Random Acts of Violence

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

Random Acts of Violence
dir Jay Baruchel
scr Jay Baruchel, Jesse Chabot
prd Randy Manis, Noah Segal, Jay Baruchel
with Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Jay Baruchel, Niamh Wilson, Simon Northwood, Isaiah Rockcliffe, Clark Backo, Victoria Snow, Eric Osborne, Nia Roam, Aviva Mongillo, Wade MacNeil
release Can 31.Jul.20,
US 21.Aug.20
19/Canada 1h21

williams brewster baruchel

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brewster, williams, baruchel and wilson
Based on a graphic novel, this horror thriller has a witty script that touches on wider issues as the story develops. Actor-filmmaker Jay Baruchel gives the film a fast-paced, colour-drenched sheen while building a full-on sense of violent menace. But while the actors bring raw emotion into scenes that are funny and nightmarish, the characters never feel very deep. So it ends up as little more than a grotesque bloodbath.
Comic writer Todd (Williams) is looking for inspiration to finish his final issue of Slasherman, which is based on a real-life serial killer. So he plans a road trip with his girlfriend Kathy (Brewster), who's writing her own counterpoint book about the victims. They're joined by Todd's business partner Ezra (Baruchel) and assistant Aurora (Wilson), an aspiring artist herself. As they drive into rural America, it becomes terrifyingly apparent that they have awakened the killer (Northwood), who had been silent for 30 years. And now he's using the comics to plan his next attacks.
The dialog includes discussions about the nature of violence, how it's glorified by the media and how people so gleefully consume books, movies and TV shows that fetishise it. Then as the killing begins again, the brutality is depicted is seriously awful. This makes some of Baruchel's excessive filmmaking flourishes feel unnecessary. But he cleverly uses primary hues, animation and flashbacks to add to the comic book ambience. And the costumed fans at book signing events are amusingly freaky. But this kind of nuance doesn't last long.

Along the way, everything about the film becomes heightened, including the performances. Williams gives Todd an increasingly haunted expression as his worst nightmares become reality. Brewster is marginally more level-headed, offering some cautionary commentary, while Baruchel and Wilson are relegated to the back seat of the car. As the carnage escalates, each of these characters falls into an overwrought, flailing, eye-swivelling panic. Which makes the emotions they're expressing feel pushy and unconvincing.

There's a problem with making such a resoundingly grisly movie as a commentary on the use of violence in art. As a director, Baruchel indulges in horrifically grotesque butchery that horror fans will no doubt love, but they're accompanied by sadistic torture and abrasive attitudes. In other words, the movie loses its way as it veers into contrived sentiment and nihilism. The protracted climactic sequence is set out as some sort of revelatory catharsis, but never lives up to the promise of the early scenes.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 11.Aug.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall