Argo. The fact-based story in “Argo” makes for a crackerjack thriller under director and star Ben Affleck’s sure hand. The brains, wit and tension will keep high-schoolers 16 and older as well as college film buffs totally engaged and impart a slice of history along the way. Six American foreign service personnel escaped the U.S. Embassy in Tehran just as Islamist revolutionaries took it over in 1979. The six took refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home, but it wasn’t safe for them to stay. CIA agent Tony Mendez calls a Hollywood special-effects makeup artist he knows. They invent a sci-fi movie project called “Argo,” based on an actual script. Mendez then travels to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations. We know how it turns out, but the plan is risky and the camera work is nervous, creating a heightened sense of tension.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script is riddled with strong profanity. Characters smoke and drink a lot. One scene shows Iranian revolutionaries shooting a man in the street. Scenes depicting angry mobs and armed revolutionary guards bristle with tension. Both real and re-enacted footage of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy is upsetting to watch.
Seven Psychopaths. A riotous and ingenious criminal farce, “Seven Psychopaths” is too bloody and full of foul language for children younger than 17. It will delight college-age film buffs with its dark humor and bizarre characters. Marty has writer’s block. He starts to borrow stories his pal Billy, a struggling actor, tells him. Billy earns extra money helping an aging con man, Hans, kidnap people’s dogs. But Marty and Hans make a mistake when they snatch a murderous gangster’s Shih Tzu.
The bottom line: The film is full of bloody, up-close gun and knife violence. There is a reenactment of a Vietnam War-era protest in which a Buddhist monk sets himself on fire. In addition to streaming profanity, characters use racial and ethnic slurs. They also drink and smoke a lot. There is a brief, semi-explicit sexual situation and brief drug use. Hans’s wife is in the hospital with terminal cancer.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.