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Flick is written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier who also made the entertaining but somewhat overrated Blue Ruin. The story finds down-on-their-luck punk band the The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Callum Turner and Alia Shawkat) taking a gig at a remote backwoods club in Oregon run by neo-nazis and heroine dealers. They walk in on the murder of a local girl by one of the skinheads (Brent Werzner) and now find themselves trapped in the club green room, with the dead girl’s friend (Imogen Poots), as the owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart) tries to figure out how to keep these outsiders quiet…permanently. Soon the band are in a brutal fight for their lives as Darcy and his white supremacists try to set their fatal plan in motion.

Saulnier creates a vicious and brutal little thriller with some surprising horror movie level gore and an intense last act, but like his Blue Ruin, it’s not quite as suspenseful and gripping as it could be. One of the reasons is that it takes almost an hour before it really starts to get intense and there is a about a half hour of meandering about after the set-up. There is some awkward negotiating back and forth through a locked door that occurs at this time and it really doesn’t go anywhere till Darcy finally sends his thugs in after them. Another reason is that the character development is a little thin, especially on the bad guy’s side and thus the villains, aside from Stewart, could have had more menace and we could have been a bit more endeared to the band. Once the group leaves the green room, there is some cat and mouse action between skinheads and punk band that provides some brutal and violent results. Then the movie hits it’s stride and we are engaged till the final blood-soaked confrontation with Darcy and the survivors. Here in the final third, the flick works and is at it’s most effective.

The cast perform well enough, though the lack of strong character development does hinder their efforts a bit. The late Anton Yelchin is our lead as the cowardly Pat who has to rise above his fears to fight for his life and it is a cliché role, but Yelchin is solid as always. Stewart oozes menace as the neo-nazi leader Darcy and the choice to play the role more understated makes Darcy far more scary than an over-the-top villain. Cole, Turner and Shawkat are fine as the rest of the band, but again, the lack of stronger character development leaves us less endeared to them, especially Turner’s Tiger, who is focused on the least. Poots is fine as Amber, the friend of the murdered girl and while Amber is a fighter, she is also underdeveloped and sort of just thrown in with the band when things hit the fan, so we never develop a strong bond with her character either.

Not a completely successful thriller, but still an entertaining and sometimes very brutal one. Would have been more effective with better character development on both sides, especially with the bad guys and if the middle act wasn’t a bit stagnant. It does click into gear in the final third and then we get some suspenseful moments, some vicious violence and some of the intensity we came for. Jeremy Saulnier seems like a filmmaker in progress and may yet really wow us when he connects on all cylinders.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 machetes.

before the dawn rating