Talking Movies: Back of the Moon, The Odyssey and A Vigilante

Spling reviews Back of the Moon, The Odyssey and A Vigilante as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a period gangster drama, a biographical adventure drama and an indie crime drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


A gangster kingpin and nightclub singer are thrust together when outside forces seek to tear them apart.

Director: Angus Gibson

Stars: Richard Lukunku, Lemogang Tsipa and Moneoa Moshesh

– Back of the Moon is an old Hollywood style gangster movie with a modern appetite for violence and shock value
– the array of performances is impressive, showcasing South Africa’s depth of acting talent
– it would make an intense and memorable stage play, hinging on a primary location and up close drama
– prim and proper, the old world production design and wardrobe takes you back to the hustle and bustle of 1958 Sophiatown
– yet, the ruffian violence makes an impactful contrast with flick knives and bravado in a time when guns were scarce
– while a bit slow-moving and claustrophobic, it’s a noble and handsome gangster drama and its South African roots keep things fresh as we delve into another world and time
– struggling to find a hero to truly get behind, Back of the Moon is anchored by its stylish treatment and fine ensemble
– often vicious, ugly and fearless, it’s engaging and compelling even if decidedly unlovable
– it’s an intense and moody portrait of an intellectual man’s crumbling criminal empire, which while distinguished in appearance and execution, is not for sensitive viewers

A solid 7 on the splingometer

Moving on to a film now streaming on Showmax…


The aquatic adventure of the fearlessly ambitious pioneer, innovator, filmmaker, researcher, and conservationist, Jacques Cousteau.

Director: Jérôme Salle

Stars: Lambert Wilson, Pierre Niney and Audrey Tautou

– Cousteau’s strained family dynamics add texture to this sleek biographical drama
– centring on his pioneering oceanic expeditions, grand vision and legacy, it’s only fitting that The Odyssey is infused with authentic production design and elegantly composed visuals
– while spectacular and informative, covering an influential career spanning 30 years, the drama seems uncertain and detached
– The Odyssey is beautiful to behold but its difficult to connect with the characters
– it’s problems are embodied by the casting of Lambert Wilson
– he’s a dashing and daring fellow who commands respect, yet remains aloof and in his own stratosphere, making you wonder what Daniel Day-Lewis could have brought to the film
– it’s easy to appreciate the film-making efforts and prestige factor, but it’s all from an arm’s length, making for a fairly hollow cinematic experience
– this is an informative and refined docudrama but with little to no emotional investment, you’re constantly latching onto the technical beauty
– The Odyssey plumbs the depths of the ocean but ironically treads water when it comes to drama
– it’s stylish and visually impressive but distant and lacking in charm, which impacts the already long run time

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally…


A vigilante helps victims escape their domestic abusers.

Writer-Director: Sarah Daggar-Nickson

Stars: Olivia Wilde, Morgan Spector and Kyle Catlett

– A Vigilante is an acting showcase for Olivia Wilde, who deserves more focused attention and recognition
– she’s a guardian battle angel in full flight, channeling righteous fury and boundless empathy
– it’s her most compelling performance in recent years, gritty, honest and full of fire
– the drama taps into timely themes around domestic abuse as this vigilante makes it her mission to avenge and protect
– it’s an independent drama that punches above its weight thanks to Wilde, whose give-all gusto carries
– while a noble effort, A Vigilante is restrained by its choppy edit and sparse script, struggling with fluidity and coasting on Wilde’s conviction rather than by identification with or a deeper understanding of the lead character’s compulsions
– A Vigilante is a great idea and could have been so much more, yet feels like the story and character are only getting started by the time the credits roll
– while there’s room for improvement, it’s steeped in potential, is fiercely relevant and serves as an excellent springboard for Wilde

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

BACK OF THE MOON… a distinguished, well-acted and stylish period gangster drama with an intense, ugly and vicious side… A solid 7!

THE ODYSSEY… while detached and overlong, this prestige biopic is handsomely mounted, informative and sleek A satisfactory 6!

A VIGILANTE… a fiery lead performance compels this gritty, timely yet shaggy indie crime drama… A satisfactory 6!

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