It has been a while since we dove head first into the mires of Netflix looking to see what we could find, and with a plethora of new releases on the streaming service we thought it best to let you know if we found anything worth watching. So lets get to it!
Lost River (Dir. Ryan Gosling, 2015)
After a successful couple of years in front of the camera, Ryan Gosling took a turn behind the lens at directing his first feature film Lost River, starring Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan and Iain De Caestecker. In a run down desolate town Billy (Hendricks) is struggling to keep up with the payments to keep her house, and after a meeting with new banker Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) she finds herself drawn into a dark underworld. Meanwhile her son Bones (De Caestecker) gets onto the wrong side of local criminal Bully (Smith) and gets to know his neighbour Rat (Ronan).
With two films working with Nicolas Winding Refn under his belt it is clear where Gosling got his visual and narrative inspiration for the film from, and that isn’t a bad thing. The best thing about Lost River is its visual flare, and Gosling certainly has an eye for aesthetically pleasing shots. The film is littered with neon colours and colourful tones against a backdrop of dark moody shots. The films narrative isn’t tightly wound and retains an air of mystery past the roll of the credits, opting to focus on the path forward for the featured characters without explaining much of the back story. As for the performances, though they are minor Ben Mendelsohn and Matt Smith are captivating as their respective characters.
If you like your independent films that march to a different beat then give Lost River some time.
Good Kill (Dir. Andrew Niccol, 2015)
From the man who brought us Gattaca, S1mone, and Lord of War comes a different observation of the war film. As technology evolves, so does the way wars are fought and Good Kill is a drama that focuses on the lives of those who pilot drones in enemy territory. Major Thomas Egan (the ever impressive Ethan Hawke) is a former fighter pilot who was selected for drone duty to carry out observations and strikes against enemy targets. Unlike ground troops Egan is able to go home to his wife and children after work, as he carries out the strikes at an airbase near to his home, thousands of miles away from where he keeps watch. It’s an unusual way to live and one that Egan is having trouble acclimatising to as he yearns to get back into the cockpit.
There are no two ways about it, Good Kill is a solid drama. Choosing to focus on an aspect of war that has rarely yet been covered by film provides not only a fresh subject, but an opportunity to explore the mental impact of this type of warfare in a different setting to the battlefield. In fact one could argue that the real battlefield for Egan is in his own home as he struggles to comes to terms with a number of factors, whilst also trying to be a husband and a father. Being a pilot without actually flying and receiving instructions to kill targets without mercy for innocent casualties are just two of the issues he faces that make him distant to his life.
Good Kill is a slow burn, but a good watch. Ethan Hawke is tremendous, and with great supporting turns from January Jones, Zoë Kravitz and the seemingly ever present Bruce Greenwood your thirst for quality acting will be quenched. Did I mention Ethan Hawke was ace?
Creep (Dir. Patrick Brice, 2015)
Another feature film debut for this edition of Negotiating Netflix, as Patrick Brice delivers us a slightly strange POV/Found Footage film about a cameraman who takes a one day job in a remote town to film a client who doesn’t have long to live. Now this film features two people, Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass (The League, Safety Not Guaranteed), with the former playing the cameraman Aaron and the latter as the client Josef.
Though I wouldn’t say I’m a purveyor of the found footage film, I certainly believe it can be an incredibly effective way to make a film, titles such as The Sacrament and The Blair Witch Project stand as great examples and I tend to give more of them a watch than I should. But Creep, as intriguing a concept as it is, is lacking in thrills. Firstly let it be known that this is not some paranormal or supernatural film, it’s a film featuring two guys with one of them being a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I wasn’t expecting scares, but it did lack tension for the type of film that it is. That being said, I remained intrigued about what would happen come the end of the film and at a brisk running time of 82 minutes I didn’t have to wait long. Where this film is effective is from looking back on it and finally understanding the behaviour of the characters. As you don’t know the outcome from the start some of the actions come across a touch unusual, but after it is all said and done and you look back on it you realise how much of a nut job one of the characters is.
If your after a horror film for shocks, jumps, or gore then look elsewhere as you’ll find none of that here. What you will find is a unique little film, that truthfully would have been better served as a one hour short in a Masters of Horror series. Though it is good to see Mark Duplass try his charismatic hand at something other than comedy there is certainly some polish needed to make this as good as it could have been.
Life of Crime (Dir. Daniel Schechter, 2014)
Two criminals, Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey/Mos Def) get more than they bargained for when they kidnap Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) the wife of shady real estate agent Frank (Tim Robbins) when it transpires that Frank has no interest in paying the ransom money. As a result Louis and Ordell must figure out a way to make the situation into a positive and have it work for them, unfortunately there is going to a bit of double crossing and lies to sift through before they get there.
I’m not going to lie, considering the credentials of the actors in the film, and that the story is an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel The Switch, I had high expectations. I thought this could be one of those hidden gems that few people saw and didn’t get the screen time it deserved, my expectations though were likely too high. Life of Crime is by no means a bad film, it is just OK. The cast are the only thing that held my interest in the film which continued to wane as the film wore on, and for a feature that is roughly 100 minutes it should be hard to feel slow. Will Forte has a good little turn in the film (When doesn’t he?) which provides some humour which is otherwise lacking throughout the rest of the film.
Despite being an alright film, It’s not a film I’d go out of my way to get people to watch and I’ll likely not watch it again. It is a shame considering those involved, but maybe it was just because I expected too much. Watch it if you want but don’t expect anything special.
So there we have it for this volume of Negotiating Netflix, four films for you to mull over, two of which I think you should give a watch. Check out our other explorations into the maze of Netflix films by clicking the category of the same name at the top of the page or just click here for the last entry by fellow Usher James. We hoped you enjoy and see you soon. Don’t forget to tell us if you watch any of the above and let us know what you thought!