Orphan: First Kill (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Leena Klammer is a 31 year old woman with a rare disorder that causes her to look like a child. She uses this to worm her way into a family by pretending to be their lost daughter Esther.

When you go to see a film you usually have questions you want answered: How will John Wick surpass the previous films? Who’s that mysterious person in the trailer? Is this where we begin to see that the MCU actually does have a plan? With this, the question was more “so it’s a prequel to a film that came out 13 years ago? How’s that going to work? And we already know the twist, she’s not a child, she’s an adult killer, so again; how is this going to work?”

As a general rule, prequels are terrible. They have zero tension because the film tries to put have life or death situations with characters we know to survive. As good as they were, NOBODY watches X-Men First Class and thinks “oh no, I don’t know whether Magneto or Charles Xavier are going to survive”. There’s also sequel escalation to deal with: because it comes after, the natural choice is to have bigger stakes, but it’s a prequel so it just feels weird. The “prequels are terrible” rule is ESPECIALLY true in horror movies; they have a habit of exploring characters who we don’t want to see explored, they ruin the mystery of the villains and make them seem weaker, ruining the whole franchise.

All of that, combined with the fact that I didn’t see any trailers at the cinema for this lead me to go in with low expectations. On the bright side, it’s just over 90 minutes so at least it will be over soon, plus I’m getting free nachos so that’s something.

I was surprised. I genuinely loved this movie. There’s a reveal in this where your experience as a viewer changes. It’s SUCH a good reveal too. The kind that makes you want to watch the film again to see if you can catch it before it happens. It also doesn’t impact the other film in the franchise. This does tie into the previous film, there are a few allusions to it here and there, and the ending directly leads into it. But it is a stand-alone film. It explains the character well enough that if you hadn’t seen the original, you won’t be lost. THAT’S how a film like this should be, it should reward viewers of the original, but it shouldn’t appeal ONLY to them. This is probably my favourite prequel I’ve seen.

Now onto the stand-alone analysis. There seems to be more of a focus on bright colours in this one, which provides a kind of nice motif throughout the whole thing. It’s not exactly unique, but it does make it stand out among the dark greys and browns of a lot of horror films. Directed by William Brent Bell, I’ve seen two of his films before (The Devil Inside, Brahms The Boy 2) and I fucking hated them, but his style works for this. There are some great uses of blank spaces to highlight how small Esther is compared to her surroundings.

Onto Esther, she’s played by Isabelle Fuhrman again, the last time she played her she was 12, she’s now 25. To reiterate: she’s 25, playing a 31-year-old who looks like a 9-year-old. It’s so weird but she pulls it off. This performance puts the character of Esther on another level, and makes you think that they must be really regretting killing her off at the end of the first one, and making the ending of this one tie so heavily into the start of the original. This character deserves to feature in more films, and I’m not sure how they’re going to do that now (although they are planning it). Her story is locked in, we’ve essentially seen the beginning and the end, with no room for a middle. The other members of the cast are okay, most of them are serviceable. Julia Stiles is a revelation though, I’ve seen her in a lot of stuff before, but this is her at her best. It felt like the first time she was a character and not just Julia Stiles. Rossif Sutherland is okay, I guess, but he’s stuck between two superb performances, and just doesn’t match it.

In summary I’d say definitely watched this. It’s a different film to the first one, but one I enjoyed a lot more.

Beast (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Idris Elba fights a lion whilst mourning for his dead wife in this intense survival thriller by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur

“Man Vs. Animal” movies are tricky, for two reasons: 1) Man has a gun, so he already has a distinct advantage, you can’t shoot anybody with bear arms. 2) It’s going to be compared to Jaws. Especially when the best way to get rid of most giant animals is to blow them up. Jaws did everything so perfectly that being compared to it automatically knocks you down a few points.

Of course, I haven’t seen Jaws (yet, watching it next month), but I’ve read the book, and I’ve seen it referenced enough times in popular media that I can pick up references to it. Maybe that works in my favour as it means I’m not that familiar with the tropes and conventions, because it’s a genre I haven’t explored much I’m not watching this film thinking of the cliches. I’m guessing that’s why the reviews have been mixed, because a lot of people see it and all they can see is the cliches. I liked it though. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen but it’s a snappy and entertaining piece of cinema. It’s not going to change your life, but you can sit there, forget your troubles, and be entertained for 90 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the dialogue could be better. A lot of the dialogue actually, there’s far too much clunky exposition. And there are times when the film veers into a slightly dreamlike territory which doesn’t really suit it. It’s at its best when it’s just Idris Elba panicking but hiding his panic for the sake of his family. It’s a simple story that’s easy to understand, easy to relate to, and already provides an emotional baseline for the film to work with. Most of the film is him, Leah Jeffries, and Iyana Halley. Iyana and Leah are relatively new, but do pretty well. Not “I’m going to watch their next film” good, but “I expect they’re going to do something REALLY good in the next few years” good. It’s a difficult film for them, as they have to act alongside Idris Elba, who (in my mind), is one of the greatest actors around at the moment. If their performance drops, it will be made much more noticeable by who they’re alongside. Thankfully, they work. Even when they deliver lines which could make them seem horrible, they deliver them in such a way that it works and you still sympathise with them.

Now onto the best thing about this film. The thing that means you can ignore the clunky dialogue, the somewhat predictable story, and some of the characters weird decisions: the directing. The only film by Kormákur that I’ve seen before is Adrift. This far surpasses that in technical brilliance. CGI lions are hard to do convincingly (as anybody who watched the live-action version of The Lion King can attest), you need to have them have expressive enough body language, while also looking real. You could, you know, just use real animals, but only if you don’t like your actors that much. I was watching this wondering how they did it, I assumed they had some incredibly tame animals, but nope, was CGI. That’s simply incredible, you never feel you’re watching fake animals here, everything looks real. They all have a physical presence on screen so if someone did tell you they were really there on set, you wouldn’t be that surprised.

Kormákur could have made it easier for himself by having them in darkness, and cutting away to reaction shots a lot, or having quite quick shots so your eyes don’t focus properly which would make it easier to hide CGI flaws. Whilst a lot of film is in darkness, that feels more like a storytelling method than a technical workaround, in terms of darkness it’s more Alien than Cheap Student Horror. A fair amount of the film takes place in the light, so you can see all the animals clearly, if there were any imperfections, you’d notice. And then there are the shots, they are long. When Kormákur has a choice between cutting away, and following the characters/action, he always goes with the second (and the most difficult) option. There are long action sequences, and I can only imagine how difficult that was for the effects team to work with, but the fact it all looks as good as it does is a testament to the skill of everybody involved.

So in summary, yeah you should watch this. Some films make you laugh, some make you cry, and some scare you, but this is one of the best examples of something that is both popcorn cinema and technical brilliance. I didn’t see Jurassic Park at the cinema (I watched it the way Spielberg intended, on a dodgy video from a market stall), but if I had watched it on the big screen, I imagine my feelings coming out of it would have been similar to this (albeit, that had better music), a feeling of amazement and wonder at what I had just seen.

Fisherman’s Friends: One And All (2022)

Quick synopsis: Cornish singing fisherman continue to sing, this time joined by a Welsh farmer.

Fun fact: the synopsis currently on google is “After the highs of performing on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, the group struggle with their second album. During a divisive tour of South Australia, they will trace their ancestors and embrace a new community, and discover their musical DNA.”, that’s not what happens. The film ENDS with them on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, so I’m not entirely sure what is going on there. And the one on IMDB is just “a sequel to the first film”. Bit weird.

I’ll admit, I was going to be a bit cheeky in this. My original plan for this review was to just post the review of the first one, and then make a snarky comment about how weirdly everything about my review still fits. I read that review, and I was going through it I was thinking “wow, this is actually perfect, ALL of this still applies to this film”. But then I got to this line:

“The above made complete sense in relation to this film. Which is weird, as with the exception of 3 words, it was lifted word for word from an earlier review.”

The rest of the review mentioned some specific things about the film, but that one sentence is a curse. Because it means this film is so generic that I can do a review that’s not even a copy, but is a copy of a copy. I missed about 6 minutes of the film, and wasn’t lost when I came back. Stuff had happened in that gap, but it was stuff you knew was going to happen. In fact, I’d argue that you only need to watch about 15 minutes of this to get the whole plot. It’s a shame as it is enjoyable. It’s funny, heartwarming, and everybody is doing a great job. At its heart, it is a good film. It does everything well. There’s nothing inherently bad about it, and it’s a difficult film to dislike. When you’re watching it you’re not bored or distracted. Everybody in the screen I was in enjoyed it. If it’s on TV and I need something on in the background, I’ll keep it on. But I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d go out of my way to watch it. In a months time I won’t be able to remember any lines from it or moments I enjoyed, and as time goes on it will be increasingly difficult to remember what happened in this film and what happened in the first one. There are certain scenes in this that I felt I’d seen before, and that’s never a good thing. I’ll admit, there were also times I laughed, and times I was emotionally affected by the film. But there was absolutely nothing that will stay with me.

So to sum up: you won’t be bored or angry, but it’s not going to change your life. It’s almost the perfect definition of “If you liked the first one”.

She Will (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An ageing film star (Veronica, played by Alice Krige) retreats to the Scottish countryside with her nurse to recover from surgery. While there, mysterious forces of revenge emerge from the land where witches were burned.

I am aware I have huge gaps in my pop culture knowledge, so forgive my ignorance when I ask this question: is Alice Krige a big deal? Because after watching this, it feels like she should be. She carries herself brilliantly in this. If anyone is looking to remake Sunset Boulevard, you’d be hard-pushed to find someone to step into Gloria Swanson’s shoes than Krige. But also, don’t remake Sunset Boulevard you dicks. Her performance is a real highlight in this, it feels slightly exaggerated, but only because the character is a fading actress, so her whole personality is exaggerated. If she was too “real” and grounded you wouldn’t have that “she used to be a star” feeling, and if she was TOO exaggerated she wouldn’t feel real, and some of the moments would come off more comedic than creepy.

The supporting cast all have their chance to shine, although you sometimes wish some of them were in it a bit more. It’s only 95 minutes long and I feel another 10 minutes or so might have helped it. There are glimpses that Malcolm McDowell’s character is highly regarded, but if the film had more time then we would have had a better glimpse of how famous he is in this universe. Is he a “known in Britain” actor, is he a “known by film buffs” actor, or is he a “respected and known by the world” actor? If we knew more about that, we would know more about the influence he had on Veronica’s life and it would help to flesh out the story. He is on verge of knighthood, but is it a “and now you’re put out to pasture” one?

I feel like “Post #metoo horror” is now a genre. In the last few years, there has been a definite increase in female-created horror films about women fighting back against male oppression and patriarchal power structures. I don’t know enough to judge whether there’s been an increase in those stories being made, or whether the ones being made now have more eyes on them, either way, stuff like this is very important to see. But since it is a delicate subject, it can be tricky to pull off well without seeming like it’s retreading old ground. There are moments where this does dip into the cliche, particularly with some of the visuals, and “this area is where witches were punished” is used a lot, to the point where it feels like it’s replaced “ancient Indian burial ground” as a horror trope. It does take it into an interesting direction though. It’s not enough that “bad shit went down here”, it’s not a therapy retreat where the people there praise the earth as being good for your health “because of all the ashes from women who were burnt as witches”, so its not enough that bad stuff happened, it’s the commercialisation of those awful events. Burning women wasn’t enough, they’re now exploiting their memories and deaths. It would be like if Dachau sold foundation powder mixed in with ashes from the rooms. It’s dark, horrific when you think about it, yet not entirely surprising. It does feel like that moment is there to influence the character, it doesn’t seem to go as deep into the notion of systematic oppression as it should.

This is the feature directorial debut of Charlotte Colbert, who also wrote it. She has a bright future in horror. Her main background is in photography and multi-media sculptures, and her knowledge of photography comes through in some of the ways the film is shot. She approaches them in a way that tells you the story with the way everything is framed, you could watch this with the sound off and still get a pretty solid idea of what is happening, based solely on the choices of shots used. Of particular note is when Veronica arrives at the lodge. Before that, you think it’s going to be a film about isolation and her losing her mind with nobody near her. So when she opens the door and is met with a room full of people you’re just as shocked as she is. Then there are a lot of really claustrophobic shots of everybody approaching her, it does a great job of putting you in her shoes.

Just because you can watch it in silence, doesn’t mean you should. Clint Mansell does a fantastic score, as he normally does. And the sound design is pretty fun throughout, there’s a moment where someone’s hand starts burning, and the sound is weirdly wonderful, it’s almost crackling, as if the world itself is coming apart.

That leads to the downside though, the film is very stop-start, it doesn’t keep momentum well at all. The fire incident, for example, doesn’t really have a narrative follow-up. The narrative is where Colbert’s inexperience as a writer shows. It tries to do much, and sometimes feels like it lacks identity. It has a lot to say, and I feel that if it tried to say less, it could end up saying more. There’s enough material here for three films, but now Colbert has put them all in the same film, it will make it harder for her to explore those themes again without it feeling like she’s retreading old ground.

In summary: a noble effort, and one with a lot to say. It’s definitely worth watching if you can, but you do feel it’s slightly on the cusp of something much better than it is.

DC League Of Super Pets (2022)

Quick Summary: Krypto The Superdog teams up with a group of superpowered pets to save the world from a hairless guinea pig.

Oh joy, a DC movie, animated, aimed at kids, this could be terrible. It’s not though, it’s funny, has a lot of heart in it, and makes the most of how ridiculous the premise is. It does seem somewhat hampered by the fact that a lot of the already existing jokes about pet ownership have already been taken by Secret Life Of Pets etc. It’s not doing anything new, but it’s not really expected to. Compared to the other Warner Bros animated fare, this is much better. Although let’s be honest, being better than Space Jam: A New Legacy is not exactly difficult.

There are some jokes which only work in this film, and really that’s how films like this should be. That’s the same for the story too. Bat-Hounds backstory is that he was abandoned by his family after they thought he bit their child. Brilliant writing as it ties into Batman’s “I work alone and don’t like getting close to people” nature, whilst also ties into the character, you know, being a dog.

Most of the casting is perfect. The Rock makes a great Superdog (if you stick around for the credits, you see him as Black Adam), and some of the human voices are almost too perfect: Keanu Reeves as Batman, for example. Kevin Hart as Bat-Hound doesn’t really work for me though. Kevin Hart is a ball of manic energy who survives on quick dialogue and humour. Which is the complete opposite of what a Batman-like character should be. It’s a shame as his chemistry with The Rock is obvious and sells many films, I just feel it might not be appropriate for this.

If you go into this as an adult, watching it and comparing it to other comic book movies, you won’t be pleased. It will be too simple, the plot too obvious, and the action scenes without tension. But if you go into this as a kids movie, just leave your mind at the door, and go in to have fun, you’ll like it. I’ve been in screenings for kids’ films before and this probably got the best reaction. That sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, but kids’ films are REALLY hard to do. An adult goes into a film with the social understanding “I am going to sit and watch this film”, a child has no such qualms. If a child isn’t entertained by what they’re seeing, they’ll let you and everybody else know. They have no shame in complaining, or running around the screen. They’re a highly critical audience, and the fact that this film scores well among that audience is a testament to how well made it is. There’s not QUITE enough there for adults though, which is a shame as films like The Lego Batman movie have shown how you can show love for the source material, entertain children, and throw in references for adults to get, and this doesn’t get close to doing that.

So in summary, is good, but could be great. If there’s a sequel, that could be better as the characters will already be established.

Bullet Train (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is an unlucky assassin who’s been tasked to retrieve a briefcase from a train. A train full of other nefarious people including Tangerine and Lemon (Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry), The Wolf (Bad Bunny), The Hornet (Zazie Beetz), The Prince (Joey King), and The Father (Andrew Koji) also all want the briefcase in this fun neon insanity directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2).

My expectations for this: dumb fun. I’d watch it, be slightly amused, but come out thinking I could have watched this on Netflix.

In reality, I’ve seen this film twice already now. It’s among my favourites of the year. It just works. Action films depend on the two C’s: Characters and Choreography. Characters; You can have faceless mooks be injured and killed, but if it’s a one-on-one fight scene and you don’t care about one of the characters, the stakes will seem lower. A random person being punched in the face? Meh, who cares? Clive, who we know is working this low-level job to pay for his daughter’s hospital bills, and we witness him being injured? We care, we worry about Clive and the implications of him being injured. This film nails that aspect, there are moments where characters get a long introductory montage full of motivation and background, and then only last 5 minutes before dying. Some may find this frustrating but I loved it. Not only because it added character motivation to random fights, but also meant that there was a real “anyone can die” feel to the whole thing. You watch this knowing that any character could suddenly be killed, and not dramatically or meaningfully, characters can be killed by accident in the blink of an eye.

Now, choreography. I dislike a lot of modern action films for one simple reason: you can’t actually see what’s going on. The camera moves so quickly that your brain is forever playing catchup to your eyes. The fight scenes in this are brilliant. They’re brightly lit, and choreographed SO WELL. Unless it’s purposeful misdirection, you know where everybody is at all times and can clearly see everything that’s happening. It kind of helps that everybody looks so different so even when it is just two people grappling and rolling, you can tell who is winning, there’s none of those issues you had with Morbius where it just looked like a blob of flesh whirling around. This has some of my favourite fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

It looks great, the bright colours and unique setting help create a visual feast for the eyes. It’s like a weird mix of Edgar Wright, Guy Ritchie, and Chad Stahelski. The Guy Ritchie comparisons also extend to the story and the dialogue. There are lots of F-words, lots of character introductions via flashback, and lots of deadly misunderstandings and miscommunications. If the characters were terrible, that would hurt the film. But as it is, it works. The characters are all different enough that when you get another introduction, it doesn’t hurt the film. I would watch a spin-off film based around almost any one of these characters. The script is also VERY funny, there was sustained laughter throughout the cinema when I saw it. Different types of comedy too, there’s absurdity, wordplay, physical humour etc. It runs the gauntlet of different comedic styles flawlessly, whilst also putting in many references to Thomas The Tank Engine, more than most films.

Now onto the downsides: the CGI is slightly ropey at times. Usually not distractingly so but there a few moments which just don’t look “right”. There’s a moment near the end where Brad Pitts performance feels a little off. It’s hard to explain it, but it doesn’t feel like he’s interacting with a person, feels like he’s just on his own in a room reading lines. It’s strange as 99% of the time he can be depended on for a very good performance, and in most of this he’s perfect. There’s just that one scene which is a little off. One of the characters deaths doesn’t feel very satisfying. This persons comeuppance is constantly teased throughout, and when it does happen it feels like it happens too quickly.

Overall, I highly recommend this. As I said, I’ve seen it twice already, and will definitely be getting it on DVD, I’m already considering buying the soundtrack.

Minions: The Rise Of Gru

Quick synopsis: It’s 1976, 11 year old Gru wants to join a supervillain league but is rejected due to his young age, he does not take it well.

I was ready to slate this, I was ready to come down on this harder than the next UK Prime Minister comes down on an unemployed person not applying for jobs in their sleep. I was going to use every insult that exists, and a few that I made up to express my anger at this film.

But then it ruined my plans by having the audacity, the sheer gall, to actually be okay. How very dare you! I mean, it’s not going to end up on my “best of 2021” list, mainly because it’s 2022, but also because the best it ever gets is “okay”. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, I think it’s because it’s basically old Buster Keaton skits, but in animation so there’s no sense of danger or risk. There’s also always the sneaking suspicion that it’s a merchandise-driven series rather than a creative one. It’s strange as its when this film links to the others in the franchise that it’s at its weakest. The timeline doesn’t line up AT ALL with the first Minions film, and when it makes references to the other films it falls flat, and like every prequel ever made has moments where the audience reacts with “what a useful skill/gadget, that would have been useful in [scene in a film made earlier but chronologically takes place later]”.

This does fix the biggest mistake of the previous prequel, it focuses on a character who can talk. The minions are fine in small doses, if they were in a series of shorts it would be fine. But following them over the course of an entire feature-length film is tiresome, so following less obnoxious characters is a smart move. What would be even smarter is utilizing the supporting cast more effectively: the main villains are played by Lucy Lawless, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Tajiri P Henson, and Danny Trejo. With the exception of Henson, it’s possible to watch this film and be unaware of that. They’re not used enough and it feels like kind of a waste casting them. Also, it’s strange having them in a movie set in 1976, change the plot (make Gru a young villain instead of a child), and set it in the 80s and that casting would make sense.

Now onto the good; the narrative is strong and it never feels like things are happening “just because”. It is very funny at times, and the music is fun. It’s also absolutely perfect for kids, they’ll love it. The colours, the sound, the jokes, this will be one of those films parents will hate because of how often their kids will want to watch it.

So in summary, if you have kids, take them to the cinema to see it. If not, wait until netflix then check it out when you have nothing else to do.

The Bad Guys (2022)

Quick Synopsis: A criminal gang made up of anthropomorphic animals pretend to reform themselves into good guys to avoid prison.

It’s difficult to be an animated movie. Since Toy Story changed the game back in 1995, everybody else has followed suit and started producing films more in line with that visual style. So they usually look great, but it does have the downside of meaning it will get compared to Pixar, and being compared to one of the most consistent studios is not going to end well. Sometimes studios don’t help themselves, like when Dreamworks released Antz so close to the release of A Bugs Life. This has a similar problem, a not-dog animal who frequently breaks the law tries to move to the side of good, and the big bad actually turns out to be a somewhat “cute” animal.” It’s going to be difficult for this to leave the shadow of Zootropolis.

Oh, I guess that “big bad reveal” is technically a spoiler, but it’s one that will be incredibly obvious to anybody who has ever seen a film before. That’s the biggest issue I have with this, it just doesn’t seem very original. It wears its cinematic influences too brazenly, so no matter how much you like it, it’s not likely to be your favourite film, as you’re constantly comparing it to something else.

Also, the opening is a bit strange. Essentially just two characters sitting in a cafe preparing for a heist while discussing an upcoming birthday. It establishes the characters, shows that the general public are afraid of them, and is weirdly Pulp Fiction-esque for a kid’s film. It’s also completely unnecessary. Everything it does is repeated in the next scene, the aftermath of the bank robbery. The bank robbery scene would be a much better opener, it’s fast-paced, funny, and showcases the best visual trick this film has: when it blends CGI animation with cel-shaded effects. This would get you straight into the film and perfectly set the tone for the rest of it. The opening it currently has is far too slow, boring, and I’m not going to lie, it did make me worry that the film was going to be awful.

That’s a shame as the film is actually quite fun. The characters are well-defined in terms of motivations (although there is one doublecross that happens far too quickly), the voice-acting is pretty good (with the exception of the newsreader), and the jokes are genuinely funny.

The Pulp Fiction comparison earlier was apt, as this is essentially a Tarantino film for kids (although one of the female characters has 8 feet, and if Tarantino could make a film like that he’d never leave the edit suite). It makes the most of the concept beautifully. Sometimes in films like this, there are not many references to them being animals and it can feel like a strange creative choice. This depends on it, there are certain plot points, certain jokes etc, which only work if the characters are animals, and only if they’re these specific ones. The jokes are character and plot-specific. It’s overall a quite impressive watch.

It’s not going to change the world, but if you’re looking after young kids and want to keep them entertained, you could do a lot worse than choosing this.

Catch The Fair One (2021)

Quick synopsis: In this thriller by Josef Kubota Wladyka, a boxer (Kali Reis) embarks on the fight of her life when she goes undercover in a sex trafficking operation to seek revenge for the disappearance of her sister

You often get a sense that a film “belongs” to someone. Usually, that’s the director. Kubota Wladyka did a great job here. He has a background in television, but the television he’s worked on has included such critically acclaimed series as The Terror and Narcos, so, despite the fact this is his feature debut, it’s not exactly unexpected that he managed to do such a good job of framing the urban decay and human apathy in this world. He also wrote the script, and some of the dialogue in this is painful, in a good way. He has a talent for exploring humanity, knowing what people go through during painful moments. He knows the kind of things people say in stressful situations, and more importantly, what they don’t say. There’s a scene where Reis’s character gets kidnapped and it’s one of the best kidnapping scenes I’ve seen. There are no audio cues to warn you what will happen. There’s zero visual indication of what’s about to happen, which makes sense as that doesn’t really happen in real life. It’s unexpected, as it should be.

Despite that, it’s not his film. I know that from what I’ve said so far, it should be, but the whole thing really belongs to Kali Reis. Considering this is her first role, she does a PHENOMENAL job, possibly one of the best acting debuts I’ve ever seen. She’s also responsible for the story. You can tell it’s one that’s deeply personal to her. She’s an active supporter of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement. That comes through in the story being told, the whole thing is basically “This shit needs to fucking stop!”. It’s personal, it’s passionate, and it’s fucking angry (as it should be).

You are slightly misled by the synopsis and the trailer, this is not a boxing movie, in fact, that aspect barely comes up (but is a good thing to keep in mind during the fight scenes). This is not a high-octane thriller like Taken. This is the cinematic equivalent of tooth extraction in slow motion. You know what you’re going through is painful, and it’s slow, but you do it in the hope that at the end the pain will be gone and it will all be worth it. There’s a scene where the main character waterboards someone (after threatening to cut off his wife’s ear). In a standard action movie, this would be the moment where the person being tortured gives up information which then leads to the hero saving the day. In this? The guy dies without giving up any information, because torture doesn’t fucking work no matter what movies which are coincidentally funded by the US military tell you.

It’s not a nice film, but it would be weird if a film about this subject was nice. It’s realistic, and that’s why it’s so painful. When a character says that “nobody is looking because nobody cares”, it hits deep because you know it’s true, there’s a reason Missing White Women Syndrome is a thing. When a sex trafficker describes a 29-year-old as “too old”, it disgusts you because you know that’s how people like him (and his customers) think.

That I feel is its biggest weakness, it’s unrelentingly bleak and uneasy to get through. But it could have been fixed if they changed the ending. I don’t mean to give it a happy ending full of unicorns and happiness as tonally that would be a complete mess. I’m talking about the ending credits. When a TV show handles certain subjects they often have someone at the end say “and if you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme tonight, resources to help are available at…….”. Something like that at the end could have improved it. Not a voiceover, as that would be weird. But if it went to the credits, and instead of just standard credits it started with a fact-sheet about the issues raised in the film, and lists of websites and resources which help, it would add a little something. At the moment you’re left with a “fuck, that’s terrible. There’s nothing we can do” feeling when the film ends, whereas if they provided resource links to websites and organisations at the end, then it could inspire people to help out. It could have been important and changed lives, instead of just INCREDIBLY impactful.

The other downside? Her being a boxer doesn’t play as big a part in it as it could. Also, there’s a really intense scene of her and her mother having an argument about guilt and recovery. It’s a brilliantly written scene, but it’s not really followed up on. I wouldn’t cut it though, mainly because of how good it is, but also the scene leading into it of her mother leading a missing persons group has some of the best moments, moments which say a lot about masculinity and responsibility. Such a brilliant scene and it deserves to be followed up in someway.

So in summary, I would highly recommend seeing this. You won’t enjoy it, but you will be changed by it.