Tag Archives: Joel Edgerton

It Comes At Night (2017)

9 Jun

Hot off the heels from his directorial debut Krisha, Trey Edward Shults again uses the camera as his psychological tool to pry open and dismantle the collective psyche of a family in chaos, this time with a horror-centric approach.

It Comes At Night is a psychological thriller set somewhere in a remote post-apocalyptic North America. A fatal disease has spread so fast that the core pillars of society have collapsed, triggering Paul (Joel Edgerton) to place his family on lockdown in a secluded cabin some 50 miles or so away from the nearest city center. It’s here they learn to be self-reliant, living day by day completely off the grid and away from any other survivors. Soon, Paul crosses paths with Will (Chris Abbott), another survivor who might be willing to trade some of his food in exchange for a truck-ride back to his family.  Paranoia abounds.

If it wasn’t already clear from the title, it becomes obvious from the first few minutes of the opening scene that things are going to get dark (both figuratively and literally).  Shults has a real talent for avoiding first act exposition and slowly revealing details about this world bit by bit.  Instead, the director focuses his energy creating tension out of the smallest moments with help from the cinematographer Drew Daniels;  a lingering slow zoom through an empty hallway becomes absolutely horrifying in the hands of these two. The entirety of the film takes place either inside Paul’s cabin or the woods directly adjacent to it, creating a claustrophobic quality that increases in tension along with the rising emotional status of our characters. It Comes At Night isn’t a film that is concerned with what anyone does or says so much as it is with what is going on in the mental spaces between the characters.  This type of film would not work if it wasn’t for the acting strength of everyone involved, and fortunately the supporting cast of Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. create a palatable unease within their performances.  It’s remarkable how much genuine suspense can be milked from It Comes At Night’s slim narrative; the spooks are few and far between, but the emotional payoffs this film brings to the table are the powerful kind that stick in your gut after the credits roll.

Bottom Line: Confident direction and a refusal for all things explained make It Comes At Night an essential and thrilling piece of psychologically provocative cinema. 

Rating: 8/10 

Film recipe:  Prisoners + Children of Men + The Road

Black Mass (2015)

30 Sep

Once the target of every teen girl’s dream in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Johnny Depp has seemingly fallen off the radar lately. One too many childish blockbuster roles with the likes of Tim Burton and Disney have suggested Depp’s artistic prime and affinity for serious adult fare might have faded.

That was, until director Scott Cooper (Into The Furnace, Crazy Heart) decided to make a feature film off legendary Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, and cast Depp as the lead.

Black Mass tells the real life story of Bulger during the later years of his criminal career. Known for his ruthless ferocity and known ties to FBI informants, Bulger was, historically, one of the most infamous leaders of organized crime in Boston.  With a phenomenal supporting cast (one of the year’s best, no doubt) including Jesse Plemons, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Julianne Nicholson, Bill Camp, Rory Cochrane, and Corey Stoll, Black Mass builds an effective narrative with a wide array of housewifes, criminals, prostitutes, FBI officers, junkies, CEOs, and everyone inbetween. The story weaves in and out of these various characters, but mostly focuses on how Bulger is staying off law enforcement’s radar by forging a tight-knit friendship with a certain Officer John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).

It’s a compelling watch as we see how exactly these characters are interacting (often in the form of lying, threatening, or murdering) with each other. Editing is fast and speedy, giving just enough time to let the audience digest each new piece of information before moving on to the next. The screenplay, adapted from the true crime novel by Dick Lehr and Gerard K. O’Neill, sizzles with gangster noir tendencies.

Somehow though, once you see past the starry ensemble of characters, Black Mass feels like it can’t escape the shadow of previous and far more prestigious crime flicks like The Departed, (Jack Nicholson allegedly based his character off of Whitey) The Godfather, and Goodfellas.  Though it does offer some interesting ideas within the genre, you can’t help but wonder if this film could have existed without road being paved already by Martin Scorsese.  Black Mass is all stuff we have seen before, but it’s still engaging thanks to some skillful direction and stellar chemistry between a vast array of actors.

Bottom Line: While not quite as innovative or thematically rich as it’s predecessors, Black Mass is a satisfying addition to the gangster film genre and boasts an overdue (and for once, serious) performance from actor Johnny Depp. 

 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: The Departed – cell phones + Johnny Depp in prosthetic makeup 

The Gift (2015)

19 Aug

Joel Edgerton makes his directorial debut with the psychological creepout The Gift. Starring Edgerton himself alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, the film follows a married couple, Simon and Robyn, as they make a chance encounter with Simon’s former classmate Gordo. Eager to win over their friendship, Gordo begins leaving strange, mysteriously-wrapped gifts on the couple’s doorstep. It might seem like a nice gesture, but it’s enough to get Simon riled up about having an outsider bringing up a few skeletons from an unknown shared past. What starts out as a seemingly one-way bromance between old schoolmates soon escalates into a paranoia fuelled, though cliche-ridden final act, wherein Simon decides to take matters into his own hands.

 

Distributor Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) have made a name for themselves by delivering ultra low budget/high concept genre fare for almost a decade now, and make a perfect combo for The Gift. While the film does rely mostly on a been-there-done-that concept, Edgerton seems to feel comfortable in both the acting and directorial camps, and the film flows effortlessly enough from one plot point to the next. Also of note are the surprisingly natural performances. Jason Bateman fits all too easily into his self righteous, pragmatic and emotionally distant character, as does Edgerton playing the self conscious nice-guy turned baddie. However the real standout of the film lies with Rebecca Hall in her portrayal of Robyn, the independent career woman forced to play the negotiator between the stalker and stalked. While at many times the film follows a standard, paint-by-numbers thriller game, Edgerton is familiar enough with the genre to shake up his audience just when things get into familiar territory. Though many will call the final twist overkill (and rightly so), there is a fine line to walk between feeling too manipulative and too trapped in it’s genre.

 

Bottom Line: It’s by no means the David Fincher-esc film it pretends to be, but there is an irresistible charm to this film, and, thanks to some clever screenwriting, The Gift actually adds up to be a lot smarter than the familiar premise would let on.

 

Rating: 7/10 

Film Recipe: One Hour Photo (2006), + Fatal Attraction (1987), + Play Misty For Me (1971) 

Animal Kingdom (2010)

7 Aug

With an ensemble cast of Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, and Guy Pearce, and stellar screenwriting and direction by Daivid Michod,  Animal Kingdom is a terribly underrated indie gem which stands out as one of the best films to emerge from Australia in recent times.  Part coming-of-age story, part crime-thriller, the film documents the life of a 17-year-old boy who is trying to fit in to an elusive but colorful family with a criminal past.

After the sudden death of a particular family member, the Cody family decides to take up arms and start a vendetta with the local law enforcement. What unfolds is an unpredictable and captivating series of events that set a new standard for the domestic crime drama. Animal Kingdom’s greatest strength is in it’s rich characterization. Though Jacki Weaver got the Oscar nomination, Ben Medelsohn gives the performance of his career, creating the elusive and multilayered “Pope” Cody.

While it lacks the depth of films like The Godfather or City of GodI thoroughly enjoyed this film and director David Michod really knows how to create effective tension that drives the story without missing a beat.

Rating: 8/10

Similar to: L.A. Confidential, Training Day, The Town

The Great Gatsby (2013)

8 May

As the much anticipated adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby is cool and fun to look at. DiCaprio is solid and charismatic, and fills the shoes of the timeless character Gatsby. Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan are also great and stand-out as some of the film’s highlights. With such a wonderful cast and a big-budget production, the movie had potential to be a modern touch on an epic period drama, following in the footsteps of films like An Education, A Single Man and O Brother Where Art Thou.

Unfortunately though, among all the glitz and shininess, the spirit and emotion of the novel become lost thanks to needless visuals (the 3D was overkill), a lengthy 150-minute running time and a soundtrack from Jay-Z and Lana del Rey.

In other words, what could have been a classic American film adaptation of a beloved novel gets dumbed down specifically for the YOLO generation, and ends up feeling and looking more like a music video that plays on repeat for way too long.

5/10 stars

similar to: Australia, Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette