Tag Archives: Catalina Sandino Moreno

Shut Up and Shoot

Silent Night

by George Wolf

December is a busy month, so Brian (Joel Kinnaman) has some helpful reminders written on his wall calendar.

“Pick up Mom from the airport?”

“Buy a ham?”

No, no, Brian is thinking bigger this year, especially for his Christmas Eve party plans.

“Kill them all!”

And, if things go really well, “start a gang war?” Yes, he really writes that down.

A year ago, Brian’s son was killed by a stray bullet from a gangland shootout in suburban Texas. Brian himself was shot in the throat during the mayhem, and he’s spent all his silent days and nights since then ignoring his wife (Catalina Sandino Moreno, doing what she can with a thankless role) and planning some very bad tidings of revenge.

Silent Night is director John Woo’s first American film in 20 years, but his considerable skill with an action sequence is never enough to elevate the film beyond a misguided fantasy of bloodlust and wall-building.

And even then, the blood-spilling combat doesn’t begin until nearly halfway in, as we wade through 50 tedious minutes of dialog-free montages with Brian target shooting, reinforcing his ride and making anguished faces.

Despite the title, the Christmas setting feels tacked-on for marketing purposes, becoming the only theme in Robert Archer Lynn’s script that’s soft-pedaled. The “silent” gimmick becomes contrived pretty quickly, there are numerous gaps in logic and you wonder why everyone involved here was so comfortable with an angry, self-righteous white man executing countless Mexicans.

Sure, Brian tips off an African-American cop (Scott Mescudi) about his mission to do what the law won’t, but the film is never hazy about what heroes and villains look like.

Those hand-written calendar notes teased the possibility for some humorous lunacy that is completely ignored, as the only thing over-the-top here is the utter seriousness of tone. Could Nic Cage and a face-off machine have saved this holiday turkey? Tough call. Even Woo’s battle sequences seem uninspired and repetitive, and the most memorable piece of the action in Silent Night becomes how much louder its speaking.

They’re at the Gate


by Hope Madden

Why is the dinner party such a ripe concept for horror? Or at least trauma?

Indies It’s a Disaster and Coherence bend time and space. The Invitation takes things in a bloody direction, The Humans picked more familial scabs. What they all have in common is that intimate gathering where familiarity breeds contempt.

They also require few locations and minimal cast, so they’re not too tough to mount on a small budget.

Director/co-writer Charles Dorfman takes all that into consideration with his feature debut. A veteran producer, Dorfman co-writes this fearsome tale with another longtime producer making his creative debut, Statten Roeg.

Together they spin the story of birthday boy Adam (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones). He and girlfriend Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno) await their two guests. Eva is a sculptor, and she and Adam have been living in the first of what will be many exclusive new homes developed on ancient, isolated, mystical UK land.

The developer, Lucas (Tom Cullen and his exceptional beard), is Adam’s polar opposite: narcissistic, ambitious, full of shit. Today Eva unveils her big sculpture, she and Adam sign final paperwork to own the house, and Adam blows out the candles on his dream of making it as a director in London in favor of quiet country life.

Well, maybe not because a) Lucas has had another offer, and b) masked intruders threaten the whole evening.

Part comedy of manners, part home invasion thriller, Barbarians finds itself on uneven footing.

With its monolith and fertility festival masks, the film not-so-subtly conjures 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Wicker Man. It can’t deliver on either promise, though.

More problematic is the way Dorfman discards the themes and character development so carefully articulated in the first half of the film. The fact that the invasion itself never matches the tension of the simple dinner —what with its evasions, lies, manipulations — becomes Dormfan’s biggest problem. At dinner, the filmmaker tends to the themes of the film, twisting discomfort into a knot that’s too easily untied by some intruders in animal masks.