This week, master dramatist Asghar Farhadi releases his latest film A Hero on Prime, while Cabin in the Woods star Fran Kranz makes a powerful directorial debut with Mass on Sky Cinema.
Meanwhile, Netflix drops multiple fun, schlocky action flicks with Nobody and Monster Hunter.
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Pick of the week: A Hero - Prime Video
From writer-director Asghar Farhadi, the filmmaker behind the Oscar-winning A Separation, comes A Hero: an intimately staged drama of a seemingly small incident spiralling beyond his protagonist’s control. Set in the Iranian city of Shiraz, the film follows Rahim — a captivating Amir Jadidi. Stuck in debtors prison because of money still owed, Rahim is released on two days' leave at the movie’s beginning, returning home to spend time with his family, including his young son, borne from a previous marriage.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in January
When Rahim’s girlfriend finds a handbag in the street containing gold coins, the two try and sell it to pay off Rahim’s debts - when they realise it won’t be enough, they set a plan in motion to find the owner, and engineer positive PR for his seeming act of pure benevolence.
Farhadi’s scripting only gets more complicated from there, as it interrogates the cruelty of Iran’s prison system, the moral ambiguity of his protagonist’s decisions reflecting back on the media circuses that quickly arise in circumstances such as his. But Farhadi doesn’t moralise over Rahim’s circumstances itself. Though pessimistic about the institutions of his country he’s sympathetic to his struggling characters.
Also on Prime Video: My Son
Mass - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
For the feature film debut of Fran Kranz, on its face, Mass doesn’t feel wholly ‘cinematic’, restrained to a single-room location, focused on a long conversation taking place in real time. But the sense of intimacy and vulnerability that the Cabin in the Woods star finds behind the camera wholly justifies its taking place in this medium. It never feels like theatre or a simple reading, even with that commitment to an unflashy setting and various expository monologues.
Watch a clip from Mass
Taking place years after a tragic shooting, the parents of both the victim and the perpetrator meet face-to-face to have a difficult conversation, a heartbreaking study of the differing kinds of grief that follow in the wake of the mass shooting events that have long been identified as a kind of American epidemic in itself.
Read more: Everything new on NOW in January
It’s tricky filmmaking that, despite a perhaps overly decompressed running time, packs a hell of a punch regardless.
Nobody - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
In the years since John Wick, the franchise has received the honour of being the latest film to inspire a new trend of copycats, much like the “Die Hard in a stadium/plane/school/etc” school of filmmaking of the 90s. This particular John Wick clone gains credibility from being co-written by Derek Kolstad, who penned much of the Wick series, but distinguishes itself through the direction of Ilya Naishuller, perhaps best known for his first person actioner Hardcore Henry.
Watch a trailer for Nobody
Nobody is far more messy and morally dubious than even the John Wick films, its character motivated by a sort of malaise and midlife crisis rather than righteous vengeance. Bob Odenkirk plays suburban dad Hutch Mansell, feeling emasculated after leaving his job as a CIA hitman behind for a quieter and apparently less fulfilling life. So two robbers breaking into his house is the perfect catalyst for Hutch’s long-simmering fury, perhaps most strikingly realised by Naishuller in a savage fight aboard a moving bus.
Also on Sky Cinema: Pig