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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Max Winkler
scr Theodore B Bressman, David Branson Smith, Max Winkler
prd Brad Feinstein, Jules Daly, Kevin J Walsh, Ryan Stowell
with Charlie Hunnam, Jack O'Connell, Jessica Barden, Jonathan Majors, John Cullum, Fran Kranz, Nick Mullen, Naheem Garcia, James Perella, Johnno Wilson, Margaret Devine, Jere Shea
release US 6.Nov.20,
19/US Paramount 1h32
TORONTO FILM FEST
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There's a grim inevitability to this drama about siblings whose lives have gone off the rails. Director Max Winkler takes a hushed, whispery approach, so the pace is slow and aimless, and it's somewhat exhausting to strain to hear the dialog. But the fine actors offer glimpses into the characters, adding a strong sense of emotion. So the story remains quietly engaging as it takes some provocative turns.
Living in a squat, brothers Stan and Lion (Hunnam and O'Connell) spend their mornings working out at the boxing gym before their jobs in a textile factory. In hawk to local gangster Pepper (Majors), Stan pins his hopes on Lion winning the next underground match. But Lion balks at this, and now Pepper send them cross-country for a bare-knuckle fight at Jungleland in San Francisco, taking feisty young Sky (Barden) with them. As they drive, they get into some low-key adventures. And they also have an appointment with violent crime boss Yates (Cullum) in Reno.
The meandering pace echoes the unfocussed way these three people face their lives. That said, Sky encourages Lion to stand up to his brother and take control of his future, distancing himself from Stan's clearly self-destructive path. So there are brief bursts of energy along the way, offering everyday humour and some nicely offhanded observations. But the plot feels contrived to heap additional problems on characters who can't possibly be as stupid as they seem.
Hunnam brings his swaggering charm to Stan, a loser who tries to make the most of each situation. And since he trashes everything he touches, he wants more for Lion. Hunnam generates terrific big-brother camaraderie with O'Connell's Lion, a more thoughtful guy who goes along with Stan despite his better judgement. So it's not surprising that he's the one who connects with Sky, who is played with remarkable texture by Barden as an observant, sensitive young woman who can take care of herself.
The gentle desperation that infuses each scene is mesmerising, encouraging us to root for this messy trio to sort out their individual issues, which of course is unlikely to happen if they remain together. So the plot has an inevitability to it, and even the tentative romance between Lion and Sky is tinged with sadness. This hopelessness is wrenching, and it makes the movie's final act both moving and very dark, doubling down on some disturbing expressions of toxic masculinity.
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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