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

Anyone you can catch, kill and eat: Remembering No Escape with Michael Gaylin by Kent Hill


Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of Aliens and The Terminator, headed the charge back in the early 90s toward the adaptation of a book written by Richard Herley titled, The Penal Colony.

Set in 1997, it tells the story of how the British Government runs island prison colonies as a means to stem the tide of an overflow in mainland jails. There are no guards, no cells, and the island is monitored via satellite surveillance.

We follow the  a character named Anthony Routledge, who is brought to the island for a sex-crime that he did not commit. He soon discovers that under the guidance of a charismatic leader, a community on the island has evolved.

Now if that’s not the ideal film to make here in Australia, (if your are aware that it is pretty much how our nation began) then I don’t know what is. The production would hire future Bond director Martin Campbell, along with stars Ray Liotta, Lance Henriksen, Stuart Wilson and Ernie Hudson.


Then a screenwriter named Michael Gaylin, a man who had slaved away in obscurity in Hollywood for more than a decade, would come into contact with a colleague of Hurd’s. He went for a meeting and, finally, after a career of false starts and forgotten promises, he was going to be writing on a film that would eventually, make it to the big screen.

After a long wait, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Michael about his career and his experiences during the making of No Escape or Escape from Absolom (as it was released over here). What I discovered, during our conversation, was not merely an insight into a film I heartily enjoy, but also the story of a resilient writer who finally had one script break through. A real life story very much akin to the journey of the hero of the film; who would take on all conflicts and eventually overcome them . . .  and escape.

It is a great film in the grand tradition of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Michael Gaylin.


Amy Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields

Whenever people say there isn’t enough gritty, messed up modern neo-noir (which there’s some truth to, but that’s another article) I like to dig up ones like Texas Killing Fields, an unforgivably overlooked crime drama from some years back that went by mostly unnoticed. Directed by Amy Canaan Mann, who is none other than Michael Mann’s daughter, and starring a talent trio of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sam Worthington and Chloe Grace Moretz, it’s a dark-boned, nihilistic murder mystery set in the deepest south and populated by the kind of folks you’d actively avoid entire sections of the barroom to get away from. There’s a killer loose in the low income doldrums of Texas, as if they didn’t have it bad enough in life, and two scarily mismatched cops are on the case. Intrepid idealist Morgan sees the light in darkest corners, while faithless misanthrope Worthington adopts a hopeless, devil may cry attitude. Caught between them is a wayward teen girl (Moretz), a homeless sitting duck who wanders the byways, a prime target and unfortunate default bait for this monster to come skulking out of the shadows. This is a downbeat, chilling flick with scant rays of humanity here and there, but bleakness takes over the screen like the portentous clouds in the storm-swept skies of the rural Americas, bringing danger and decay in their wake. The suspect list is a mile long because of how many wicked character actors there are in the supporting cast, but the culprit is oddly obvious from the get go. This isn’t to say the narrative is weak or they failed at a whodunit, as one can scarcely say that was there intention at all. It’s less of a whodunit and more of a ‘dunit’, as every character has some evil to hide or stain on their soul, and when the killer is revealed, they’re just another in a long line of wayward beings out there. Sheryl ‘Laura Palmer’ Lee is great as Moretz’s destitute, promiscuous mother, Jason Clarke roars in for a terrifying cameo as a violent pimp with an otherworldly blond dye job, Stephen Graham is dangerously quiet as a psychopathic local yokel, Annabeth Gosh has a brief role and Jessica Chastain gives an early star-making turn as an out of state cop who reluctantly aids Jeffrey and Sam. Dread is the word that seems to be on both Mann and her cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh’s mind, as every shot is composed primarily of darkness, shadows and claustrophobic grain, giving the fields and flatlands of Texas a hellish, oppressive lacquer. Darkness is explored both literally and thematically, and more fervently than most mainstream films care to get, which may be one reason the film wasn’t well received at all, or at least by most. It knowingly plunges headlong into the eye of the hurricane surrounding the hopeless heart of humanity, without much light on the other side or any to guide it, but there’s a bravery in that that I respect. One of the best crime dramas in recent history, a film that should be brought up more in discussion and a treatise on how to make a lasting impression in a genre that sees entries fall through the cracks on the daily. Brilliant, searing stuff.

-Nate Hill