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This Week's Film Reviews (Aug 13, 2020)

25 Jul 2021

FILM REVIEWS:

 

BUCKLEY’S CHANCE (Australia/Canada 2021) **
Directed by Tim Brown

In a film’s review, it is often stated a number of reasons to go see a film.  In the case of the Australian set film directed by Canadian Tim Brown, the reverse is more appropriate.  There are two solid reasons to give BUCKLEY’S CHANCE a miss.  One is that it is a mixture of Buckley's too bitter of a feel-good cliched movie and the second is Bill Nighy’s awful Australian accent.  Nighy (usually an excellent actor) performs what is essentially a Sam Neill role (Neill does perfect Aussie drama) though Neill is actually Irish born who had moved to New Zealand.

When the film opens, Ridley (Milan Burch) is travelling back to Australia with his mother (Victoria Hill) from the United States after the death of his father to reconnect with his grandfather Spencer (Nighy).  The two have never met.  Apparently grandpa and Ridley’s dad (though everyone in Australia seems content to call him Riddles instead) had a huge falling out, the silly reason explained later on in the film.  Ridley has been kicked out of many schools and needs to be put back in line. This causes a lot of fighting between him and his grandfather, and Ridley runs away.  Now lost in Australian Outback, he saves and befriends a dingo, Buckley, and the two try to find their way back home.

The only thing amusing about BUCKLEY’S CHANCE is its humour, which is mildly entertaining but insufficient to save the whole movie.  The second thing good about the film is its short 90-minute running length.  The dingo is quite a cute little fella, looking and behaving more like a faithful dog than a wild beast.  Beware, despite the film’s ad on the film being about a bit and his dingo, this segment is only a small subplot of the film.  The film is more like a LOST IN THE DESERT adventure with the outback replacing the desert.  The outback, as the audience sees through Ridley’s eyes, is more dangerous with snakes that supposedly only attack when provoked, shirk is not in the case in the film.  The scriptwriter must have changed his mind.

BUCKLEY’S CHANCE IS cliche ridden from the first free.  The boy runs aways and mummy is worried sick.  How many times must grandpa comfort mummy hugging her to tell her: “I promise we will find him.”?  The audience gets the point.

At one point in the film, the film has the feeling of a George Stevens' SHANE when villains appear on the farm threatening to buy Spencer’s land because it has oil.  Spencer is nastier to them than they are to him.  In fact, one of them apologizes to the mother for his intrusion and also volunteers his service to find the lost boy.  Then there are the two goofy brothers who kidnap the boy.  The script cannot decide to make the brothers menacing or goofy and end up confusing the audience as to their true characters.

At the first third point of the film, one can see where the film is heading - south and down under.  The Cliche-Ridden audience manipulative BUCKLEY’S CHANCE has no chance for survival.

Trailer. 

FREE GUY (USA 2021) ***
Directed Shawn (Adam) Levy


In the open world video game Free City, Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a non-player character (NPC) working as a bank teller. Thanks to a program developed by programmers Millie (Jodie Comer) and Keys (Joe Keery) inserted into Free City by the publisher Antwan (played by New Zealand director Waititi), Guy becomes self-aware of his world being a video game, and takes steps to make himself the hero, creating a race against time to save the game before the developers can shut it down.

FREE GUY is Ryan Reynold’s baby with him co producing as well as starring in it.  Reynolds reproduces the same kind of humour found in his successful DEADPOOL films - where he plays once again the bewildered hero who has to figure what the f*** is going on.  In FREE GUY he discovers that he is a NPC in a  video game.  For those unfamiliar with what the abbreviation NPC, like myself, it stands for non playing character - an unimportant figure in a video game, and in this case described as the man in the blue shirt, which the character wears, with blue obviously his favourite colour.  He dresses oddly in blue, with a blue tie and blue jacket,  The game company’s boss and villain also dresses oddly, a kind of gothic male gown, which is strange garb but many games dress in this way,  The costume designers got it right and down pat.

FREE GUY follows the trippy virtual reality/real world fantasy game films like David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and the Warkowski Brothers' MATRIX films.   The ultimate question in these films is: “What if we are really living in a  video game?”  FREE GUY takes the concept one step further by asking another ‘what if’ question.  What if a character in the game can break out and have a will of his own.  Or better still break all the rules so that the game is no longer a game so that the video game players are not killing off the characters but just watching them. A video game becomes a video game movie.  Director Tan works this concept with spirit and carries it off.

The director is a Montreal born Canadian Shawn Levy who has made similar action comedies like the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM series and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN.  He is apt at combining action and humour.  Though this is not really an action film, it does feel like one.  In terms of sci-fi experience, he also co-produced ARRIVAL winning him an Oscar nomination.   The film also has a strong romantic element, which works to strengthen the plot.

For the moviegoer who likes to think, the concept can be related to the real world.  What if human beings can break the ageing process and live forever  Life could be described as some game played by a higher power (like God) and all of humankind are players or NPCs in God’s game.  Yes, and a very cruel game at that.

Like THE MATRIX films, eXistenZ, THE TRUMAN SHOW, with characters who discover that something else is happening in their Universe, FREE GUY boggles the mind in the way it taunts the audience to think outside the box of who one really is.  Or one can just watch the movie and ignore the possibilities. 

 

HOWLING VILLAGE (Japan 2019) **
Directed by Takashi Shimizu

HOWLING VILLAGE opens with a boyfriend and girlfriend exploring a tunnel that leads to the urban legend HOWLING VILLAGE.  They encounter ghouls in a segment done with flashing lights and hand held camera reminiscent immediately of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.  Meanwhile, A little boy sees apparitions and is brought by his parents to see a doctor, Dr. Morita who also appears to see the apparition.  These unrelated incidents are gradually shown to be connected.  It is a bit confusing, and more so with so many new characters that appear all at one at the film’s start.  But the narrative is brought into focus, and it is this focused narrative that distinguishes HOWLING VILLAGE above the average Japanese horror flick.

Described as a horror, mystery and thriller by the ads, the genre family drama should also be added to the list.  HOWLING VILLAGE follows its sad Dr. Morita as she uncovers the hidden skeletons of her family’s past and how it ties to the current events that are occurring in her town.  It all begins after her brother goes missing.   This young psychologist visits an infamous haunted and cursed location known as 'Howling Village' to investigate his disappearance and uncover her family's dark history.

The film contains a few odd and unexplained incidents.  A phone booth suddenly closes.  Black smudges are plastered on its outside with two teens trapped inside.  The booth slowly fills with water and the two drown.  Ghouls chase Ryoto and the doctor, Dr. Morita looking after him down the hospital corridor.  Why are the boy and the doctor the only ones to see these spirits?

The film holds more interest with the father of the missing Kotyo and Yuma being abusive to his children and wife.  The wife, explained later in the film, bites him as a result.

The film's eeriness comes from a variety of scare tactics.  Besides the cheap jump scares common in horror flicks - director Shimizu uses them to a limit - the creepy Japanese styled nursery rhymes add to the scariness.  Dim lighting adds to the horror where the audiences strains to see a scene when sudden ghost apparitions would appear.  The haunting musical score works too.

Director Shimizu adds current world issues to the horror theme.  Key to the story is the racial abuse.  Those from the holding village are considered inferior human beings and are made fun of.  They are dog eaters.  They are thus despised.  The abusive male also comes into the picture.  Dr. Morita’s father is abusive to his wife, supposedly from the howling village and his children.  The females have stronger characters and add more to the main story than their male counterparts.

It would be easy to dismiss HOWLING VILLAGE as yet another cheap horror flick from Japan.  There are already many of these as director Shimizu is himself involved with the GRUDGE franchise.But despite HOWLING VILLAGE’s stronger narrative, the film comes to a confusing muddled conclusion.

It would not be surprising and just a matter of time before HOWLING VILLAGE is remade by the Hollywood Studios.  HOWLING VILLAGE opens VOD/Digital on August the 17th.

Trailer: 

 

JAKOB’S WIFE (USA) ***
Directed by Travis Stevens

JAKOB’S WIFE is a Shudder original horror film that comes with the heading ‘over-the-top’.  It tells of the wife of a minister finding new independence after being stuck in 30 years of a boring marriage.  This new independence comes with two holes in her neck.  JAKOB’S WIFE has become a vampire.  All this sounds quite intriguing and in fact, it is.  Director Steven’s over-the-top horror flick is over-the-top  funny with lots of excesses (blood and gore), more than necessary, but this aids director Stevens’ purpose.

The film begins with one of Pastor Jakob’s sermons.  The teachings come from the Bible as he reads from the Good Book.  “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”  The camera dwells on several wives in the congregation before resting on Jakob’s, who has an odd look of discontent.  There is nothing said about wives loving their husbands.  So, after years of a dull marriage, Jakob’s wife, Anne (Kathy Charles)  has had enough.  Jakob (Larry Fessenden) is hardly the most attractive man on the planet.  In fact he is fat and to put it mildly, ‘not cute’.  Not only that, but Jakob’s daily routines irritate her, like the way he eats his meals (chewing) and the way he brushes his teeth.  Director Stevens has his camera on closeup of Jakob brushing his teeth and gargling.  It (comically) gets worse in bed when Jakob snores, turns towards her and then farts unconsciously.   Poor Anne.  No one in their right mind would want to be in Jill’s shoes.

So when Jill gets a chance business meeting with her old school flame, all hell (yes, HELL) breaks loose.  He makes advances towards her.  But he gets bitten by rats, dies and she gets bitten in the neck with two gaping holes.  Jill becomes a vampire.  This is shown gradually with her new taste in blood.  She licks the blood of the meat at the deli counter at the supermarket, where the counter server asks her whether he could help her.  Director Stevens keeps everything also tongue-in-cheek.

Director Stevens’ film works primarily for the fact that the audience never knows what will happen next.  30 years of marriage does account for something - according to the script that is co-written by Stevens.  Anne is loyal.  While enjoying her new found independence, she convinces her husband that they have to solve the problem by killing the master, comically referring to the vampire.  Surprisingly, they join forces.  Surprisingly, they resume having sex.  Surprisingly, Anne and Jakob save their marriage.  And the film works.

Besides the excess blood and gore, director Stevens injects humour whenever he can.  At a dinner conversation with friends when it is revealed that Anne is meeting an old flame, their friend asks his wife: “How many boyfriends did YOU have?”  Her reply: “Don’t shame me just because I am popular.”  Jakob and Anne’s arguments are also funny.  Anne: "You blame me for being bitten by a vampire!’

JAKOB’S WIFE premieres Thursday Jul 22nd on the Shudder Network  Bloody delicious entertainment it is!

Trailer:

MATERNA (USA 2021) **

Directed by David Gutnik

MATERNA deals with mothers.  The subject, there are 4 of them, all with mothers who interact with them adversely.  The film works as an anthology of 4 stories with the MATERNA theme, brought together with the underline piece of a subway train altercation that involves these 4 innocent passengers.

The film moves from story to story with the train altercation interspersed at the beginning and end of each story and which finally forms the disturbing and dramatic conclusion to the whole film.

As many films of the day profess these days, the subjects include a woman of colour and also a minority. 

The first story is that of a white wealthy woman, Jean (Kate Lyn Sheil).  She lives alone and has little interaction with others.  She earns a solid living with some virtual Reality gig shown in the film with her wearing some silly gadget and prancing  around.  The story involves her annoying mother who keeps insisting that she freezes her eggs for future use.  Meanwhile, Jean is secretly working out what to do about an unwanted pregnancy. This segment is a bit muddled and confusing and the least absorbing of the 4.

The second is a coloured lady, Mona (Jade Eshete).  She has an overbearing n Church going mother who wants her daughter to be saved.  Mona is facing personal troubles of her own as she is about to lose her acting job.  The second segment is not engaging either.

The third is my favourite though I am sure many would disagree as it is the most  messy with the messiest of the 4 subjects.  Ruth (Lindsay Burge) is all  over the place, angry with everyone after her son is reprimanded at school for a gay slur.  The best thing about this segment is Ruth’s brother, played by Rory Culkin (brother of the HOME ALONE star) who she enlist to help her deal with the situation.  It turns explosive. 

The last segment has Perizad (Assol Abdullina) returning home to Kyrgyzstan to deal with the death of her father.  It turns out that her mother and grandmother are hiding the fact that her father had hung himself.

MATERNA is director Gutnik’s first feature and it shows.  His technique changes from start to end.  He is fond of extreme close ups at first, particularly of the faces of his 4 subjects on the subway train.  Having extreme close ups  does not substitute drama though it creates a lot of artificial anxiety.  It also prevents the audience from seeing what is happening in the background of the train.  Fortunately Gutnik pulls his camera back after that.   It is puzzling the reason the man on the train turns out the way he is, not to spoil the climax of the movie.

The film’s major theme is human alienation as depicted in each of the four stories.  Is it worth bringing a new child to this cruel world.  Both birth and death come into the story.  Problems are created for each of the 4 subjects.  “Don’t say things fine when they are not,” says Mona’s mother to her.”  When Mona walks on the street she notices a pamphlet:”When will suffering ever end?” 

MATERNA is a thought provoking first feature that does not really go anywhere with its alienation theme.

Trailer: 

NAKED SINGULARITY (USA 2020) ***
Directed by Chase Palmer

NAKED SINGULARITY, the film is based on the award winning novel, A NAKED SINGULARITY by Sergio De La Pava directed and adapted by Chase Palmer and Dave Matthews.  It is an understandably difficult adaptation as the book is a long 700 page novel .  If one is well versed in Physics, one would know what the term naked singularity is.  If not, it is a concept difficult to explain and even more difficult to comprehend.  It deals with a black hole.  The black hole has an infinite mass after a star collapses and sucks everything close to it into it.  In the film, it is best to have the term just mean the collapse of the universe.  This is a very exciting and intriguing concept and the metaphor is taken to the collapse of the world of the film’s protagonist.

In the film, the character Angus (Tim Blake Nelson, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS) charts the collapse of the universe as he sees all the signs around him.  He reveals his findings to his good friend, Casi,  a NYC public offender.  The film is framed by the days before ‘the collapse’.  Unfortunately the day arrives with little fanfare except for a mere power outage.

In NAKED SINGULARITY, there is one court scene where the judge queries the public defender about having  a better world if at all possible if the best of worlds is in jeopardy.   The system  has elapsed around  an idealistic young New York City public defender who has the noble cause of protecting victims, (though sometimes not so innocent) abused by the judicial system.   Casi (John Bodega from the STAR WARS franchise) is burned out by the system, on the brink of disbarment, and seeing signs of the universe collapsing all around him decides, after being prompted by a fellow young colleague to rob a multi-million drug deal of one of his clients.  “One can still break the rules and still believe in the judicial system.”  Casi is told.  The film ends as a crime heist.

If this sounds intriguing, it is with actually many different treads of stories blended into the main plot, though sometimes quite  done well.

One wonders about Casi’s noble cause of protecting victims of the judicial system.  One case has his victim beaten and searched after weed is found on him instead of before.  Casi is not well paid so the rain d’être for his motives is never made clear.

The film works best when director Palmer brings the audience into the courts.  The courtroom scenes especially with Judge Cymberline (Linda Lavin) admonishing Casi are the most absorbing.  Casi, though always dumbfounded by her remarks, always seeks to fight back, which gets him into trouble.  The film works least best with Cast and Angus, as the theme of universe collapse does not seem plausible in the movie, despite a sprite performance by Nelson. 

Director Palmer elicits superb performances from his cast, especially Lavin as the judge.  The young actors Ed Skrein and Bill Skarsgard also perform well with Boyega as the film’s lead.

Though flawed, NAKED SINGULARITY is still an ambitious and entertaining adaptation of the difficult novel that should keep audiences intrigued by its many storylines.

The film opens On Demand August 13th.

Trailer: 

NINE DAYS (USA 2020) **

Directed by Edson Oda


Will (Winston Duke) is an arbiter who judges souls before they inhabit bodies of the living.   Will resides in an isolated house in the middle of a desert scape, interviewing candidate souls for the opportunity to be born; if they are not selected, Will gives them a parting memory before their existence is erased.  If this sounds familiar, the filmed memories are taken directly out of another fantasy movie, AFTER LIFE.  Will’s only company is Kyo (Benedict Wong), a soul who has not ‘lived’ and has since assisted in Will's interviews. Will spends his days watching and taking notes on a multitude of television screens, each displaying the life of a different individual that Will has previously selected.  His favourite is Amanda, a 28-year-old violin prodigy.  However, on her way to her large concert, Amanda drives too fast on the highway and crashes into an overpass, killing her.

As Will grapples with Amanda's death, candidates begin arriving to interview for the vacancy Amanda left behind - a process that will take nine days - the NINE DAYS of the film title.   He asks the candidates simple questions about life and has them take notes on what they like or dislike about the lives of others who were chosen.  

In order for Will to determine the best candidate, he poses several questions on hypothetical scenarios.  The script tries to be smart.  It is too obvious and manipulative for this script’s own good.  One scene has Will question one of the candidates what he would do if he had found $500 in a wallet.  “I would donate half of it to charity.”  “Why half?, “asks Bill.  The reply: “So that you would not ask me about my keeping the other half.”  It seems that if the candidate is dishonest and supplies the answers that a good person would give, he would be selected.

This fantasy eternity tale looks superfluous, artificial and with a long running time of 2 hours, ultimately gets boring.  When Will at one point questions the reason Amanda has taken her violin in the car the day of the crash, it does not really make sense - his sudden bout of morality.   There are also too many answered questions on what Will does while performing his selection task.

Souls and eternity in a movie have been done before in many films like the Christmas classic, Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.  But NINE DAYS bar more resemblance to the recent Japanese masterpiece AFTER LIFE (1998), the film that brought its director Hirokazu Kore-eda international acclaim.  Consider the similar  plot of AFTER LIFE.  A small, mid-20th century social-service-style structure is a way station between life and death.  Every Monday, a group of recently deceased people check-in: the social workers in the lodge ask them to go back over their life and choose one single memory to take into the afterlife.  They are given just a couple of days to identify their happiest memory, after which the workers design, stage and film them. In this way, the souls will be able to re-experience this moment for eternity, forgetting the rest of their life. They will spend eternity within their happiest memory.  AFTER LIFE knocked the life out of me owing to its sheer brilliance, humanity and fantasy.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for NINE DAYS.

NINE DAYS, by inevitable comparison to Kore-da’s 1998 masterpiece AFTER LIFE, looks false, unashamedly copied and artificially melodramatic.  If one is in the mood of an eternity fantasy, forget NINE DAYS and go watch or rewatch AFTER LIFE.




Trailer: 

OVERRUN (USA 2021) ***

Directed by Josh Tessier

The storyline, taken from the movie database imdb reads: Former military extraction specialist Marcus Lombardi, whose only chance of saving his informant sister and their family is to track down a mysterious briefcase.  I have never heard of an extraction specialist.  Maybe there is such  thing or perhaps the film’s script invented one.

This Marcus extraction specialist is to extract a metallic briefcase from the Russian mafia in order to save his sister, a former police informant for chief kingpin Ray Marren.  The film is filled with action packed sequences doused with lots of tongue in cheek comedy, which lifts the actioneer above the standard average action comedy flick.  Most of the cast are unknown except perhaps for Academy Award nominee Bruce Dern.  The lead is a super stunt man not only performing stunts but designing them in countless films

Do Italians and Iranians look alike?  The filmmakers obviously think so.  Omid Zaber who is 100% Iranian plays Marcus Lombardi.  Note the Italian last name.

Interesting to note is that the script by Roberto Ahumada, Victoria González and Craig R. Key (first draft) includes multiple heroes and villains and a few in-between to boot.  The heroes are both Marcus and detective Blake Finning (Johnny Messner) who first traps and later joins forces with Marcus to go after the two villains, Robert Miano (Ray Marren) and Russian mob chief Arkado Dubkova (Bruce Dern) of the piece.   William Katt (the hunk prom date from CARRIE) plays the in-between bad and then good guy Detective Dobbs.
Someone in the casting filmmaking crew must be having a thing about smoking.  Ray and his bartender go on about quitting smoking.  One of the detectives always has a cigarette in his mouth, and Marco’s best friend, the tech wizard, Augie (Jack Griffo) e-vapes.
Director Tessier is fond of placing his camera in various places to give his film a kick.  At the film’s start, after the suitcase has been stolen, the camera moves underneath a hood’s shoes to show the victim’s point of view of being kicked hard in the head.  The next scene has the camera following the back (the neck) of Ray Marren as he walks into his bar.

It is funny too to observe the scene where Marcus approaches the Russian mobster to reveal the name of his son’s killer.  Marcus writes the name on a piece of paper and hands it to Arkado.  Why can’t he just say the name out loud?  Director Tessier decides not to question the style of gangster movies.

The result of director Tessier’s film looking stylish and thankfully different from the run of the mill action gangster flick.  Unfortunately these tricks run out of steam with the film lagging a bit during the second half.

OVERRUN has sufficient well executed action sequences, new tricks and fresh humour to make it stand out form the run of the mill actioneer.

Trailer: (unavailble)

SWAN SONG (USA 2021) ***
Directed by Todd Stephens


As the titles indicate at the start of the film, SWAN SONG is inspired by a true icon.  The icon in this case is Pat Pitesenbarger played by Udo Kier, an actor known for always preferring roles of an outrageous nature.  Pat is a retired hairdresser who escapes from his nursing home to fulfil a former client’s dying wish for him to style her final hairdo. 

This is the simple premise for a rather simple film, so one should not expect too much from Todd Stephens’s film.

The nursing home Pat escapes from, lies on the outskirts of Sandusky. Life here is a far cry from the days when Pat (Kier) ran his own salon and catered to the town’s rich socialites like Rita (Linda Evans).  Initially, Pat is hesitant to grant Rita’s request, given that the two had a falling-out many years ago.  “Bury her with bad hair.”  But a change of mind sends him on an odyssey, where he confronts his past – and looks gorgeous while doing so.

SWAN SONG is a specialized film that does not cater to the masses.  It is a definite queer film, and even so, commercial gay audiences might be bored, except maybe for the amusing camp scenes.  It is hard to identify the target audience for this film, so the film will be a hard sell.  ActorKier tends to strut his stuff so his fans will be delighted.

Kier is in almost every scene in the film.  He prances around, does his gay swagger and utter the campy dialogue given to him.  All this gets a bit monotonous after a while, added by the fact that the dialogue is not all that funny.  “Gay is not what it used to be, “ says Pat in one scene, when he is rebutted: “Tell that to your green dress pant suit.”  These are one of the few funnier lines.  Pat prances around town in this mint green suit (a long-stemmed More cigarette in hand).  Pat finally get to perform at his old gay bar with a chandelier atop his head.  This segment supports the claim of the film that expected things can go haywire.  

The soundtrack, a mix of the past and present is appropriate and creates the film’s proper mood, with songs from Dusty Springfield to Melissa Manchester to Robyn.

The AIDs tragedy also comes into the story.  Pat’s friend, David, a gardener, shown only in flashbacks passed away from the disease and makes an impact on Pat’s present decisions.

But the gist of the story is the death of Rita.  Pat is designated to do hair at Rita’s funeral.  After much hesitation, Pat finally agrees.  Pat finally forgives her and does her hair.  The film is, humorously, a lot about hair.  Rita’s hair looks fabulous finally after Pat has done a super job.

Given what it is supposed to be, Stevens’ film is what it is.  Produced, written and directed by Stephens, the film is part of his “Sandusky” trilogy, following Edge of Seventeen
and Gypsy 83.

Trailer: 

 

WHELM (USA 2019) ***

Directed by Skyler Lawson

The term WHELM comes from the word ‘overwhelm’ which means to overturn upside down or overpower.  The exact point of overpowering occurs at several instances in the story, best for the audience to do the picking out.

Watching WHELM immediately brings to mind a similar movie THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD.  Both are handsome period pieces, westerns set in this case in the midwest during the depression times.  Unfolding in 13 chapters, keeping a control on the narrative, the film is still quite confusing and I had to re-watch the last 15 minutes in order to figure out what was going on.

Chapter 1 is entitled ‘Cold Shoulder’ and shows the work that has to be carried on the shoulders of the film’s characters.  Chapter 2 is entitled ‘Chasing Foes’ and introduces the audience to the main character as he attempts a robbery.  He is then pursued by two brothers and hence the title.  The other chapters have other appropriate titles that summarize the chapter and propel the narrative towards its end, though not necessarily the expected climax.  The story is not always clear but writer/director Dawson is able to keep the audience interested, together with magnificent shots of the period landscape.  Cinematography is by Edward Herrera who also serves as one of the film’s producers.  One can expect great detail going here in a film that is obviously a labour of love.

Set during the Great Depression, the story involves two Midwest brothers who get tangled in a rivalry between a legendary bank robber and an eccentric young criminal.  The two midwestern brothers are August (Ronan Colfer) and Reed (Dylan Grunn).  Reed is the greener and more naive while August, the audience learns later on had served time.  August is the more unstable of the two, subject to bursts of violence, enhancing the action of the plot.  The two are hunting down the robber of the family home which resulted in almost killing of their father by an extremely mysterious Alexander Aleksy (Delil Baran) character.  This character is the most interesting of all, Aleksy with his dangerous confidence and plot of a foiling of a bank robbery.  This bank robbery is the foundation of the story and humorously executed with a bag of potatoes falling to the ground.

All of the story’s characters are equally intriguing.  One wishes more information is provided on Aleksy.

Given its limited budget, WHELM is overwhelming in its period looks and demands praise in this department.  Just sitting back and looking at the grass, trees, fields and rivers is enough to make the movie.

Instead of the killing of Jesse James, there is the killing of notorious criminal Dillinger near the end of the film.  This is where the story gets a bit confusing so best be prepared to have all one wits on at the end to follow the plot.

WHELM might not be the best film for the commercial audience as it is a slow plotted thriller with bouts of action and periods of slow burn.  But the film is a worthy effort by director Lawson, a new director surely to be reckoned with.

WHELM opens in select  theatres and  on digital platforms august the 13th.

Trailer: 

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