Follow The Money: The Complete Season Two (15)
Arrow Films, £19.99
FOLLOWING its BBC Four run, Arrow's Nordic Noir & Beyond strand brings season two of the superior Danish financial thriller to DVD. Once again, irritating cop Mads Justesen (Thomas Bo Larsen) has the bit between his teeth as he investigates Nova Bank, the baddies behind season one's shenanigans. In particular he's on the trail of the bank's ruthless chief, Knud Christensen (Waage Sandø), and this time he's being helped rather than hindered by morally ambiguous lawyer Claudia Moreno (Natalie Madueno), now out of prison after taking the fall for Christensen's double-dealing in the first series. Meanwhile Nicky (Esben Smed Jensen), the garage owner and sometime car thief whose story ran in parallel to Moreno's in season one, has become the protege of “The Swede” (Claes Ljungmark), the cold-blooded hitman and fixer employed by Christensen to do his dirty work.
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Christensen's new target is Absalon Bank, run by brother and sister team Simon and Amanda Absalonsen (David Dencik and Sonja Richter). Christensen asks Moreno to help him with the takeover but instead she teams up with the Absalonsens to fight him off. Nicky and The Swede carry on their dirty work in the background while Justesen and his fraud squad partner Alf Rybjerg (Thomas Hwan) try to figure out who's doing what to whom and why.
Three major characters have now fallen by the wayside – each of them murdered, naturally – but there are enough of the main players still standing to make a third series entirely plausible. There's no word yet on that, but here's hoping.
Drunken Master (15)
Eureka Video, £14.99
MARTIAL arts star Bruce Lee cast a long shadow in Hong Kong action cinema of the 1970s and anyone seeking to come out from behind it had their work hard cut out differentiating themselves from a man whose brilliant career and tragic early death had made him an icon. Jackie Chan's approach was to use comedy and how well it worked: his blend of slapstick and acrobatics pushed him to the front of the martial arts queue and gave him a foothold in Hollywood which he cemented in the late 1980s and 1990s with films like Rumble In The Bronx and Rush Hour. Today he's one of cinema's few, true global superstars and the veteran of some 150 films.
But it all goes back to this 1978 film, released here under Eureka's Masters Of Cinema imprint and directed by Yuen Woo-ping.
Chan plays historical figure Wong Fei-hung, a wayward son who is thrown out of his father's esteemed king-fu school and sent to study with the drunken master of the title, Beggar So (played by Yuen Woo-ping's father, Yuen Siu-tien). The comedic elements – and they are many – often feel like interruptions, though without them there would be little in the way of dialogue. The fight scenes, however, are deadly serious and it's these that give the film its adrenaline rush. And with about an hour of the near two-hour running time occupied by them, it adds up to quite a hit.
Yuen Siu-tien, then in his mid-60s, would go on to star in three more Drunken Master films while his director son Yuen Woo-ping later choreographed the fight scenes in all three Matrix films and both Kill Bill films as well as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Among the extras in this lavish Blu-ray package are an interview with Welsh film-maker Gareth Evans, director of The Raid.
The Student (15)
Matchbox Films, £11.99
BASED on an acclaimed stage play – Martyr, by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg – Kirill Serebrennikov's 2016 film moves the action to an unnamed Russian town to tell the story of teenage Christian fundamentalist Venya (Pyotr Skvortsov) and his school room battles with both his teachers and his fellow pupils.
Venya's is a nasty, Old Testament view of the world. Accordingly he objects to his female classmates attending swimming lessons in bikinis, takes issue with the sex education lessons taught by his biology teacher Elena (Viktoriya Isakova), dons a monkey suit to complain about the teaching of Darwinism and then, as things turn darker, plots to kill Elena using his acolyte Grisha, lame in one leg and the class whipping boy. Elena mugs up on her bible quotations in order to counter Venya's endless pronouncements but faced with a principal who seems to revere both Communism and the Russian Orthodox church, she increasingly finds herself cast as the troublesome provocateur. If there's a message, then, it's this: in modern-day Russia, the liberal voice stands no chance against the twin monoliths of church and state. Venya's conviction that Elena is Jewish adds virulent anti-Semitism into the mix.
Serebrennikov is also a theatre director and designer, so as well as working nimbly through the more stagey aspects of the story he brings a strong visual flair to the film – the early scenes are shot in honey-coloured summer sunshine which gives on to greys and cold blues as Venya's dogmatism inevitably turns to violence. A powerful play given an equally powerful re-telling, and recognised as such at last year's Cannes film festival, where it screened in the Un Certain Regard strand and won the prestigious François Chalais Prize.