THE RITUAL REVIEW

If only they could have summoned up a quicker pace . . .

A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.

The opening act set the tone as the lads (comprising of a talented and underrated British cast) debated about their next excursion. Lulling us into a false sense of security as they bantered and bickered over locations.

I’ve had the same discussion with my friends many a time about our European outings.

However, a simple beer run soon turned everything on its head as a cowardly Luke (Rafe Spall – Hot Fuzz) hid during a botched supermarket robbery leaving his best friend to face a gruesome end.

Forward six months to a now embittered Luke begrudgingly hiking in Northern Sweden. A man still tortured by his dreams. Living that same night over and over.

The slow burning tempo complimented the piece (To start with . . . ). The air of unease, the eerily tranquil forest setting, Ben Lovett’s incredible and unsettling score.

Andrew Shulkind’s cinematography was brilliant. He managed to make a somewhat grainy outlook picturesque.

The cast delivered. A must when the premise relied heavily on four characters. Robert James-Collier (Ol’ Thomas from Downton Abbey) almost stole the show from Spall.

“Well, this is the house we get murdered in”.

The dynamic worked well and the exchanges were entertaining enough as the film teased us with creepy little tidbits; butchered animals hanging in the trees, strange Blair Witch Project like markings.

It wasn’t long before a blistering storm and an untimely injury for a party member forced the gang to seek shelter in an abandoned cabin. I loved the Evil Dead vibe. The eerie noises. And that demented Wicker Man looking effigy?!

Seriously, I would have endured the storm than stay in that cabin. Sheesh.

By the half hour marker, I could feel my interest wading BUT things took a stranger turn as the gang experienced trippy and demented Hangover style blackouts. Losing all sense of time/space/whereabouts. Straying further from their path home.

I kept wondering why we only saw Luke’s (repetitive and incredibly irritating) nightmares and none of the others? All we had was pure hearsay. Without unleashing any spoilers, I really hoped that the film was going to stray down The Thing territory BUT alas it was not to be . . .

I still loved the fact that you didn’t know what direction this film was going to take right up to the closing minutes as the gang tried to escape their impending doom.

There were a few jumpy bits with some fine moments of perfectly executed suspense and tension. Even when the inevitable bickering and rising body count began.

I also loved how we didn’t know what was attacking them right up until its big reveal in the gripping finale.

The only problem I had with The Ritual was that I thought there might have been a little more to it. After the big unveiling of the “creature”, it rushed to a frantic (albeit nail biting) climax. It just felt a little abrupt after all that build up.

BUT I was pleasantly surprised. A weird, creepy little horror worthy of your time.

3/5 (Just)

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*NEW* THE NICE GUYS REVIEW *NEW*

The-Nice-Guys-2016-BluRay

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this ain’t.

A mismatched pair of private eyes (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe) investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

From the mad opening sequence of a pornstar crashing her car into a family home, I knew what I was getting myself into. One mad ride.

Writer/director Shane Black is back with a new noir thriller and a dysfunctional duo in Crowe and Gosling as the private eyes who unwittingly get involved in the same case.

Crowe was brilliant was the no holds barred ‘punch first ask questions later’ Jackson Healey. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like his character after his macho introduction. Black’s lines didn’t really fly out at me like Kiss Kiss BUT there were still a few jewels: “Marriage is buying a house for somebody you hate. Remember that”.

Crowe playing yet another hard man. Here we go. BUT once he crossed paths with the equally mental Holland March, I knew we were in for a treat.

The pair had great chemistry and worked well off each other. Gosling stole the show. After seeing him in so many super serious dramas; Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines and Only God Forgives (God forgive whoever made that movie), it made a change to see him play such an idiot.

He was hilarious and made the fumbling fool look effortless. Cutting up his hand trying to break into an office. Dropping his gun on numerous occasions. The guy literally falls into trouble. A running gag with the drunk detective falling everywhere had me in stitches.

Despite all the tomfoolery, March and Healey were perfect noir protagonists. Healey, the man with a grudge. Out to right wrongs. No matter the cost. March, a man on the edge seeking solace in the bottom of a bottle after losing his wife. We introduced to the guy fulled dressed in the bath. A tattoo on his right hand saying; “You will never be happy”.

The first 45 minutes was fantastic. It was mad, quick witted and confusing as hell. Everything I expected from Black. It ticked all the boxes.

Keith David (The Thing) and Beau Knapp (Southpaw) were great as the appropriately titled Older Guy and Blue Face. Two murky underlings hot on the pair’s track to find the only witness to the crazy case.

The introduction of Angourie Rice as March’s daughter Holly gave March an extra depth and showed a softer side to Healey. However, she soon overstayed her welcome and took a good portion of the attention (and gags) away from the pair.

Her ‘moral compass’ viewpoint and busybody detective solving got on my nerves and killed a lot of the fun for me. And that was the problem, a heavy middle act got bogged down by too many serious moments and a befuddling plot.

Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) was dreadfully irritating as Amelia. The running gag of her (Well, running away) got on my nerves. Her constant reappearances throughout the film really tested my patience. I’m sure that was the point BUT it didn’t leave me smiling.

Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) was heavily underused as the merciless hitman. A change of role BUT anyone could have played him. Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) was also wasted in her role as the shady Chief Justice. She may be looking good at 62 BUT her character was pushed in the background too much. Just another generic corrupt politician. Shame.

“Okay, that explains basically nothing” – The plot, despite all its intentional contrivances, was actually quite predictable and a little flat after all the mystery.

The lumbering pace and the snappy one liners lost their zing. BUT thankfully, a frantic and fiery final act restored it back on track.

It was tough NOT to draw comparisons with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. An underrated and heavily recommended watch. BUT this was still good fun and definitely a breath of fresh air after the feeble efforts I’ve slogged through.

Despite my grumbles, I still enjoyed it. Thanks to the crazy coupling of Crowe and Gosling.

3/5

I will leave you with one of my favourite scenes and the best movie line I’ve heard in a while.