This week at the movies, we’ve got evil elites (The Hunt, starring Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank), a super soldier (Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel and Guy Pearce), and a Christian courtship (I Still Believe, starring K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson). What are the critics saying?
Author Richard Connell’s 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, in which a big-game hunter is hunted by a Russian aristocrat on a remote island, has been adapted for the screen several times since its publication, and more than a few of those films have taken creative liberties with the source material. In 1972’s The Woman Hunt, there were multiple victims, and they were all women; 1987’s Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity set the action in space; and 1993’s Hard Target gave us Jean-Claude Van Damme in a mullet. The latest alternate take on the story comes to us via The Hunt, which casts a gaggle of insufferable “liberal elites” as the hunters and a dozen “deplorables” as their prey. Originally slated for release in September of 2019, the film was delayed in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, OH and El Paso, TX, as well as some high-profile backlash from none other than Donald Trump himself. Presumably, the dust has settled enough that Universal feels comfortable releasing the film, and critics say it’s kind of a mixed bag. Taken on its own merits as an action thriller infused with pitch-black comedy, it’s not bad, but its efforts to skewer the political divide largely miss the mark, resulting in clumsy attempts at social satire and exaggerated caricatures that are difficult for anyone to relate to. GLOW star Betty Gilpin handles herself admirably in the central heroic role, and there’s plenty of blood and guts to go around on all sides, but if there’s anything to get riled up about here, it’s that the end result wasn’t a smarter movie.
Marvel and DC obviously aren’t the only two purveyors of comic book fare around, but they are the most popular, so it’s easy to forget there are others out there trying to get a piece of the superhero franchise pie. Enter Valiant Comics’ Bloodshot, a marine who is brutally murdered but brought back to life by scientists hoping to create a super-soldier with the help of nanotechnology. Vin Diesel stars in the big-screen adaptation as Ray Garrison, the marine in question, who at first struggles to recall anything from his past life, but once he does, he embarks on a bloody mission of vengeance. Diesel already has a few action franchises under his belt, including the Chronicles of Riddick movies, the xXx movies, and, of course, the hugely popular Fast and Furious series, and Bloodshot is ostensibly an attempt to jump-start another. Unfortunately, while critics say Diesel is fairly compelling as the anti-hero here and Guy Pearce plays his role as the mad scientist with relish, neither is quiet capable of compensating for the film’s over-reliance on shopworn action cliches and bland CGI spectacle. That said, it may appeal to undemanding audiences in search of little more than a few cheap thrills.
It’s no secret that faith-based films have a fairly spotty track record when it comes to critical reception, but they frequently rely on ham-fisted narratives built upon performances of varying quality. At the very least, this week’s I Still Believe benefits from the presence of stars like Britt Robertson, Riverdale‘s K.J. Apa, and Gary Sinise, and instead of swinging wildly at rhetorical straw men, the film takes its cues from a true story, namely that of Christian music megastar Jeremy Camp. Based on his memoir of the same name, the film follows the singer-songwriter as he moves from Indiana to California for college and falls in love with his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning. Not long after, Melissa is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the couple decide to face the grim diagnosis together. While critics aren’t calling I Still Believe a triumph in filmmaking, they aren’t saying it’s a complete disaster either. It has its moments of affecting drama, and the more hopeful elements of the story can be inspiring. At the same time, the film is so sanitized that it’s somewhat robbed of its humanity, and like many faith-based films before it, it caters so specifically to a niche audience that few outside that circle are likely to find it a worthwhile watch.
Also Opening This Week In Limited Release
Thumbnail image by Universal Pictures