Film Review: Mayfair

Director Sara Blecher’s Mayfair has some interesting ideas swirling round, even if the execution is not perfect.

After losing his job as an international aid worker, Zaid returns to his hometown of Mayfair in Johannesburg. His father’s business is in trouble, owing money to some dangerous people. Zaid reluctantly steps in to help…

Directed by Sara Blecher with a screenplay by Neil McCarthy, Mayfair is a gangster film set in a suburb of Johannesburg. The setting is integral to the story; Mayfair is suburb that was populated by Indian immigrants, but is now more of a melting pot. These different groups play a significant part in the film, with the old guard feeling usurped by newcomers.

There is an uneasiness throughout the film, which Blecher controls well. The director makes the most of the setting. The danger of the city is palpable, with the threat of violence never too far away. The use of lighting is notable, particularly in the second half of the film. The artificial, sometimes flickering, light accentuates the griminess of the environment.

After a slow start, when the narrative kicks into gear it is most welcome. A sense of urgency is injected when a family member is put in danger. The narrative that follows is fairly predictable. There is tension present, but the narrative lacks originality. The film apes the central premise of The Godfather with a reluctant son taking over from the ageing father. Zaid’s journey is not particularly gripping, partly because the character is not endearing. The romantic strand is rather limp. It feels superfluous until Ameena herself addresses the fact that she is treated like a sounding board. It seems like their relationship will become more complex afterwards, but this fails to materialise. Ronak Patani delivers an subpar performance as Zaid, whilst Rajesh Gopie appears more authentic.

The subject is ripe for exploration, but ultimately the generic plotting is what lets Mayfair down.

Mayfair is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Press Conference

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

Last week the directors and stars of Captain America: The Winter Solider were in London to promote the film. Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo were on good form for the film’s London press conference. Here are some of the highlights…

On what Steve Rogers should catch up on

Anthony Russo: I would recommend he check out Captain America: The Winter Solider!

Joe Russo: Four words. Fifty Shades of Grey.

Scarlett Johansson: Umm, cakepops!

Samuel L. Jackson: Red 2

Sebastian Stan: The Godfather for sure, right? And maybe cronuts.

Anthony Mackie: Any Eddie Murphy movie before The Golden Child.

On putting other characters they have played into the Marvel world

Chris Evans: Oh my movies are terrible, I don’t want to do this!

Samuel L. Jackson: I’d put Mitch Henessey from The Long Kiss Goodnight into the Marvel universe.

Scarlett Johansson: If I could do the voice from Her that would avoid the early morning gym hours so I’m going to choose that one!

Sebastian Stan: Looking at my brilliant filmography outside of the Captain America movies, I’m not even going to speak right now…

Anthony Mackie: I would say Nate Ruffin from We Are Marshall because he was such a cool, hip cat.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On Captain America: The Winter Soldier deleted scenes

Samuel L. Jackson: As usual Nick is always trying to be three steps ahead. All of a sudden when he finds out that he’s been used it becomes incumbent on him to find out why, and use all the tools he has at his disposal to make that happen. And, as usual, part of it has to do with subterfuge and diversion, even down to fooling and his most trusted compatriot. We actually shot a scene that where that’s explained but I’ve been told it slows the film down in a significant way, and they didn’t want to slow it down. But, when you get the DVD and you click on my face there’s a hidden feature that will allow you to access that scene!

Joe Russo: I think there are about six or seven minutes of deleted scenes.

On stunts and injuries

Chris Evans: Doing stunt work, it’s physical stuff and even when you block a punch, that punch lands somewhere. Any fight with Frank Grillo – he doesn’t know how to pull his punches!

Anthony Mackie: Yeah, we were hitting each other for real.

Chris Evans: If you don’t block Frank Grillo’s punch, you’re going to get knocked out. He’s a boxer, he doesn’t know anything but 100%.

Anthony Mackie: No, that’s because he is a mean person.

Scarlett Johansson: Frank Grillo beat the shit out of me! I like to be able to do as much of the stunt work as possible. As capable and amazing as the stunt team are, I would rather do some of it and have some battle wounds.

Samuel L. Jackson: I used my stuntman extensively. I have no issues with him being hurt, that’s what he’s paid to do, and he loves it, he’s from a stunt family. His father was a stuntman, all his brothers are stuntmen. Before they could eat breakfast in the morning their father kicked them down the stairs or made them jump out of a window to come downstairs to get their breakfast. I used Kiante [Elam] more than… my god, he works more than I do sometimes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On musical talents

Anthony Mackie: I deal with the trumpet a little bit; growing up in New Orleans you have to learn an instrument. I’m nice on the spoons, I can do a funky beat, you know, slip some turntables…

Samuel L. Jackson: So in other words, no!

On Sebastian Stan’s nine-picture Marvel contract

Anthony Mackie: Damn kid!

Samuel L. Jackson: That’s what happened to the rest of my deal!

Sebastian Stan: I have no idea [what will happen with the character]. I’m still trying to realise that I’m sitting up here with these guys. Wherever [Anthony and Joe Russo] want to take the stories, that’s where I’m going.

Anthony Russo: We were going to use this press conference to announce than Anthony Mackie will no longer be with us. Falcon was a one-off!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier UK Press Conference

On Captain America 3 going head to head with Superman vs. Batman

Anthony Russo: When two cars are speeding at each other, one of them has to veer out of the way at some point.

Anthony Mackie: Hell yeah! Put it out there, baby! Tell them, tell them!

Anthony Russo: I think Marvel announced that date originally. Marvel was trading off that May date for a long time, and I think when Warner Brothers decided to move that film they moved it to the May date. I can see why Kevin [Feige] wasn’t moving from that date.

Anthony Mackie: Boom. Deal with that!

Chris Evans: All we can do is focus on making the best movie that we can make. Depending on how it gets releases, well there are other forces at work.

Anthony Mackie: In other words, punks step up to get beat down. Know about that!

Samuel L. Jackson: There’s Marvel where you have heroes, and DC where you have interesting bad guys.

On their heroes

Chris Evans: My parents.

Scarlett Johansson: David Bowie!

Samuel L. Jackson: The young people who put their lives on the line for us.

Sebastian Stan: My mum definitely, and I guess probably Jim Carrey.

Anthony Mackie: My two brothers.

Joe Russo: I can’t decide whether it’s Superman or Batman.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is released in UK cinemas on 26th March 2014.