Reviewed by Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., June 15, 2007
HBO Home Video, $26.98
In the name of expediency, let's say movies can be lumped into three broad categories as they relate to actors: First, you've got your blockbusters, wherein action and bombast trump everything else and individual actors are about as significant as ants in a farm. Then you have movies like The Sting or All the President's Men, where visceral entertainment is still the goal but performances grease the wheels of empathy. Last, you have the "actor's films," those little arthouse dramas where action takes a back seat to the wonder of watching a brilliant cast act brilliantly. Longford fits neatly into this last category; its story about the notorious "Moors Murders" that shocked England in the 1960s is what actors are talking about when they say they want their next projects to be "character-driven." So, it's no surprise that Jim Broadbent chose to play the film's title role, Frank Pakenham, the seventh earl of Longford. Blessed with boundless talent but born with a face more Milo O'Shea than Peter O'Toole, Broadbent has made a career out of playing stubborn eccentrics and unconventional leading men, and he brings his trademark combination of subtlety and whimsy to the role of Pakenham, the absentminded prison reformer whose misguided devotion to moors murderess Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton) all but ended his career as a public servant. Lingering on the edges of Pakenham and Hindley's relationship, and occasionally seeping into it like some pernicious mist, is Ian Brady, Hindley's sociopathic lover and partner in crime, played with Shakespearean relish by Andy Serkis. You probably know Serkis from films you didn't know you knew him from: He was the human canvas on which Peter Jackson painted both his computer-generated King Kong and Gollum. Freed from the anonymity of a motion-capture suit, Serkis approaches the role of Brady in the same way a jackal newly released into the wild might attack a table full of hot dogs, if there were hot dogs in the wild. He acts like he's been dying to get into the ring with heavyweights like Broadbent and Morton for years, and now that he has, he's going to transform a two-bit amoral greaser into Iago himself.
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