THOROUGHBREDS is oversold as a HEATHERS-type black comedy, but there's truly nothing funny going on here: just the squirms resulting from passive acceptance of what should come as traumatic shock. Olivia Cooke (THE QUIET ONES) is the thoroughly disaffected Amanda, and Anya Taylor-Joy (THE WITCH) is the privileged Lily, who's prevailed upon to rekindle her past friendship with Amanda in an effort to break through to her (even as Lily's mother and stepfather make eager plans to ship her off to boarding school). "So," says Amanda, "have you thought about just killing him?" The title refers to an act of extreme cruelty (though Amanda certainly didn't see it that way) involving a horse, which stands as an apparent attempt to place the film in the company of EQUUS itself (nothing is shown, but the description is quite enough while still being vital to the theme of the film). I walked into this one knowing nothing about it and found it extremely well acted and compelling even as it put me off personally. Oh, and we get another "last look" at Anton Yelchin, also extremely well cast as a sleazebag with delusions of grandeur. Recommended with reservations--try to ignore the blurbs.
THE STRANGERS PREY AT NIGHT (there's no ":" in the title and there really doesn't need to be, does there?), which I saw on the following day, bears a remarkable resemblance to THOROUGHBREDS itself in the early going when we meet Bailee Madison as troubled daughter Kinsey. Gee... her parents want to ship her off to boarding school, she defiantly smokes in front of them (just like Lily)... interesting. But instead of Kinsey getting caught up in a plot to off her own family members, the Strangers are lying in wait at a trailer park to do everybody in themselves. But not before the eye-rolling contrivances that persuade the family members to put their cell phones out of reach, split up, yeah, yeah, yeah... oh, and take special note that Kinsey SHOULD have been allowed to play baseball with her brother because she's really THAT good. Let's hope somebody just HAPPENS to drive by with a ball and a bat? Okay, it's not meant to be anything it isn't, and it's much to the film's credit that it delivers its quota of the requisite jolts (including the best chair-jumper of the year to date) and cringe-inducing cruelty. If it's a STRANGERS sequel you want, it's a STRANGERS sequel you'll get.
THE HURRICANE HEIST does its best to live up to its FAST/FURIOUS pedigree with a thoroughly preposterous, CGI-heavy crime/disaster romp into which its enthusiastic cast throws itself as if it were a matter of life and death. Even if it isn't believable for a second, the research and imagination that went into setting up the various showcase moments is in plentiful evidence. So forget what I said about "believable." Yes, I believe that if you happen to blow a skylight in a shopping mall at the moment of perfect outdoor atmospheric pressure when your targets are conveniently lined up on an escalator that you can go GOLDFINGER on them in a split second. Why not? The movie told me so, and who am I to claim otherwise? Great fun.
And the OTHER movie that absolutely nobody went to see but which is still lingering in theatres for some reason? GRINGO is a completely satisfying wish-fulfillment fantasy scenario involving big business corruption, drug cartels, unwitting mules, reluctant mercenaries, laugh-out-loud comedy and savage violence. David Oyelowo has no trouble capturing our sympathy and support as the would-be-sacrificial-lamb, and you are guaranteed to love to hate Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton (especially the latter; a character more in need of comeuppance would be very difficult to conceive). This one's well worth the effort to snag before it gets away.
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