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Posts Tagged ‘Tatiana Maslany’

Nicole Kidman

“DESTROYER” My rating: C-

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Virtually everything about “Destroyer” — from its title to the plotting, dialogue and star Nicole Kidman’s Oscar-bait makeup transformation — screams overstatement.

Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and directed by Karyn Kusama, this joyless (and, let’s face it, off-putting) crime drama aspires to noir greatness but succeeds only in alienating with its blend of cliche and unearned angst.

Along the way it wastes Kidman, a hugely talented actress who here is limited to a sort of slow-burn psychosis.

When we first meet L.A. Police Det. Erin Bell (Kidman) she’s sleeping in her car, looking pretty much like death warmed over. Sunken eyes, sallow/blotchy skin, painfully projecting cheekbones, cracked lips.   Kidman is borderline unrecognizable; she could be a “Walking Dead” extra.

(In fact, we’re immediately reminded of Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning uglying-down for “Monster.”)

Some 16 years ago Bell was part of an undercover operation that went horribly bad. Her partner Chris (played in flashbacks by Sebastian Stan) was killed by members of the bank robbery gang the two had infiltrated.

Now Bell receives a threat in the mail…a $100 bill stained with purple dye from that long-ago bank job.  It can only mean that Silas (Toby Kebbel), the gang leader who vanished shortly after the deadly heist, has returned to settle the score with Bell.

Bell has to get him first.

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Jake Gyllenhaal

“STRONGER” My rating: A- 

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Stronger” is the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. The subject matter alone is enough to give potential moviegoers pause.

Is this going to be a weepy? A jingoistic flag-waver? Is it gonna be, oh God, inspirational?

There are plenty of arguments for steering clear of “Stronger.”  Ignore them.

For in adapting Bauman’s memoir writer John Pollen and director David Gordon Green have given us what may be the year’s most potent drama, a masterful blend of personal narrative and social observation.

It’s a film about despair, resilience, family and romance.  Yes, it’s deeply emotional, but less in a crassly manipulative Hollywood way than in the sense that it nails so many truths about the human condition.

You’ll cry.  In fact, anyone who can sit through “Stronger” without tearing up at least three times had best stop wasting their money on movie tickets and start saving for a bass boat.

But it’s a cleansing cry, not an exploitative one.

In the film’s first 10 minutes we’re introduced to Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal, quite possibly Oscar bound), a “chicken roaster at Costco” and a classic example of blue-collar Boston. He’s a drinker and a sports idiot, traits he shares with his boisterous, brawling, low-credit-score uncles and cousins. He’s kind of unreliable, which is why his girl Erin (“Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany) has broken up with him yet again.

Jeff decides he can win back Erin by passing on  a Sox game to cheer her on as she runs the Boston Marathon. He’s at the finish line holding a hand-made congratulatory sign when the bomb goes off.

Almost immediately director Green demonstrates how to ease into an uncomfortable issue with grace and taste.  We don’t see the immediate bloody results of the blast.  But we’re with Erin in a bar when the TV news shows a photo of the seriously wounded Jeff being carried away by a man in a cowboy hat. (We won’t actually see a re-enactment of the event until flashbacks in the movie’s third act.)

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