Rapid Review Recoup #1: Apostle, Hold the Dark, The Sisters Brothers, Western, Foxtrot

For this segment, I rundown quick one-boxed reviews of films I either missed reviewing when they were out, films that were in a smaller release or just released for streaming. If I physically can’t get to films in full reviews I will place them in this segment.

Apostle

Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton, Bill Milner

Gareth Evans rose to fame by directing both The Raid films, which are action classics that are brilliantly choreographed and entertain at a breakneck pace with consistent intensity. Apostle is not this kind of film at all. It’s a slow burn, gothic-inspired period horror film with supernatural elements and a focus on acting and building a believable cult society in England at the turn of the twentieth century. Dan Stevens provides a great, Toshiro Mifune-channeling type of haggard portrayal, and there are some jump scares and grotesque scenes of violence with shades of brisk action, but overall, it’s a slow period drama above being a horror film. It’s an interesting change of pace that succeeds more than it doesn’t, and it’s on Netflix to stream right now, so if this sounds good to you definitely check it out.

Verdict: Stream It

Hold the Dark

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Starring Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, James Badge Dale, Riley Keough

I’m a huge fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s directing style, with both of his previous films, Blue Ruin and Green Room, showing that he is a great visual filmmaker when it comes to thrillers that transcend generic thriller tropes via excellent world-building and writing that respects its audience. Hold the Dark only mildly succeeds in the first of these two strengths, and its writing really deflates any tension the film has by its second act. The actors in this all provide pretty standard performances, and the cinematography as usual is stellar, but this film beats the audience over the head with metaphor to the point that the whole third act, particularly the last ten minutes, feel insultingly heavy-handed and simultaneously anticlimactic. I was a huge fan of his last two films, and I really did not like this one. I would only recommend it for the cinematography and the admittedly beautiful cinematic canvas of the Alaskan countryside.

Verdict: Skip It

The Sisters Brothers

Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

The Sisters Brothers is advertised as a comedy western film, but it quickly proves to be much more ambitious than standing within western tropes. With potentially one of the best casts of the year, director Jacques Audiard presents a tale that starts as a pretty standard narrative buddy comedy about two outlaw brothers just looking to finish one last job, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed heading in the same direction, but for the alternate purpose of gold prospecting. What follows is an unpredictable narrative that continuously subverts expectations and a story that keeps surprising the audience until the last frame. It also possesses great performances across the board and a great sense of style to boot. I loved this film, and I highly recommend if it’s playing in your area to check it out as soon as possible.

Verdict: See in Theaters — Full Price

Western

Directed by Valeska Grisebach
Starring Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifo

Despite its title, Western doesn’t really provide a traditional western narrative, as it takes a more socio-critical approach. It details the struggles of migrant German workers who take construction jobs in Greece, and whom struggle with the resulting culture clash. This is the kind of film that seems to have cast its actors from either real-life or little acting experience. Sometimes this can be fantastic in the right visionary’s hands, such as with the television series The Wire. Other times, the lack of acting experience shows, and what results is the inability to care for its characters and the lack of proper narrative cohesion with performances. This film really doesn’t offer any kind of character arcs or really any empathetic moments for its characters. It’s just plain dull and its message it tries to convey has been relayed far better by other films of its kind. I hated this film not for its attempt at an unconventional delivery of a social message, but for its apathetic nature towards its lack of character development and investing storytelling.

Verdict: Skip It

Foxtrot

Directed by Samuel Maoz
Starring Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonaton Shiray

Foxtrot is a film that starts off as a contemplative and somber piece, until the rug is pulled out from under the audience and it morphs into a drama with several dark comedy scenes and absurd elements in between its more serious, emotional segments. With phenomenal performances, creative cinematography that makes use of both small and wide open spaces, and a screenplay that twists and turns along with its characters, I did not really know where the story was going to go next after each subsequent scene. Perhaps the only negative I could think of regarding this film is that its tone changes quite abruptly, and while these tonal shifts are justified via the events of the narrative pretty well, there were some circumstances where the way some tragic events unfolded felt pretty jarring. Nevertheless, these jarring changes are anchored by characters deeply affected and extremely likable despite their flaws, and I ended up loving this work. Definitely rent it on VOD, or if you have Starz, check it out on streaming there.

Verdict: Stream It

Disclaimer: I review movies based on a 5-tier scale: See in Theaters-Full Price, See in Theaters-Matinee, Rental, Wait for Streaming, and Skip It. If a film is released straight to VOD or streaming, the rating will simply change to either Stream It or Skip It. If you disagree with this review, I encourage you to watch the film and as always, make up your own mind about it. Am I wrong? Am I spot on? Let me know in the comments below!