Yesterday marked the kickoff of the annual Fantastic Fest, a genre film festival held down in Austin by the Alamo Drafthouse that focuses on oddities and purely awesome films, 75 of them to be accurate. The festival line-up defies a specific description, as it is essentially anything that the creators and runners deem as awesome. Most of the films are foreign, with genre elements as sci-fi, horror, exploitation and more are explored. Truly, this is a place you go to expose yourself to films that you will likely never see again in a theatre, and certainly not with an audience that is just as interested in discovery. This year marks the second Fantastic Fest for myself, and it is an experience that can’t be replicated.
One of the big talking points last year was the online reservation system for securing tickets. Fantastic Fest has three basic badges: VIP, press and general. However, the press receive no special treatment and we line up early and hope for the best. Last year they attempted to try out an online reservation system to secure showings and to be blunt, it was a disaster. This year, after announcing that only VIPs would be allowed to do online reservations, outrage led the festival runners to attempt to try the online reservations for all badgeholders with VIPs going first. What I can say is that the experiment, even though it was last minute, worked extremely well for now. Wednesday night was the first trial, and save for a few unfortunate glitches for some people, it went without a hitch. However, because Thursday is the actual beginning of Fantastic Fest, most figured it went well because not everyone was checked in and ready to start picking out films. Good for the early birds, indeed. So, stay tuned later today to see how the morning reservation system on day two works.
As for the films, I started light this year. I have a few screeners at my disposal, so I am trying to mainly focus on films I cannot see anywhere else but the theater, and that brings me to Let The Bullets Fly and one of my favorite films of the year, Sleepless Night.
Let The Bullets Fly is an Asian action comedy starring Chow Yun-Fat about a bandit named Zhang posing as a governor. He thinks he and his bandit friends will have an easy time ruling a village, but the kind bandit doesn’t expect the trouble he continually runs into. Chow Yun-Fat plays Master Huang, an imposing and strict ruler that utilizes the governors as his pawns. While Let The Bullets Fly may be sold as an action film, it is really a comedy with action set pieces thrown in. The film is genuinely funny in a quirky sense, and although the plot is convoluted (and the subtitles fly by), it remains entertaining. The real shame is its length, sitting at 132 minutes. It starts to feel its length at the 90 minute mark.
Frederic Jardin‘s Sleepless Night is a tense French action thriller that centers on a drug heist gone wrong. Vincent (Tomer Sisley) is a cop that is playing on the dirty side and when he and his partner jack a drug dealer’s car, Vincent has to return the drugs to retrieve his kidnapped son. In order to do so, he must enter Marciano’s (Serge Riaboukine) enormous club. Unfortunately, two other cops have him pegged as dirty and complicate the matters. Enter one hellacious night for Vincent as he tries to track down his missing cocaine and get his son back.
The twists are brilliantly executed and no one is particularly dumb in their actions. The set pieces are brilliant and brutal. No one wants to clear out the club, so how he manages to stay hidden in the club is believable. Many twists and turns are made, but it is easy to keep track as every person has a clear agenda and they move in a straight path towards their goal. Vincent is smart and sometimes a step ahead of the audience. Simply put, this is one of the most thrilling and entertaining action films to come around in a long time. I absolutely recommend seeking out this film and hope that the Warner Brothers remake lives up to the excellent original.
Those were the only two screenings I attended yesterday, but the next few days will be jam-packed with films and event recaps so stay tuned.
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