With Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Barbara Steele
Written & Directed by Ryan Gosling
Mainstream fans of Ryan Gosling (and others) may be disappointed in this fairly experimental debut directorial outing for the actor.
Billy is a single mother struggling to keep her home (in a run-down district on the verge of becoming a ghost town). Her oldest son Bones hunts for copper in derelict buildings to sell, but Bully has claimed these for himself, attacking anyone who crosses his path by cutting off their lips. Saoirse Ronan is almost unrecognizable with dark hair as Rat, Bones' (kind of) girlfriend living next door with her grandmother (I feel legendary genre actress Barbara Steele from Pit And The Pendulum, The Mask Of Satan, Shivers etc. is underutilized in this role).
They have to survive. To make extra money, Billy is roped in to perform at an underground Grand Guignol-styled club. When Bones hears about their town's buried secret, he is propelled to act in order to change their fate.
It feels as though Gosling deliberately went surreal on our asses with his storyline, its strange characters and odd situations resulting in it coming across as somewhat pretentious or forcefully arty and over-symbolic to make a stamp with his first film...
With some great looking scenes or at least interesting moments and images, on a whole it feels as though he tried to invoke moods of directors like David Lynch, early Philip Ridley and maybe some Nicolas Winding Refn (for whom Gosling starred in two movies).
I was really looking forward to seeing this debut, but was not won over. The pace felt laborious, the low energy characters stifling, and I just couldn't connect with them or the movie as a whole - however, his use of non-actors for some bit parts (who seemed to be improvising), adds a naturalistic touch.
I am sure Gosling devotees will love this regardless.
2 / B
- Paul Blom