Highly violent feature from director Lynne Ramsay - who impressed many of us with her 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' (2011) - but now serves up a sequence of sensationally violent scenes with a strung-together sameness - guns, fists, even hammer - most of these being mercifully brief, some off-screen, many split-second flashbacks often with scant explanation - though it commits, for me, the cardinal error of at least one of these ultra-violent shocks being in the lead character's (Joaquin Phoenix) imagination. That's not fair - that's cheating!
From what I've seen, the film has generally had good or very good reviews. I can't help wondering if that was based more on expectations that in view of her past, Ramsay would deliver something extra-special, rather than the finished product as it is. If this had been her first film would they have been so kind? However, and as increasingly so these days, I'm out on a limb on this, so it could well be that my own verdict is lacking in discernment.
Dialogue throughout the film is spare, the taciturn Joachin Phoenix (almost unrecognisable under that bushy beard and pumped-up body) dominating just about every scene. Very few other characters utter any words at all.
It's present-day New York and a scruffy veteran (Phoenix) who specialises in finding lost children is asked by a senior politician to find his missing young daughter, he wanting to avoid adverse publicity during an election campaign. It doesn't take long for the daughter to be traced, she having been abducted as just one of a number of child victims of a paedophile ring. Phoenix spares no one's limb or life in his determined, violent efforts to rescue the girl. It's basically stuff we've seen many times before, though not often as graphically as this, and I can't help asking myself if some of the favourable verdicts of this film are due to a visceral, yet perfectly understandable, human reaction to seeing purveyors of such horrific treatment of young children being meted out with the violent summary justice which many might argue that they only deserve.
It comes as not much of a revelation when we learn the nature of the membership of this abusive circle - though I repeat that throughout the film elucidations are in scant supply, many blanks left unfilled, with nearly all the concentration being based on physical violence of blood being splattered and spilled rather than any attempt at putting some kind of rationale behind the flimsy 'plot'. I generally have no problem with films leaving loose ends dangling at the close but in this there were just too many of them for my mind to accept as being satisfactory.
I didn't think very much of this film though I've certainly seen a lot worse - and it did have a nervous energy which kept me glued to the screen apart from maybe three of four instances when I just had to look away. But many of the shocks come without warning, and are pretty well all very brief in any case. It also does have the advantage of being about only 90 minutes long. In summary, though, this does not go down as a 'must-see'...................5.
4 hours ago