CVIndependent

Fri04032020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

The Hunt, the little B movie that can’t seem to catch a break, finally got released to theaters … in the midst of a national emergency.

The results: Not surprisingly, very few people risked COVID-19 in an effort to see it sitting next to people!

Originally set for release last year, the film was postponed until 2020 due to its violent nature—and the fact that a cluster of mass shootings had occurred at the time. So the studio picked the safe haven of March for a release, only to have those plans foiled by Mr. Beer Virus.

Straight up, this is a fun B movie, but it certainly would’ve benefited from a limited release or Netflix opening. It’s got its virtues, but you probably made the right choice by staying home and watching Disney+. It’s good, but not great.

Now, when Tenet comes out, I don’t care if this emergency is still going on: I need to watch that one on IMAX.

The film starts with group of hardcore liberals on instant messaging, goofing around about the idea of hunting deplorables for sport, à la The Most Dangerous Game. Was it a joke? Will they actually hunt? What is the name of the movie?

As things turn out, those who voted for Trump will soon be in the cross-hairs: A group of non-liberals wake up in a field, find a case of weapons, and are immediately met with gunfire and arrows.

Oh my god … sounds pretty controversial, right? Nah, not really. The point of this movie is that too many people are acting like total assholes when it comes to political ideology. (Hey, I count myself as one of those assholes from time to time.) So just about every character in this film behaves badly, regardless of political affiliation. The movie is a satiric take on our current political attitudes, and how things are getting a little out of hand on social media. It’s also at times funny, bloody and suspenseful—and it contains a great kitchen fight in its closing minutes.

There are moments in the script when the movie is almost saying, “Hey, we were just ragging on Republicans, but now we will rag on Democrats! So, don’t get too mad at us!” Those obvious “balancing act” moments drag the movie down a little bit.

The hunt is masterminded by Athena (Hilary Swank). You don’t see her for a large swath of the film, but she shows up eventually and is one of the folks engaged in the above-mentioned kitchen fight. The movie primarily belongs to Betty Gilpin (Glow) as Crystal, who winds up on the hunted side—and that’s not good for the hunters. Betty can throw down, and there’s little that scares her. Gilpin has all the makings of becoming the next great cinematic action hero. She’s got a great deadpan delivery to punctuate her smack-downs, she comes up with some facial expressions that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before: She’s a sympathetic hero with depth behind her eyes. I’d say at least 80 percent of the reason I like this movie is because of Gilpin.

Some familiar faces do show up in the movie, including Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee (looking good, Ethan!), Emma Roberts and Amy Madigan. Granted, don’t get too attached to anybody, because the cast thins out fast. Swank, a two-time Oscar winner, shows that she can bring the funk whether she’s working for Clint Eastwood or Craig Zobel, the director of this one. She creates a memorable, sinister villain in Athena. In other words: This film, despite its shlock factor and obviousness, is a good time thanks to Gilpin and Swank. They embrace the nonsense and take it to fun levels.

The Hunt probably deserved a debut on a streaming service rather than the big screen—and streaming, it will be, in the near future. When it hits the TV screen, watch it if you are in the mood for a good B movie.

Published in Reviews

Edward Norton directs, writes the screenplay and stars in Motherless Brooklyn, a decent-enough adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel of the same name. It’s an OK movie, but it isn’t going to change anybody’s lives.

Norton certainly made a good-looking film here. Motherless Brooklyn is set in the ’50s, and the period details are impressive; the costuming is first-rate; and the camerawork is stellar.

As for the story … there is a convoluted plot involving murder mysteries and real estate development. It doesn’t feel like anything new—except for the twist that Norton’s private detective has Tourette’s syndrome. Norton does a convincing job of exhibiting this affliction through a series of verbal and physical ticks, coupled with obsessive-compulsive behavior. No doubt: The most-interesting aspect of this movie is Norton’s character, Lionel.

Norton assembles a strong cast, including Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Suplee (before he got ripped) and Cherry Jones. Everybody does good work, but it’s in service of a story that isn’t all that engaging. Norton did a lot of work here for a movie that is just OK.

Motherless Brooklyn is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I think my shockingly lustrous eyelashes got singed watching Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg’s harrowing account of the worst oil-rig disaster in American history.

Berg’s film drops viewers into a situation where fire and explosions are so realistic that it seems like you can feel the heat and disorientation of the 2010 disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 men and led to an oil spill eclipsing all other oil spills.

Mark Wahlberg is first-rate as Mike Williams, a real man who was on the rig at the time of the disaster. Kurt Russell equals Wahlberg’s power as Jimmy Harrell, a man who questions the integrity of the rig—and then proceeds to have the worst cinematic shower since Janet Leigh had a showdown with Anthony Perkins.

The setup is a doozy: Williams and Harrell head out for a three-week stay on the Deepwater Horizon along with a couple of BP stuffed shirts. Much to their amazement, men who were supposed to be conducting all-important tests leave shortly after their arrival without conducting anything; that gets Russell’s Harrell all riled up. Seeing Russell all riled up is always fun.

The lack of testing leads to a showdown with a sleazy BP employee, played by a slithery John Malkovich. Some backward reasoning leads to the acceptance of some bad drill results, and Deepwater Horizon is cleared to start up. Unbeknownst to the higher-ups and technicians, there’s a cataclysmic clog, and mud explodes upward. You probably know the rest.

Berg puts his film together in a way in which the mere sight of mud oozing from a pipe is terrifying. When the disaster goes into high gear, Deepwater Horizon is as scary as any horror film to hit screens this year—and there have been some pretty good horror films in 2016. The staging of explosions and fire, many done upon an oil rig built exclusively for this film, are award-worthy.

There’s a true sense of isolation and disorientation when the action goes full-throttle. Props to the editor for creating a sensation of being utterly lost in the mayhem that escalates until the final two survivors jump many stories to the ocean below.

It’s not all about the fire and explosions, as Berg, his writers and his performers all give the movie a true heroic element—one that results in heartbreak after the film plays out. Some good people perished in this disaster, and the movie pays solid tribute to them, including a nice epilogue featuring real footage and photos of the victims.

Kate Hudson plays Williams’ wife, who is having a Skype conversation with him when everything starts to go south. Hudson has always been good for waterworks, and she gets an opportunity to show off that talent here. Other standouts include Ethan Suplee as one of the men in the ill-fated drill command center, Gina Rodriguez as an employee who must endure the incompetence of a co-worker, and Dylan O’Brien as a drill worker who couldn’t have been closer to the initial stages of the disaster.

To call this a disaster film similar to those put out by Irwin Allen in the 1970s is both a compliment and a bit belittling. (Some of those where pretty great, including The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.) While this film follows a similar, schlocky blueprint at times, it has a little more substance and heart than those goofy blockbusters.

Berg and Wahlberg, who also collaborated on the very good Lone Survivor, aren’t done in 2016. Somehow, they worked it into their schedules to deliver Patriots Day, a film about the Boston Marathon bombing, on Dec. 21 in limited release, before an expanded release in January 2017. These guys are busy with their true-life epics.

Deepwater Horizon is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews