On the prowl: Allison Janney as thre titular character in the chase thriller ‘Lou’.
LOU ***1/2 (108 minutes) MA
In the gripping, character-driven chase thriller Lou, Allison Janney (best-known for her marathon stint as C. J. Cregg on The West Wing) turns in a very convincing performance as the title character, a haggard, grumpy, unlikeable loner living in a secluded cabin.
She’s renting out the neighbouring abode to financially strapped single mum Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), who lives in relative happiness with her daughter Vee (Ridley Bateman), at least until Lou drives by to demand payment. What a disagreeable old sow.
As a huge storm sweeps across the heavily forested area, Vee is kidnapped. Hannah is understandibly fraught with fear but rather than go to the police, Lou steps in to track the kidnapper through the rain and mud.
Precisely why such a loner like Lou is suddenly driven by such altruism is at the core of a pulse-pounding, twist-laden chase film that can’t be faulted for following a formula, especially with its heart-stopping climax, which is truly outside he box.
THE RESORT ***1/2 (280 minutes; eight episodes) M
We all love a good mystery and the wonderfully engaging comedy The Resort serves up a one of those delectable cases where the adventure involved in following the trail of clues turns out to be more satisfying than the pay-off.
Not that the pay-off here is wanting. In fact, it adds a sweet twist to the proceedings that, though far-fetched and arguably ridiculous, does fit in with the crazy logic of a story trail that springs a new surprise every few moments.
While on holiday in Mexico attempting to celebrate 10 years of reasonably happy marital wedlock, Emma (Cristin Milioti) and husband Noah (William Jackson Harper) go on a bike-riding trek along a bumpy track that dismounts Emma and sends her rolling down a hill.
After finally coming to rest she finds half-buried in the dirt next to her sore head an old flip phone. It doesn’t work, of course, but she becomes intrigued about its contents and inserts the phone’s sim card into a new phone.
Her idle curiosity becomes hyper-active when she discovers photos and texts involving Sam Lawford (Skyler Gisondo) and Violet Thompson (Nina Bloomgarden), two young tourists who apparently didn’t know each other, yet who disappeared at the same time during a hurricane 15 years earlier.
Roping in the reluctant Noah and with the invaluable help of pedigreed local Baltasar Frias (Luis Gerardo Méndez), the security guard at their resort, Emma is eager to resolve the increasingly bewildering mystery about what happened to the missing tourists.
Tapping into the age-old convention of fusing our journey of discovery with those of the main characters – where they never know more than we do – The Resort both respects the genre formula while going off-road, taking the story in exquisitely odd directions via flashbacks, unexpected backstories and plenty of well-judged twists.
The cast all put in colourful performances but Milioti – so good in Palm Springs and the Black Mirror episode USS Callister – owns the show, her comic physicality and expressive anime-esque eyes making Emma a highly watchable graduate from the stumblebum school of amateur sleuths.
FLIGHT/RISK *** (98 minutes) PG
Just as we’re all slowly getting used to the idea of getting back on an airliner comes Flight/Risk, a cool-headed, harrowing feature-length documentary the publicity department at Boeing would probably prefer you not see.
Recounting the circumstances surround the crash of two 737 Max aircraft – one in 2018, the other five months later in 2019 – the film forensically examines the arrogant cost-cutting culture that resulted in failures that cost 338 lives.
Based largely on the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative work of Seattle Times journalist Dominic Gates, the film is at its most chilling when highlighting damning lines from official correspondence.
The film paints a distressingly familiar story of prioritizing expediency and profit over safety protocols. Implicit is the sobering fact that, more often than not with catastrophes, the system designed to protect people is not at fault, it’s those who side-step the system. Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon demonstrated as much in The China Syndrome way back in 1978.
Most moving of all are the stories of personal loss and the dogged pursuit for fair compensation, a fight that raised the obnoxious idea that skin colour and nationality could be factors in pay outs.
As thorough as they are, directors Omar Mullick & Karim Amer wisely keep matters from getting too maudlin, their emphasis on the outcome delivering a sense of closure to the families of victims as well as a sound backhander to the type of corporate malfeasance that no amount of whistleblowing seems capable of stopping.
DO REVENGE ** (119 minutes) MA
The latest plodding example of a nifty 90-minute film crammed into two hours, Do Revenge is a largely limp teen comedy drama in which two wronged high school girls agree to get back on the other’s nemesis so as to avoid detection.
Living the life of a priviledged teen queen, Drea Torres (Camila Mendes) is suckered into having sex with her boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) on camera. It’s meant to be completely private but, of course, it ends up on the internet, tainting, though not exactly destroying her reputation.
During the summer break she encounters Eleanor (Maya Hawke) whose popularity has also taken a dive after fellow student Carissa (Ava Capri) spread an untrue rumour about an unwelcome act of intimacy.
Eager – though not exactly hungry – for payback they plot to swap each others’ revenge plans. Sounds good, but things go awry as their alliance is tested by unexpected circumstances that bring into question the true nature of their presumed friendship.
With a heavy reliance on a sountrack full of pop hits, writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (she co-wrote Thor: Love and Thunder with director Taika Waititi) presides over a meandering narrative that is way too long and exceedingly average.
Though the cast is attractive and nicely wardrobed in fashions colour-coded to match the set design, the central performances are surprisingly lacklustre, with many scenes feeling like filmed rehearsals.
The only turn of any real note comes from Austin Abrams (The Walking Dead; Euphoria) as the oily, duplicitous, manipulative, pseudo-feminist chick magnet Max. Repulsive as he is, he’s the most interesting character in a wildly unfocussed film.
How much more engaging the film could have been with more of Max, or even telling the tale from his perspective. The notion of a hot teenage boy using woke argot for his own sexual ends is an intriguing idea, but buried amidst a table of girl-vs-girl storylines. Pity.
And why is Do Revenge so damned long? It’s one of many stream films – i.e., films made for streaming platforms rather than a cinema release – that feels 20-30 minutes too long. It’s another film that seems designed to be watched out the corner of your eye while you do the ironing or check your emails.
And like those films, Do Revenge probably would have benefited from a note from the studio saying “Nice idea, but too much narrative flab. Get it down to 100 minutes.”
As you’d expect, the film is stuffed full of references to a bunch of iconic teen films – Clueless; Heathers; Mean Girls; Cruel Intentions (the film it most wants to emulate) – and rightly credits Alfred Hitchock’s Strangers on a Train for its premise.
Regrettably, no mention is made of Throw Momma From the Train, the terrific 1987 comedy that reworked Hitchcock’s idea to much better effect and deployed lashings of humour, something Do Revenge largely lacks.