Talking Movies: Blood and Money, The Art of Self-Defence and Icarus

Spling reviews Blood and Money, The Art of Self Defence and Icarus 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 a crime thriller, a dark comedy drama and a sports documentary.

Starting off with a film now on Showmax…


A retired veteran hunting in Northern Maine stumbles across a dead woman and a large sum of money.

Director: John Barr

Stars: Tom Berenger, Kristen Hager and Paul Ben-Victor

– Blood and Money is a survivalist drama and action adventure that revives b-movie action star Tom Berenger now in his 70s.
– Liam Neeson seems to have made a subgenre of older guys with specialised skills who find a good reason to go on a later-in-life rampage.
– Blood and Money is different, compelling a hunter to fend for his life when he becomes embroiled in a deadly situation.
– This sparsely scripted film allows for a great deal of visual storytelling, which while refreshing is limiting.
– Set against the icy North Maine Woods, it’s an unforgiving yet beautiful natural environment where the playing fields are levelled.
– While the thriller benefits from a sturdy performance from Berenger, it’s a bit slow and thin when it comes to substance.
– The set up and idea of a guy fighting his own health, the elements and hoodlums has merit but it just doesn’t leverage the inherent dramatic suspense as well as Frozen River or Cold Pursuit.
– Getting by on keeping one step ahead of the bad guys, it’s essentially home alone in the woods.
– This is a serviceable crime drama thriller with some good potential, but one that simply unwinds and fails to capitalise on its promising set up.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film on Netflix…


After being attacked on the street, a young man enlists at a local dojo to defend himself from future threats.

Writer-Director: Riley Stearns

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola and Imogen Poots

– Eisenberg, the face of The Social Network, is an unassuming yet charming actor who doesn’t shy away from a challenge.
– Leaning into The Karate Kid dynamic between Daniel-Sun and Mr Miyagi, this strange film goes much darker and funnier.
– The Art of Self-Defence presents a twisted mix of genres, probably best described as a dark comedy crime drama.
– Eisenberg, Nivola and Poots are its pillars, delivering weighty and considered straight-faced performances a few clicks short of Napoleon Dynamite meets Fight Club.
– While a fairly simple story about a guy wanting to toughen up, it’s wicked sense of humour and throwback to dial-up Internet makes it intensely quirky.
– There are moments where the laugh is obvious, using geeky absurdity and social awkwardness, then it cranks things up to 11 as toxic masculinity becomes the cringey inside joke.
– The Art of Self-Defence is a dexterous film that attempts to use genre as a weapon and making Hitchcock proud in its ability to make the audience suffer.
– You may want to tap out in some of its more violent moments but its artful verve and seething sophistication keep you transfixed wondering what’s going to happen next.
– The dojo may have 11 golden rules but this strange film seems lawless at times, bold and unflinching in its vision and commentary on US masculinity.
– Having one foot in dark comedy and the other in martial arts devotion, it’s a funny, cruel and bittersweet coming-of-age drama.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a documentary on Netflix…


When Bryan sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller.

Director: Bryan Fogel

Features: Bryan Fogel, Don Catlin and Grigory Rodchenkov

– Russia is in the news, the Oscars are around the corner and so is the Cape Town Cycle Tour… which makes the Oscar-winning Icarus topical again.
– A gutsy amateur cyclist, Fogel planned to expose the sport’s dirty secret by diving headlong into a Gonzo stunt with the co-operation of top anti-doping expert, Don Catlin.
– Many great documentaries get sidetracked, as is the case for Icarus, derailed by way of a change in inside man and an equipment failure.
– Flowing with the current, cycling turned to Olympic track and field as his contact’s reputation fades in and a doping scandal implicates the famed scientist.
– Rodchenkov is an absolute character, who together with Fogel, delivers an eye-opening and suspenseful chronicle and confessional of the Russian doping scandal through the ages.
– The state-sponsored doping programme riddled Russia’s sporting endeavours, culminating in the infamous 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics where their gold medals stacked up.
– This was also the year that the Russo-Ukranian War began with the annexation of Crimea and the War in Donbas, which has led to a full scale invasion.
– Icarus is an engaging and entertaining sports documentary composed of video conference chats, news footage, visual effects and montage sequences.
– A bold investigative piece, the filmmakers are just as brave as Rodchenkov, referencing George Orwell’s 1984 in its critical assessment of Russia’s long-running doping saga.
– While a long documentary at just over 2 hours, there’s rarely a dull moment, fuelled by scandals, espionage, state secrets and dirty politics.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

BLOOD AND MONEY… a determined lead struggles to ignite a sparse script in this slow and underwhelming woodland crime thriller… A flat 5!

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENCE… sharp performances and a bold genre mix power this suspenseful and unsettling pitch black martial arts comedy… A solid 7!

ICARUS… a bold, eye-opening, entertaining, suspenseful and handsomely mounted investigative sports documentary… An excellent 8!

For more movie reviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!