Martin Carter reports back from the Toronto International Film Festival

Posted 9 September 2016

Toronto is a hot town right now with unseasonally high temperatures and brutal humidity make a 32 degree temperature closer to 40. It's also the first day of the Toronto International Film Festival and most of the cast of the Magnificent Seven remake are here to open the festival with a red carpet premiere and a huge press junket. I've decided against joining the mobs awaiting a glimpse of their idols (Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke amongst others) and am in the baroque splendour of the immense Elgin and Winter Garden theatres - the last surviving Edwardian 'stacked' theatres in the world. I'm in the seven-storey high Elgin and it is breathtaking both in its scale and decor; apparently the Winter Garden is situated above!

I am here for 'Message From The King', part of the festival's Vanguard thread of new and "edgy" international cinema. International certainly fits this film, a thriller about a Jacob, a black South African, searching through the Los Angeles underworld for his missing sister directed by Belgian Fabrice Du Welz and featuring Chadwick Boseman, Teresa Palmer, Luke Evans and Alfred Molina. The film, although well-received by an enthusiastic festival audience, displays its influences a little too clearly and it is not long before we are in territory familiar to us from Get Carter and The Limey.

Jacob's search soon involves a bunch of violent Balkan gangsters, venal politicians and Hollywood excess. Du Welz is a festival favourite and his trademark use of extreme violence erupts at regular intervals throughout. The film is saved from itself by a solid cast who deliver convincing and at times distressing performances throughout and there's a nice twist ending; but for me, I felt I'd seen it all before.

On a more positive note, the Elgin's air conditioning was wonderful and a blessed relief!

Martin Carter

Principal Film Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Martin regularly gives lectures and courses at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield.Read more posts by Martin Carter


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