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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Elizabeth Blake Thomas
scr David Lipper, John Saunders
prd Keli Price, Kipp Tribble, Mark L Lester, David Lipper, Robert A Daly Jr
with Mena Suvari, Casper Van Dien, Mickey Rourke, Maya Stojan, Will Peltz, Jessica Belkin, Jason London, Jeremy London, David Lipper, Emily Labowe, Abrielle Stedman, Sumayyah Ameerah
release US 4.Apr.23,
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Everyone in this offbeat thriller feels utterly fictional, with exaggerated quirks and wacky costumes in colourful sets and implausible situations. Heightened performances add to the artificiality, as does the extreme toxic masculinity and misogyny that's on hideous display. While director Elizabeth Blake Thomas plays with exploitation-style movie imagery, she oddly never confronts the vile attitudes that swirl on-screen. Frankly, merely turning the tables isn't enough.
After a public breakup, Cassandra (Suvari) meets cowboy Carter (Van Dien) and his hippie son Jackson (Peltz), who invite her along on a weekend hunt where she has a chance of winning $100,000. Arriving at a remote lodge, she meets several friendly men and another young woman, Lexi (Belkin). But Cassandra and Lexi don't know that organiser Virgil (Rourke) keeps a stable of girls like animals for the men to hunt. And when it's her turn, Cassandra certainly isn't going down without a fight. She also has a plan, and backup (Stojan) on the way.
Around the campfire, men whine about changing social rules about gender roles, angry about being punished for their sexist views and determined to reclaim their masculine dominance. So they see the hunt as an act of superiority, even though brutally preying on unarmed, scantily clad women in a booby-trapped woods is the ultimate display of cowardice. And Carter idiotically thinks that this activity will finally make a man out of Jackson, who doesn't want to be here.
Suvari does what she can with the smart, resourceful Cassandra, who grieves the death of her daughter for about five seconds before launching her own bloodletting campaign. Stojan is blankly angry as her cohort, while the other women aren't around long enough to become characters. Van Dien goes all in on the delusional Carter, who insists that "we're gentlemen, not animals". Rourke is sneeringly nasty, and Peltz tries to show texture in a role that could easily have been written as someone interesting.
The filmmakers' broad approach makes it impossible to engage with the story or characters. This is largely because the story is told through a male gaze, so sexism dominates every scene. The script tries to suggest that this is balanced by how Cassandra is orchestrating some violent revenge, ignoring the fact that this only makes the movie's themes that much more pernicious. Grief and trauma disappear in moments. Even a sharply pointed final act speech can't make this ugly tale more palatable.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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