The Venice Film Festival began with sharks, tai chi and 9/11.
Even if it seemed the strangest piece of programming, the inclusion of the Australian-Singapore co-production Bait 3D in the hallowed high art Venice Film Festival program beggared belief once it unspoiled to a sparsely crowded room of critics on Tuesday evening. Neither funny nor terrifying, it was essentially a lifeboat drama where the cast, stuck in a flooded supermarket following a tsunami and being circled by a great white shark, really only talk, bond, deal with personal issues and generally overact.
With some of Australia’s rising talent on screen, Kimble Rendall’s film (pictured) is aiming for the youth audience with a bunch of Aussie actors who’ve made it overseas. The Twilight Saga Eclipse’s Xavier Samuel is the lead; Sharni Vinson is feisty, though sports an American accent (from her time working on US projects including 2010’s Step Up 3D) as does Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon, the bad guy-seeking-redemption of the piece. And then there’s another feisty Home and Away hottie, Phoebe Tonkin, as well as Lincoln Lewis, her co-star in Tomorrow, When the War Began, a more successful Paramount movie. The poor Singaporean and Chinese actors, Adrian Pang and Yuwu Qi (respectively), bite the dust in heroic fashion, fulfilling the genre conceit of sacrificing coloured people.
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It was only just deserts then that in Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi 0, the Chinese kung fu extravaganza which screened the following day, that the Caucasians should die. Again, it’s hardly a movie you would take your mother to. It was, however, a kinetic, youth-oriented project that this sought-after demographic will love, if they can overcome the hindrance of subtitles, which the movie manages to get around rather cleverly with a minimum of dialogue, a thundering soundtrack and some pretty neat computerised effects which leave Bait 3D’s aspirations for dead. It follows a young boy coming to tai chi enlightenment with the help of Master Chen (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and his beautiful daughter, played by a stunning young actress called Angelababy. As explained in clever, funny subtitles, Jackie Chan’s stunt person also appears in the movie, which releases here through Icon on September 27.
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Kiefer Sutherland didn’t turn up at the festival for Mira Nair’s opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist though the 24 star may have been bemused that the film’s final blow-up rested on the failed communications from a mobile phone. Beautifully shot by Declan Quinn and featuring a career-making performance from talented British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Trishna) ,the political thriller is ultimately about two men, Ahmed’s Wall Street analyst and Liev Schreiber’s Lahore-based journalist trying to be true to themselves and to their beliefs. Based on Mohsin Hamid’s novel, the story emanates from an interview being conducted by Schreiber’s journalist with Ahmed’s Muslim university professor, and the revelations that are made as he tells of the difficulties he endured after the 9/11 attacks in New York. Nair, who made her name with Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Monsoon Wedding (2001), lives in the city herself.