the newly restored Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Now here’s my review of the latest films to hit Westside’s screens …

THE IRON CLAW (15, 132 mins). Even viewers who used to enjoy Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks in World of Sport’s Saturday afternoon wrestling slot might not be familiar with American wrestling’s Von Erich family who ‘inspired’ this well-shot drama. But if you love grunts and groans, get yourself ringside quick!

The verdict **** Nobody who watched High School Musical’s Zac Efron would have predicted seeing him as a 6ft 2in wrestler. But he’s truly pumped up (if still rather short) in a film about a father’s failed ambition to conquer the world pushing his three surviving sons into the ring.

The first half sets up the father’s domination, the second reflects a full-on Bee Gees’ hit – Tragedy! Throughout, the vice-like grip of The Iron Claw there’s a forest of 1970s mullets to remind crimpers everywhere how the world used to look before fades.

The film is like a ‘beefcakes and ladders’ board game, its mixture of bravery and mental health occasionally stirring the soul before landing halfway between Mickey Rourke’s peerless turn as The Wrestler (2008) and Dwayne Johnson’s Fighting With My Family (2019).

GASSED UP (15, 102 mins). A violent moped gang is on the loose in this London-based film by George Amponsah.  The director of The Hard Stop (2015), a Bafta-nominated documentary about the fatal shooting of 29-year-old black man Mark Duggan in 2011, is making his feature debut here. The fan of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets once had his own phone snatched by a criminal on two wheels. 

With an absent dad to make up for, central character Ash (Stephen Odubola) has to try to help his sister and mother – but when one of his dodgier mates upsets some Albanians, you fear for their futures.

The verdict: *** Not unrelated to films like Sumotherhood, Adulthood and the superior Bullet Boy, the film has been shot on the streets with lots of rough-and-ready two-wheel action. 

In one attack bearing an eerie coincidence with a real life manhunt in the capital only this month, an assailant suffers self-inflicted acid burns. Karma on screen, hopefully not an encouragement of this kind of vile attack in real life.

The whiff of reality coursing through this film is, of course, unpleasant. Violence always seems to be more acceptable in Hollywood than this close to home. But at least the script tries to offer lessons as well as action for entertainment’s sake.

The lesson here is that if any young people aren’t streetwise enough to realise that ‘organised crime is given that name for a reason’, more fool anyone who messes up.

There is strong language throughout, fights, headbutts, knife threats and more as well as riders weaving menacingly in and out of traffic, pulling wheelies and trying to live up to the images on their helmets. 

Showing at Cineworld Broad Street, but not Odeon Broadway Plaza.

PICTURE CREDITS: The Iron Claw, Lionsgate. Gassed Up, Vertigo Releasing.


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