Tag Archives: Daniel Henshall

Among the Missing

Catch the Fair One

by Brandon Thomas

In 2016, a study by the National Crime Information Center found that out of a reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women, only 116 cases were in the databases of the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigations into these missing women are often impeded by the lack of communication between federal, local and tribal law enforcement.

Filemaker Josef Kubota Wladyka uses this real-life scenario to deliver a thoughtful – but thrilling – tale of guilt, regret and closure. 

Kaylee (Kali Reis) was once a promising amateur boxer. Her life fell apart though when her younger sister, Weeta (Mainaku Borrero), went missing while walking home one night. Years later, a struggling Kaylee is still searching for her sister. Desperation and guilt lead Kaylee down a dark path – one that she hopes will end with her finding Weeta alive. 

Catch the Fair One focuses on the important issue of missing indigenous women but does so through the guise of a revenge flick. This film is brutal. In the world of the movie, the innocent are prey and the villainous predators are always lurking and usually slinking back to the suburbs.

Wladyka makes his feature debut with stunning confidence. The neatness of the storytelling is as precise as it is dark. The tonal control is extraordinary as the film straddles the line between genre and drama without fully embracing either. Catch the Fair One is heavily reminiscent of Jeremy Saulnier’s terrific Blue Ruin.

The ordinary nature of the villains is chilling. Their nonchalant attitude toward dealing in sex slavery is enough to cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.

Wladyka gets extra mileage out of casting Kevin Dunn (Transformers) and Daniel Henshall (The Snowtown Murders and The Babadook) as father and son bad guys. Dunn is especially disarming with the baggage he brings in this type of role. He’s one of the more recognizable “Hey, it’s that guy!” actors working today, and those roles aren’t typically this bloodthirsty. 

The real standout is Kali Reis. Being Reis’s first acting role, it would be easy to sit back and nitpick every acting decision she makes along the way. Fortunately, Reis’s vulnerability mixed with sheer intensity never allows for that kind of surface scrutiny to take place. 

She’s more than capable in the physical scenes, but it’s in those softer moments where Reis shows her quiet determination that feels so in sync with the character’s state of mind and her eventual plan. 

With a thrilling story and a knock-out lead performance, Catch the Fair One announces itself as one of the best movies of the year so far.

Creeping Dread

Acute Misfortune

by Brandon Thomas

Movies have always been a grand showcase for the tortured artist. The pain and darkness they use to create have made for some incredible films over the years. What we don’t normally see is how this darkness seeps its way into the lives of the people the artist is closest to. Acute Misfortune offers a bleak look at how the lines between friendship, work and art begin to blur by way of cruelty. 

Young journalist Erik Jensen (Toby Wallace) is sent by the Sydney Morning Herald to interview acclaimed artist Adam Cullen (Daniel Henshall). Despite Cullen’s intimidating presence, Jensen goes on to write a successful piece. Cullen then offers Jensen the job of being his biographer, which leads to the young journalist staying at the artist’s remote mountain home. As time marches on, Jensen finds himself becoming the target of Cullen’s toxic physical and psychological abuse. 

There are many biopics I’ve loved over the years; but the truth of the matter is that most of them are fairly similar, and sometimes rather bland. The same cannot be said of Acute Misfortune. More often than not, this film feels more akin to a simmering thriller. Not being well versed in the true story the movie is based on, I half expected this to turn into a cliche slasher movie.

The film draws its greatest strength from the tension created. The uncertainty around not only the narrative but Cullen’s actions keeps the audience on the edge of its seat. Director Thomas M. Wright films some scenes in backward motion – a cheap, yet effective, trick that pulls us further into the psychological degradation of our principal leads. It’s a visual gag that adds to the feeling of discomfort surrounding Jensen and Cullen’s relationship.

Wright approaches the material very matter-of-factly, neither overly stylish nor pompous in its manner. With its distinct tone, and by shooting in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Acute Misfortune recalls the infamous Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Nowhere near as brutal – nor even really the same genre – but the ever creeping sense of unease was still just as palpable. 

With its distinct style and adherence to tone, Acute Misfortune is a powerhouse of tension and dread.