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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Guy Nattiv
prd Jaime Ray Newman, Guy Nattiv, Oren Moverman, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Dillon D Jordan
with Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, Bill Camp, Mike Colter, Vera Farmiga, Daniel Henshall, Louisa Krause, Mary Stuart Masterson, Zoe Colletti, Kylie Rogers, Colbi Gannett, Russell Posner, Portia
release US 26.Jul.19,
TORONTO FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
Based on a true story, this film plunges the audience directly into a life of anger, drugs, violence and hatred. Depicted with a mix of edgy authenticity and over-the-top ugliness, this isn't a particularly nice place to spend two hours. Cleverly, writer-director Guy Nattiv reveals early on that this story will take a positive turn. Still, the overlong, repetitive brutality is very hard to watch.
In 2009 Ohio, the heavily tattooed Byron (Bell) is a core member of an extremist white supremacist group led by political candidate Krager (Camp). At a rally, Byron meets Julie (Macdonald) and her three singing daughters (Colletti, Rogers and Gannett), whom he protects from the meathead crowd. Arrested in an FBI raid, Agent Marks (Masterson) offers him a deal, which he rejects. Meanwhile, Daryle (Colter) is working to out fascists and rehabilitate them. And when Byron finally reaches the end of his rope, he gives Daryle a call. But getting out isn't easy.
Intercut with scenes of Byron having his tattoos painfully removed one-by-one, the narrative explores the daily life of this racist group, from the way Krager and Shareen (Farmiga) recruit aimless young men to the raucous roughhousing between these hyper-macho thugs. The group's actions and beliefs are deeply reprehensible, and the filmmakers depict the movement with unflinching ferocity. The low-life trashiness feels somewhat heightened, especially with the often lurid lighting (which does look great), although it needs to be appalling to make the point.
Bell is frighteningly full-on in this role, using all of his physicality to convey Byron's inner rage. The way he interacts with other characters is unapologetically tactile, oozing charisma. And when he breaks, it's simply staggering. Macdonald is the perfect foil for him, with her equally engaging, explosive personality. So despite their rather odd-couple appearance, their relationship feels realistically sweet and tough. In the powerful supporting cast, Farmiga is particularly strong in an against-type role as the seductive Shareen ("Call me Ma").
When Byron finally comes to his senses, his reawakening is realistically gruelling, especially when his "family" returns for him. The harrowing story unfolds forcefully, with a series of sequences that are beautifully played even as they depict revolting attitudes and actions. Nattiv draws provocative parallels between the viciousness Byron unleashed the past and the pain he experiences trying to clean up his life. So the fact that he did get out offers a blast of hope.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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