Movie Reviews: “I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore,” “Message From the King,” “Sleepless”

By | August 17, 2017

Vigilante movies are somewhat irrestible, aren’t they? You get to watch somebody else take on a corrupt system rigged to favor criminals (both high and low) either through extreme negligence (as in the case of “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”) or law enforcement kickbacks (“Sleepless”). But even though vigilante films/noirs may be some of my favorite genres, not all movies are created equal…

Message From the King…It must feel like some weird inside-Hollywood joke that despite British or African black actors repeatedly being asked to play Southern black figures (“12 Years a Slave,” “Loving,” “Selma”) Chadwick Boseman from South Carolina keeps playing Africans like the upcoming Black Panther movie, and here where he’s asked to use a South African accent. This story of a South African cab-driver looking for his missing sister in L.A. can’t hold a candle to Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey,” the gold standard of this type of noir, and it doesn’t help that much of it feels pretty unconvincing. Not only is L.A. seen as some Sodom-and-Gomorrah hellhole where literally every character is a drug dealer, drug user, pimp, prostitute, or pedophile sex slaver, but–again, the irony–the villains are played by the ex-Draco Malfoy (as a tattooed drug dealer), and Luke Evans as–and I’m not kidding–a very bad dentist specializing in extortion, sex-trafficking, and reading people’s teeth (he literally says Boseman’s character will be trouble because of his well-maintained teeth). Grade: C

Sleepless…This movie also suffers from leaps of narrative logic, and somewhat unconvincing villains (although it is fun to watch talented character actors like David Harbour, Dermont Mulroney, and Scoot McNairy try out more modern sleazy Vegas gangster types), but the biggest problem is a terrible last third that revolves around a parking lot shoot-out so over-the-top, it’s like the screenwriters just gave up. And even though the Vegas-at-midnight-sleaze is the most distinctive thing about it, that’s undercut by much of the movie taking place inside generic casino walls. [No surprise, the movie was filmed in Atlanta, which is why its “Vegas” seems a little vague.] Grade: C

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore…As exciting as actors like Jamie Foxx and Chad Boseman can be, it’s no understatement to say that Melanie Lynskey may be the least likely actor you’ve ever expected to star in a vigilante noir. With her soft eyes, passive voice, and somewhat befuddled mannerisms, one of the strongest things of “IDFAHITWA” is watching Lynskey and–of all people–Elijah Wood go badass after Lynskey’s apartment is burglarized. This is a much more realistic, closer-to-the-truth movie than just about any of this type I’ve seen, and that adds an extra kick to the lower-key, shocker action sequences. It’s also a fine character study, and the closest I’ve seen to a female version of “Taxi Driver” (Lynskey is largely driven by how much “people suck” and tired of living in a world of assholes). It’s also the directorial debute of Macon Blair (Jeremy Saulnier’s muse in “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room”), and a much more honest effort than Saulnier’s movies, which usually tack on a message about the cycle-of-violence through vigilante justice, even as they’re clearly turned on by it. Grade: A-

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