Film Review: The Ranger Turns a Flashlight on Authority Horror

The Pitch: A rag-tag crew of crusty punks evade the law by leaving the city and heading out into the woods, where one of their friends has a secluded family cabin. Unfortunately for them, they’re not alone as they come face to face with the titular terror, who may or may not recognize said friend. Will these punks survive this sordid “Police Story”? Police On My Back: Okay, so it’s a little Green Room, it’s a little Evil Dead, and it’s a little Cabin Fever, but what really elevates this woodsy story from being, well, another woodsy story is its capitalization on authority horror. At a time when those red and blue lights have taken on an ominous turn, a villain like Jeremy Holm’s Ranger really works. It helps that Holm rips apart every scene with his bare hands, dialing back to ’90s DTV villainy in the most complementary way. Whether he’s swinging axes into people’s jaws or pressuring a snotty teen to tear their leg from a bear trap, he’s always grinning like an asshole, and you can’t help but relish every second he magically appears. Yet you also can’t help but shudder, either, no pun intended. Holm’s caricature […]

SXSW Film Review: Stuber Thrives as an Action Movie, Not So Much as a Comedy

(Editor’s note: The following review concerns a work-in-progress cut of Stuber at SXSW 2019. As such, a final grade will be held until the film’s release this summer.) The Pitch: Hardened Los Angeles detective Vic (Dave Bautista) is supposed to be at home recovering from a recent LASIK procedure. But when Tejo (Iko Uwais), the drug lord who killed his partner six months earlier, is reported to be back in town, he disobeys doctor’s orders in an attempt to seek revenge. Because Vic is barely able to see, he ends up enlisting the help of a pushover Uber driver named Stu (a.k.a. Stuber, played by Kumail Nanjiani), to be his eyes, navigator, and reluctant sidekick. The tension between the unlikely crime-fighting team threatens to explode as the danger increases, and the two men begin offering unwanted advice about each other’s personal lives. Four Stars for Action: Taking a page from so many R-rated buddy-cop films of the ’80s and ’90s, Stuber refuses to pull its punches when it comes to the violence. The knockout opening sequence contains all the bullet dodging, spurting blood, and crushed bones you could ever want from two onscreen powerhouses like Bautista and Uwais. There’s an artistry in the […]