My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
The Reef: Stalked (2022)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
The first half of this new shark thriller isn’t too bad. It actually has a set up, some believable performances, some female characters who don’t just feel like eye candy (or bikini bait). Once they get into the water, the filmmakers take their time with building suspense. It actually might be a little too long before the chomping begins. Once it does, I was impressed at the use of mostly real shark footage and restrained, careful instances of a CGI Great White.
And then it all derails in the second half. Things get far fetched pretty fast. The effects start to get really cheesy (what’s up with that fast forward shark attack?). The characters are suddenly dumb and only in service of what the filmmakers need them to do.
Shame too. I normally hate these kinds of movies and this one started with some potential.
Watched on Shudder.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Not nearly as bad as it was made out to be, Shyamalan’s recent Twilight Zone-like feature is enjoyable but certainly not in league with his best work.
Coming off a couple recent hits, maybe people expected another third base hit but I just don’t think that’s what the director’s career will ever look like. Seen every Hitchcock movie? They’re not all Vertigo and Psycho. I’m not suggesting M. Night is on par with Hitch but he certainly has committed himself to the same genre over two decades now.
Other than the truly misguided camera angles, I found this to be a mildly clever, decently acted thriller that thankfully lacks the pretentious tone of a film like Nope.
Watched on HBO Max.
King of New York (1990)
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
This is my third try at understanding what the big deal is about King of New York and I think I’m out. As I study Ferrara’s work chronologically, it’s bizarre to this film came not long after the excellent China Girl. I’d say even the flawed Cat Chaser is a more successful film than this one.
Yes, Christopher Walken is always interesting to watch but his crime kingpin character is painfully underwritten. The character’s motivation and film’s themes seem to be explained in its best scene, a Heat-like meeting of crook and cop (Victor Argo, who provides the movie’s best performance). Walken talks about how he’s cleaned up the streets, done good overall for the city, and doesn’t deserve to be treated like any other criminal. These concepts could have been fascinating to explore at length and refreshing to the crime genre but Ferrara’s movie chooses to focus instead on repetitive killing scenes. The hits on several crime lord competitors are so redundant, I couldn’t tell one apart from the other. And when people aren’t being shot, Ferrara would rather show Walken dance than explore his philanthropic ways. It’s a shame because this could have been a thoughtful, original take on the gangster picture. But even with a great ensemble cast from David Caruso to Wesley Snipes to Laurence Fishburne (so annoying I couldn’t wait for his character to die), this film just falls flat for me.
Going through Abel Ferrara’s filmography is fascinating. To see his evolution from The Driller Killer to Ms. 45 to this is a sometimes puzzlying journey. I can’t wait to see the rest of the way that eventually led to the amazing Tommaso.
Watched on Tubi.