After the Wedding **1/2
Sony Pictures Classics
Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in After the Wedding
Every Michelle Williams lead role inspires the thought “Michelle Williams should get more lead roles.” She makes for a pretty solid distaff Mads Mikkelsen in Bart Freundlich’s gender-swapped English-language remake of Susanne Bier’s 2006 drama, starring as Isabelle, manager of an orphanage in India who is summoned to New York by millionaire media tycoon Theresa (Julianne Moore) to be considered for a sizable donation. There are secrets to be uncovered—involving Theresa’s husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup) and their newlywed daughter Grace (Abby Quinn)—but a lot of the angst behind those secrets is more distracting than enriching, and it’s disappointing to see a reference to a character’s mental-health issues brought up only to be immediately discarded. But Williams’ performance is beautifully tangled in knots of uncertainty; she does as much with a cluck of the tongue when she senses she’s being shamed as Moore does with some Capital-A Acting involving drunken rants and ugly-crying. Like Bier, Freundlich stumbles when trying to make the premise’s inherent melodrama feel deathly serious; it’s still worth watching Williams, a performer who simply doesn’t know how to take a single on-screen moment for granted. Opens Aug. 30 at theaters valleywide.
An injured military veteran tries to recover to become a motocross racer. Opens Aug. 30 at Megaplex Theaters Jordan Commons.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld ***1/2
The provocateur showmanship of director Mads Brügger gets tied up in our collective fascination with conspiracy theories in a film so tenuously on the edge of “documentary” that Brügger pre-emptively apologizes for its potential craziness. His ostensible subject is an investigation into the 1961 death of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in a plane crash, one that has long been the subject of speculation that it involved foul play. Along the way, Brügger digs up information—at times literally—about a mysterious man named Keith Maxwell and his shadowy paramilitary organization, using dramatic ambush tactics to try to get people to talk. But as undeniably entertaining as it is watching him rake this particular muck, and potentially land a first-hand witness to events built on white supremacy and secret government operations, it’s also clear that Brügger is concerned with the dramatic presentation of his material—like arbitrarily deciding to use two different secretaries to transcribe his exposition—as much as he is with the truth of it. It’s a weirdly satisfying cautionary tale about taking a story at face value just because it’s coming from a talented storyteller. Opens Aug. 30 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.
Don’t Let Go **
David Oyelowo, the soulful actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma
a few years ago, deserves mainstream success if he wants it, and tossing off a few crowd-pleasing potboilers might seem like the way to get it. But while Don't Let Go
(retitled since its 2019 Sundance premiere as Relive
) starts with a perfectly good premise, it soon turns into a formulaic police procedural with the most obvious, easily-guessed resolution. The hook is irresistible, though: LAPD detective Jack Radcliff (Oyelowo) is surprised to get a phone call from his recently-murdered niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), calling from three days before she and her parents were killed. Uncle Jack eventually takes advantage of the time warp to try to prevent the murders, but not before spending a combined seven or eight minutes (or so it feels) staring agape at the caller ID. Writer-director Jacob Estes (Mean Creek, The Details) quickly loses interest in his sci-fi/fantasy conceit and defaults to disappointingly mundane dirty-cop, this-conspiracy-goes-all-the-way-to-the-top detective tropes that don’t do anyone any favors. Oyelowo is magnetic, though, even when stumbling around panicked and dumbfounded. Opens Aug. 30 at theaters valleywide.
(PG-13)—Eric D. Snider
It’s weird to see a movie set up a high-concept premise, only to spend the next 90 minutes mostly making you wonder why the premise matters. Liam Neeson plays Moe, a New York jeweler laundering money for drug dealer Perico (Zlatko Buric). An attempt by Moe and Perico’s nephew Skunk (Emory Cohen) at a side deal goes bad when it turns out crooked cops are involved, and Moe is left with a head injury that takes away his memory. Writer/director Malik Bader pushes hard at his gritty, violent vibe—this thing is so hard-boiled its yolk has turned green—and some of his action beats show a solid hand behind the camera. But for most of the running time, Moe is either a weirdly passive protagonist, or he’s doing stuff that anyone on a quest for vengeance would do, with or without amnesia. Only near the end does the plot come into focus, but in a way that makes it feel like Cohen’s Fredo-esque wannabe tough guy should have been the main character all along. The odd coda, posing that this is a true story, doesn’t help make it any more vital. Opens Aug. 30 at Megaplex Theaters Gateway and Megaplex Theaters Valley Fair.
Lake’s 7 and the Golden Gun
[not yet reviewed]
Heist comedy-drama ensues when a security technician is blackmailed into stealing a valuable video-game controller. Opens Aug. 30 at Megaplex Theaters.
The Nightingale ***
writer-director Jennifer Kent crafts a different kind of horror narrative out of a different kind of trauma. In early 19th-century Australia, Irish-born convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi) suffers unfathomable loss at the hands of the local army commander Hawkins (Sam Claflin), then enlists the aid of aboriginal tracker Billy (Byakali Ganambarr) to lead her on her quest for vengeance. At its core, this is a vigilante justice narrative, leading off with graphic, trigger-warning-worthy sexual violence. But this isn’t so much a #MeToo narrative as it is a monster movie where the creature is rapacious colonialism, exploring the many kinds of victims who experience pain and loss as a result of its twisted sense of entitlement. Franciosi makes for a ferocious heroine, while Claflin and his fellow soldiers become one-dimensional villains in a way that oversimplifies the legacy of an entire philosophy of domination. The powerful, graphic moments—and the unexpected friendship between Clare and Billy—cut through an overlong, sometimes grueling running time to tell a tale of longing for what has been taken away by force. Opens Aug. 30 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.