Posts Tagged ‘Woody Harrellson’

Charlbi Dean, Harris Dickinson

“TRIANGLE OF SADNESS” My rating: B+ (Hulu)

147 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In 1974’s “Swept Away”  filmmaker Lena Wertmuller  pondered the romantic and political implications of two wildly dissimilar individuals — a spoiled rich woman and a proletarian sailor — becoming castaways on an uninhabited Mediterranean isle.

Ruben Ostlund’s Oscar-nominated “Triangle of Sadness” (it’s competing in the best picture, best original screenplay and best directing categories) takes that idea and expands it tenfold.

Instead of just two individuals representing different castes we get a dozen characters whose societal prejudices and economic backgrounds collide in a heady mashup of satiric comedy… and no small amount of seasickness-induced vomit.

It takes a while before we get a handle on what “Triangle…” is all about.  

It starts with dozens of shirtless male models gathered to audition for a major advertising campaign. Among these desperate hopefuls (all of whom are working desperately not to to look desperate) is Carl (Harris Dickinson), who tries to remain upbeat and positive even after one of the agents doing the hiring comments on his features exhibiting a “triangle of sadness,” whatever the hell that might be.

Anyway, Carl doesn’t get the job.  Later the depressed hunk is joined at dinner by his gorgeous model girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean).  The pair get to bickering…Carl points out that Yaya, despite having the more successful career, always finds ways not to pick up the check. It’s pretty clear that she’s always looking out for No. 1.

Ostlund’s film only kicks into truly comic mode when the couple are invited to cruise on an ultra-high-end yacht. The other passengers  are a mix of old and new money — one genteel British couple turn out to be international arms dealers with much blood on their hands. But, hey, it’s a chance for our young protagonists to eat well and soak up rays on somebody else’s tab.

But clearly something’s off.  The boat’s captain (Woody Harrellson) is undergoing a mental breakdown; he refuses to leave his cabin and appears to be on a world-class drug-and-drink bender. He’s joined in these dissipations by one of the passengers, a rags-to-riches  Eastern European entrepreneur (Zlatko Buric). Between shots and snorts the two carry on a friendly socialism-vs.-capitalism debate.

Woody Harrellson

Ostlund takes immense pleasure in quickly reducing the pampered passengers to wretched wraiths. A raging storm turns the ship into a roller coaster awash in puke; an attack by pirates sends the boat to the bottom of the sea and a handful of survivors flopping on a deserted beach like so many washed-up fish.

It’s in this castaway sequence that the film really pulls out its knives.  The only person with any survival skills is middle-aged Abigail (Dolly De Leon),  a crew member whose specialty was  cleaning the passengers’s toilets. Now, by virtue of being able to catch and cook fish, Dolly ascends to the status of tribal queen.  If the others want to eat, they’d better satisfy her whims…including her sexual demands.

“Triangle of Sadness” might be dismissed as misanthropic; it takes for granted that we’re all self-deluding and selfish fools, no matter where we stand on the economic spectrum.

But it takes such obvious glee in bringing its characters down to the same miserable state that we cannot help but get caught up in the proceedings.  Even a non-ending that tends to dribble away with little closure can’t undo the malevolent pleasures here exhibited.

| Robert W. Butler

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead

“KATE” My rating: B (Netflix)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

If Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” and the noir classic “D.O.A.” had a baby, it would look a lot like “Kate,” a lean, sleek female-centric actioner from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan that arrives with a bang, knocks your socks off for 90 minutes, and leaves you limp but weirdly invigorated.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead portrays our title character, an orphan (think “La Femme Nikita”) trained in the arts of assassination by an untrustworthy father figure (Woody Harrellson) and turned loose to do the dirty work of the Yakuza families of Tokyo.

Early on Kate passes out while driving; she awakens in a hospital where (like Edmund O’Brien in “D.O.A.”) she’s informed that she has ingested a lethal dose of radioactive material. She’s got maybe 24 hours.

She’ll use that time to ruthlessly hunt down her poisoner, a high-ranking gangster who believes she knows too much to be allowed to retire. Along the way she’ll kidnap the guy’s teenage granddaughter (Miku Patricia Martineau), who over the course of a long night morphs from entitled brat to Kate’s Girl Friday and avenging mini-angel.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Patricia Martineau

“Kate” doesn’t require an actress as talented as Winstead (check out her exemplary work on the second season of “Fargo” and the criminally underappreciated political/horror spoof “BrainDead”). Mostly she has to look good with a gun…mission accomplished.

But Winstead imbues her relentless killer with very human moments and frailties. After a while it’s positively painful to watch her radiated body fall apart before our eyes; yet our girl always finds the superhuman strength to take on one more bad guy.

And the fight scenes…wow. They come with clockwork regularity and have the furious intensity of a John Wick confrontation. Guns, knives, swords, feet, knuckles…Kate employs them all to leave behind a long trail of dead Yakuza.

The film is crammed with little homages to other movies: “Kill Bill” (a nightclub with an all-girl band, a duel with samurai swords, a deadly schoolgirl), “Aliens” (Kate chops off her hair into a mayhem-friendly Ripley ‘do), “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (the adolescent sidekick) and a slew of others.

Plus the Japanese players have been cast for their unique facial features. Talk about a passle of memorable mugs.

Director Nicolas-Troyan is the guy behind the “Snow White” franchise, which I’ve found visually interesting and dramatically inert. But here he boils things down to pure movement — there’s a nighttime shootout involving dozens of gunmen, all armed with laser-equipped automatic weapons, and the ballet of zig-zagging light beams, bloody eruptions and shattering glass is like nothing I’ve seen before.

“Kate” doesn’t go deep, but it is unquestionably the most satisfying of the recent crop of tough-girl action films. Just enjoy the ride.

| Robert W. Butler

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