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Survive the Night
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Matt Eskandari
scr Doug Wolfe
prd Randall Emmett, George Furla, Shaun Sanghani, Mark Stewart
with Chad Michael Murray, Bruce Willis, Shea Buckner, Tyler Jon Olson, Lydia Hull, Riley Wolfe Rach, Jessica Abrams, Ravare Elise Rupert, Sara Lynn Holbrook, Jef Holbrook, Charlie Alvarado, Natalie DiDonato
release US 22.May.20,
20/US Lionsgate 1h30
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Opening with some foreshadowing medical grisliness, this hostage thriller has a slickly violent sheen to it, but is essentially a substandard B-movie. The growly script builds its characters with bare-bones backstories before diving headlong into lots of indulgent brutality. The production looks great, and the violence is genuinely nasty, but without any depth, the people and situation never quite come to meaningful life.
After a fall from grace, doctor Rich (Murray) has moved with his wife Jan (Hull) and teen daughter Riley (Rach) to live on the family farm with his judgmental ex-sheriff father Frank (Willis) and kind mother Rachel (Abrams). Meanwhile, after killing a man during a robbery, brothers Jamie and Matthias (Buckner and Olson) are headed to Mexico with a bag of cash. During a pitstop, Matthias is injured during a shootout. So they head to a nearby clinic and follow Rich home, viciously threatening his entire family as they demand medical assistance.
There's plenty of time to establish character detail before everything kicks off, but screenwriter Wolfe merely drops in cursory conflicts that offer no actual subtext (troubled marriage, strained father-son, curious daughter). Meanwhile, director Eskandari is clearly more interested in the escalating violence, especially relishing the trigger-happy Jamie's unhinged over-reactions. But he knows how to stage a suspenseful set-piece, so even with a number of preposterous moments, the movie holds the interest.
The straightforward dialog very nearly defeats the cast, leaving them sounding like they're quoting lines from an even worse movie. Murray has terrific presence at the centre of the storm, trying to negotiate with the more reasonable Matthias to save his family. Buckner and Olson have plenty of charisma, but are never more than thugs, even if one is less monstrous than the other. Willis' tough-as-nails Frank is so surly that he barely registers, so we wait for him to kick into Die Hard mode.
Relentlessly dark with little real-life spark, the movie wallows in both fear and macho posturing, with constant gun-waving and trash-talking, plus the odd moment of male bonding (the female roles never come to life at all). Since much of this takes place over the course of a long night, most action is encased in shadow. So by the time the sun rises, it feels like the movie is simply refusing to end. What follows is a series of desperately dopey standoffs, including a gratuitous car chase. And of course some unearned sentimentality.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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