FILM REVIEWS: The Bikeriders, Something in the Water and The Exorcist – plus Doctor Who extra!

Two 1970s classics – Jaws and The Exorcist – have inspired two of this week’s big releases, while there’s plenty of Goodfellas-style atmosphere in our lead film.

If you admire sharks, but don’t want to be terrorised by them at either of our two brilliant multiplexes Cineworld Broad Street or Odeon Broadway Plaza, then head to the National Sea Life Centre in Brindleyplace to safely admire some real ones.

The Sea Life Centre has even created a VIP after-dark experience, where up to six people can have the site to themselves for 90 minutes (total price £280 including an expert guide).

Meanwhile, Doctor Who – The Two Episode Finale (The Legend of Ruby Sunday and Empire of Death) is a season-ending double bill at Cineworld from 11pm tonight (Friday 21). Tickets are selling well at £15 a pop. Meanwhile, here’s this week’s film reviews …

The Bikeriders (15, 116 mins). Always leaning more towards atmosphere and subculture than outright thrills, the cast includes Tom Hardy as The Vandals’ Johnny with a brilliant Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) as the tenacious Kathy.

Both a narrator and interviewee, she recalls being drawn to the newest member of a motorcycle club who could be forced to choose between her and the gang. Austin Butler, best known as Elvis, is renamed as Benny. Just not the Crossroads’ one.

The verdict: **** Written and directed by Jeff Nicholls (Mud), this is a beautifully-shot, Marlon Brando-inspired, Goodfellas-infused trip down mobster lane to a mythologised underworld, where men and violence ride throttle in hand.

Though coming soon after Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, it’s good to hear more horse-powered motorbikes offering such a throaty substitute for the unbeatable sound of hooves in Westerns.

The film includes degrees of violence, menace and male group sexual threat that could have collectively warranted an 18 certificate not long ago. Cigarette smoking is back, too – remember that? It’s bad for your health but still looks as fab on the big screen as the bikes and jackets.

Something in the Water (15, 86 mins). Five girls unite for a Caribbean wedding. Shot in a giant tank but also on location in the Dominican Republic with aerial shots aplenty, this all-girl shark survival thriller is breezily directed by Hayley Easton Street, art director for The Force Awakens.

The verdict: *** The  now 49-year-old Jaws was a proper film. But for social media-fed audiences wanting fun characters with Bridesmaids’ hormones and Love Island scenery vibes thrown in, the contemporary chatter with music to match offers a 21st century currency.

The sassy cast members swear relentlessly, but can you guess the order of doom for added fun? Never mind the teeth, the dorsal fins will challenge anyone scared of sharks. While the film is on an even keel with The Shallows (2016) and much less silly than Jason Statham’s Meg movies, the more implausible TV tower, all-girl climbing film Fall (2022) demanded a bigger bag of popcorn.

The violent pre-credits scene in London has an emotional purpose later, but this first bite leaves a bad taste even for a shark movie. It’s one of the most uncomfortable, no-context openings to a film since Sally Field’s character daughter was attacked at the beginning of Eye For An Eye (1996).

The Exorcism (15, 95 mins). A film within a film that has clearly has roots in another 50-year-old classic, The Exorcist (1973), Russell Crowe stars as troubled actor Anthony Miller. Are addictions to blame for his misery or is there evil at work in his life – or in the film he’s making? Ryan Simpkins is daughter Lee.

The verdict? ** Directed by little-known Joshua John Miller, there’s a memorable beginning with a man walking into an open set built like a doll’s house. Some stunning aerial cityscape shots of trains and cars soon follow…

But then comes the usual Hollywood curse of a barely-penetrable, never-ending darkness, screams aplenty, growly voices, child sexual abuse references, strobe lighting, flames and jolting sound effects ad nauseam. Audiences will be collectively begging: ‘Forgive us our sins!’.

Although Russell Crowe is the big reason for watching, it’s an epoch since he was so brilliant in The Insider (1999) and Gladiator (2000), having also failed to reinvent this overblown territory just last year as Father Gabriel in The Pope’s Exorcist (2023).

His latest world-weary character might grind you down long before The Exorcism’s ludicrous ending in a genre that – ‘Holy saints, angels and archangels!’ – seems to be dead on both sides of the dog-collared neck.

To feel much more scared watching horror unfolding on a film set, hunt down Mute Witness (1995), featuring the last cinema role for Alec Guinness. Better still, watch The Exorcist (1973).

ENDS

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