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The things we do for love

Posted at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2006 by Euan Kerr

A couple of films screening this evening at 2006 Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival examine the strange things human males will do for love.

The darker side of "Love" (Screening tonight at 5 at the Oak Street and Sunday 1pm at the Crown)

Director Vladan Nikolic weaves a lot of ideas and history into the script for "Love" with mixed results. His story of a veteran of the war in Bosnia who now makes a living as a hitman in New York is a lot more plausible than most Tarantino films. Vanya doesn't like what he does, but he needs the money, and he lives in hope of reuniting with his ex, Anna, who works as a doctor in the city. She's engaged to a cop who's contending with demons of his own, including the nagging feeling that he should really be a writer. They are surrounded by a disparate gathering of petty crooks and displaced immigrants, all unsuccessfully seeking a better life.

There's more than a nod to Hammett, and Tarantino in "Love." When it works, it's good. Nikolic plays with the story's internal timeline, which reveals several new wrinkles to may of the scenes. There is also an excellent chase scene set to music played by and avant-garde harmonica player. Yet spotty acting, particularly among the supporting actors, and an at times confusing plotline, repeatedly drains momentum from the film.

Playing death and grief for laughs in "Shut Up and Shoot Me." (Screening tonight at 5 at the Bell)

"Shut up and Shoot Me" is a very dark comedy about Colin, a British man who makes Rickey Gervais looks un-neurotic, who goes on holiday to Prague with his wife Maggie. Tragically she dies in an unfortunate accident, (A statue of a saint falls on her) and Colin is so bereft he decides he wants to die. However he doesn't have the moxie to do it himself. So he enlists the only person he knows in Prague, Pavel, the man who drove him to the mortuary to pick up his wife's ashes.

Pavel desperately needs cash to support his own wife's spending habits. He's already working six jobs and the prospect of some easy cash is attractive, so he agrees. It doesn't go right though, and the pair keep digging themselves into more and more trouble, including the most notorious hitman in the Czech Republic, the Butcher of Prague.

This film works because of the pairing of Andy Nyman as Colin and Karel Roden as Pavel. While they are engaged in the very serious task of trying to end Colin's life, they squabble like an old married couple. Despite his deathwish, Colin's got a cheerily positive view of the world, which grates against Pavel's gloomy personality and Czech reality.

"Shut Up and Shoot Me" is not for everyone, but then again, what film is?

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