In 2010, a production of Fences, August Wilson’s award-winning play, won Tony’s for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor and Best Actress. The two leads in the revival were Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, so if you think after watching the trailer that their performances look incredibly good – well, there’s the reason why. Set in the 1950’s, the movie examines the effects changes in race relations in the US have on an average African-American family, and in particular the dynamic between Washington’s struggling husband and father Troy, and his teenage son Cory (played by relative newcomer Jovan Adepo). With Washington making his first feature since The Great Debaters (2007), it will be interesting to see just how much of Wilson’s tale of bitter regret and personal despair is retained, and if the movie retains the play’s episodic structure. But from the trailer alone it does look as if Washington has made a challenging, powerful movie, and perhaps a sure-fire awards winner further down the line.
In Mean Dreams, Bill Paxton is the kind of backwoods sheriff we’ve seen quite a lot of recently: outwardly charming, seemingly decent, but beneath all that, as callous and conniving as any regular bad guy (and probably more so). But this is a small-town sheriff bordering on the psychotic, which makes his treatment and eventual pursuit of his daughter (Sophie Nélisse) and her wrong-guy-in-the-wrong-place boyfriend (Josh Wiggins) all the more gripping. Given the right role, Paxton is an actor you should never underestimate; he can take a viewer to some very dark places indeed, and often at the drop of a hat. This has all the hallmarks of such a role, and while the movie has a wintry feel to it that appears to suit the mood and tone of the movie, it’s still going to be Paxton who grabs all the attention – and he looks good and ready to do so.
There are always actors who pop up in movies and make an impression, but who still manage to retain an air of mystery and have audiences scratching their heads and asking themselves, “Didn’t I see him/her in that other movie?” Boyd Holbrook is one of those actors. He’s been quietly amassing a body of work that’s also been increasingly impressive ever since he first appeared in Milk (2008). Now, it looks as if The Free World, a taut thriller about second chances and personal redemption set against the backdrop of a domestic murder case, could be the movie to catapault Holbrook into the big(ger) leagues. If it doesn’t, then it’s unlikely Holbrook will be too worried. He’ll just carry on giving good performances in whatever movies he makes.