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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 months later...

True story: I went into Wednesday night's screening knowing little more than the names of a couple of the actors in this film. I didn't know until the credits that Dennis Lehane wrote the screenplay/story. I just sat back, watched the film, and knew fairly early on that the mood and general inertia of the film weren't working for me. At all. When the injured dog showed up, I started rolling my eyes.


Yes, I was tired, and that probably exacerbated my reaction somewhat. I grew impatient with this film early and was surprised when, late in the film, the audience started laughing and gasping in ways that indicated they were much more into the film than I was. They certaintly hadn't responded before then to the film, although there's not much to respond to until late in the film.


I left the theater in a pissy mood, convinced that whatever my physical state, the movie itself was a big nothing-burger. I found a fellow critic outside the theater who, along with a friend, shared my disdain for this movie. I sensed that a couple of other colleagues were more charitable toward it, and that's fine -- I suspected I might be an outlier, or on one side of a close-to-even critical split.


But I had no idea, until I got home and looked at Rotten Tomatoes, how beloved this film is. Sure, many of the "fresh" reviews are full of caveats, some so great I don't know how RT got to a "fresh" rating for them. But several "top critics" came close to raving about this film.


I was astonished. I haven't experienced that kind of disconnect with other critics for some time. My reaction got me thinking about how, had I checked the early reviews before seeing the film, I might have been primed for a different (much better) experience, and how that might have affected me.


I like to think my negative reaction was pure and unfiltered, but it frustrates me a little to see the degree of warmth some prominent critics feel toward this film. I see elements of a good film here, but the romance kind of sucks, the tension doesn't build until a sudden charge enters the final act, and the thing mostly just sits there on the screen, depsite the best efforts of Hardy and Gandolfini.


Having said all that, I wonder if I have a more fundamental problem with Dennis Lehane. I've liked one or two of the film adaptations of Lehane's work, but I've been cold to other stuff he's done for the screen and in print. He's often compared (favorably) with Richard Price and George Pelecanos, both of whom I like, so I'm not sure where the disconnect occurs with Lehane. But it's a real disconnect.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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We're definitely on opposite sides of the fence with this one, Christian.  I found this to be a very satisfying film, with pleasing echoes of The Wire and The Sopranos, with an interesting use of religious symbolism (consistent with some of Lehane's other work).  I'm a tad surprised by the relative silence in these parts.  Here's my review:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2014/09/james-gandolfinis-praiseworthy-final-bow-the-drop/

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa


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