By Roger Costa
Grieving the brutal killing of his wife, who was killed over an argument in traffic, a man is hired for a strange demolition job by an eccentric, generous passerby. Since he’s been trying to settle his relationship with his daughter, who became partly deaf in the incident, he accepts the job as an excuse to get closer to her. When they arrive at the desolated area in New Mexico, they are taken hostages by two outsiders, a pair of lovebird serial killers, putting them at risky, life-threatening situations that will test their commitment to each other as well as their family bond. Directed by K. Asher Levin, this turbulent, ultra-violent and disturbing abduction thriller brings convincing performances from its stellar cast, including the always efficient Thomas Jane as the father, Harlow Jane as the silently angry daughter coping with trauma and loss, and the versatile Emile Hirsch in an impressive turn as a psychopathic killer. Liana Liberato as his merciless girlfriend rounds up the quadruple, adding up hysteria and uncontrollable fury to the narrative. It is a high-octane suspense-filled, mind-bending and entertaining dramatic thriller about surviving violence in its most despicable and raw forms.
(Saban Films. 9/23. In Theaters and On Demand.)
THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING
Marking the directorial debut of Gaysorn Tavarn, and written by Sophie Henderon, this tender, heartfelt and urgent dramatic comedy brings a revelatory performance by Essie Davis. She plays a headstrong unemployed woman who fiercely fights the system in order to reunite with her two children who are under the custody of social services. She anchors the film with a tour-de-force presence that easily puts her under the radar as one of this year’s most impressively embodied characters. Determined to prove the system hasn’t been doing their jobs fairly, depriving her of options and opportunities, on both housing and employment directions, she sees no exit but to turn to drastic actions in order to see her children. She finds a little help from her niece (the amazing Thomasin McKenzie, in a poignant turn as a shy and traumatized teen), as she runs away from the domestic abuse of her stepfather and mother’s negligence and bonds with her socially unprepared aunt. A lovely, dynamic humanitarian export from New Zealand, the film accurately addresses relevant issues related to abuse of women, displacement and abandon, as well as bureaucracy and the abuse of human rights. The result is triumphant, funny and inspiring.
(FilmRise. 9/23. In Theaters. 9/30 on VOD.)
The second part in Romanian director Bogdan George Apetri’s trilogy about mysterious crimes set in his hometown confirms his ability as a master of suspense. The film is another example of his unique aesthetic in creating atmospheric and intricated stories that examine the inexplicable brutality living within us. Based in New York where he teaches film at Columbia University, Apetri is a distinguished voice among the New Wave of Romanian Cinema, developing his films with a singular artistry. In this meticulously observed, precisely detailed account of dark situations involving a crime no-one seems to care about, Apetri sets fire on screen, conducting mysterious long takes with intellectually stimulating dialogues and admirable complexity. A detective is obsessed in solving a suspicious hotel fire that killed dozens and was deemed as an accident. Convinced that a man, who worked there as a guard, is the responsible for the crime, he starts an intense investigation off the records, descending on a spiral of compulsive obsession and madness. Even his personal, destructive life of debts and unsolved emotional dilemmas seems to have less impact in his priorities: he’s determined at any cost to get to the bottom of it. But inevitably nothing is really what is seems. The efficient cinematography, along with the piano music, serves as an important element in the narrative: the aerial view of the mountainous city gorgeously contrasts with the shocking violence depicted, the same way his journey as an intrusive investigator captures brilliant angles and dazzling dark neon-like lights. Built as a social/moral horror story about the fractures of human justice and the emotional impacts of negligence and infidelity, it is an atmospheric, twisted and haunting slow-burn crime thriller.
(Film Movement. 9/16. On VOD and Digital.)