All roads flow between Detroit and Montreal in the opioid-industrial-complex thriller Crisis. From the making of the drugs to the trafficking and selling of them, this is a film of grand purpose wrapped in easily digestible tablets, covering only the symptoms it’s meant to handle. So to speak, of course.
In less cutesy terms, Crisis is as complicated as its lead casting. This makes sense, as the real opioid situation is equally troubling. Three stories are at play, two of which converge head-on, but all are connected by present struggle and a potentially damaging future. We follow an undercover agent as he tracks a series of fentanyl pushers, played with no-nonsense by one Armie Hammer. His life is but a string of problems, as he frustratingly puts out one fire before taking care of another (I’m writing of the character). He seethes with impatience, boiling at any mention of possible wrinkles in his plans. I’d be lying if I suggested that Hammer’s performance is on either extreme end of the acting spectrum - holding steady at average for the most part - but if the needle were to shakily move either way, it’d be towards scene-chewing.
Towards, mind you. And that’s ok. Gary Oldman also stars as a teacher and a scientist who stumbles on data that suggests a new drug could be more dangerous than fentanyl, and will be pushed into the market soon. Oldman too teeters towards eating scenes, but like Hammer, is held back just enough by the A-list cast around him, knowing how and when to push his buttons. Crisis hinges on performance, but not necessarily on the shoulders of the actors, at least not simply. The ensemble is used well as dressing, with occasional outbursts of shouting matches and aggressiveness at flexing their chops, but the film stands out from the others of its genre by articulating a specific environment and tone throughout.
Set in Detroit and Montreal primarily, the film is blanketed never with sunshine, but the stark coldness of the region, and cloudy skies of brewing storms. Watching Crisis almost felt like getting a pressure-system headache at times, but not in a negative way. This isn’t a hard-to-follow movie, but it is a movie of complex weight and stress. The cinematography only accentuates this, being particularly rich and brisk all around. It’s the most subtle aspect of the film, right in front of Evangeline Lilly.
Lilly plays a former pain-killer addict, who now seeks to understand why and how her son died, and wants retribution for this injustice. Where the other two leading men got dangerously close to clobbering their roles, Lilly performs with a striking resonance that’s as on the spot as one could want. She gets in over her head ever so quietly but not so expertly, as she’s just a suburban mom after all. Still, she does her arc with graceful motion and subtle emotion, even when her character breaks down here and there.
It’s pretty standard fare honestly, lifted up by the sheer will of its cast and the talent behind the camera. Somewhat muddled in its message but accurate in its heart, Crisis doesn’t knock down any doors, but does bring to the weekend-watch crowd some excitement inside some real-world problems - something certain members of the acting ensemble know all too thoroughly. So to speak. 3/5.
Crisis is now available to stream.
Sound of Violence
Head explosions and silly kills mixed with the obsession of feeling more than the time before. These few aspects help make cinema come to life for a select group who enjoy, well, the little things. Some smell roses, others dig it when Robocop blasts a businessman out of a skyscraper window. I personally love it all, with only the slightest of reservations.
Sound of Violence receives both love and reservations from this writer, I’m happy to report and afraid to type.
It’s a film about a young female audiophile who, based on a very specific trauma in her early childhood, now kills people to achieve sounds of ecstasy. Sounds… of ecstasy. For her, of course. She sets a trap, she collects her prey, she sets up her microphone, and she gets to work. Pretty simple, right?
Not so much.
Jasmin Savoy Brown plays this young woman as an obsessive so laser-focused, it suggests something stunted or developmentally delayed about her - which makes sense, given the opening minutes of the movie. There’s a pattern of PTSD that follows her and what was of her family, but instead of being haunted by it, she’s invigorated and excited. Indeed, Brown projects from her character some excitable tendencies at the very idea of music and audio projects, especially those concerning her new killer work. And her new work? It gives her such thrills, and such sights.
The moments of Saw-like murders and orgasmic-sensory-overloads, the meat and potatoes of this meal of a motion picture, mash and clash pretty difficultly with the more dramatic and “average” bits, and this may be by design. If so, it’s a bold choice to have a scene of a homeless man being tortured slowly with a meat tenderizer that’s controlled by a DJ station, in the same story as a tender sequence where two women express positive affection for one another. Juxtaposition! Rough edges can still be sharp, you know. But they can also come with tetanus.
The contrasts aren’t really a problem, but the amount of them is. Only once can I recall when a balance is struck, that being when the young woman brings her death music to her college class, and plays a track to a shocked room. They’re all left disgusted, and she’s left embarrassed. At this point in the film, we’ve been privy to some strong “will they/won’t they” scenarios between her and her roommate, the hesitation of which coming entirely from her side. The shock from her classmates translates both to her external self-expression and her internal hidden self. It’s a shame that only one comes out, and it’s the murderous one.
Sound of Violence is, above all else, a love story, between two female roommates. It blossoms ever so adorably only to ultimately crash with such felt heartbreak. This heartbreak leads to an ending that I would’ve made up in college in one of my excursions to Waffle House with friends. It’s straight-up from the Tetsuo: The Iron Man playbook, if slightly at an angle and maybe not as extreme. Not as extreme, but extreme nonetheless. The film is almost the literal interpretation of that “Tired/Wired” meme on Twitter and elsewhere, and that’s the best way I can describe it. Sometimes it gets lost in its own making, sometimes it triumphs. There’s no in-between.
Played as a concoction of allegory and violent viscerals, inside of which is a landscape of explosive sexual awakening and a painfully realized mix of strength and self-loathing, Sound of Violence is a lot to absorb, a lot to think over, and a lot to smile about, even if wickedly. Especially if wickedly. 3/5.
Sound of Violence is now available to stream.
Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor leaps over many bounds to land high on my favorites of the year list - though, if you have a keen eye for such ratings, you’d know that this isn’t too hard to achieve in my case. I’m not difficult to please, but I do seek to be challenged more than anything. Challenged in my tastes, my senses, and my understanding of cinema and what it can be. Censor does this, and with much power.
Set in the very real era of England when movies of ill repute - “video nasties” as they were called - suffered from the blame game of the country’s problems. We follow Enid, a stuffy perfectionist of a government censor, whose job it is to review films for violence and sex, and either reject them for viewing or mandate edits to be made. She seems to mandate edits more than reject, suggesting some kind of fondness for the overkill she witnesses day to day. She also comes with the baggage of being traumatized by the disappearance of her sister when they were kids, something which confronts her head-on in a new film she’s tasked with watching.
From there, whatever rails that existed previously are magically removed, and Censor barrels into uncharted depths.
To call this Lynchian would be too easy, and to call this acid might be too much. It’s trippy, but not for the sake of it. It’s dreamy, but not without a plan. Censor feels so incredibly crafted and constructed, to such a perfect pitch, that it’s scary. Individual scenes and subtle movements will evoke the most detailed of atmospherics, while the collective whole leads to a downward spiral into freakish victory and deviously careful views between the seams.
One such movement is a mere walk down a dark hallway, that bleeds into the next environment with cautious esteem. Enid walks to the camera and turns down a hallway, only for the camera to then walk over and turn with her, slowly following into the darkness. Was the missing sister in the back and front of Enid’s mind watching her for me?
Maybe. Maybe not. But I like to think maybe.
That’s it. I won’t go any further into Censor right now, for fear of spoiling too much. A movie of great style and greater substance, all to service a story of thrills and an audience seeking chills.
Challenge accepted. 5/5.
Censor is now playing in theaters and available to stream.
The Moviegoing Bill is a labor of love and an exercise in expression. If you like what you’ve read, please share it around and consider subscribing.