Abstruse (2019) Movie Review

Director: Harley Wallen

Writer: Harley Wallen (Screenplay)

Starring: Tom Sizemore, Dennis Haskins, Jesi Jensen, Colleen Gentry, Clahoun Koenig, Harley Wallen, Jerry Hayes, Kris Reilly, Kaiti Wallen

Plot: Two young women get themselves into a very compromising situation that proves life changing, the aftermath is almost worse as all trails of the event has been wiped out and all of a sudden the tables turn and Amanda goes from being the victim to the accused. Amanda’s father decides to look into it only to realize it’s much bigger than they first anticipated. The story heads to a Good Vs. Evil showdown to settle the score.

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Intense

Story: Abstruse starts when the playboy son of a senator Justin Stevens (Reilly) is getting tired of the normal call girls, he wants to make his own movies, adult movies, he recruits a couple of barmaids Mindy (Johnson) and her friend Amanda (Kaiti Wallen) to be their first stars of their movie, only for the night to take a turn for the worse, when Mindy is killed.

With Justin turning to his father Senator Stevens (Haskins), the police detectives Caldwell (Harley Wallen) and Morris (Hayes) have nothing to go on, even starting to investigate her. Amanda has one last out for the truth, her father Max London (Sizemore) a known killer who will stop at nothing to learn the truth.

Thoughts on Abstruse

Characters – Max London is an ex-con, a killer that has been used in protection before, he has connections that will get a job done and after he is released from prison, he must help his daughter, he will use his skills to try and learn the truth and his connections to make sure the people pay. Senator Stevens has always financed his son’s hobbies, he has always looked to save face whenever his son has done wrong and this is no different. Amanda is one of the barmaids that goes from having a good time, to seeing her friend murdered, she becomes the target by the senator who wants to spin the story on her, her father is one of the only people that could help her out of the position which could see her end up dead. Justin in the son of a senator, he has always lived off his daddy’s money, with his latest desire to make adult movies, which soon turns into filming a murder, now he will do anything to cover it up and get pleasure from hurting people.

PerformancesTom Sizemore back on the bring screen in great to see and this is the right type of role for his strengths. Kris Reilly does make for a wonderful psychotic rich person, while Kaiti Wallen as the victim looks as helpless and desperate as her character would be. The while cast do a good job here, showing us how to make their character make an impact in the film.

StoryThe story here follows the cover up of a murder, which sees the witness becoming one of the main targets of the cover up, with everyone needing to figure out who is working for who. This story does start slower that we get with the introduction to all of the characters, but once every pieces get put on the table, we do get a crime thriller that becomes edge of your seat, we literally don’t know who will be working for who, will people stay on certain sides etc. we have an antagonist that only seems to get more twisted as they get pushed. We even get to see how themes of money being able to get people off crimes and even try and turn the tables on the witnesses.

Action/CrimeThe action in the film is more about the violent acts rather than being flying bullets or car chases, which it easily could be, the crime side of the film is much more complex as we see just how everything is unfolding between the characters after a crime has happened.

SettingsThe film does keep us in the city, which is filled with people that could do anything illegal to keep their names in the clear.


Scene of the Movie – The showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Did nobody see a dead body on the streets for that long?

Final ThoughtsThis is a crime thriller that does keep you guessing which is wonderful to see with strong performances throughout.

Overall: Great Crime Thriller

Nicholas Hoult Weekend – Dark Places (2015)

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Writer: Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Screenplay) Gillian Flynn (Novel)

Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Andrea Roth, Chloe Grace Moretz

 

Plot: Libby Day was only eight years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Almost thirty years later, she reluctantly agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.


Tagline – In 1985, her entire family was murdered. 30 years later, the truth emerges.

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Solid Mystery Thriller

 

Story: Dark Places starts as we meet Libby Day (Theron) one of the daughters that became somewhat of a celebrity after her family’s murder when she was 8, with the support funds running low, she accepts an offer from Lyle Wirth (Hoult) a member of a private investigation group that look at crimes and whether they are solved correctly, who want to prove her brother Ben (Stoll) didn’t commit the murders.

As Libby starts to investigate the case, she must face her past and learn about Ben’s past as a teenager as well as her mother Patty (Hendricks) struggle to keep the family together. This will help her confront her past and learn the truth of the events of murder.

 

Thoughts on Dark Places

 

Characters – Libby Day has spent her life trying to escape the fame that followed her after the murder of her family, her light is dwindling as she gets older and now she is forced into learning the truth about what happened in her past, plagued by nightmares we see just how she looks to remember the nightmare events the 8-year-old self-experienced. Lyle Wirth is the leader of a group that are investigating the night of the murder privately, however he comes of nervous about trying to figure out the truth even with his own theory. Patty Day is the mother and victim of the murder, we see her in the flashbacks are she tried everything she could to keep a roof over the children’s heads. We meet characters from the past and present version of the stories, as we flashback and forth learning more about the events from these characters.

PerformancesCharlize Theron is the star of this film, we get to see the withdrawn from the world character that wants to hide from her past and how she has accepted the outcome of the case, we see the range in how she deals with the problems she is facing in everyday life. Nicholas Hoult like most of the supporting performers are fine without being anything standout.

StoryThe story here follows one of the survivors of a family murder facing her past to learn the shocking truth about the events of the deadly night to which her brother was convicted of. The story adopts a mixture of flashbacks and forwards to show us just how different parts of the story played out, each clue brings the next tale in the story. The story does try to keep us guessing about who was responsible for the murders, it gives us plenty of suspects along the way and shows us just how a young girl would struggle to have grown into a mid-30s woman still lost in the world. this is from the same author as Gone Girl, and if you were to compare the two, this is easily the weaker of the stories.

Action/MysteryThe film has moments of action, but doesn’t turn to it that often as we wait to see how the murder really unfolded. The mystery is the highlight of the film because of how it keeps us wondering to just what really happened.

SettingsThe settings show us the struggles that the family would have had during the events leading up to the murder, when we are in the modern time we see the faceless city of Kansas which could have been any city really.

Special EffectsThe effects are used well when needed, with most happening off screen we see the aftermath of the events.


Scene of the Movie –
The truth night.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We do seem to spend too much time watching seemingly pointless moments of the back story and one aspect with Ben doesn’t seem to get answered enough.

Final ThoughtsThis is a thriller that does keep you guessing, but never draws you in enough, it has a strong cast of talented names and by the end you will b shocked even if the narrative does spiral down some dead ends at times.

 

Overall: Off-track thriller

Rating

 

 

Traffik (2018) Movie Review

Director: Deon Taylor

Writer: Deon Taylor (Screenplay)

Starring: Paula Patton, Omar Epps, Luke Goss, William Fichtner, Laz Alonso, Roselyn Sanchez, Priscilla Quintana, Missi Pyle

Plot: A couple off for a romantic weekend in the mountains are accosted by a biker gang. Alone in the mountains, Brea and John must defend themselves against the gang, who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.


Tagline – Run. Fight. Survive.

Runtime: 1 our 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Shock Filled Thriller

Story: Traffik starts when the ambitious reporter Brea (Patton) loses her big story and potential her job right on the eve of her birthday, her boyfriend John (Epps) wants to surprise her and with his friend Darren (Alonso) he gets a romantic weekend planned.

Heading up to the mountain location the couple find themselves in a gas station where confrontation is quick to find them with help stranger Red (Goss) along with gangs, showing a potential large group of different enemies. The romantic weekend takes a turn, first with the appearance of Darren and his girlfriend Malia (Sanchez), but again by a deadly gang of human traffickers led by Red, who will kill to keep their secret.

Thoughts on Traffik

Characters – Brea is an ambitious reporter always taking her time researching a story before throwing it to her editor, this has seen her get herself into trouble, losing stories and potentially her job. In her personal life it is her birthday celebrating among friends with a romantic getaway being part of it. This getaway will give her the biggest story of her career, when she finds herself targeted by human traffickers who want her in their collection. John is the boyfriend that is getting nervous about the getaway as he is about to propose to Brea, he gets hooked up by the friend that will give them the location and will need to help Brea fight back against the people after them. Red is the leader of the human traffickers, he can charm, but he will show his deadly side if anybody gets in his way.

PerformancesPaula Patton is the star of the show here, she gives us a strong performance that shows us just how determined she is to survive. Omar Epps, Luke Goss and the rest of the cast all do a great job letting Paula shine through in this film.

StoryThe story here follows a couple on a romantic getaway that get targeted by human traffickers who want to keep their secret safe. This is a story that is designed the highlight the horrific crimes of human trafficking, not just in America, but worldwide. Away from the message behind everything, we do see the mix of a home invasion, chase and fightback elements of story telling putting a firm light on the idea that women will fight back, in this case Brea. The way everything unfolds is mostly predictable which is fine, nothing really hits the intensity levels wanted from the film.

Action/CrimeThe action is a mix of chases and fight between victim and captures, they are quick instead of being over the top. The crime side of the film does show us just how easily this operation can happen to the victims and how organised it can be run.

SettingsThe film is set in the mountain range outside California where the people can pick and choose who they take.


Scene of the Movie – Escape.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – One of the main twists is too predictable.

Final Thoughts This is a generic action thriller that does highlight an important message of the horrors of the human trafficking world that leaves Paula Patton to shine.

Overall: Important, but Generic.

The Game (1997)

Director: David Fincher

Writer: John Brancato, Michael Ferris (Screenplay)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katarina

Plot: After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.


Tagline – Players Wanted.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Twist Filled Thriller

Story: The Game starts as wealthy banker Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) has spent his life working forgetting to have fun, his rebellious brother Conrad (Penn) turns up to celebrate his birthday which sees him giving him a gift, one that would let him take part in a game that will change his life. Nicholas reluctantly decides to go through the process, finding himself involved in the game, which starts to fade his reality.

As the events continue, Nicholas does start to see his very controlled life start to get out of control with only a random waitress Christine (Unger) around for him to trust, can Nicholas unravel the mystery to save his career or will he lose the game.

Thoughts on The Game

Characters – Nicholas Van Orton is a banker that is in complete control of his life, he isn’t friendly to everybody he meets in life and is distant from most of his family, he is excellent at business, he gets a different present from his rebellious brother, which sees him break out of his controlling method of life to play along with an uncontrollable game where he doesn’t know what is or isn’t real, learning to navigate and try to stay one step ahead of the game. Conrad is the rebellious brother that has had personal problems in the past, he gives Nicholas a present, claiming it helped turn his own life around, only for this gift only make his brother’s life more difficult. Christine is a waitress that Nicholas gets fired, he must work with her even if she might in fact be involved in the game herself. Jim Feingold is the man behind the invitation, he has Nicholas give him plenty of information before unleashing everything to get into Nicholas life.

PerformancesMichael Douglas is wonderful in this leading role, he plays the controlling businessman with ease and watching him lose control of his life is a performance you feel was made for Douglas. Sean Penn is wonderful in the supporting role, where we see how his character’s life has been affected by the game. Deborah Kara Unger in her supporting role does shine, with the rest of the supporting cast all working very well through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a controlling businessman that decides to step away from his routine to play a game bought to him as a present by his brother, once the game has started he sees his life start to fall apart as he tries to figure out what is real and what is part of the game. This is a story that does keep you on your toes through the film as it does just keep trying to spin on everything going on. We do have an overall message going on which does show the Nicholas needs to become more open in his life, which is the point of the game, trying to teach them how important life is too. The fact that this film just keeps us guessing is what is the most important part of the film, nothing seems like reality, but it could be real, which is why this is such an impressive story.

MysteryThe mystery in this film keeps us wondering whether this is a game or whether there is something more intense going on, the fact we can balance this so effortless makes this one of the best mystery films you will see.

SettingsThe film is set in San Francisco which does show how a successful businessman will operate in a city know or think he knows all the shortcuts to make it through the difficult times.


Scene of the Movie – Rooftop.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Who took his kids at the zoo?

Final Thoughts This is one of the most intense mystery thrillers ever made, we are truly kept wondering just what will happen next balancing on whether this is real or not.

Overall: Brilliant thriller.

Rating

Emelie (2015)

Director: Michael Thelin

Writer: Richard Raymond, Harry Herbeck (Screenplay)

Starring: Sarah Bolger, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair, Chris Beetem, Susan Pourfar, Joshua Rush

 

Plot: A couple’s replacement babysitter turns out to be more than they bargained for when she subjects their kids to a series of twisted activities.


Tagline – A parent’s worst nightmare. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Disturbing Thriller

 

Story: Emelie starts when Emelie (Bolger) takes the place of the new babysitter for a couple Joyce (Pourfar) and Dan (Beetem) heading off for their anniversary dinner. The three children, Jacob (Rush), Sally (Adams) and Christopher (Bair). The night starts off like normal with Emelie letting the kids do what they want, but soon it takes a turn.

Emelie starts pushing the limits of what the children should be doing, making them go through an ordeal before we learn the motivation behind her action, but can the damaged be fixed before it goes too far?

 

Thoughts on Emelie

 

Characters – Emelie pretends to be the babysitter for an unsuspecting family for the night, she comes off like a nice caring young woman, who soon starts to show a darker side when she tries to test the children by putting them through experiences they are too young to understand, she does have a dark past for why she is doing this though. Jacob is the eldest of the children who is the first to sense something is wrong as he tries to get help for his younger siblings. Sally and Christopher are the younger two that see the night as a chance to break the rules more.

PerformancesThe performances are strong through the film Sarah Bolger gives us a woman on edge performance which is on edge about what has happened to her. The child stars don’t do anything wrong for what they are put through which was going to be the hardest part of the film to decide.

StoryThe story follows the idea that a babysitter isn’t what the parents believe her to be and while they have a lovely dinner, the children are being put through an ordeal by a psychotic woman. Now this is a story that will get most fear from parents that let a stranger look after their children, because the story shows the balance of how the time can be easily a moment of happiness for them, going against the horrors their children are going through. It does however have a few glaring mistakes which question parenting etc which you will get annoyed about. We do have moments that are shocking though because when you stop and think about what is happening, you will see the wrong it what is happening.

HorrorThis film uses the horrors of what children shouldn’t be going through as the biggest way to upset the audience and using the time of a romantic dinner only adds to how quickly things can go wrong.

SettingsThe film uses to key settings, the first is the home which turns into a nightmare, this adds to the horror because the children believe it will be their safe place, while the second location is the restaurant which shows how lovely the dinner the parents are on is.

Special EffectsWe only get little moments of effects, which are used well when needed, but this film doesn’t need to use them.


Scene of the Movie –
Fighting back.

That Moment That Annoyed Me What sort of parent lets there 12-year-old child have a pet snake.

Final ThoughtsThis is a psychological horror that shows the horrors that could be happening with your babysitter, when you are having a dinner.

 

Overall: Strong psychological thriller.

Rating