Category Archives: Thrillers

Quien a Hierro Mata (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Quien a Hierro Mata Review
(aka “Eye For an Eye”)

Director: Paco Plaza
Writers: Juan Galiñanes, Jorge Guerricaechevarría
Stars: Luis Tosar, Xan Cejudo, Ismael Martínez

Revenge movies. Nothing is more fun than watching a blood-curdling film in which a victim, who has been beaten to a pulp or almost tortured to death, resurrects and ruthlessly and cruelly takes revenge on his or her assailants. Revenge films come in different variations and gradations. The only similarity they have is that those who are the cause of all the misery generally get the short end of the stick (except in “Eden Lake”). Revenge films have been in circulation for a long time and yet form a tasteful subgenre. Who remembers “The Toxic Avenger”? A hilarious and bloody film in which a nerd, constantly being bullied by local kids, mutates into a nasty chemical creature that takes revenge in a violent way. Or the controversial film “I Spit on Your Grave“? “Revenge“, “Hard Candy” and “John Wick“? The line is big and always has one outcome: mutilated perpetrator(s) and a victim who leaves the past behind with his/her head held high and determinedly faces a new, carefree future.

In “Quien a Hierro Mata” (aka “Eye For an Eye”), the protagonist Mario (Louis Tosar) cannot completely let go of the past. Images from that period haunt his mind and everything indicates that this nurse at a senior care facility can never settle for the injustice done to his family. The seemingly calm and easy-going caretaker nevertheless has a bright future ahead of him. His wife Julia (María Vázquez) is pregnant with their first child. Nothing seems to get in the way of happiness. Until one day Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), the notorious head of a drug cartel, has decided to exchange prison life for a stay in the retirement home where Mario is employed. Antonio Padin suffers from a terminal illness that slowly paralyzes him. And apparently, the relationship between him and his two sons Toño (Ismael Martinez) and Kike (Enric Auquer) is so sour that he opts for the retirement home rather than waiting for his end at home. By coincidence, there’s a link between Mario and this deteriorating old man that causes Mario to slowly transform from a good-natured person into an avenging angel with a dark plan.

Let me immediately warn the action movie fetishists. This is not a Hollywood film in which the action scenes follow each other at a shockingly fast pace. The film is a real slow-burner, with some violent scenes here and there in the first half. Just to demonstrate that the Padin family aren’t only hard-working entrepreneurs, operating a thriving crab-industry with associated culinary establishments. You’ll see that the traps on their fishing boats can also be used for other purposes. And when the two brothers visit their father in the retirement home, just to report to him about their future plans with Chinese customers, they make sure everybody knows that they are untouchable and feared individuals. Kike in particular is an annoying guy with a short fuse who, even without hesitation, questions his father’s mental health and treats him disrespectfully.

“Quien a Hierro Mata” is a dark and gripping thriller that excels thanks to its raw realism and the way in which various actors portray it. All credit to Louis Tosar for showing in a solid way how a tragic past (shown through a whole lot of flashbacks) determines how he judges over certain actions. The imposing beard hides every emotion. His character immediately reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix in “You were never really here”. The ius talionis principle that he applies here (hence the film title) is what makes this film more unique compared to other revenge films. This vigilante ensures that the perpetrator undergoes the same treatment under the same circumstances. Let’s put the make-up department in the spotlight as well. Because, the way Antonio is slowly changing looks terrifying. I was just wondering if Antonio Padin noticed what was happening to him.

I admit it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Spanish-language films several times already. After “Aterrados” and “El Hoyo” I also thought this was a successful film. Certainly not a disappointment, after I started watching it on Netflix without any prior knowledge. First of all, you think this is an average revenge movie with the same known story line. But this soon changes due to the sudden twist and the shocking denouement. It’s wonderful to see how they’ve managed to change the tone of this film from ordinary to moderately chaotic aggressive. The film shows how deep-seated hatred can change a person. It’s not an exceptional film, but it’s relentless and definitely worth watching. I was just wondering one thing. How is it that this retirement home didn’t simply refuse the admission of a known and feared drug lord?

Trauma Center (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Trauma Center Review

Director: Matt Eskandari
Writer: Paul Da Silva
Stars: Bruce Willis, Nicky Whelan, Steve Guttenberg

It looks a bit like “Die Hard” in a hospital wing. Only the adamant John McClane has been replaced by the brave waitress Madison Taylor (Nicky Whelan) who has to save her own skin (and admittedly, that skin belongs to a beautiful, well-shaped body) while two mean-looking fellows are chasing her. And yes, the action hero par excellence, Bruce Willis, admired in days gone by for his contributions to action films and of course idolized during that period, is also present. This time, however, he’s not competing for the main prize as “Most valuable actor”. His contribution is quite limited and in the end you can say it’s insignificant. A negligible character who clearly has to drag himself through every scene while running behind the facts.

What’s wrong with star actor Bruce Willis? The sympathetic actor of yesteryear, who during his heyday was able to transform every crap film into a blockbuster, is slowly but surely working on destroying his status. In recent years it seems as if he has consciously opted for bland, uninspired B-movies with a flimsy screenplay. When looking at the list of films, with him in a central role, that I’ve seen in recent years, there’s really nothing worthwhile to discover. The films “The Prince“, “Vice“, “Extraction“, “Precious Cargo“, “Marauders“, “First Kill“, “Acts of Violence” and “Reprisal” are all monstrosities of movies that aren’t even worth viewing. The only movie I liked was “Once Upon a Time in Venice”. It’s the only film in which Willis demonstrates an unforced enthusiasm. Apparently, being an actor is precious to Willis. However, I recommend that he makes the honorable decision himself and quietly use his hard-earned dollars to enjoy a well-earned vacation for the rest of his life. And it’ll spare most of the film fans a lot of annoyance.

Anyway. So if you forget the lifeless contribution of Bruce Willis, ignore the many improbabilities, won’t see the ridiculousness in some situations, and accept the shameless copying of some corresponding situations from “Die Hard”, then this movie isn’t all that bad. Admittedly, there’s no longer a lot of credit left. And no doubt, lead actress Nicky Whelan deserves the remainder of this credit. Although it’s sometimes annoying to see how her condition can radically improve from one scene to the next. One moment she stumbles through a room while bleeding profusely. The next moment she seems alive and kicking again. Incidentally, I still don’t understand why the bullet wound wasn’t treated decently in this hospital immediately. Applying only an emergency bandage and waiting till after the weekend for someone to be present there to close up the wound, doesn’t seem a patient-friendly procedure to me.

So as a whole, this isn’t a terrible movie (besides the disinterested and sleep-inducing acting of Willis. Can’t stress that enough times). The idea of ​​the incriminating bullet in Madison’s thigh is an original idea in itself. The concept of corrupt agents and the one-location idea, where the victim has to fight for her life, can’t be called very creative. This (and the resulting storyline) has been used countless times in better movies and television series. Also, the movie isn’t really intense or exciting either. Although Texas Battle (heck of an artist name) and Tito Ortiz aren’t school examples of actors, due to their impressive appearance and no-nonsense attitude they still provided the necessary entertainment. In short, despite its (limited number of) positive points, “Trauma Center” was already doomed to be offered as an “On Demand” film. If you are an avid Bruce Willis fan then, of course, you should watch this movie. Only I’m afraid he won’t rise in many fans their opinion.

 

The Hunt (2020) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

The hunt

Director: Craig Zobel
Writers: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz

Can someone please explain why there was so much fuss about the movie “The Hunt“. I understand that the release date has been postponed due to the El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy shootings last year. Let’s just hope that not every violent film suffers the same fate, as the number of mass murders in the U.S., according to the database of the news agency AP, USA Today and Northeastern University, is shockingly high. In 2019, they counted 41 such massacres. Those are a huge number of incidents that can cause releases to be postponed. I suggest they restrict the release of violent video games, new material from well-known music bands that use a rougher music style and bloody comic strips. Because let’s admit it. Every time such an incident happens in the U.S., doomsayers pop up like mushrooms to proclaim that heavy metal (in the past Marilyn Manson was a sitting target) and violent games (such as Counterstrike for example) are the cause of senseless violence with dozens of victims. No sensible person there relates free (and uncontrolled) sale of weapons with all that violence. Even now in this Corona crisis, US citizens are flocking to the arms stores to purchase firearms and ammunition en masse, because they fear that people may react rather strangely to this crisis. Well, here in Europe one can only make victims by throwing tons of toilet paper at someone since that’s the most hoarded item here.

In itself, “The Hunt” is just an average violent film with explicit, gory footage. But claiming this film is the superlative of other films in terms of violence, is certainly a bit simplistic and short-sighted. Let’s look at films such as “You’re next” or “The Purge“. These films have an almost similar concept. The concept of hunters and the hunted. Even “The Hunger Games” tends to go in that direction. But apparently, that was commercially permissible. The recent film “Ready or not” is better comparison material. Also, a film in which someone is being hunted like a wild animal and a series of gory, bloody scenes are shown. Though, the denouement in this movie effortlessly exceeds what is to be seen in “The Hunt”. On the other hand, the satirical character is more prominently present in “The Hunt“. And you still want to watch a movie where blood flows freely? Well, you should try “Revenge” (also a movie that ends with a fight to the death). In short, if you categorise all films that could possibly incite senseless violence, you’d end up with a richly filled list.

What’s explicitly emphasised in “The Hunt”, is the immense gap that exists between the wealthy and the average people living in the US. Of course, they turn it into a political statement once again (conservatives against liberals). A group of so-called conservatives is being kidnapped by a group of foully and berserkly rich liberals who have too much time on their hands or probably couldn’t think of anything else to spend their hard-earned money on. I’m sure there are also rich conservatives and poor liberals living in the US. But that’s a completely different discussion. The fact that there’s a gap (as big as the Grand Canyon) between rich and poor becomes clear during these Corona times. The poorer inhabitants who cannot afford health insurance massively die a slow and horrible death at this very moment. I suppose many will now consider the fuss about “The Hunt” as being a trivial matter.

You can easily compare “The Hunt” with a porn movie. Storywise it’s really nothing and there’s not much beating around the bush so the action-rich part kicks in quite quickly. It takes less than 10 minutes, I think, for the first victim to die with a well-aimed shot through the head. And from then on it’s a series of massacres and exploding bodies. Not that the victims are unarmed because the hunters have left behind a huge chest packed with dangerous-looking weaponry. Unfortunately, the hunted ones are not exactly experts in warfare or close-combat techniques. However, the group of sadistic hunters haven’t done their homework and checked the background of Crystal (Betty Gilpin). This female McClane has quite a bit of knowledge about combat techniques and weaponry. And that’s something the group of rich people hasn’t taken into account. Crystal plays the game harder and more fiercely than those vicious elitists and manages to turn the situation to her advantage.

Betty Gilpin is perfectly cast for this role. She’s fanatic and grim. A merciless tough lady whose sarcastic and blunt comments made me smile several times. To be honest, I sometimes wondered if she was mentally alright. And yes, she reminded me a bit of Phoebe Buffay. Not only because of the looks. But also by her behaviour. A bit of an absent and childlike acting person. Unfortunately, the final confrontation was a bit exaggerated and unrealistic, which accented the slapstick character of the film even more. All in all, “The Hunt” isn’t as impressive as I suspected it to be. 

Grand Isle (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Grand Isle Review

Director: Stephen S. Campanelli
Writers: Iver William Jallah, Rich Ronat
Stars: Nicolas Cage, KaDee Strickland, Luke Benward

I admire the phenomenon called Nicolas Cage enormously. Every film with him (and nowadays it’s a lot every year) is a mandatory watch for me. I really can’t let a single Cage movie pass by. Even though I know that more than half of them are of a dubious level. And some downright bad. And yet there are sometimes gems in between. Now, “Grand Isle” certainly isn’t the pinnacle of his film oeuvre. It’s rather mediocre. The run-up is promising. The concept had potential. And Cage is having a blast with his role that fits him like a glove. Add to that a bitter Milf, a young handyman whose hormones are going berserk and “Frasier” as a biased, god-fearing detective who would prefer to put the suspect on a stake, and you still have enough material to make something out of it. It all looks reasonable. Until halfway somewhere. And then the movie transforms to the level of an average C film. Unfortunately, the presence of such a cult figure as Cage couldn’t change that.

And to think that a white fence is the beginning of all the misery for Buddy (Luke Benward). Such an innocent item with far-reaching consequences. The way in which this fence was damaged, on the other hand, is not so innocent. Not difficult when the owner of the house is an ex-marine with a serious drinking problem. Walter (Nicolas Cage) is a bitter, fatalistic persona. A bit of a crazy person who still can’t get over the fact that he got wounded in Vietnam in a ridiculous way and returned home while his platoon went on a mission the next day. The disappointment was immense. Even knowing that the entire platoon got eliminated completely a few weeks later, the disappointment about a missed opportunity remains. This pent-up anger in combination with excessive alcohol consumption makes him an unguided projectile. His mood, grumpy reactions, and downright aggressive attitude make him an unpleasant person.

Walter also doesn’t treat his other half kindly. She’s a mature diva whose body shapes are extremely well preserved and whose libido clearly hasn’t disappeared yet. And let that be exactly what Walter fails to deliver. He won’t even budge when she shows up in a transparent nightgown with erotic underwear underneath it. A disinterested look and another sip of a glass of whiskey are the only reactions. It’s not without reason that this hot woman sets her sights on the young, muscular handyman. A handyman with a sex life on the back burner since his lovely wife gave birth to a cuddly daughter. And just when you think it’s going to be about a dangerous triangular relationship where the psychopathic-looking husband wants to initiate a lynch party, the young handyman sits at the police station, face bloodied, trying to prove his innocence in a murder case.

Indeed, Walter is really the kind of character that has Nicolas Cage written all over it. The manic mood. Maniacal laughter. Medium length, greasy hair, and a rough stubble beard. The constant drinking and the half-awake state he’s in practically all the time. And it’s not the first time Cage played such a person. In short, it feels familiar to see him that way. The most interesting interpretation, however, is that of Kadee Strickland as the voluptuous Fancy. Every time she’s in the shot, you simply feel the erotic tension increase. Her sultry voice and sensuous appearance ensure she demands all the attention. Unfortunately, Luke Benward could not compete with these two heavyweights. And although he actually plays the main character, it felt like his part was less important.

As I said before, the format of the film is only half successful. It seemed to be heading in the direction of a “Basic Instinct” -like, erotic thriller. Only the eroticism and the thriller section remains below par. And you get a rather absurd conclusion. Also, the dark secret of this demonic couple is presented so casually that its impact is negligible. And let’s not forget about the intervention of the police. You really can call this part quite ridiculous. Furthermore, the movie is peppered with improbabilities. Such as that small detail from the testimony that cannot even be verified immediately. But still, it ensures that the biased inspector makes a 180-degree turn immediately. It’s amazing how someone’s beliefs can change so quickly. And the end of the film is simply terrible. Apparently even the marine uniform Cage was wearing, was also completely wrong. Again proof that quantity and quality aren’t related. If you are an immense Cage fan, you should watch it of course. Unfortunately, “Grand Isle” isn’t really grand after all.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Velvet Buzzsaw Review

Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton 

Regularly I’m asked to watch a low-budget film and to give my opinion about it. And once in a while, I’ll accept such a favour. But when someone asks me, to watch a horror movie every month, and then report on it, I can hardly refuse it. It’s a win-win situation. I’m simply a mega fan of horror. And the one who asked me to do it is someone terrified to watch a horror movie. And when asked which horror I should watch this month, I got the answer “Velvet Buzzsaw“. Well, time to carry out this task so they won’t be disappointed.

I can already reassure the person who asked me the question. “Velvet Buzzsaw” is far from frightening or creepy. The number of jump scares is frighteningly low. I’ve only discovered one. And that was only because a cat suddenly jumped into the picture. So, I think the horror label is a bit misplaced. The most creepy aspect of this film is how supercilious, pedantic and arrogant art connoisseurs and artists in the world of modern art are. What frightened me the most, was the realisation that it might actually be that way in real life. And the further in the story, the more ridiculous it all gets. The film became funnier instead of creepier.

Initially, I was very excited to see this film. And all because of the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal (as art critic Morf Vandewalt) and John Malkovich (as the inspiration-seeking artist Piers) play a role in it. Two top actors who each have their own unique way of acting. If there’s something I enjoyed the most in this film, it’s the acting of Gyllenhaal. A respected, but also feared, art critic. He struggles not only with his sexual orientation but also with the question of whether he still has the ability to judge and criticise art. He succeeds in convincingly putting up a picture of this closed world, full of people who are convinced that they have incomparable knowledge of art. An image of these art-loving people as I’ve always imagined them to be.

Just like Gyllenhaal here, those artificial individuals speak in such terms that you actually have no idea what they are talking about. It seems as if Gyllenhaal’s dialogues are just a combination of pseudo-intellectual terms. In normal human language: he shakes countless intellectual sounding quotes out of his sleeve which are meaningless at the same time. Morf is someone who has an opinion about colour, shape, and correlation with the environment for each object he sees. Whether it is about a randomly placed chair in a hotel room or the clothing of an employee. Even the colour of a coffin gives him reason to criticise. And this shallow attitude also applies to gallery owner Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), artist Piers (John Malkovich), employee Gretchen (Toni Collette), art connoisseur Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge) and every average gallery visitor. All of them pretentious and weighty characters who, if you study them further, are uninteresting and not sympathetic people. The scene in which Jon Dondon sees a stack of garbage bags and thinks it’s a work of art, is a clear proof that the world of modern art is no more than a bubble.

It is only when Josephina (Zowe Ashton) discovers that her upstairs neighbour was an obscure artist, who tried to destroy his works of art because he thought it’s possessed by a supernatural force, the mood gets morbid. The deceased artist Vetril Dease appears to have experienced a disturbing past where there was physical abuse, murder, torture and shocking experiments in a psychiatric institution. All this is reflected in his controversial paintings that arouse emotions with those who admire it. And the people who want to make a profit from it, are confronted with the murderous aspect of Vetril’s artworks. Is it because of a demonic nature? Or is it just coincidence?

No, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is certainly not horror. It’s a successful parody of the art world. A world where the emphasis is not on the artistic level or creativity, but more on investment value and profit margins. Artists deliver tons of artworks in order to obtain a well-stocked catalog. In the past, these works of art were exhibited in crowded galleries. They now disappear into anonymity after being included in the private collection of wealthy art collectors. As Rhodora puts it: “So much easier to talk about money than art“. However, do not expect frightening or creepy situations. The film immediately reminded me of “Deep Dark“. Not directly comparable. But it’s also a film about absurd artworks and might give you the shivers. “Velvet Buzzsaw” can be seen on Netflix. But believe me. There are other Netflix products that are much better.

Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Uncut Gems Review

Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel 

Are you in the middle of a nasty divorce? Or are you at home on sick leave because of burnout due to your stressful job that demands too much from you? Or are those two revolting teenagers at home, who go through puberty right now, making you so much upset that you almost have no fingernails anymore? Good advice! Ignore this movie and look for another soothing movie. Because “Uncut Gems” will certainly not be ideal for your peace of mind. I’m afraid that after 20 minutes you’ll be throwing snacks at the screen out of frustration while pulling your hair out of sheer desperation. Because it’s the most stressful film ever. It drives up the tension throughout the whole movie in a merciless way to an extreme level. Believe me, at the end of the film my heart rhythm was proportional to that of the exhilarating rhythm of this tragicomic film.

Not only is it a nerve-wracking film. The pace of the film is also absurdly high. A movie like an out of control high-speed train. It seemed as if everyone is running from pillar to post at an inhuman pace. From the beginning of the film, it looks like you are being thrown into a centrifuge that’s spinning at a dizzying speed and where the speed never diminishes. Up to and including the denouement. Then the emergency brake is pulled swiftly and the tumultuous life of jeweller Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) abruptly comes to a halt. And if you are annoyed by the use of the “f” word, I warn you already. There are a few hidden in every dialogue.

I’m not at all an Adam Sandler fan. The few films I saw with him (“Click“, “Blended” and “The Cobbler“) were disappointing in my eyes. Maybe it’s the humour used by Sandler. Maybe it’s the person Sandler himself I have a problem with. And to be honest, I always avoid movies with his name on the film poster. It surprised me when I read somewhere that he’s the best-paid actor in Hollywood. But after seeing “Uncut Gems” I have to drastically adjust my opinion about the actor Sandler. It’s not a real comedy (in a reasonably morbid way you could see some kind of humour in it) although you could say that the character Sandler is playing here, is kind of a caricature. Howard, a Jewish jeweller in the metropolis of New York, tries to get his chaotic life back on track. An Ethiopian opal should take care of that. An uncut diamond that according to Howard could muster a fortune at an auction. A fortune with which he can pay off his debts to pawnbrokers and underworld figures. Debts incurred due to his uncontrollable gambling addiction. Until the famous basketball star Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett himself) steps in his diamond shop and asks if he could borrow the precious thing because he feels it exudes a primal power. A power that could bring his performance to an unprecedented height during the upcoming important match.

Well, and when KG doesn’t return the precious good to Howard at the agreed time, it’s the start of a nerve-racking race. A race in which Howard’s life is turned into a hell by nasty people, debt collectors, his wife (Idina Menzel who hates him wholeheartedly and calls him the most annoying person in the world) and his mistress Julia (Julia Fox). Even though Howard is indeed a highly annoying person without scruples or any kind of courtesy, you still feel sorry for this man whose life is collapsing like a house of cards. And even though I got nervous because of the Mr. Bean-like character of the film where Howard screws up every time he makes a decision over and over again, this film still managed to entertain me. I could never have imagined that I would ever say this, but Adam Sandler is simply playing his role in an exceptionally excellent way. This was actually worthy of an Oscar nomination. Hopefully, Sandler developed a taste for serious movies now and will make another attempt with a serious role (in a hopefully less hectic setting) in the future. However, I’m afraid that we’ll be seeing a load of comedies (filled with offbeat, childish humour) before that’ll happen.