Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Without Remorse, the Bulgarian Front, and the Impossible Middle-Deck Deal

May 4th, 2021 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.


Captain Conan (Film, France, Bertrand Tavernier, 1996) The aggression and disdain for authority that makes the leader of a ragtag shock troop on WWI’s Bulgarian front (Philippe Torreton) a hero on the battlefield turns him into a loose cannon after the Armistice. Experiential novel adaptation with energetic, chaotic combat sequences centers on the relationship between the hardnosed protagonist and his intellectual right hand man (Samuel Le Bihan.)—RDL

The Ghost of Peter Sellers (Film, UK, Peter Medak, 2018) The director of The Ruling Class and The Changeling recounts the nightmare of making an ultimately shelved pirate comedy a) without a polished script, b) shot largely on the water, c) with notoriously recalcitrant superstar Sellers. Documentary examines an emotional wound that still eats at Medak half a lifetime later, when other surviving participants have long since written off the debacle as the cost of doing show business.—RDL

The Friend of the Desert (Fiction, Pablo d’Ors, 2009) Czech office worker joins an eccentric society whose members share a fascination with the mysteries of the desert. Spare, absurdist-adjacent novella of achieving selfhood through the abandonment of identity.—RDL

The Magician and the Cardsharp (Nonfiction, Karl Johnson, 2005) In 1932, close-up magician supreme Dai Vernon tracked down card mechanic Allen Kennedy to learn the secret of the impossible center-deck deal. Johnson’s indefatigable research provides ample background to both men and their milieus: Pendergast’s Kansas City, small-town Missouri, and Vernon’s stage-magic subculture. Infectious, fascinating, and earnest, like all the best magic tricks. –KH [Note: The link goes to the hardback; the paperback is cheap POD that shames the good name of Henry Holt.]

Woman of Water (Film, South Korea, Kim Ki-young, 1979) To qualify for a land grant, a wounded Vietnam vet (Kim Chung-chul) marries a lonely young woman (Kim Ja-ok) whose shame over her speech impediment prevents her from speaking in public. Subtlety is for the weak in this scathing domestic melodrama with elements of rural noir.—RDL


Buffaloed (Film, US, Tanya Wexler, 2020) Blue-collar hustler Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutsch) picks herself up after a prison sentence by climbing to the top of Buffalo’s debt collection racket. Manic wing-eating riff on The Wolf of Wall Street takes the easy way out too many times for me to give it a Recommendation, but Deutsch’s shining energy dominates the screen in a way that makes me wish for about a thousand more comedies — ideally comedies that decide whether they want to be screwball, caper, or social-problem pieces — she could run roughshod through. Also noteworthy for never condescending to Peg, and for Judy Greer’s terrific performance as Peg’s mom. –KH


Without Remorse (Film, US, Stefano Sollima, 2021) Navy SEAL John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) pursues his wife’s killers and uncovers a nefarious plot. Literally none of this film’s story was surprising in any way (except that it’s surprising that a Taylor Sheridan script could be so dull), and very little of it was particularly thrilling. A seeming commitment to realism (which renders many of its gunfights murky) disintegrates when plot contrivances require it; Sollima wastes Jordan’s charisma by likewise enmeshing it in dim murk. The high point by far is Jónsi’s discordant score, which deserved a better movie. –KH

Not Recommended

Time to Hunt (Film, South Korea, Yoon Sung-Hyun, 2020) Trio of young small time crooks seeks to escape the hopelessness of an economic collapse by knocking off a gambling den, attracting the attention of a determined assassin who likes to toy with his prey. A brilliant formal device—action thriller scenes shot and edited with horror techniques—drowns in an undisciplined hodgepodge of a script.—RDL

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