- Last Updated: 12:16 AM, May 25, 2012
- Posted: 10:14 PM, May 24, 2012
CANNES, France — Bootleggers and mobsters, fugitives and femme fatales — America charged into this year’s Cannes Film Festival with guns blazing.
Last year, France’s “The Artist” began its journey to a Best Picture Oscar at the Palais des Festivals, but this year it was American cinema’s turn to own the rain-drenched fest (with significant help from Australian directors and actors).
After the success of “Drive” last year, Cannes’ programmers opened the festival with Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,’’ followed by several genre-oriented literary adaptations in competition, all packed to the rafters with marquee names.
Here’s the cream of Hollywood’s Cannes crop, coming soon to a cinema near you.
* KILLING THEM SOFTLY: This violent but darkly comic gangster tale turns potentially pulpy material into pure gold. Brad Pitt, reteaming with his “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” director Andrew Dominik, is in the form of his life, playing a mob enforcer investigating a poker heist and guaranteeing himself another Best Actor Oscar nod in the process. Other big guns include Ray Liotta and an excellent James Gandolfini, plus revelatory turns from relative newcomers Scoot McNairy and the criminally underrated Ben Mendelsohn. US release: Sept. 21.
* LAWLESS: John Hillcoat’s elegantly hard-boiled 1930s bootlegging drama will make a star of British hard-man Tom Hardy, whose on-screen cardigan was the talk of Cannes. Despite the anti-fashion statement, Hardy’s intensely masculine turn as a grunting, head-cracking moonshiner has drawn comparisons to Marlon Brando. The brutal pseudoWestern surrounds him with a stellar ensemble, including Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska and Guy Pearce as a sadistic sheriff with the scariest hairdo since Javier Bardem’s in “No Country for Old Men.” Even Shia LaBeouf, as a likable wannabe gangster, is surprisingly good. Opens stateside Aug. 29.
* THE PAPERBOY: Nicole Kidman may finally win Cannes’ best actress prize for her show-stopping performance as a trashy, bottle-blond vixen who, in the movie’s most talked-about scene, has what was instantly dubbed her “douche d’or’’ (a play on the festival’s top prize) moment with Zac Efron. Oscar nominee Lee Daniels’ (“Precious”) steamy Southern noir, based on a best-selling crime novel, also stars Matthew McConaughey and Efron as two brothers hired by Kidman’s Charlotte to help her save a convicted killer (John Cusack) from death row.
* ON THE ROAD: It’s another love triangle for “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart, playing man-juggling minx Marylou in the long-gestating adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat generation classic. She be-bops alongside low-profile co-leads Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley, as well as Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. Mad props to Brazilian director Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) for seeing Kerouac’s tousled, stream-of-consciousness prose poem through to the screen. Like the following films, no confirmed North American release date yet.
* COSMOPOLIS: Dubbed “the Robert Pattinson haircut movie,” this adaptation of a 2003 Don DeLillo novel represents a return to lurid form for freaky Canadian auteur David Cronenberg. Twi-hards will have conniptions as R-Patz’s young Manhattan multibillionaire goes for a drug-fueled sex-and-death spin crosstown to visit his barber. On the way, he tangles with gun-toting madmen, nihilism and paranoia, a prostate exam, Juliette Binoche and, yes, a giant papier-mâché rat.
* MUD: Matthew McConaughey further distances himself from his role as the king of dubious rom-coms in this “Huckleberry Finn”-ish slice of Americana about two teen boys who help the grubby fugitive of the title reunite with his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon.) Last year, young Arkansas native Jeff Nichols won the Critics’ Week sidebar at Cannes with “Take Shelter”; now he’s vaulted straight into competition.
* THE SAPPHIRES: Harvey Weinstein couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after his new Aussie acquisition — a sparkly music-filled romp about four Aboriginal soul divas who became Down Under’s answer to the Supremes in the 1960s — got a 10-minute standing ovation at its Cannes premiere. “Bridesmaids” funnyman Chris O’Dowd steals the show as a boozy wannabe soul man.
* THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE: This hard-hitting examination of one of New York’s most infamous crimes marks a departure for preeminent documentarian Ken Burns, best known for sprawling PBS studies such as “The Civil War.’’ Headed for a cinema release, this collaboration with his daughter Sarah and her husband, David McMahon, eschews the usual voice-over for a fast-paced narrative following the five young black men convicted of brutally beating and raping a white Central Park jogger in 1989 before later having their convictions overturned.