“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Brendan Foley / Actors: Vinnie Jones, Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Flemyng, Mel Smith ... / DVD released 2009-01-19 at Metrodome Group / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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When I saw this advertised as coming free with The Mail On Sunday paper, I rushed out to get the paper thinking it must be a half decent movie with such a great cast list. How wrong could I be.....there is a reason why this DVD was free and it's not a good one!
Vinnie Jones stars as a journalist stuck covering the Greyhound races and unable to break out of his rut. He has dreams of being a serious investigative reporter but is sick of never being given a chance. Then a series of murders piques his interest and he sees a chance to seize the moment and finally make his name. All the murders are linked to a recently recovered unpublished Charles Dickens manuscript and quickly Vinnie realises that if he wants to solve these new murders, he must first solve a centuries old crime whose secret is hidden in the manuscript....
Derek Jacobi, Jason Flemyng and Vanessa Redgrave all star alongside Vinnie in this mis-matched thriller that flashes back and forth uncomfortably from past to present as it tries to tell its story. This is a rather disconcerting gimmick that doesn't really work and prevents the film's plot from ever really gelling together. In fact, the flashbacks to Dicken's time even start to get really really annoying after a while though if this was the film's only fault, they might just have been excused. Unfortunately the film is also cursed with a plot that continues to look like it doesn't know where it is going and a bloody awful script!
Vinnie is reknown for not always picking the best roles and Flemyng has not had a decent part since Lock Stock (excepting his cameo in Transporter 2) but you can't help thinking Jacobi and Redgrave ought to have known better! I'd like to say they were only in this for the money but I very much doubt it made much if it was being given away free with a Sunday tabloid and the budget looks minimalistic to say the least with each and every scene!
If you only ever don't watch one movie in your lifetime then this is the one you don't want to watch! The only riddle is how this ever got made....scrub that, the only riddle is who might want to watch this tosh!
A pub landlady comes across an unseen manuscript by Charles Dickens. However, before she can do any more than leave a message on a journalist's phone about it, she is found dead, apparently killed. When Mike, the journalist, hears her message, he is intrigued, and eventually finds the manuscript. He teams up with Kate, a police press officer and a tramp to find out what happened to Sadie and along the way, he also becomes intrigued by a murder described in Dicken's manuscript. It soon becomes clear that if he solves Dicken's murder, then he will be a lot further forward in solving Sadie's. However, there are people who are desperate to stop him in his tracks. Will he ever find the answers he is searching for?
Directed by Brendan Foley, this film is rather individual because it became the first feature film to be distributed on DVD by a national newspaper - The Daily Mail. The Daily Mail bought the rights to the film and gave it away as a freebie to people who bought the newspaper. Many will think this automatically makes the film a dud - free DVDs with newspapers are usually either very old or very bad. And there is unfortunately no exception here. The Riddle has an original idea, but it is badly told and, much of the time, doesn't make much sense.
The greatest mystery of all is how Derek Jacobi came to be associated with this film. He is a talented and acclaimed actor and I have never seen him in a bad role. To be fair, he probably is the only saving grace of the film. He plays both the tramp and Charles Dickens and is pretty good at both. As Charles Dickens, he is perhaps a little over theatrical, particularly compared to everyone else's acting, but he's still good. As the tramp, he is a kindly old man who has somehow lost his way - his chance meeting with Mike is highly contrived, as is his involvement with the case thereafter - however that is not Jacobi's fault. Thankfully, he does look completely different, so there is no confusing the two roles.
Vinnie Jones plays Mike. I think Vinnie Jones has some talent as an actor - I thought he was great in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, for example. Here, however, he comes across as being incredibly wooden. Perhaps I've come to associate him too much with rough and ready criminal-type roles, because he certainly didn't seem like a journalist at all. He isn't completely awful, but I really got the impression that Brendan Foley didn't make the most of him and should have edited out quite a lot of his scenes. As for his so-called relationship with Kate, played by Julie Cox - there was absolutely no chemistry between the two of them whatsoever. Frankly, Kate's role was superfluous. Julie Cox just never seemed to get into the role.
Another mystery is the appearance of Mel Smith as a Professor of literature and Vanessa Redgrave as a Devil Wears Prada-style editor. Mel Smith is convincing enough, but doesn't really have an impact on the overall story. Vanessa Redgrave really hams her role up and not, as far as I am concerned, in a good way. I was actually quite shocked at just how bad she was. On a more positive note, I really liked Vera Day as the pub landlady. She came across as being natural and likeable - it's just a shame her character died so early in the proceedings.
The way the story is told is not exactly original, but it is rather strange, for all the wrong reasons. The film starts off with Mike's story, until the landlady finds the manuscript, when it suddenly switches to Charles Dickens and his narration of the murder of his sister-in-law. So suddenly does the switch occur that I actually thought there was something wrong with the DVD and it was another film entirely. And even after I'd got used to the idea of there being two stories, I still found the switching between the two clumsy and strange. There are other examples of poor editing in the main part of the film - clumsy switching between Mike making toast and the finding of Sadie's body, for example; also some continuity errors.
The worst part of the film is undoubtedly the end. By that point, I had long given up the idea of anything likely to save the film. All that was needed was a tidying up of the ends and the credits. However, what actually happens is inexplicable and frankly, just plain daft. I think Foley's idea of linking the two stories was a bad one. Both would have made reasonable, if a little dull, films on their own, but combining them just left me with a sense of having wasted my time. I just couldn't understand the point of it all - with perhaps the exception of Derek Jacobi's acting, there really are no advantages to this film at all.
Just as a final insult, there is some quite odd music that accompanies the film. Most film music is played in the background, unless it has a real purpose to the story. Here, there is some very in your face music that doesn't fit the film all that well and is most definitely distracting. One song in particular that is played while Mike is drugged and being seduced by a young woman is very sexual and more than a little bit creepy. The overall impression is strange and uncomfortable. There's a rating of 12 on the film, for these mild sexual scenes and a bit of blood and violence at the end. Really not much that children shouldn't see - although I doubt very much that they would get past the first ten minutes anyway.
There are no extras with the DVD - I am reviewing the film only.
I was very disappointed with this film. It isn't totally unwatchable, at least not to me, but then I have a very high threshold for rubbish. If you're a big fan of any of the actors, then it might be worth a very brief look, but I think you'll be disappointed. It certainly isn't worth the price that it is selling for on play.com. However, I'm sure there won't be any difficulty in getting hold of the Daily Mail DVD - copies seem to be readily available in charity shops at at car boots. Not recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 116 minutes
This 2008 film never really made it to the big screen or even to general DVD release with any degree of success. Instead, it was heralded by The Mail on Sunday, which bought it and then mass distributed it, giving it out for free with the newspaper one Sunday.
I'm surprised that it only made it into my lap in this method, because it's actually quite enjoyable in many ways. There is a convoluted plot involving a previously undiscovered Charles Dickens novel, , with journalist Mike Sullivan (Vinnie Jones) doggedly purusing the manuscript, at the same time as investigating a number of similar murders happening on the Thames' river banks, in the heart of London.
The two plots run along next to each other, threatening to join up at various points. Director and writer Brendan Foley manages to keep the two as independent stories for a great deal of the time, with the characters being the main links between the two plots. We are swayed about like yoyos, wondering whether the murders are linked to the manuscript or not, and the film is peppered with flashbacks, as Charles Dickens recounts a few days in his life. I didn't find it particularly clear, but the assumption is that the flashbacks, as they were, are Mike reading the manuscript.
A certain amount of liberty is taken in terms of the history, so you musn't believe everything that is said about Dickens in this. However, put this aside and it's actually a very clever thriller. The acting is, on the whole, impressive. Jones isn't the greatest actor, but he is smooth in many ways, and he is very well supported by a fine British cast, including Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Cox, Jason Flemyng and a fabulously quirky Derek Jacobi.
There are also strong performances from Mel Smith and P H Moriarty, and I found that the acting all seemed very natural, for the most part. The film is quite long, at nearly two hours, and the plot does get very complicated and twisted. There are a few twists/surprises along the way, which add to the enjoyment, and ultimately, it's a very well made film.
However, there is nothing particularly 'special' about the film. Sure, it's enjoyable to watch, but it lost me a few times, so complicated were the plots, and the majority of it plodded along, letting the plot and actors do everything as opposed to fine tuning bits here and there. This didn't stop me enjoying the film, but it did make me think it was more an average film than one to watch over and over, or even shout from the rooftops. It's certainly more deserving of recognition than it got, and as far as British films go, it's worthy of its place among them.
If you want to watch this, then it is available on DVD from amazon.co.uk for £7.98 at the moment. I should expect you can get it cheaper elsewhere, as it's not a high profile film at all. If you can get your hands on it, then it's definitely worth a watch.