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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Craig Zobel
scr Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
prd Jason Blum, Damon Lindelof
with Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, Chris Berry, Sturgill Simpson, Kate Nowlin, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Sylvia Grace Crim
release US/UK 13.Mar.20
20/US Universal 1h30
Blackly hilarious, this bonkers horror satire is essentially an expression of rage against the deeply ingrained ignorance that fuels bigotry. The story moves at a quick pace, constantly twisting and turning, with plenty of big jolts played for laughs with outrageously grisly effects. For a bluntly grisly pastiche, the film actually has some nuance to it, adding witty textures to a metaphorical battle between left and right wings.
Things start going wrong on the private jet to The Manor, where "liberal elites" are looking forward to hunting "deplorables". The prey wake up in a clearing and are given guns to defend themselves as shots ring out from the treeline. The carnage is instant and full-on, as they are picked off one-by-one. Even those who get out of the woods only find booby-traps. But one target, Crystal (Gilpin), cracks the system and turns the tables, escaping with Gary (Suplee) then teaming up with Don (Duvall) before taking on the game's mastermind Athena (Swank).
Everything is played with a snarky sense of humour, as the killers (such as Madigan and Birney's ma-and-pop shopkeepers) discuss their victims' reprehensible denial of the truth. Crystal and Gary run into a group of refugees, whom Gary is sure are "crisis actors" like the ones he exposes on his podcast. Each stage of the odyssey is an ingeniously conceived set-piece, which leave the extended explanatory flashbacks unnecessary.
Most of the actors don't get much to do, dispatched after just a few scenes. Gilpin has the most fun with her sardonic character, a woman who doesn't trust anyone, which serves her well in this insane place. She's also the only person in the film who isn't as politically extreme as expected. Her interaction with each of the other characters sizzles, especially in the climactic scene opposite a marvellously glacial Swank, which of course devolves into a fabulously staged catfight.
This is a fiendishly well-observed look at how both halves of America think the other half is utterly wrong. The writers are essentially taking on anyone who blindly adheres to an ideology that vilifies someone else. And the details are often riotously funny, from pedantic grammar to knee-jerk judgementalism. The central point is that no one is concerned with the truth; we all just want others to confirm what we believe. It's about how we make up lies to turn others into the enemy. And that makes it one of the most important films of the year.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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