movie film review | chris tookey
harsh reviews
An A to Z of the World's Deadliest Movie Reviews From Affleck
to Zeta Jones
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
Kenneth Branagh
Actor, Director, Henry V (1989)
The film's visual tedium, vulgarity and musical mediocrity would be more bearable if Branagh himself were a more persuasive lead actor.
(Monthly Film Bulletin)
Actor, Director, Dead Again (1991)
Scott Frank's screenplay might have been made to make sense with a few re-writes, but Branagh's involvement appears to have been creatively disastrous. His decision to cast himself and his real-life wife not once but twice renders the story utterly nonsensical. For a start, incredibly no one notices the extraordinary resemblance between the modern couple and their historical predecessors. Secondly, the physical similarity between the two couples makes the murderer's behaviour doubly incomprehensible. Frankly, the casting looks like the vanity of an old-fashioned actor-manager, and transforms the film from being merely stupid and poorly made, into a colossally arrogant act of folly.
(Chris Tookey, Sunday Telegraph)
Actor, Director, Writer, Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Such is the lack of crackle between Ken and Em that they might as well be tucked up in separate beds drinking a cup of cocoa. In terms of sexual electricity, these two are the filmic equivalents of John and Norma Major.
(Anne Billson, Sunday Telegraph)
Actor, Director, Writer, Hamlet (1996)
The cumulative impression is of that of a hugely expensive panto. Someone should have reminded the director that film, especially in 70mm, no longer requires you to play to the back row of the stalls.
(Anthony Quinn, Mail on Sunday)
Branagh is so relentlessly sociable an actor, the only scenes of his that come alive are the ones he shares with other actors - bad news for a character with five soliloquies… Branagh's made five films now, each worse than the last, each deepening the suspicion that he hasn't a natural instinct for where to put the camera - always whirling it up and around the mulberry bush to prove he knows what it is these cinema directors do. It's not. It's what theatre directors do to prove they've left the theatre.
(Tom Shone, Sunday Times)
Throughout its hubristic length, Hamlet kept reminding me of some other, pointlessly star-studded film. It wasn’t Olivier’s Hamlet. Only later did the title come back to me: Around the World in Eighty Days. There is something funny, but also tragic, about a genuinely promising young talent - once hailed as the new Laurence Olivier - turning out instead to be the new Mike Todd.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
A certifiable mess. Branagh has set the play in the late nineteenth century, when the English crown apparently paid tribute to the Danes, and Gladstone subjected emissaries to summary execution... When Branagh wants to project an impression of heroic acting, he alternates metronomically between bellowing and whining. When he wants to give us the antic Hamlet, he does a Robin Williams imitation. (It's far less restrained than Williams's own performance as Osric.) And when he wants to show us he's a moviemaker at heart, he turns Hamlet into a simulacrum of Scarlett O'Hara in the fields of Tara, swearing she'll never be hungry again.
(Stuart Klawans, Nation)
Branagh is a clever but lightweight actor with great dynamism and an endearingly conversational style, well suited to playing Benedick in Much Ado, or Iago in Othello : hopelessly out of his depth when portraying a man caught in an agony of self-doubt. His “To Be Or Not to Be” in front of a mirror is not the speech of a man in such torment that he is contemplating suicide. This Hamlet’s thought-processes are often opaque, and his performance changes gear abruptly between scenes. He lacks authority, and frequently looks less like the Prince of Denmark than Ernie Wise putting on one of his self-aggrandizing "masterpieces". Branagh is most at ease when among the Players, telling them how they all ought to act. Mind you, he would be more impressive if he weren’t guilty of overacting himself - his “What is a man?” speech before the intermission is a hilariously misconceived piece of declamatory self-indulgence, not helped by awful back projection. It has all the restraint of P.J. Proby performing I Believe. Patrick Doyle’s incidental music is used with breathtaking tastelessness, coming in whenever least needed, mostly to ruin the soliloquies. Among the many moments of awesome vulgarity is the ending, where Branagh insists on getting himself carried off with his arms out, as though crucified. Not many Hamlets overact even after they are dead.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Bum-numbing. With bleached blond hair and a muoustache shaped like a stealth bomber, he looks less like Olivier than a denizen of one of Old Compton Street's gay bars. Ignoring his own advice to the Players, he saws the air, splits the ears of the groundlings and generally tears passion to tatters; if this were a live performance, the front rows of the auditorium would be drenched in spittle. It's not so much a great film performance as an uncanny impersonation of an old-style actor-manager at full-throttle rant. Hamlet has long been one my favourite play and yet, for long stretches of it, I was bored out of my skull.
(Anne Billson, Sunday Telegraph)
Ken's Hamlet? Way over the top. I was already beginning to worry about young Ken after his wrestling-in-Mazola antics with Robert De Niro in Frankenstein: after seeing the final minutes of Hamlet, in which his body gets laid out by worshipful mourners in an unsashamedly Christ-like posture, I'm beginng to think someone should take him aside and have a little word. But perhaps it's too late: heady ambitions and unlimited clout have already turned him into the Chris Evans of Shakespearean film.
(Jonathan Coe, New Statesman)
Actor, Wild Wild West (1997)
What can one say about Kenneth Branagh's performance? No one could complain that it lacks airy self-confidence. However, it sails far beyond the bounds of the merely excruciating, and comes to rest in the wildest, darkest realms of the inexplicable.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Director, As You Like It (2006)
When he was still in his twenties, Kenneth Branagh was being hailed as the saviour of British cinema. Now, at the not so tender age of 46, his movie career appears to be over. Every review of his latest film Sleuth seems to be a pan, and his previous effort – his fifth cinematic stab at Shakespeare, As You Like It – has failed to gain a cinematic release in the USA, and it’s being shown at only a handful of venues over here. Why is no mystery. It’s a creative and commercial catastrophe, which makes his last failure, Love’s Labour’s Lost, look comparatively competent... Branagh’s poor choices when positioning his camera continue to amaze. His worst error this time is to ruin the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech of the melancholic Jaques, intoned by Kevin Kline with a lack of enthusiasm that suggests that by this point in the production he had given in not to melancholy, but to despair. Not only does Branagh decide to shoot the speech in one long tracking shot which distracts from the verse and places Kline far away in the background; the camerawork is so atrocious that for much of it Kline is out of focus... Branagh has lost the Tiggerish enthusiasm that enlivened his first two Shakespearean efforts, Henry V and Much Ado; and bafflingly has learnt nothing from previous mistakes.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Director, The Magic Flute (2006)
Still searching for a style in his eleventh movie, Branagh has discovered the crane shot. This means that for quite a lot of the time we are looking at the top of people’s heads – not too bad an idea, actually, as the miming to the soundtrack is so amateurish, and the characters spend too much of the film pulling unfortunate faces. When not inspecting his actors for dandruff, Branagh appears to be exploring an alternative career as a dentist, peering interestedly into the mouth of his Queen of the Night as, bravely if irrelevantly strapped to a military tank, she displays her cavities.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Director, Sleuth (2007)
What's clear from the opening shot of Branagh's version is that he desperately wants this Sleuth to be not the record of a play but a real, filmy film. Unfortunately, his notion of film is a combination of bizarre camera angles and an alternation of baffling long shots and punishing closeups. Once upon a time, Branagh directed some agreeable movies: the burly Henry V, the inventive Much Ado About Nothing. So I can't say his visual choices here are made from ignorance. They have to be called willfully stupid. The mise-en-scene becomes so aggressive that in its last third the picture is almost literally unwatchable. I won't reveal what happens, except to say that by the end both stars are utterly humiliated, and that the final victim is... the viewer. I wouldn't necessarily put this film in the atrocity category of a lower-I.Q. torture exercise like Captivity. But if you consider what the exalted quartet of Branagh, Pinter, Caine and Law might have done with the project, and what they did to it, Sleuth has to be the worst prestige movie of the year.
(Richard Corliss, Time)
Kenneth Branagh’s direction is, as so often recently, all over the place. Early on, he resorts to the hackneyed device of seeing much of the action from surveillance cameras, but half way through he abandons that device, possibly out of boredom, and contents himself with melodramatic camera moves and pointlessly flashy angles. Perhaps the most charitable view is to suspect that the whole film is some kind of sadistic mind-game, in which Branagh and Pinter are hell-bent on humiliating their actors. If that’s the case, they’ve succeeded magnificently.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
Key to Symbols