Eden Lake


Eden Lake

Kelly Reilly gets a different kind of facial.

(2008) Horror (Third Rail) Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayne Hunter, Thomas Turgoose, James Burrows, Thomas Gill, Lorraine Bruce, Shaun Dooley, James Ghandhi, Bronson Webb. Directed by James Watkins

We are trained from birth to jump at things that go bump in the night. We give form to our fears in all sorts of monsters from Godzilla to Dracula. The true horror however lies in the human heart.

Jenny (Reilly) and Steve (Fassbender) are a couple who are taking a weekend trip to an idyllic lake in rural England, a place Steve has happy memories of from his childhood. However when they get there, they discover that an impending development has closed off the lake. Disregarding the “Keep Out” signs, Steve drives into the park-like setting.

The lake doesn’t disappoint – it’s beautiful and placid. However, the couple’s peace and quiet is shattered by a group of teen hoodlums. Led by Brett (O’Connell), they’re mostly obnoxious and a bit intimidating. Rather than moving elsewhere, Steve decides to stay because “they were there first.” Not very mature and not very smart.

Things begin to escalate. The kids steal their car and their things. There are confrontations. They get physical. Brett’s beloved dog is accidentally killed. Things are about to get seriously ugly, and it will be up to Jenny to save them after Steve is seriously injured. Between her is a pack of rabid dogs in kid’s bodies that are baying for her blood.

Watkins makes a film that is a worthy successor to Straw Dogs and other 70s survival movies. Once things get rolling, you will be cringing in your seat and almost begging for the couple to make it. Steve and Jenny are extremely likable and the kids so utterly horrid that there is an easy rooting interest.

Fassbender has come on in recent years to be poised on the edge of stardom, but this movie was made before his higher profile roles of late. His role here is much more of a supporting part; for most of the second half of the movie he is essentially immobile and has few lines. Still, he has an innate likability and it shows onscreen here.

Reilly is really the star of the movie. Jenny is really put through the wringer here – dragged through the mud, burned, stabbed, beaten and betrayed – she is pushed to the limit and beyond. Reilly plays her as a fragile woman who has an inner strength that comes roaring out when cornered. She’s a likable heroine who can also be fierce, pushed to do things that are she must in order to survive.

O’Connell makes for a vicious and brutal gang leader, one of the nastiest to ever be seen on screen. When things get violent, he gets out of control, savaging his own gang members when he doesn’t get his way. O’Connell doesn’t make him sympathetic but he does make him human and not just a cartoon character. The brutality may be extreme but it comes from a realistic place.

This may be an extreme case but there have been reports of incidents of people being set upon by youth gangs in Britain. As things escalate to their conclusion, we can view this as a morality tale that leaves us with a few lessons. First, never underestimate the danger that comes from a pack of people; no matter how young they are. Second, it is a bad idea to stay somewhere when there are clearly dangerous people around, no matter how much it wounds your macho pride. Finally, never come between a boy and his dog. It can only end badly.

WHY RENT THIS: An excellent thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. The leads are attractive.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The brutality can be off-putting.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a great deal of brutal violence, some nudity and sexuality, a whole lot of foul language and a brief bit of drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Turgoose first gained critical notice for the movie This is England.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $4M on an unreported production budget; I’m thinking this probably made a little bit of money.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Other Man

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Noise


Noise

William Hurt can't take another Celebrity Apprentice story from Billy Baldwin.

(THINKfilm) Tim Robbins, Bridget Moynahan, William Hurt, William Baldwin, Margarita Levieva, Gabrielle Brennan, Maria Ballesteros, Chuck Cooper. Directed by Henry Bean

Those of us who live in a small town as I do, or in a suburb as I did don’t have an idea of the everyday assault of noise for those who live in a city, as I also did. For the most part, you simply tune it out but some things become too much to ignore.

David Owens (Robbins) is a lawyer (methinks) who has begun to be driven wiggy by car alarms, alarms that wake him up in the middle of the night or interrupt his lovemaking sessions with his cellist wife Helen (Moynahan). At first, he contents himself with minor vandalisms against offending vehicles that leave him with a sense of partial justice but soon that becomes insufficient. He begins to smash windows with baseball bats, rip out wiring and so on. Until, that is, he gets arrested.

Helen, becoming increasingly concerned with her increasingly more obsessive and unstable husband, manages to get him to agree to a plea bargain in order to keep him out of jail. At first, he complies in order to keep the peace in his family but the ever-present assault of noise drive him farther and farther around the bend. He takes on the guise of the vigilante figure The Rectifier, leaving calling cards whenever he disables an alarm system.

Surprisingly (although frankly not to David) the exploits of The Rectifier capture the imagination of New Yorkers who cheer the vigilante’s one-man fight against noise pollution. This in turn captures the attention of Mayor Schneer (Hurt), who wants The Rectifier caught. Increasingly this becomes a battle of wills between the clearly not-quite-paddling-with-both-oars-in-the-canoe David and Hizzonner, who seems to take it as a personal affront that there is a man defying the law in his city. When a beautiful Russian lobbyist (Levieva) discovers David’s alter ego, she convinces him to try and get a ballot initiative banning car alarms in the five boroughs of New York City. That’s when the war really begins.

Director Henry Bean, who was last seen helming The Believer which featured Ryan Gosling as an anti-Semitic Jew does a good job of creating the feeling of aural assault that David Owens is surely feeling. However, he takes what was an interesting concept to begin with and tries to get fancy with his storytelling. The story bounces back and forth from the present to various points in a ten-year period, often with little or no way to tell where in the story events are taking place. None of the characters change physically in the ten year time span; you’d think one of them would at least get a different haircut from time to time, or maybe grow some facial hair but we are left trying to guess where in the story you are which leads to the musical question “Does anybody really know what time it is?” which of course begs the unwanted follow-up question “Does anybody really care?”

Robbins does a nice job of making a character who is essentially obsessive, self-righteous and a little bit around the bend remain likable enough that you don’t wind up being without anyone to identify with. Moynihan is also solid in a role that is essentially little more than an exasperated wife cliché. Sadly, Levieva gets a part that really doesn’t have a reason to be in this movie unless its for the titillation aspect.

Occasionally, the writing gets a little bit preachy and self-righteous but to be fair, there is some good, intelligent stuff that indicates that someone a fair amount of thought into this. There are also some moments of black humor that hit without warning, making those scenes all the more effective.

Ultimately Noise is an uneven effort that has just enough to make it worth a DVD recommendation (it also shows up on cable from time to time). It’s too bad it wasn’t a little bit better; Robbins deserved a better movie for his performance.

WHY RENT THIS: There is some black humor that comes out of left field from time to time. Robbins plays a whacko with enough wit and charm to make the character relatively palatable. Movie has a thoughtful air that is refreshing.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The storytelling conceit of jumping back and forth throughout a ten year timeline is often confusing. The writing occasionally gets preachy and not in a good way.

FAMILY VALUES: Vandalism is presented as justifiable throughout the movie; there is also sex, nudity and frank discussions about female genitalia as well as a scene depicting drug use. Although the movie went unrated, parents should think hard before letting their kids see this one.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Bean based the character of David Owens on himself; as a younger man he was arrested and jailed for breaking into a car and disabling the alarm.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Deja Vu