Here are Damon Smith's reviews of all the latest films at the flicks...

GRETA (15) Two stars

The kindness of a good Samaritan is ruthlessly exploited by an unlikely predator in Neil Jordan’s campy psychological thriller.

Co-written by the Oscar-winning Irish director Ray Wright, Greta harks back to the violent power struggles of 1990s potboilers The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Single White Female as a 20-something American waitress and a sexagenarian French piano teacher lock horns on the mean streets of New York.

Academy Award nominee Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz are handsomely matched as hunter and prey, investing underwritten roles with menace and tainted innocence as cogs of a linear plot slot into place.

Their performances energise and enthral in the absence of originality, which is abducted before first blood can be spilt.

The belated introduction of Stephen Rea as a nosy private investigator threatens to spark dramatic tension but he is merely a plot device to underscore the darkness that lurks behind the title character’s beatific smile. London-born actress Zawe Ashton suffers a similarly ignominious fate as a young woman with valuable information about Greta’s twisted past that might as well be accompanied with crashing cymbals.

Frances McCullen (Moretz) lives with best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) in the Big Apple, where she works as a waitress in an upmarket restaurant.

The twentysomething bears the scars of the recent loss of her mother and is struggling to connect with her workaholic father (Colm Feore).

On her way home, Frances discovers a swanky handbag on a subway train and inside is the NYC Identification Card of Greta Hideg (Huppert). Erica brazenly suggests they steal money from inside the purse and spend it on a spa treatment but Frances is determined to return the handbag and its contents.

Greta is delighted to be reunited with her missing property and she strikes up a touching friendship with Frances, who is moved by the older woman’s solitary existence.

“I’ve been so lonely since my daughter left,” laments Greta.

The relationship sours when Frances discovers that Greta intentionally leaves handbags on subway trains to engineer relationships with strangers.

Frances cuts Greta out of her life but the piano teacher stalks the younger woman at her workplace and home.

“The crazier they are, the harder they cling,” warns Erica.

Greta is elevated by the nuanced interplay of the leads, who are subjected to a rollercoaster of emotions from dizzying incomprehension to seething fury.

Pacing idles predominantly in first gear, delaying inevitable retribution with some questionable logic involving a mobile phone. The claustrophobic final showdown doesn’t quite land with a satisfying emotional thud or rush of adrenaline that the scriptwriters promise.


Three stars

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare teaches us that slow, steady, dogged determination always wins out against stealthy and reckless bravado.

Writer-director S Craig Zahler has taken this life lesson to heart, setting painfully long fuses on his first two films, blood-soaked western Bone Tomahawk and testosterone-fuelled riot Brawl In Cell Block 99.

Both pictures clocked in – unnecessarily – at a buttock-numbing 129 minutes, punctuating self-consciously stylised dialogue and moments of quiet introspection with lurid splashes of sickening violence. His third feature adopts similar shock tactics to recount a bank robbery from multiple perspectives and tests our patience and stamina by adding half an hour to the bloated running time.

I hope you’re sitting very comfortably.

Dragged Across Concrete delivers plenty of scraped flesh and a lot of navel-gazing as corrupt cops and morally conflicted criminals trade bullets and wisecracks against a vivid backdrop of racial tension and economic hardship.

It’s the kind of grimy, relentlessly downbeat portrait of mouldering society where a police lieutenant reprimands one of his men by growling: “A couple more years and you’re gonna be a human steamroller covered in spikes and fuelled by bile”, and an ex-con eruditely dismisses his errant father as “a yesterday who ain’t worth words”.

Detectives Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) bend the law they are supposed to uphold.

Their heavy-handed treatment of one suspect is captured on film and sparks a debate about police brutality on various news channels.

“Digital eyes are out there,” despairs Lieutenant Calvert (Don Johnson), who is forced to suspend Ridgeman and Lurasetti without pay.

Both men rely on their pay cheques.

Ridgeman’s wife Melanie (Laurie Holden) is a former cop with multiple sclerosis and soaring medical bills, while Lurasetti has recently invested in an engagement ring for his girlfriend (Tattiawna Jones). To make ends meet, the cops intend to muscle in on a robbery orchestrated by Lorentz Vogelman (Thomas Kretschmann).

Lurasetti is unconvinced by a plan he describes as “bad – like lasagne in a can”.

Meanwhile, ex-con Henry Johns (Tory Kittles) accepts an offer from best friend Biscuit (Michael Jai White) to work as Vogelman’s getaway drivers.

It will be easy money that will help Henry to wrest his mother from the jaws of drug addiction and prostitution, as well as secure a brighter future for his teenage brother (Myles Truitt).

Dragged Across Concrete face-plants subtlety in every brutish, muscular scene.

One character is disembowelled in stomach-churning close-up while another loses their pinkies. Gibson oozes despair from every pore, riffing convincingly with Vaughn while Jennifer Carpenter delivers an eye-catching supporting turn as a bank teller, who is reluctantly returning to work after maternity leave.

RED JOAN (12A) Three stars

Dame Judi Dench plays an elderly British woman, who is accused of being a Russian spy, in a taut espionage thriller. Joan Stanley (Dench) is a softly spoken librarian, who is a beloved member of her local community.

Out of the blue, police knock at her door and Joan’s grown-up son Nick (Ben Miles) is dumbfounded when authorities accuse Joan of operating as an undercover operative for the Russians for more than 50 years. A media storm swirls around Joan and her loved ones as police attempt to extract a confession from the pensioner, who proclaims her innocence.

In flashbacks to the 1940s, Joan (now played by Sophie Cookson) attends Cambridge University, where her talents are under-estimated by virtue of her gender.

She gravitates towards a Russian student called Leo Galich (Tom Hughes), who seduces Joan and encourages her to exploit her talents for the KGB.

She subsequently secures a position as an assistant on a top-secret atom bomb research project led by Max (Stephen Campbell Moore).

Once again, Joan’s abilities are squandered and she is in a position to pass secrets to the KGB via contact Sonya (Tereza Srbova).