Tag Archives: Charlie Plummer

Primal Scream

Gully

by George Wolf

Well, that escalated quickly.

Ron Burgundy may have played that line for laughs, but when the boys in Gully give in to their rage, things couldn’t be more serious.

Or devastating.

Jesse (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), Calvin (Jacob Lattimore) and Nicky (Charlie Plummer) are three teens in a rough L.A. neighborhood who don’t have much use for anything besides violent video games and partying, or anyone besides each other.

They skip school, do drugs, and only seem enthusiastic when they’re trashing a store or living vicariously through video violence.

In fact, through the film’s first act you’re tempted to label this as a hackneyed attempt by director Nabil Elderkin (a music video vet helming his first feature) and writer Marcus J. Guillory (a TV vet with his first screenplay credit) to blame video games for society’s ills.

But hang on and strap in, that’s far from what these filmmakers have in mind.

To say the three friends have had traumatic upbringings is being far too polite. Each has weathered a uniquely hellish situation, leaving them all on the precipice of manhood with little hope for the future.

As Nicky fights with both his mother (Amber Heard) and his pregnant girlfriend (Zoe Renee), Jesse dreams of life without his abusive father (John Corbett) and Calvin struggles with his mental health and the meds pushed on him by his mother (Robin Givens), the boys make a shattering discovery and the fuse is lit.

They begin a 48-hour rampage of wanton violence and calculated revenge, and it will not end well.

Elderkin makes sure the violence is in your face and packed with stylish grit, often blurring the line between reality and video game action. It’s an ambitious play that’s worthy even when it seems over the top, much like the contrasting tones brought by Greg (Jonathan Majors), an ex-con returning home determined to stay clean, and Mr. Christmas (Terence Howard), a homeless neighborhood philosopher.

This film is messy, angry, brutal and defiant, a primal scream that doesn’t much care if you think it’s nihilistic. Elderkin and Guillory have blazing guns of their own, and while they don’t hit every bullseye, there’s enough here to make you eager for their second act.

The world of Gully isn’t a pleasant place to be, and that’s no accident. But a confident vision and three terrific young actors leading a solid ensemble will make sure you’ll be thinking about what goes down here, even if you look away.

Tell and Tell

Words on Bathroom Walls

by George Wolf

Look, I know Young Adult is not the only genre to lean on a familiar blueprint, but we’ve reached the point where finding any YA film without voiceover narration or an essay-reading finale is going to feel like gazing upon the golden wonders of Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase.

There’s little glow surrounding Words on Bathroom Walls.

To be fair, writer Nick Naveda’s take on Julia Walton’s novel does at least try to develop an organic thread for the narration, as high schooler Adam (Charlie Plummer) talks to an unseen therapist about his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia.

Director Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) manifests those struggles onscreen via three distinct characters (AnnaSophia Robb, Devon Bostick and the gloriously named Lobo Sebastian) whose voices are always lurking inside Adam’s head. It’s an early clue that the film’s handling of teen mental health will be an opportunity largely missed.

After a serious episode during class injures another student, Adam is expelled from his high school in the middle of senior year. On the upside, he’s accepted into a trial for a new schizophrenia drug, and into a prestigious local Catholic school which promises to be discreet.

Adam’s future plan to attend culinary college hinges on a high school diploma, which means Adam must make sure he a) takes his new meds, b) keeps his grades up, and c) passes a big exam which consists only of math questions and…..wait for it….an essay.

The obligatory tortured romance is between Adam and his math tutor, a classmate named Maya (Taylor Russell) who also has some secrets she’d rather not reveal.

And as with so many of these YA adaptations, all the narration and essay reading means the film is more tell, less show and nothing earned. Again, we get an invitation for teens to wallow in the angst of an inexperienced worldview simply by telling them what we think they want to hear.

Adam’s “you don’t understand me” posturing with his mother (Molly Parker), her new boyfriend (Walton Goggins, wasted) and an easygoing priest (Andy Garcia) serve only the manipulative and convenient use of Adam’s condition. Both Plummer (All the Money in the World) and Russell (Waves) have impressed before, but they’re given little chance to develop their characters into anything real or resonant.

All the familiar YA parts are here, and Words on Bathroom Walls keeps them comfortably close. But like those sentence-building magnets on the refrigerator door, just moving them around seldom leads to anything that makes much sense.

The Abyss of Freedom

All the Money in the World

by George Wolf

The eleventh-hour replacement of Kevin Spacey wasn’t just a boldly genius play by legendary director Ridley Scott – it was the only play, a cinematic Hail Mary that elevates All the Money in the World as a curiosity, a statement and a filmgoing experience.

Christopher Plummer steps in as the legendary J. Paul Getty, delivering a terrific, gravitas-rich performance that anchors Scott’s dramatic retelling of events surrounding the 1973 kidnapping of Getty’s teenaged grandson Paul (Charlie Plummer).

Scott digs in to a meaty script from David Scarpa (adapting John Person’s book) to deliver a highly engaging film filled with tension, insight, stellar performances and crackling relevance.

As Paul’s mother Gail Getty, Michelle Williams is award-worthy fantastic. Gail, no longer a “real” Getty after divorcing Paul’s father, must negotiate with both the kidnappers and her former father-in-law for her son’s safety, and Williams makes Gail’s mix of frustration, desperation and disgust emotionally genuine.

While refusing to pay the 17 million-dollar ransom, J. Paul enlists the help of former CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to recover his grandson. As the hunt intensifies, Scott gracefully balances the extremes on opposing sides of the boy’s fate, each one consumed with profits and losses.

Wahlberg again shows how effective he can be under a strong director, and Fletcher’s search for Paul becomes a taut nail-biter while the elder Getty -“not just the richest man in the world but the richest man in the history of the world“- shells out millions on the black market for a masterpiece canvas.

Getty’s defense of his interest in things over people is just one of several passages from Scarpa that are weighty with resonance. His script is full of biting, memorable dialogue, such as Getty’s explanation of an “abyss of freedom” that comes from extreme wealth, without ever succumbing to grand speechifying.

The “erasing” of Spacey is incredibly seamless, but long after those headlines fade, All the Money in the World¬†holds plenty of capital. As both a fascinating historical drama and a telling reminder of what we value, it’s a film that can stand with the best of Scott’s storied career.