REVIEW: BRIMSTONE (2017)

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BRIMSTONE (2017)

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Grim western tells the story of Liz (Dakota Fanning), a midwife married to a widower and with a child of her own. One day a mysterious, scarred preacher (Guy Pearce) comes to town, a man of the cloth that Liz knows from her past and greatly fears. This preacher knows her as well and proclaims that he has come to make the young woman suffer and bring her to retribution. Who is this man and what has Liz done to incur his wrath?

Over the next two and one half hours of writer/director Martin Koolhoven’s harrowing film, we go into Liz’s past to find out the answers to those very questions…and a harsh journey it is. The film is told in four parts with the middle two parts going back further and further into the story to tell us  how this quest for revenge began and how and if “Liz” earned it. It is not a pleasant journey and we bare witness to some cruel and hard events, as well as, some shockingly graphic violence along the way. To go in depth too much would be to spoil the mystery and even if he crafts an unpleasant film, Koolhoven does make an intriguing one, whose mysteries we want answers to. It’s suspenseful and many of the images and events we witness have impact and weight that stays with us. The film takes us through a series of sometimes unpleasant events that bring us to where our story opens…and then comes to an equally harsh and unsettling finish. It’s not perfect. At 148 minutes, it is a bit long, especially as it is not a happy tale and there are a few glaring mysteries left unanswered, such as how one character escaped what seems like a certain death. Add to that, the overall unpleasantness of the story and some of it’s subject matter and you have a well crafted film that is not always easy to watch. On a technical level it is a solid production with Koolhoven showing he knows how to frame a shot. There is nice cinematography by Rogier Stoffers and an effective soundtrack by Junkie XL along with some effective sets and settings for within which the story takes place.

The cast are all quite good, which helps keep us with this grim tale. Dakota Fanning proves quite the strong actress in her portrayal of Liz. We have a woman with a past who will fight to save the family she now has, but as strong as she is, this “Preacher” fills her with dread and fear and she conveys that to the audience, so we share her feelings. It is a solid performance with many facets for the young actress to portray…and she portrays them well. Guy Pearce is imposing as the mysterious and vicious “Preacher”. Whether his quest for retribution is just or not, he is a vicious and cruel man. He commits horrible acts and even as we go back into the past to see how this story began to unfold, we are treated to a hard and sometimes brutal man, who seems to be using his religion to excuse his actions. Pearce really gives this man a black heart that makes the character truly frightening. Emilia Jones is also very good as the younger “Liz” who goes by another name. Jones has to act out some very harsh and uncomfortable scenarios and the young actress does very strong work and it makes for a seamless portrayal of the younger version of Fanning’s frontier midwife in peril. The cast also features good work from supporting actors such as Carice van Houten as “Liz’s” mother and Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as an outlaw who crosses paths with our main characters at one point.

This was a very well made film, but not one you could say you enjoyed. It deals with some harsh subject matter and is sometimes cruel and unpleasant. One can definitely appreciate the talent of the director/writer and the craft of his cast, but it still is a tough watch at times. It is a bit long, even though it has a lot of story to tell and even at it’s length, there are some questions that remain. Recommended, but only with the understanding that this is not a pleasant film by any stretch.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 guns.

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REVIEW: SEVENTH SON (2014)

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SEVENTH SON (2014)

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In this book-based fantasy flick, there is an order of knights called “Spooks” who deal with beings of the supernatural. Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is the last of his order who has trouble keeping his apprentices alive. Years earlier, he fell in love with the witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) and instead of vanquishing her, imprisoned her after she became increasingly cruel and powerful. A Blood Moon is occurring and it’s supernatural powers have freed Malkin, who is gathering her forces for revenge. Now Gregory must find the seventh son of a seventh son and train the boy, Tom (Ben Barnes) to help him defeat Malkin. It won’t be easy, Malkin is prepared for Gregory and new apprentice Tom, finds fancy in the daughter (Ex Machina‘s Alicia Vikander) of one of Malkins servants, Lizzie (Man Of Steel‘s Antje Traue).

Based on the book The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delany and directed by Russian director Sergei Bodrov, Seventh Son is an amusing if not forgettable fantasy adventure. Working from Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight’s screenplay, Bodrov keeps things moving fast and there is plenty of supernaturally tinged action and loads of otherworldly creatures to occupy this fantasy world. Bodrov has a very fitting visual eye for subject matter such as this and the characters are endearing enough to get behind or despise depending on their role as hero or villain. The FX are well done, though the creature CGI is a bit less convincing as the settings and other supernatural elements and the story is familiar and simple enough to make it breezy entertainment, even if it won’t stay with you. There is also lush cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel and a majestic score by Marco Beltrami. The film got a lot of flack upon release and was considered a box office bomb, but for a night on the couch it passes the time surprisingly well and does entertain if you don’t expect too much.

The cast is fine for the most part with Bridges and Moore having the most fun in their roles. Both veterans have a good time with Moore especially enjoying a role needing her to go over-the-top often. Ben Barnes is a little bland as apprentice Tom, who unknown to himself is the son of a witch, but is likable enough. Oddly, Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington has a small role as Gregory’s ill-fated first apprentice and might have been a livelier choice.  Alicia Vikander is pretty and mysterious as the witch’s daughter Alice, though we have a good idea where her allegiances will eventually lie. There is also an amusing supporting cast of familiar faces as Malkin’s minions such as Djimon Hounsou, Jason Scott Lee and Antje “Faora” Traue.

Overall, I had fun with this flick. It’s not a classic and it’s fairly forgettable, but also, perhaps, judged a bit too harshly upon it’s initial release. There are plenty of fantasy elements, lots of action, creatures and magic and the cast, especially our two leads seem to be having a good time. Director Bodrov keeps things moving and has a sumptuous visual eye to create a world to set this book-based adventure in. Nothing overly memorable, but passes the time on the couch quite nicely if you go in with moderate expectations.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 battle axes.

13th warrior rating

 

 

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