‘Blackway’ With Julia Stiles, Ray Liotta & Anthony Hopkins Is A Dull, Pointless, Thriller [Review]

The Playlist | 6/10/2016 | Kevin Jagernauth
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When the abiding image from your film, one that is favored at lingering length, is of a slack-jawed Anthony Hopkins staring gormlessly into the middle distance through a window, you’ve got problems. Then again, such a moment in Daniel Alfredson‘s “Blackway” is a near-perfect summation of the film as a whole: dully shot, performed as though underwater, and almost entirely pointless. A would-be gritty tale that sets a minimal plot barely ticking over in the forests and mountains of British Columbia, it clearly has designs on being a sort of woodsy, foggy modern-day Western in which terse characters with tragic backstories live out hardscrabble lives, adhering to personal codes and doing What They Gotta Do. But if there’s a trick to making such stories lithe and resonant rather than episodic and mechanical, it’s one “Blackway” has missed. Instead, we get a thriller so turgid that its setting in logging country starts to feel like heavy irony: Lord, does it lumber.

Based on the spartan and quite lovely book “Go With Me” by Castle Freeman Jr, the film does a splendid job of entirely demystifying the novella’s fable-like structure and tone, with screenwriters Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs offering a literal rendition of a story that, for those who have read it, really lives and breathes in the spaces between its short, declarative sentences. It’s a paradox that in such an ostensibly faithful translation to the screen, such a lot can be lost. But Alfredson, whose previous work includes the two Swedish ‘Dragon Tattoo‘ sequels and the English-language “Kidnapping Mr Heineken” (so, to be fair, we’d been given due warning) doesn’t offer an interpretation of the material so much as a first-take visualization of it, and an uninspired one at that. So we get all the...
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