Brad Anderson’s Fractured

Brad Anderson’s Fractured is not a good film, but it somehow manages to look, sound and feel like one. How, you may ask? It’s just one of those slick, dynamic thrillers that is absolutely engaging on a stylistic level, well acted, scary when it needs to be and very atmospheric… however, it has a manipulative, unfair zigzag of a narrative that insults both the audience’s deductive skills and overall intelligence and at times feels like they were making it up as they went along, and decided right in the middle of the third act which fork in the road they were gonna go with in terms of plot resolution. Not a good look from a screenplay standpoint. Anderson is a terrific filmmaker who is responsible for some of my dearest favourites in the horror/thriller genres including Transsiberian, Session 9, Stonehearst Asylum, Vanishing On 7th Street, The Machinist and a few fascinating if flawed efforts like The Call and now this film. Sam Worthington gives a solid performance as a frantic father desperately searching for his missing wife (Lily Rabe, wondrous as ever) and young daughter (Lucy Capri), when they disappear under mysterious circumstances at a county hospital the family goes to following a roadside medical emergency. He checks them in, they are rushed off downstairs to get MRI’s and… he never sees them again. All of the nurses, EMT’s and the charismatic duty doctor (always nice to see Stephen Tobolowsky) keep assuring him that he checked himself in alone and there never was a wife or a daughter in their hospital to begin with, which seems shady as fuck and causes him to launch a one man mission to find out what happened to them. There are some incredibly tense scenes of hospital espionage as he stealthily navigates corridors and stairwells, pursued by cops and security at every turn. The performances are great, the momentum is kept up nicely and it’s all very snazzy… but like I said, this one jerked my chain a few too many times as far as plot turns go and by the end I felt disappointed, exploited as a viewer and downright hostile at the experience overall. Is this guy just a lunatic and imagining he had a wife and kid, or are the hospital staff actually hiding something sinister? Well, the film waffles back and forth in embarrassingly melodramatic and implausible fashion between the two possible outcomes and when it comes time to level with us their way of going about it feels cheap, lurid and unfair to its lead, which is especially unfortunate for poor Worthington who *finally* gives a terrific performance and ends up betrayed by the script that doesn’t properly do the character justice. The fact that this is well made makes its glaring drawbacks all the more frustrating: if it were simply a shittily crafted film I could have just three pointer line tossed it into the trashcan, so to speak. But I enjoyed much of it from a style and tone aspect, so it makes the lack of proper backbone in story just sting way more. Meh.

-Nate Hill

Amazon Prime’s Tell Me Your Secrets- Season 1

Few films or shows are able to impart just how complex and capable of contradictory behaviour, light and darkness and moral ambiguity human beings are, but Harriet Warner’s Tell Me Your Secrets gets it and is a sensational showstopper, deep psychological imbroglio of disturbing deeds, poetically serendipitous plot turns, emotionally devastating character work, evocative southern gothic atmosphere and petrifying suspense. Originally shot in 2018 for TNT and subsequently abandoned by the network, Amazon has made an intuitively excellent choice in rescuing it from the scrap heap because based on the first season alone, it’s already looking like one for the books. The story, although deeply complex and labyrinthine, is actually fairly easy to get a handle on: Karen Miller (Lily Rabe) was once the girlfriend of vicious serial killer Kit (Xavier Samuel) who murdered nine women with a claw hammer, and kept his crimes secret from her. When it all came out, as it always does, he ends up on death row, she ends up in Witness Protection in Louisiana far from him and things smooth over, save for those loose ends which always seem to find their way back. One of those is grieving mother Mary (Amy Brenneman) whose missing daughter was once spotted in the vicinity of Kit, so she naturally assumes he must have been the one who took her. She is relentless to the point of recklessness and self destruction in this belief, going as far as to hire recently ‘reformed’ serial rapist John Tyler (Hamish Linklater) to dredge up his long dormant predator’s instincts and track Karen down, wherever the program has relocated her in hopes of any usable intel. Got that? Doesn’t matter, the show uses a crisp, well versed and fluid vernacular to tell this tale that has a lot of moving parts, tricky bends in the road and thunderclap revelations, it’s gripping, succinct, uncommonly intelligent work. Lily Rabe is an actress that I immediately connect/mesh with in the sacred viewer/performer symbiosis, I love her work in American Horror Story and since then have been hoping for her to get a truly showcase part.. this is it. She always seems to be one thousand percent actively engaged in the scene, always has the intensity turned up past eleven on the dial but always *owns* that choice and makes it feel earned. Karen is a girl in an impossibly rough life situation, handed cards no one should have to play. Her character arc is a thing of beauty as we slowly see what type of person she is, the choices she’s made and what she’s trying to do to shape her future, and the committed, finely tuned yet organic performance behind that from Lily radiates forth and reflects it all. Brenneman works wonders with a tricky character that you’ll want to hate but she’s been through a ton of trauma too and while it doesn’t excuse her overall course of actions within the moral quagmire of a narrative, I understood why she was the way she was, without judgment or endorsement. Liklater is just about as scary as one can get in a role like this and I’d imagine about as close to the mark in portraying a sicko perv rapist sociopath lunatic as one might get. He’s amiable, soft spoken, charismatic, strikingly remorseful and pleasantly chatty… until the true nature comes out. It’s a diabolical acting creation and I’m not familiar with his work before this but he’s squarely on my sonar now. This is deep, dark, distressing storytelling and at times the story is so disturbing, suspenseful and asks so much mental engagement and empathy from the viewer it can be quite an endeavour to take on, but the rewards to an avid participant and those who hunger for challenging content that lingers in your thoughts and dreams long after are superabundant. The principal leads anchor a three point triangle of psychologically, emotionally harrowing but somehow cathartic and almost Shakespearean level karmic epiphanies, backed up by a brilliant supporting cast, a tangled bayou of secondary narratives and chilling sideshow mysteries embroiled into the gumbo of our main tangent, an impressively eerie score that hovers along almost sub-audibly on the fringes of awareness and overall every aspect of this wonderful, fearsome, engrossing story shines bright out of the dark. Please, please let’s have many more seasons.

-Nate Hill

Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened: A Review by Nate Hill


Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened is an unfairly overlooked little Hollywood satire, a little less bombastic than his excellent Wag The Dog, but no less biting. It’s like Entourage on Zanax, a surprisingly laid back entry into an oeuvre that is usually foaming at the mouth with frenzy. Robert De Niro plays Ben, a very stressed out movie producer who is dealing with a zillion different things at once, most of which are going wrong. The character is based partly on real life Hollywood producer Art Linson, and his book. Ben has a lead actor (Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis) who refuses to shave his bushy beard for a film. Anyone who remembers the film The Edge with Alec Baldwin and how big his beard was in that, well, that’s where the idea came from. That’s just a taste of how many weird things that both Hollywood and his personal life toss at Ben. He’s also in post production on a Sean Penn film (Penn also plays himself) with a very stubborn and flamboyant director named Jeremy (Michael Wincott) who refuses to cut the film in accordance with the studio’s wishes (here manifested by an icy Catherine Keener). Ben’s daughter (a weepy Kristen Stewart) is going through personal crisis, he’s also got a bitter rivalry with an obnoxious writer (Stanley Tucci) and has to babysit an anxiety ridden agent (John Turturro). It’s all a lot for him to handle and we begin to see the turmoil start to boil under Ben’s cool exterior. The cast is beyond ridiculous, with additional work from Moon Bloodgood, Peter Jacobson, Lily Rabe and Robin Wright as Ben’s estranged wife. Standouts include Michael Wincott who is a comic gem and gives the film it’s life with his pissy, enraged and altogether charming performance. Willis is also priceless as he ruthlessly parodies himself to the hilt. It’s slight, it’s never too much and is probably a bit too laid back for its own good, but I had a lot of fun with it, and it’s always cool to see meta movies about the inner workings of Hollywood.