TOP PICK OF THE WEEK
Those Who Wish Me Dead
*** Those Who Wish Me Dead is the kind of movie that makes you feel alive. The suspense that surges through the film is so intense it’s almost as if you’re wincing at the heat of the flames surrounding Hannah (Angelina Jolie), a Montana firefighter defending an orphaned boy named Connor (Finn Little). A nonsensical conspiracy has put Connor in the crosshairs of two assassins (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) who are so single-minded that they chase Hannah and Connor into a forest being devoured by a wildfire. Can Jolie triumph over the cruelty of man and nature? Director Taylor Sheridan (who wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water) keeps you guessing by making the action rough and fierce, pummeling his characters with everything from bullets to an improvised blowtorch. Gillen is a laughable villain (Game of Thrones actors don’t belong in Westerns) and the story is annoyingly tidy (why does Hannah have to be motivated by her failure to save a group of boys who were the same age as Connor?), but Those Who Wish Me Dead transcends its artificial trappings. It’s a bracing adaptation of the novel by Michael Koryta—and a reminder that Jolie is an indomitable action star. She is the fire. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bridgeport, Clackamas Town Center, Hilltop.
The Killing of Two Lovers
*** Robert Machoian’s family drama knows it’s freighted with a foreboding title, and violence looms immediately over this story of a freshly separated couple. The longer it takes for that title to come true, the more we nervously rifle through its possible meanings. Even so, The Killing of Two Lovers slips into an inquisitive mode, deeper than pure tension. We witness father and Western Utah day laborer David (Clayne Crawford) make genuine and misguided efforts to resist the deadbeat-dad status that his moving out and family visiting hours suggest. While some of the supporting acting verges on stilted (given the film’s overall earthiness), The Killing of Two Lovers is largely a director’s showcase. Known mostly for short documentaries, Machoian concocts an internal universe of David’s rage through sound design full of slamming doors and endless creaking. And the complex, uncut blocking of a key marital squabble against a high-desert horizon blends stark indie filmmaking with Edward Albee-esque theatrical instincts. The particular shape of this failing marriage confronts the characters’ expectations as much as the audience’s. It’s easy (perhaps sickeningly preferable) to believe David is living out a filmed murder ballad, or elegy for faded youth and manhood. The reality is both simpler and more complicated than all that country poetry. Realities always are. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube.
*** This latest entry in the emerging screenlife cinema format, which filters all action through a laptop screen, might seem oddly ambitious given that the microgenre is still hovering perception-wise between the formalist pretensions of feature-length single takes and Blumhouse’s found-footage schlock. Based on a French reporter’s exposé of how extremists recruit young women to join the Islamic State only to sell them into sexual slavery, Profile uses the trappings of a ripped-from-the-headlines story and elevates it into an effective little thriller steeped in modern social media and a catfishing pas de deux. Just as Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981) and Body Double (1984) updated Hitchcockian voyeur tropes with advancing technology, Profile director Timur Bekmambetov maintains a fusillade of ADHD diversions to enliven the more mundane aspects of newspaper reporting while preying on the tensions of our Not Safe For Work-braving, right-swiping age. Really, though, he just sets the minimal stage for freelance journalist Amy (Valene Kane) and terrorist-as-21st-century-rock-star Bilel (Shazad Latif) to promote their precisely curated brands. The result is a film that features just enough manipulative carelessness and toxic aggression to remind audiences that some personae are best left virtual. R. JAY HORTON. Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube.
** Like a giant shouldering the weight of the planet, Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) lumbers through this Argentine thriller, which is simultaneously sinister and lethargic. Marcos is a nurse in an intensive care unit, but he doesn’t just heal the sick—he quietly puts them out of their misery when he believes it is necessary. He’s a murderer, but not like Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers), a slick nurse who kills not out of compassion, but for kicks. La Dosis is essentially a morbid duet performed by these two men. One considers taking lives to be a solemn duty, and one revels in the unholy thrill of playing God, but they are both symbols in writer-director Martín Kraut’s medical parable. La Dosis is a portrait of health care workers who are so brutally demeaned and exploited that they can’t feel in control unless they shatter their most sacred oath. It’s a perverse and audacious idea, but the film built around it is punishingly slow and lacks conviction. Kraut seems afraid to decide whether the psychological battle between Marcos and Gabriel is a showdown between good and evil or if they are just devils in slightly different disguises. Despite its impressively dark premise, La Dosis doesn’t end with a shock. It ends with a shrug. NR. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. On Demand.
A Quiet Place Part II
** While it’s tempting to predict that this lean sequel to John Krasinski’s surprise 2018 horror hit could be one of the cinematic summer’s first loud entries, suffocating silence is still the new film’s signature move. In Part II, shotgun-toting mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) continue their monklike eluding of audiophile aliens, while director Krasinski’s confidence with wide-open, Jurassic Park-inspired chases—an actor fleeing some heinous pursuer over their shoulder—carry the taut action. Still present is the Abbott family’s survivalist pride, arguably more cloying here, as flashbacks illustrate how ready the tight-knit family was to stand tall and shut up when disaster first struck. It’s a testament to the quality of actors like Blunt and a new survivor played by Cillian Murphy that anyone would care, what with their emotional range trapped somewhere between determined and very determined. Even if the sequel runs dangerously low on ideas to sustain 90 minutes, it’s hard to be peeved at PG-13 entertainment hoping only to showcase a family conquering fear through sensory puzzles. No need to turn down zero-calorie Spielberg this summer; crank up those theater speakers and be overcome by sounds of nothing. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bagdad, Bridgeport, Century 16, Cinema 21, City Center, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, St. Johns Theater & Pub, Tigard.
The Woman in the Window
** Dan Mallory is a liar. His deceptions include pretending to have a doctorate from Oxford and falsely claiming that his mother died of cancer, but most people don’t know that. He is better known as A.J. Finn, the author of the bestselling mystery novel The Woman in the Window, which has been transformed into a glossy and frenzied film by director Joe Wright. Amy Adams stars as Anna Fox, an agoraphobe barricaded in a gloomy brownstone in Manhattan. Addled by pills and alcohol, she’s a less than credible witness when she says that she saw a woman (Julianne Moore) stabbed to death across the street, but that doesn’t stop her from spying on Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), a neighbor who she suspects is a serial killer. The Woman in the Window is modeled on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but Wright doesn’t have Hitchcock’s patience—frantic pacing and a pounding score by Danny Elfman combine to create a film that is exhausting instead of exciting. Wright can be an ingenious director, but the visual flamboyance that he brought to Anna Karenina and Pan—both of which were cinematic carnivals of swirling colors—has all but dried up. Skip The Woman in the Window and wait for the upcoming TV series about Dan Mallory starring Jake Gyllenhaal. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Netflix.
Wrath of Man
** Whether playing obligatory human among action figures (The Fate of the Furious, The Expendables) or driving his own all-too-literal vehicles as humble functionary pushed too far (The Transporter, The Mechanic), Jason Statham attained a frankly bewildering stardom with weaponized competence. However unlikely the stunts, something about Statham seethes stolid believability, which made him the perfect tent pole for Guy Ritchie’s stylized cockney capers. Transplanting the action to Los Angeles for their latest collaboration, alas, proves disastrous. Shelving the film-school trickery and dumbing down dialogue to grunted tropes, this remake of 2004 French shoot-’em-up Le Convoyeur inexplicably leans into Statham’s dour and dull character named “H.” He’s the new man on the armored car security team whose 24/7 moping and unexplained proficiency in the violent arts betrays a hidden vendetta against the crew of robbers responsible for his son’s death. Separated into four chapters, Wrath of Man shoehorns a heist flick into the traditional revenge yarn, but a shotgun marriage of the genre’s hackneyed plotlines further dims investment in the succession of charmless dolts (hapless guard Josh Hartnett, smooth ringleader Jeffrey Donovan, and loose cannon Scott Eastwood). This may best be understood as Ritchie’s American film, and he doesn’t seem too much like us. R. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Clackamas Town Center, Dine-In Progress Ridge, Division, Eastport Plaza, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Living Room, Regal Movies On TV, Sherwood, Vancouver Mall, Vancouver Plaza.