A simple but compelling revenge plot, you know what is coming, but the characters and acting make for a stellar flick.
Casey Affleck did a lot of research into the mental state of US troops who have served multiple tours of duty, and it shows; his state of mind and sudden impulsive, explosive behaviour makes for a convincing character. Christian Bale, the straight, hard-working brother, isn’t hiding behind an absurd comb-over this time round, and that combined with an apparent 33 day shooting schedule brings out a dirty, raw performance that makes his job in American Hustle seem lackadaisical at best.
Willem Dafoe is always good, and he did a solid job as the morally on-the-fence crime boss, as Casey’s character descends further into murky waters. He wants the best for him, but his greed is more powerful.
Unfortunately though, Woody Harrelson turns in a thoroughly unconvincing performance; I say this because, compared to his ‘Mickey’ from ‘Natural Born Killers’, the embodiment of evil and a legitimately scary performance, Woody doesn’t seem to be trying very hard for a supposed meth-addicted psychopath. Although, throughout the movie, his character is talked about more often than he is on screen, perhaps suggesting something unspoken about his character. Or perhaps some scenes were left on the editing room floor. Either way, his appearence in the film is wasted, as is the case with a lot of films Woody has appeared in recently.
The county of Braddock is brilliantly shot, almost giving a feeling of Pripyat and Chernobyl: no colour variation, just a lot of rusty reds replacing the sea of grey that makes up Pripyat. A visual metaphor for the sinking US economy and, in general, Western local industry? I’d say yes, given what the mill signifies, in vastly different ways, to each character in the film.
This is one of those movies you want to watch again, at least once, as the characters and their situations stick in your head. Early in the film, there is one particular scene in which Casey’s character suddenly erupts into graphic descriptions of the many casualties of war that he has seen with his own eyes. A definite comment on the complete lack of care for soldiers who are lied to, sent to war, and suffer eternally for it; the government not concerned at all. Who could blame the man for being angry and losing control of his life? After all, war is Hell.
3.5 – Highly recommended, just don’t expect a unique plot. This is a character-driven story and it excells in creating multiple fascinating characters.
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