Saturday, July 20, 2019

Movie Reviews: A Violent Separation

A Violent Separation
directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz
How far would you go to protect a blood relative? That's a question raised in a number of films.  A Violent Separation was trying to be a Golden Age of Hollywood film noir. Part of the reason that it didn't really make it was because most of the lead actors and actresses were English or Australian people trying and failing to ape a Missouri or even generic Midwestern/Southern accent. I don't think they did a good job of it. There have been a lot of people who have spoken with annoyance on the increasing phenomenon of foreign actors playing American roles. As with anything else, there are some people who can do it and some people who can't.

But aside from the acting and accents the writing just didn't make sense in this movie. At some very critical points in this film I was taken out of the "unreality bubble" by seeing someone do something senseless. Then when I started thinking about how dumb a given decision was I was hit again by the foreign accents seeping through what someone thought was a Missouri accent. So I was irritated either way. 

The film's saving grace was Ted Levine, who has an accent and cadence which I always find worthy of listening to in whatever character he's playing. Levine is a fine character actor who deserves better than this film, though he raises the verisimilitude of every scene that he's in. Unfortunately he can't save the film by himself.  


Norman Young (Brenton Thwaites) is a young deputy sheriff who takes his job seriously. Norman is a sober sort. He believes in the law so much that he's routinely willing to arrest his older brother and roommate Ray Young (Ben Robson) on disturbing the peace/rowdiness charges.

Both brothers live in a trailer that's on the property or adjacent to the property of the Campbell family. Tom Campbell (Gerard McRaney) is a bad tempered crippled old man who lives with his two daughters , Abbey (Claire Holt) and Frances (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Ray and Abbey are an item. Or maybe they were an item. Or maybe they're going to be an item. It's unclear as to whether they are still married. What is clear is that they currently have a sort of open relationship. 

The problem though is that at any given time, only one of them will actually agree that they have an open relationship. One or the other will spend a lot of time furiously shaking their tail feathers in the nearest bar, doing their best to make their partner jealous and usually succeeding. This leads to hurt feelings, gleeful insults, parking lot skirmishes and occasional open violence. Norman and Frances try to keep the peace between their respective fractious siblings, while making goo-goo eyes at each other when they think no one is looking.

When a tragedy occurs (it's up to the viewer to decide whether or not it's an accident), Ray has to beg for Norman's help. Norman must decide how much he loves Ray, even as he becomes closer to Frances in the aftermath. Meanwhile Norman's boss , the affable Sheriff Quinn (Ted Levine) is sniffing around, adding things up and not liking the outcomes. How much will Norman sacrifice to save his brother? Is his brother worth it?

At just below a two hour running time this film overstays its welcome. It would have helped the story immensely to cut a good 20 or even 30 minutes from the film. This movie attempts a tragic American Gothic sensibility when the story would have been better served by a more down and dirty greasier take. The characters look good but talk too much and don't have a lot of chemistry together. But as always YMMV.
TRAILER

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