Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
The film starts with a reference to the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What proceeds is a satire or dark comedy about political discourse, particularly on the internet. The discourse is between those who are Democrat or liberal in their politics and those who are Republican or conservative in their politics. The discourse, however, has gotten really polarized, and the 2016 election really underlined that polarization. Written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, the film seems like it’s about that polarized discourse leading to violence. However, one could argue that the filmmakers lay the blame on one side more than the other and factually that feels wrong.
Otherwise, this film could be seen as an action-horror film in the vein of Ready or Not (2019) or You’re Next (2013). Both those films were about a young, white woman who basically has a group of people trying to kill her. At first, she tries to escape, but eventually she has to fight back and kill them. Those films though were about a woman who had no training or experience in fighting or combat, having to find a way to survive even in the face of brutality and murder. This film does give the woman training and experience, particularly military experience, but she has a difficulty in civilian life. She’s like a female Rambo from First Blood (1982).
Betty Gilpin (GLOW and Nurse Jackie) stars as Crystal, a young woman who is former military. She’s one of a dozen people who wake up in a forest or near an open field with a gag in her mouth. She was drugged and abducted. She soon realizes that people are trying to kill them. She notices that the dozen people who were captured are people with right-wing politics or politics that are associated with the Republicans and the conservatives in the wake of Trump’s election. She never expresses a specific viewpoint unlike some of the others who express right-wing stances on issues like guns or immigration. One is never sure of what Crystal’s politics are, but she’s one of the captured, so one assumes she’s a right-wing person. However, she’s certainly more adept at surviving. She’s more skilled than the others who basically become cannon fodder.
The thrills and the fun for some will come in seeing how those others become cannon fodder or how they’re picked off one by one, as in any horror flick. Most of the deaths are pretty shocking and brutal. Yet, as it becomes apparent in not that long, Crystal turns the tables. The thrills and the fun then come in seeing Crystal get back at the people who tried to kill her. We see Crystal kick ass, as the film morphs into a revenge flick in the vein of Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). This film isn’t as well-directed as that Quentin Tarantino hit though.
Director Craig Zobel (Compliance and Great World of Sound) doesn’t do much to make this film stand out from a direction standpoint. He certainly doesn’t standout in the way that an even smaller, French film simply titled Revenge (2018) stood out. Zobel does give space for Gilpin to shine, as well as a couple of good fight scenes. Yet, because Crystal is such a blank of a person, operating in pure military survival mode, there’s not much to latch. Therefore, I’m not as with her as I was with Uma Thurman in Kill Bill or Matilda Lutz in Revenge. Yes, there’s good fight scenes, especially one well-stage catfight at the end, but I wouldn’t put it up on the level as anything in Kill Bill or even anything in Atomic Blonde (2017).
Going back to the theme of polarized discourse leading to violence, this film posits that the left-wing people are the ones who initiate the violence. It also posits that the only violence from right-wing people are when they defend themselves from the left-wing. As mentioned earlier, factually that feels wrong. According to a 2019 Slate article, “Right-wing terrorists have killed more people on U.S. soil than jihadis [Islamic terrorists] have since 9/11.” According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in 2018, the extremist-related murders were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists. According to CBS News, racially or ethnically-motivated, violent extremists, or domestic terrorists motivated by racial or religious hatred, make up a huge chunk of the FBI’s domestic terrorism investigations. The majority of those attacks are fueled by some type of white supremacy. White supremacist or white nationalist groups tend to be right-wing people. When those right-wing people push back, typically they cite Antifa as the counterpoint, but Antifa has been noted for being against white supremacy, so it doesn’t come close to the scale and level of the right-wing violence.
It’s not to say that violence by the hands of left-wing people does not occur. People would point to the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise or the 2019 shooting in Dayton, Ohio, at Ned Peppers Bar. Reportedly, left-wing people perpetrated those shootings, but, statistically-speaking, the majority of the cases, the majority of the violence is at the hands of right-wing terrorists. This film basically reverses that fact and depicts a scenario that is opposite of what is representative of the data. As filmmakers and artists, Zobel and his team are free to do that, but any message they are trying to convey would land better if it were supported more by the data. Otherwise, the whole thing feels hollow.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.