film focus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am

Whether it's a sign Hollywood screenwriters are running out of ideas and TV shows to adapt or confirmation that truth really is stranger than fiction, films based on real-life characters have become prevalent in the past few years. Little wonder, because not only do their subjects provide ready-made and invariably rags-to-riches stories, but they are the kind of film that attracts Oscars, as evidenced by this year's best actor and best actress awards.

A sub-genre flourishing amid this trend is the musical biopic. Kick-started by Jamie Foxx's Oscar-winning turn as R&B legend Ray Charles in Ray (2004), interest in the musical biopic has seen the likes of former Rolling Stone Brian Jones (Stoned) and a 'fictional' rocker bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kurt Cobain (Last Days) get the treatment recently, and films charting the lives of Miles Davis, Iggy Pop and Janis Joplin are in the pipeline.

One of the better examples of this type is Walk the Line (Star Movies, today at 9pm), which chronicles the lives of Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash. Joaquin Phoenix is excellent as the Man in Black, who battles the demons of drink and drug addiction and the pressures of touring and fame

as his unique brand of country music makes him a household name. Reese Witherspoon (below with Phoenix) also impresses - the role of Carter Cash garnered her a best actress Academy Award last year - and the chemistry between the two is believable.

As with most films of this kind, however, it is the music that brings it to life, and with a body of work as distinguished as that of Cash, it's hard to go wrong.

Over on terrestrial television, don't miss superlative cop thriller Narc (TVB Pearl, next Sunday at 12.55am). This gritty, violent take on the genre sees Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) and Ray Liotta (GoodFellas) star as a pair of cops thrown together to investigate the death of an undercover narcotics officer. Liotta is Detective Lieutenant Henry Oak, who will stop at nothing to discover how his friend and fellow officer died, while Patric is Detective Sergeant Nick Tellis, a former 'narc' who returns to the force 18 months after being dismissed over an accidental shooting. As the two retrace the dead man's steps, they find themselves immersed in a dangerous world of police corruption, drug deals and moral quandary.

Both leads give performances that make their disappointing career arcs difficult to fathom while the plot is superbly wrought and the direction sparse and assured. Most probably, however, you will remember this film for its ending, which packs a punch like a slyly concealed knuckle duster.