“Are You Not Lisbeth Salander, The Righter Of Wrongs? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? The Girl Who Hurts Men Who Hurt Women..?“
With the rather lacklustre attempt to revitalise Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy to an American audience after the success of the Noomi Rapace starring Swedish set of movies back in 2009, the David Fincher adaptation of The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in 2011 was planned as a kickstarter for a fresh release of English speaking crime movies focusing on the intertwining lives of both journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and vigilante hacker, Lisbeth Salander. With the subsequent Fincher movies placed on indefinite hold in the years that followed, The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes to cinema with a brand new director, a new batch of actors and a script based on a novel by Swedish author, David Lagercrantz, who has subsequently continued the works of Larsson who sadly passed away before the original movies came into fruition. Directed by Fede Álvarez, famous for the rather entertaining one-two of the The Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, and featuring the wonderfully agile Claire Foy (First Man) in the lead role, the latest Salander-led adventure unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of the Uruguayan’s previous two features, lacking the panache and darkened style which seeped through Fincher’s adaptation whilst failing to offer anything new to a series which seems to have already sailed past its’ sell by date.
If remembered for anything, Larsson’s writing contained subject matter which teetered on the edge of bad taste, combining sexualised violence with a brutal sense of hardened realism evidenced rather memorably in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in which Salander’s rapist is punished by rather extravagant if justified means, and even with Álvarez at the helm, a filmmaker not exactly new to the world of cinematic nastiness, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels surprisingly tame as it manages to come across as a near 12A rather version of the franchise with no signature grit or substance, emphasises by a bland, overly sterile tone seeping through with no effective levels of tension or threat whatsoever. With a screenplay which centres on long lost sisters, nuclear disaster and a central hacking superhero who seems to have breathed in the James Bond effect of being completely invincible, there have been episodes of Doctor Who which have been more believable, and even with Foy in the lead role at least attempting to bring some sort gravitas to the role with the familiar funky hairstyle and stern, wet flanneled look slapped across her face, she is ultimately let down by sloppy and lazy writing which leaves her well and truly behind her predecessors in terms of overall effectiveness in her portrayal of Salander. With a brilliant supporting cast including the likes of Sylvia Hoeks and Vicky Krieps being rather wasted considering their equally memorable roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Phantom Thread respectively, their brief appearances only resulted in wishing the film would end as soon as possible in order to go and revisit those particular movies which in terms of cinematic levels of excellence, are in a different universe completely.
Overall Score: 4/10
“This Is The Story Of How My Town, Salem, Lost It’s Mind. Let’s Start At The Beginning…”
Written and directed by Sam Levinson, son of Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man director, Barry Levinson, Assassination Nation acts as the American’s third feature after trading in acting for directing but the first to venture onto the big screen with a significantly wider general release. Slapped with a beautifully rare 18 certificate and released within a period of the cinematic year in which Halloween, Overlord and Suspiria have all shown a resurgence in the BBFC classifying movies with the highest rating possible, Levinson’s latest is a particularly odd beast, a hybrid of varying subjects with an underlying topical social commentary which sees Odessa Young as the free spirited Lily Colson who along with her group of freely spoken youthful friends become embroiled in a town-wide internet hack which sees every single resident’s personal online history leak into the gaze of the public eye, resulting in extraordinarily extravagant and particularly violent consequences. Beginning with a familiar stylish and slightly bizarre aesthetic feel to Harmony Korine’s woefully unsatisfactory Spring Breakers in 2013, Levinson’s movie traverses through a minefield of themes and genres for two hours worth of storytelling which at times is undoubtedly problematic and troublesome, but crucially, never boring, resulting in audiences guaranteed to leave the auditorium thinking to themselves; “what on earth was that all about?”
With the film using the first half an hour to introduce the primary quartet of femme fatales at the heart of the action, each with their own distinguishable individuality and vices, the coming of age style narrative allows the evolving opening scandals to be seen from the point of view of the youth of the aptly named town of Salem as an unknown hacker forces out both the secrets of both a local politician and teacher. With Levinson’s screenplay clearly following on from the likes of Ingrid Goes West and Searching by conveying an on-the-nose comment on the nature and impact of social media, whatever point Levinson chooses to focus on becomes completely lost in an out of control second act in which the audience bears witness to a startling combination of Winding Refn and Dario Argento eye-gouging neon style with elements of The Purge, resulting in an abundance of violence and particularly tough scenes of torture, murder and near attempted rape which for some audiences may be too explicit to cope with. Personally however, the sense of silliness and emphatically ripe shock tactics which unveil themselves heading towards the film’s climax never became dull or uninteresting, due in part to some wonderful camera work and blissfully bright cinematography, and whilst there never was a single character in which I cared whether they lived or died due to pretty much every single one being fundamentally unlikeable, Assassination Nation moved along nicely as it offended audiences left, right and centre and concluded in a way which simply made me giggle. Bring on more gory grunge movies!
Overall Score: 6/10
“This Is Not A Place For A Priest, Father. You Shouldn’t Be Here…”
Written and directed by the excellent Drew Goddard, the mind behind the likes of Cabin in the Woods and Netflix’s first season of Daredevil, Bad Times at the El Royale bundles together an abundance of top-notch actors within the confines of a script which mixes together an Agatha Christie-esque air of neo-noir mystery with a very obvious nod to the quirky and wordy works of Quentin Tarantino. Set in the dying embers of the late 1960’s, the majority of the action takes place within the lifeless, unkempt eeriness of the titular hotel, one straddled with history and echoes of a previous life involving the rich and famous but now suffering from a lack of custom primarily due to a newly founded inactive liquor license. As soon as the film’s colourful band of characters slowly check themselves in however, the presence of the murky collection of cats including Jeff Bridge’s (Hell or High Water) Catholic Priest, Donald “Doc” O’Kelly, Dakota Johnson’s (Fifty Shades Freed) rebellious young Emily and Jon Hamm’s (Tag) travelling vacuum salesman, Seymour Sullivan, result in the mysteries of the hotel and the secrets of its’ guest’s unraveling with particularly violent and menacing ends.
Whilst Goddard has proven to be successful in the past with work which has always remained entertaining and interesting, even if at times not exactly for everyone, Bad Times at the El Royale is unfortunately the American’s first cinematic turkey, an excruciatingly overlong and plodding mess of a movie which although begins in intriguing fashion, fails to warrant almost two and a half hours worth of your time as it drags its’ way towards a finish line without any real sense of purpose or point. Whilst the film does boast a healthy selection of well-executed dialogue heavy set pieces alongside excellent central performances from the likes of Bridges and Cynthia Erivo’s wandering soul singer, Darlene Sweet, as the film crosses over the hour mark, the over-reliance on wasteful backstory and wandering narrative stretches result in a painful longing for the action to come to some sort of meaningful end. Enter Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Infinity War), whose appearance come the ninety minute mark as a curly haired, spiritually baffling and overzealous cross between Charles Manson and Jim Morrison, meant the film then decides to go on for another excruciating forty five minutes, concluding with a soppy and rather weak attempt at humanising a particularly annoying character and then finally ending with a final gasp of saintly praise as I left my seat and headed to the exit. Whilst not totally awful, Bad Times at the El Royale is a simple case of style over substance and made me check IMDB pretty quickly to see if an editor was actually hired at all to do a decent job. On inspection, Lisa Lassek, you are in my bad books.
Overall Score: 5/10
“She’s An Enigma My Wife. You Can Get Close To Her, But You Never Quite Reach Her…”
Directed by Paul Feig, the American filmmaker behind the all female led reboot of the woefully unsuccessful Ghostbusters and the mildly entertaining action comedy Spy from 2016 and 2015 respectively, A Simple Favor, based on the 2017 debut novel of the same name from American author, Darcey Belle, sees Feig turn to the “dark side”, a self proclaimed statement of intent plastered within the film’s thoroughly intriguing trailer which sees Anna Kendrick’s (Table 19) Stephanie attempt to unravel the mystery of Blake Lively’s (Age of Adaline) Emily’s recent disappearance. Based on a screenplay from Nerve screenwriter, Jessica Sharzer, A Simple Favor is a strange beast, a film which on the one hand attempts to emulate the domesticated mysterious oddity of David Fincher’s wonderfully dark Gone Girl, and on the other, an Ira Levin-esque centralisation in which everything on the surface appears cosy and calm yet underneath, is riddled with secrets and lies, and whilst the key mystery of the film’s narrative begins well with enough room to flourish if handled correctly, the end product is ultimately produced in a manner way too convoluted and preposterous to be regarded as anywhere near the excellence of the many films Feig’s latest evokes.
Whilst it is fair to say that the increasingly agitating figure of Anna Kendrick in recent times has always left me loathing her acting ability more and more with every new release in which she inevitably sucks, with Table 19 being the key text of a film in which death by torture undoubtedly seems more rewarding, what a relief that when under the direction of Feig, a director who does manage to get the best out of his performers no matter the final product, (see Kate McKinnon circa Ghostbusters for example) Kendrick does manage to flourish and arguably gives the best performance of her career so far. Add into the mix the ever radiant Blake Lively, her knowingly ripe and hilarious portrayal of a walking ambiguity manages to work perfectly in tandem with her co-star, resulting in a healthy amount of hearty belly laughs which always seem so spare in American comedies of a similar ilk, and whilst the second half of the movie in which the core mystery unravels to an annoyingly predictable end does ultimately dive-bomb the overall appeal of the feature, A Simple Favor is throwaway, good-natured fluff which puts Kendrick back into my own personal acting guild good-books.
Overall Score: 6/10
“We Fight New Wars. The Old Options, Military, Diplomacy. They Don’t Always Succeed…”
Acting as the fourth collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg after Lone Survivor and the excellent one-two of Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, Mile 22, based upon a screenplay written by American writer, Lea Carpenter, sees Wahlberg as James Silva, the ferociously agitated, quip-laden sociopathic leader of Overwatch, an elite, CIA-led special ops division who are tasked with traversing the destructive roads of Indonesia as they attempt to extract a prize asset from the country into the United States in return for the location of missing weapons grade plutonium. With Berg’s previous releases successfully managing to balance the re-telling of horrific true events with strong storytelling and well orchestrated action set pieces, Mile 22 manages to bat in completely the opposite direction, with Berg’s latest a film which can only be described as a crazed frenzy of a movie, a ninety minute, action packed head rush which is as violent as it is overly ridiculous, and a movie which results in you leaving the cinema with a guaranteed headache and a high chance of tinnitus as you feel your body become overcome with exhaustion from the events that have occurred before your eyes on screen.
Whilst strictly based on some form of “true story” regarding the existence of the Overwatch programme within contemporary wars across the globe, Mile 22 clearly wavers towards fictionalised events in which Wahlberg’s Silva and his team of cold-hearted killers have free reign to blow up, violently execute and cause as much general havoc as they desire. With paper thin characterisation which mainly focuses on our “heroes'” penchant for killing as effortlessly as possible, this only results in there being no sympathy whatsoever for events which unfold throughout the movie, particularly towards Wahlberg’s Silva, a foul-mouthed, utterly despicable smart-ass, a leading performance which made me wonder whether Wahlberg had actually been incredibly mis-cast due to Wahlberg not at all managing to balance the OTT nature of his character and ends up coming across more annoying than heroic. However, with a heart-stopping editing pace, crunchy action scenes with gunfire aplenty and a rousing, physical performance from arguably the greatest action star of the past decade in the form of Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Raid 2, Headshot), Mile 22 was a film in which I was never bored, and for a film in which its’ mistakes are blindingly obvious, Berg’s latest is a confusing, often manic, all action speed rush which sort of won me over the more it ventured into the realms of complete and utter ridiculousness.
Overall Score: 6/10
“There Are Two Kinds Of Pain In This World. The Pain That Hurts, The Pain That Alters…”
With The Equalizer 2 being the first sequel in which Denzel Washington has starred in throughout his luxurious cinematic career so far, it goes to show the trust which has been established between actor and director Antoine Fuqua, a filmmaker who reunites with Washington for the fourth time after the likes of the excellent, Oscar winning Training Day and of course 2014’s The Equalizer, a film based on the 1980’s American television series of the same name in which Washington’s Robert McCall beats down on the evil of the world in an attempt to save the helpless and aid the innocent in the most violent ways possible. Jump forward four years later and McCall returns once again in a sequel which attempts to blend an It’s A Wonderful Life style story arc with gritty, hard-edge violence, culminating in a bit-part character study riddled with rather cliched twists and a strange lifeless tone which pushes the movie forward at almost walking pace, and even with flashes of brilliance at times and Washington at his mercurial best, The Equalizer 2 is still a forgettable sequel which fails to expand upon its’ predecessor in a way which warrants its’ reason for existence.
With the opening thirty minutes re-treading old ground by once again establishing McCall’s “hero for hire” type to an audience who potentially may have completely missed the first movie, Richard Wenk’s screenplay seems more interested in showing how McCall fits into the everyday lives of random residents of Massachusetts instead of actually delivering the promise of the film’s action-packed trailer, and whilst the next thirty minutes attempt to elbow in a murder mystery subplot featuring the return of Melissa Leo’s (The Fighter) Susan Plummer, Fuqua’s movie never really gets going until the final act when the film remembers it is meant to be shelved within the genre of action rather than dour, dramatic nonsense. With Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) providing the most obvious character deception seen in cinema this year, the real fireworks within the movie undoubtedly resides between Washington and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), with McCall’s patriarchal relationship to Sanders’ Miles providing the best scenes of the movie, particularly one set piece in which McCall rescues Miles from a criminal-infested high-rise and emotionally spells out the tight balance between life and death. Whilst there is something within the DNA of the character of McCall which makes him undeniably watchable and interesting, The Equalizer 2 unfortunately does not carry the same sense of intrigue, resulting in Fuqua’s latest being a rather stale sequel which starves both action audiences and Washington fans alike for any real sense of engagement or emotional involvement.
Overall Score: 5/10
“At Last, We’ve Found The Place Where We Can Be Safe…”
Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker, Sergio G. Sánchez, whose previous credits include screenplays for the likes of The Orphanage and The Impossible, interesting and successful movies directed by fellow compatriot, J. A. Bayona, who is currently making waves in the box office with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Secret of Marrowbone is a equally fascinating thriller chiller which merges ghostly horror with secretive deceptions as the movie follows the Marrowbone family after the untimely death of their loving mother in 1960’s America. Led by George MacKay’s (Pride) Jack Marrowbone, the reclusive family soon become haunted by a seemingly supernatural entity buried high within the household, adding to the perils of the local lawyer, as played by Kyle Soller (The Fifth Estate), who attempts to derail the family’s ownership of their one safe haven, and whilst Marrowbone is a movie bursting with splendid performances, subtle creepy asides and beautiful set designs, Sánchez’s movie ultimately doesn’t hold a candle to his previous works, but still remains a solid, if overly predictable, gothic floor-creaker.
With supporting performances from the likes of young, genre aficionados such as Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth, with the latter rising to fame in Netflix’s Stranger Things and the former starring in the likes of A Cure for Wellness and the upcoming remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Marrowbone’s leading performances are all effectively finely tuned for the overall mood of the piece, particularly that of MacKay, whose transition throughout the course of the movie works primarily to the actor’s commitment and belief in the role. With the ever-splendid Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) taking a slightly different path to what fans of her work are used to, her character helps channel the absurdity of the plot come the final, overly predictable twist, a narrative jump which not only does not work as hauntingly effective as Sánchez’s work on The Orphanage, but one which opens up a spectacular can of worms regarding the meteor-sized plot holes it leaves behind in its’ wake. Featuring, but not relying on, a couple of well-timed jump scares and spooky set pieces, Marrowbone isn’t your straightforward haunted house piece as it weaves through to more of a Gothic-infused, Shutter Island esque psychological conclusion, and whilst Sánchez manages to prove himself as a director in his big screen debut, its’ surprisingly the script which doesn’t exactly hold together, resulting in a movie which begins in puzzling fashion yet ends on a slight bum note.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Wanna See This Thing Through? I’m Gonna Have To Get, Dirty…”
With Denis Villeneuve showing a wider audience what was to come of his expert film-making prowess back in 2015 with Sicario, a expertly crafted, white-knuckle thriller which laid the basis for the similarly masterful Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in terms of what the French-Canadian could achieve with the right backing, arguably the more impressive element of the feature was Taylor Sheridan, an American most famous at the time for his stint on Sons of Anarchy but whose screenplay for Sicario was both smart and compelling, one swiftly followed by equally impressive screenplays for both Hell or High Water and Wind River, capping off a trio of superbly written movies. each with a dedicated lust for heavy doses of substance and style in equal measure. Returning to writing duties again for the eagerly anticipated Sicario sequel, subtitled Soldado, the absence of Villeneuve means Italian director Stefano Sollima (Suburra) takes charge of a movie which continues the oppressive, ominous tone of the original whilst working through a genuinely thrilling narrative, one which sees the return of Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War) and Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick as they attempt to orchestrate a war between the Mexican cartels after they are seen to be aiding agents of ISIS cross the border in order to carry out their destructive message, and whilst Soldado doesn’t entirely hit the heavy heights of its’ near-perfect predecessor come the end credits, Sollima’s movie is still an unnerving, powerful work of war at its’ most darkest and lawless.
Beginning with a catalogue of terrorist related events, including a jaw-dropping and horrific supermarket explosion in which the camera lingers closely from outside through every familiar step of contemporary terror, Soldado quickly re-introduces the reunion of Graver and Gillick as they are handed the freedom to do as they please in order to combat the ever-increasing Mexican cartel presence on the US-border which has now taken extra precedence due their involvement in potential terror activities. With a central narrative which sees the kidnapping of the young, spoiled daughter of a renowned Mexican cartel boss, one which ultimately results in in-house allegiances being put to the test, Sheridan’s screenplay also follows closely the exploits of newcomer Elijah Rodriguez’s Miguel as he crawls up the ranks of the cartel’s people smuggling operation, and whilst the sequel doesn’t entirely hit the brooding, ambiguity which drove through the entirety of its’ predecessor up until the very end, the tight-knit, unbearable tension does manage to completely follow over, rearing its’ head throughout a high proportion of a movie which aside from one sarcastic aside, primarily holds its’ tone as completely and utterly serious. With a Michael Mann-esque, militaristic sensibility which sees countless shots of rampaging army vehicles cruising across the vacant, perilous landscapes of the US/Mexican border, Soldado is wickedly spectacular in its’ approach to action set pieces, with the piercing sound of bullets echoing the overripe mixing of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk merging spectacularly with endless cinematic screenshots of whirring helicopters, over-head drones and enough firepower to start and end a small coup.
With the inclusion of much more lusciously orchestrated action scenes second time around, the question remains whether the overall screenplay deserves such luxuries, and even as an overall body of work Soldado doesn’t piece together as tightly or rigidly as Sicario, with particular crucial plot threads concluding rather suddenly without any real sense of full-blooded purpose, the avenues which Sheridan’s writing takes us undoubtedly suits the bleak mould of the series, particularly in the movies’ penchant for gut-wrenching murder sequences and a concluding near-death experience which undeniably ranks up there with one of the more brutal character arcs in recent history. With Brolin and del Toro on superb, angst-ridden, macho-growling form, with the latter having much more space for a deeper layer of examination this time around as his character’s uncertain, ambiguous nature is slowly scraped at and given light, young Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) as the similarly tough Isabela Reyes gives an equally impressive performance as the daughter of the cartel boss responsible for the death of Alejandro’s wife and daughter. With a bruising, battling, war torn sensibility which is as tough at times as it is riotously engaging and enjoyable, Soldado is a sequel success story which both pays homage to its’ predecessor with utmost respect whilst developing its’ characters in fascinating ways, and with the possibility of a third film coming to nicely round the series off as a trilogy, one can only query how much further Sheridan can continue his winning scripture streak.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Know This Is Not How You Wanted To Spend Your Weekend…”
Directed by James McTeigue, a filmmaker who has never really eclipsed the success of his debut big-screen feature in the form of the rather excellent V for Vendetta, Breaking In, starring Gabrielle Union (Sleepless) in the leading role as mother of two, Shaun Russell, is essentially a hybrid crossover of a wide range of famous, historic movies, one which sees Russell attempt to save her children after they are locked inside a ultra-secure familial home with violent burglars who have come to claim a large monetary stash for their own. With a strange shadow of Panic Room airing over it, McTeigue’s movie is undeniably wrapped in B-Movie sensibility, and as the action moves from paranoid thriller to Die Hard territory and arguably even more so onto Hostage territory, a movie which in itself was a rather perfunctory rip-off of Die Hard anyhow and a film which too featured Bruce Willis, Breaking In is a movie which ultimately knows its boundaries, its’ flaws and complete lack of substance but runs with it anyway, and with a kick-ass leading heroine in the form of Union undeniably audience winning, McTeigue’s movie surprisingly falls into the category of enjoyable silliness.
With dialogue so exposition heavy throughout it seems to have been churned out in a cliched text machine, the first twenty minutes highlights the rather extreme security capabilities of the household in which Union’s Shaun has been tasked with selling after the sudden and unexpected death of her powerful father. With drones, bulletproof wall coverings and more CCTV coverage than the city of London, the stage is set for the action to unfold, and whilst the movie does fall rather heavily into generic conventions in regards to its’ typeface leading villain, lack of real tangible peril and an overly predictable Hollywood ending, the real interest resides in Union’s portrayal of a mother figure who will do absolutely anything in order to be re-united with her children, no matter what the consequences and how violent they may be. With laughable editing of obvious foul language and a mixed degree to which on-screen violence is approached, it seems obvious the filmmakers opted for a Taken 3 sensibility by aiming for the 12A threshold which ultimately was rejected, but with a classy eighty minute runtime and enough twisting, narrative turns in order to get to the film’s inevitable conclusion, Breaking In isn’t exactly groundbreaking but it does the job comfortably enough and for that I’m more than happy with.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Sweetheart, You Just Can’t Change The Rules Because Someone’s Showed An Interest…”
Appearing onto the cinematic fold with his first big-screen offering after a number of independent shorts, Michael Pearce writes and directs Beast, a spine-tingling, nihilistic and paranoid psychological thriller which sees Jessie Buckley’s (Taboo) Moll break free of her critical and controlling family as she comes into contact with Johnny Flynn’s (Clouds of Sils Maria) bohemian and free-spirited Pascal within the confines of an unnamed, rural and isolated community paralysed with fear after a number of young women are found brutally raped and murdered. With the ghost of Twin Peaks springing to mind each and every time there is a narrative crossover regarding the impact of death on a close-knit community, Pearce’s movie does impressively share a tonal similarity with David Lynch’s sprawling and surrealist masterpiece, with the film holding a relentless ominous tone up until its’ final, haunting shot, and whilst Beast decides to stay strictly within the realms of linear storytelling, with its’ feet planted heavily on the ground rather than conforming to the surrealist temperaments found in most Lynch works, its’ the shadow of the uncertain which brilliantly pushes the drama and undoubtedly leaves the audience in a contemplative mood regarding what has unfolded upon them.
Shot primarily on the island of Jersey, Pearce’s movie follows Buckley’s Moll, a reclusive, distant and dissatisfied daughter who resides at her home alongside the intrusive, demanding and judgemental figure of her mother, Hilary, brilliantly played by Geraldine James (Rogue One) who demands familial perfection. After stumbling across Flynn’s Pascal, a relationship between the two begins to blossom, much to the distaste of the rest of Moll’s family, resulting in a heavy sense of alienation as Moll begins to suspect that Pascal has much more to his questionable and overly murky history than it originally seems. Although Pearce’s movie features beautiful, sweeping landscapes and that particularly familiar British independent feel around it, akin to the melancholic temperament of Calvary and the uncertain sensibility of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, the film is not entirely cinematic throughout its’ 110 minute runtime, with dialogue set pieces heavily reminiscent of an ITV crime drama at times, but with a clear Hitchcock influence, particularly Shadow of a Doubt, acting as a thorough through line from start to finish, Pearce’s feature debut is a dark, twisted and enjoyably startling success.