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)

Advertisements

THE EQUALIZER REVIEW

Sony_TheEqualizer_UKQuad

Denzel + Hit Girl = a dull long winded action flick. Redeemed by a few moments of carnage.

The Equalizer or Man on Fire 2 (if Creasy chose retirement and decided to work in a DIY store) proved one thing. That Denzel Washington is still very much the man.

He provides yet another powerhouse performance proving why he is one of the best actors going. But I fear he may have taken too much on with this one.  Normally you can bank on Washington to carry films that (on paper) may be a little lacklustre but this really did test me.

Washington’s presence certainly makes this just about watchable but it’s still a disappointing mess reprieved by two good performances and some moments of mayhem.

An agonizing coma-inducing opening did not help matters. We get an idea of Washington’s life in a few shots that should have taken up a couple of minutes not twenty. It meandered along as Washington keeps up appearances blending in and trying to maintain a peaceful (and incredibly boring) life.

It was incredibly clichéd and predictable as Washington banters with the staff. That and a tedious subplot in which he helps his best friend Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) train for his security guard exam. However, his little improvised dance routine is one I will be busting out the next time I hit the town.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Washington worked well together. You felt for her character instantly but the constant café meetings to build up a relationship that was clearly established just further slackened things.

I was waiting for the inevitable incident that would activate Washington to take action. An incident that would put Moretz out of action until the closing minutes when she pops back up as a mere afterthought. It’s surprising to see how grown up she has become but anyone could have played her. Anyhoo . . . By the 45 minute marker. FINALLY things got a little bit more interesting with Washington cracking skulls, taking names and dispensing B-movie one liners.

To be honest, every time he glared and tortured someone, I saw Creasy. The frenetic fist-fighting was a feast for any action junkie. The only problem is that the disposing of unmemorable henchmen was dealt with too quickly.

One niggle that irritated me through this. The Equalizer’s thing was his timing. In one particular scene, he threatens to dispose of the East (Or West. Not relevant) Coast Russian mafia in 16 seconds. Washington does his business in a bloody and incredibly violent fashion. BUT in . . . 30 seconds?

This happens constantly. He says 90 seconds to one person and takes five minutes instead. Is Washington getting too old for this shit? I may not have seen the famous TV series starring Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) but messing up one of his hallmarks does not bode well.

The final 20 minutes made up for a film that desperately wanted to be cooler than it was. The DIY Die Hard sequence offered everything I expected throughout the film . . . NOT just for the ending. I am happy to wait for the violence and destruction.

BUT only if there is enough story or something going on that’s worth filling in that time. 132 minutes is far too long. The action that was delivered was fast and furious. Washington can most definitely still play the hardened action movie veteran.

Antoine Fuqua may have reunited with Washington for their second outing but Training Day, this ain’t. All the other supporting characters were so unmemorable and clichéd that it frustrated me. All except for Marton Csokas (XXX)

He was absolutely brilliant. A worthy adversary to Washington’s peace-keeping protagonist. His lines may have been hammy in parts but Csokas’ expressions and dead pan delivery made him a villain to remember. His presence in every scene created tension and suspense. Something that was much needed.

After commending David Arbour (End of Watch) for his performance in A Walk Among The Tombstones, I found his character in this very dull, passive and generally unnecessary. David Meunier (Justified) made a more memorable turn in just one scene.

I was annoyed that we barely scraped the surface of McCall (Washington)’s past and the only taster we get is a boring encounter with Melissa Leo telling us what we already knew. And Bill Pullman? Remember him? President of America in Independence Day (Or the dad in Casper). A mere chess playing cameo? Terrible.

Washington makes it rain with quality acting, charisma and some fist-fighting, blood curdling violence. Csokas offers a villain that makes up for the lumbering pace. However, all it made me want to do is watch Man on Fire.

It got there in the end but boy, oh boy. If the credits suggested another one in the pipeline, get a better storyline. Or least some more action. Give it a go but me . . . I’m going to get Man on Fire out of the DVD cupboard.

2.5/5 for me.