In this story of two brothers, one a cop and another a convict, you get what seems like a Martin Scorsese inspired movie which lacks stars but tries to emulate his storytelling.
Trigger Warning(s): Rape like circumstance
Review (with Spoilers)
It is amazing to me how a film starring such actresses like Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, and Zoe Saldana can really just go under the radar and no one notices. Their names, as well as Clive Owens, make this film seem like something which would have been released in the fall and geared toward Oscar nominations. Instead, though, it was released in the spring as an independent feature, leaving you to wonder: why?
Characters & Story
The film’s primary focus are two brothers: Chris (Clive Owen) and Frank (Bill Crudup). Chris has been in and out of jail since he was 12, for various crimes, but has always had a soft spot for Frank, even though his little brother became a cop. But when Chris gets out of jail when we are introduced to him, there is an attempt to go legit. He works at this car dealership where he meets Natalie (Mila Kunis) and the two fall in love. But with this film being set in the 1970s, that old fashioned mindset of taking care of your lady and all her needs comes to mind, so just helping out at a car dealership isn’t enough. Never mind Chris has two kids by Monica (Marion Cotillard) who not only he rarely sees, but with Monica threatening to go to the courts for child support, money is a major issue.
As for Frank, with a convict for a brother, and him being obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), he also has some issues. The main one, to me, is how he abuses, or misuses, his power as a cop. First by taking down Vanessa’s new boyfriend, and baby father, Anthony (Matthias Schoenaerts), then by stalking her, having a scene which he looks like he is raping her, and then somehow them getting together. But even with his ill got relationship with Vanessa, a cop with a convict brother is a serious conflict of interest. Leaving us with a film in which you know Chris’ life may hang in the balance based off Frank’s actions, though it could always become the other way around.
For a movie which is two hours, I surprisingly stayed interested throughout. The brothers, Chris and Frank, have an interesting relationship, as well as complicated relationships with various members of the cast, and it really keeps you focus. And even with this being a gangster-type movie, it doesn’t overly rely on violence to keep you engaged. Chris’ relationship with Monica and his friend Mike (Domenick Lombardozzi) make for interesting scenes and a nice overall story, and while I am by no means comfortable with Frank’s story with Vanessa, him being a cop who is inevitably going to be pitted against his brother makes for a compelling story, especially when you add in their history.
But I must say, Frank made me so uncomfortable when it came to his relationship with Vanessa for between the aggressive stalking, and this one scene in which he looks like he is going to rape her, which halfway through seemingly became consensual, I kind of wanted him to get shot. But perhaps the most unfortunate bit is Kunis and Saldana are quite underused, and while Cotillard’s Monica has a decent role, her playing a thorn in Chris’ side, I wished she was developed more. If just because you can see Chris put her through the ringer and while numb now, honestly they could have cut the scenes featuring Chris and Frank’s sister and dad a bit to accommodate for a more developed backstory for her and allowed the other two women to be more developed.
Overall: TV Viewing
Since originally writing this review I have gone back and forth on whether this should be a “TV Viewing” type film or “Worth Seeing,” and I won’t pretend that in the beginning, you won’t think, “Oh my god this is going to be 2 hours?” But with time you really get into the movie and as you watch these deeply flawed characters, who do honestly have a good side to them, you eventually get into the movie quite a bit. And while Frank’s character gives me pause, outside of that the only major issue is that the women in the film are never given the opportunity to really establish themselves. Something which unfortunately is a trend in films like these? But still, even with that said, it is a good movie to pass the time with and that is why I’m labeling it as “TV Viewing.”