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Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother’s new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
Yet another based-on-a-true-story horror flick. Hard to believe, but the actual events are even more horrific* than this movie reveals. What the movie reveals is graphic enough – and difficult to watch.
The movie is slow, especially compared to the standard American thriller. The pace dulls the sense of growing menace a bit, but the cast does a fair job keeping us on edge.
Particularly good is Daniel Henshall as John Bunting. We meet him as an amiable suitor to young Jamie’s mother, and he seems a welcome, stable addition to the family. Bunting presents as a caring protector, though we see his darkness simmering just below the surface. His emerging psychopathy is chillingly portrayed by this talented actor.
If this were a work of fiction, I would have criticized it for having a “lazy script”, merely throwing in bits of blood & gore to shock the audience. Knowing the true story, however, I find I am grateful for the director’s restraint in merely showing bits of blood & gore to convey what was much, much greater horror.
This is not an enjoyable film. It is not one I would ever watch again. From a critical standpoint, however, it was well done and accomplished what a movie should – it told the story. It also left me especially disturbed in the knowledge that Bunting was able to infect those around him with his evil; ultimately 6 people were directly involved in the murders and many more knew but didn’t report them. One violent psychopath is scary, a pack of them is terrifying. Whether they were charmed by him into participation, or intimidated into it, I don’t know – either way, my skin will be crawling at the thought for a long time.
In my circle, this isn’t the type of story that is well received, so only 2 on the scale. You can see by the Rotten Tomatoes numbers below how well reviewed it was by critics & audience alike.
* The documentary on YouTube was made prior to the release of many sealed documents. Therefore, it is possible some info made it into the movie that was not referenced in the documentary.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 86%; Audience 70%
A Secret Service Agent is held captive in the trunk of a car and endures mental and physical torture as terrorists attempt to extract information for their plot against the President of the United States.
It is never a good sign when you are pretty sure you have the ending figured out in the first three minutes. Even worse when you are hoping you are wrong because the ending you’ve pictured would just be a bit too lame. Unfortunately, we had it figured out – and we weren’t wrong.
That’s not to say the movie is a bust; the acting works well enough (though Dorff seems an odd casting choice), the pace is fast enough (though the countdown timers are an unused distraction), the final twist will give you a small bit of satisfaction (though…predictable).
Rated “R” for mental torture, violent themes, and a great deal of profanity. This movie will have a limited appeal, and even less limited appeal in my circle, so only 2 on the Word of Mouth scale.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 46%, Audience 48%
Bill Goodykoontz says on AZ Central:
Paul Thomas Anderson’s instant classic features a performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as an early 20th Century oilman as brilliant as any you’ll ever see. A bleak study of the capitalism and religion, the film is a masterpiece. (R – 158 minutes)
He gives a more detailed review here, and a perfect 5 star rating
This did not strike me as a movie about capitalism & religion, rather it examines greed & corruption. The only untainted characters in this character study are the children. The ‘religion’ is a perversion of some sort of ancient revivalism. Plainview’s quest can only be a study of capitalism if you buy the rhetoric of the left, who would have you believe anyone who sets out to make a better life (and more money) is this type of ruthless, irredeemable monster. But, let’s skip away from Goodykoontz…
Also in The Republic (the old media, printed version of AZ Central) was a review from Marty Richelsoph, a moviegoer in Surprise, who gave it 2 1/2 stars:
…It was nearly painful to watch, with an overwrought musical score and visual set ups to scenes that left me feeling empty. Part of the problem is that the main character is irredeemable as a human being. He is an ambitious sociopath whose actions seemed based solely on ego and avarice…
I agree. Certainly the score was not well conceived. Where the complete lack of music in No Country For Old Men contributed to the tension and overall creepiness of that flick, the overwhelming and ill-fitting music chosen here takes you out of the film.
Day-Lewis gives a fine performance, as he always does, though early on I was wondering what sort of vocal affectation he was working on. As he descends deeper into madness, his skill as an actor becomes more evident. I have often said that playing crazy amid the sane is easy, while playing sane amid the crazy is hard. Here, Day-Lewis’ Plainview is both. The full scope of his derangement always threatening to break through his tenuous facade of ‘normalcy’.
There Will Be Blood was also overlong, incorporating plot lines and characters we have no interest in. This was an adapted screenplay that could have benefited from a bit of judicious editing.
In spite of these flaws, it was still a good movie. Perhaps not the “great” movie I was expecting, I imagine it suffered from too much hype. It may have scored higher on the Word of Mouth Scale if more of my circle were into the type of story told here.
Rated R for some violence, though I don’t recall anything worse than you could see on prime time TV.
Rotten Tomatoes: critics 91%; users 82%
And it was.
It was also FREAKING HILARIOUS.
Yet, through the whole movie and all the gross/crass humor, you could see the sweetness. It wasn’t so much a guy trying to get laid (OK, there were some other guys trying to get him laid) as a guy trying to find love. Yep – the L word…it must be a chick flick. That, and the fact that they burst spontaneously into a musical production number……
So, since it is so crass and I can’t recommend it to my mom…or my sister…or, really, anyone in my family….and I know it isn’t Lori’s cup of tea….the Word of Mouth Scale suffers, even though I was LMAO.
BTW: I expect the tag line “You know how I know you’re gay?” to catch on, everyone I have talked to who saw the movie is using it. I have also heard “Kelly Clarkson!” as an expletive.
UPDATE: The movie cost $26 million to make and has brought in $37 million in the first week. I’m not surprised and I expect it to stay up there, I imagine many people are telling their friends, who are telling their friends…it is one of those movies.
He said a friend of his had said that it was one of Tom Cruise‘s best movies. Since he is on screen for less than 10 minutes, I have to agree – I’ve never seen him better
Fun to see all the stars sooooo young. It is a good story, or should I say a good adaptation of a good story, and it is well acted. But, since I can’t think of many people in my circle I would recommend it to (and those have probably already seen it) it doesn’t score too high on the Word of Mouth scale.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 64%; Audience 81%