Review of “Ready of Not”

Because of the recent spate of mass shootings with multiple deaths, violent media has come under more scrutiny as a scapegoat.  Numerous studies have shown violent movies, TV shows, and video games do not cause violent acts by consumers of such media in reality.  That doesn’t stop pundits and politicians from naming media as a cause for violence in society.  Instead of members of Congress doing something concrete to fight the use of assault-style weapons against innocent victims and removing the ban on federally funded research of gun violence, they would rather blather away on opinion shows, playing to their base and ignoring their responsibilities.  Universal Pictures decided to not release its “rich hunting the poor” satirical thriller “The Hunt” as a response to recent mass shootings and a tweetstorm from President Trump.  The 2014 Sony comedy “The Interview” was yanked off the schedule when North Korea threatened terrorist attacks against theaters because the film showed the (spoiler alert) assassination of Kim Jung-un.  North Korea can’t feed its people, so I doubt they could carry out numerous attacks (or one) on theaters in the U.S.  Popular media is an easy target for those looking to place blame for all of society’s ills, so it’s a surprise that satirical suspense comedy “Ready or Not” didn’t attract more controversy.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family.  The Le Domas family made all their money from making and selling board games over the last four generations.  Grace was raised in foster homes and has always wanted a forever family.  She believes her marriage to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) will make her dream come true.  While she feels like patriarch Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny) doesn’t think she’s good enough for his son, Alex’s mother Becky (Andie MacDowell) welcomes Grace with open arms.  Other family members in attendance are Alex’s younger brother Daniel (Adam Brody), Daniel’s wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), and elderly Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni).  Arriving after the ceremony is sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun).  Alex tells Grace of a long-standing family tradition:  Every new person marrying into the family must play a randomly selected game.  The game could be anything from backgammon to checkers to Old Maid to anything else.  Prior to the game announcement, Tony explains that his great-grandfather Victor Le Domas made a deal with a man named Mr. Le Bail where Le Bail would help create the Le Domas fortune if the Le Domas family established the tradition.  Grace is confused but goes along as this is now her family.  An old wooden box received from Mr. Le Bail is used to select the game.  A card pops out of the box that says, “Hide and Seek.”  Tony explains Grace can hide anywhere in the house and must stay hidden until dawn to win.  As Grace goes to hide, the family members all select antique weapons collected by Victor.  The Le Domas family scatters through the house looking for Grace as she is not just the newest member of the family, but a sacrifice to maintain its good fortune.

“Ready or Not” focuses its satire squarely on the super rich.  The head of the Le Domas family brags about buying four professional sports teams since he took over the company.  Adam Brody’s Daniel says, “The rich are different.”  In this family that is taken to a ridiculous extreme.  Much of the film is about how conventional ethics and a sense of morality is totally ignored by the Le Domas to maintain their status quo.  Grace must die before dawn in order for the family to remain rich and powerful.  Despite the pain and suffering Grace will go through, the Le Domas do not care.

While it is totally unintentional, there are clear parallels to what we’ve seen in the news about the rich and powerful and what they are willing to do.  Harvey Weinstein would flex his film making muscles to force young women to have sex with him in exchange for roles in the films he was producing.  Jeffrey Epstein uses his wealth and power, along with well-placed friends, to silence the young women and girls he sexually abused for decades.  There are countless examples throughout history of rich and powerful (usually) men taking advantage of those less fortunate and abusing them for their pleasure.  Is it any wonder most of these abusers end up in prison or dead once one or a few of the abused gain the courage to say, “Enough!”

What is at first for Grace a fight to survive soon becomes “Enough” for her.  The transformation from frightened waif to angry warrior takes a bit of time.  However, when the transition occurs, Grace takes on the mantle of hero instead of victim.  While the film does follow a fairly standard structure of peril, escape, capture, escape, there are moments of originality and sheer joy in watching our hero find the strength to cross another hurdle and escape another trap.  Grace may become a new feminist hero.

Samara Weaving is wonderful as Grace.  While the supporting cast is all very good, including Adam Brody as the conflicted, alcoholic Daniel, the movie lives or dies on Weaving’s performance, and the film thrives.  Weaving plays Grace as an everywoman.  She wasn’t raised in wealth, had to work hard to get where she got and considers herself lucky to be marrying a great guy like Alex.  Weaving immediately connects with the audience as she practices her vows early in the film and throws in a few lines about how nervous she is.  It’s an endearing moment that makes us appreciate Grace as one of us (assuming you aren’t obscenely wealthy).  As the film descends into the madness of the game, Weaving gives Grace the determination to live despite having guns stuck in her face on multiple occasions.  She doesn’t become Rambo or the Terminator, but Grace is resourceful and willing to get down and dirty (in one scene, literally) if need be.

Something you might not expect from “Ready or Not” is that it’s funny.  There are some very big laughs in the film at the most inappropriate times.  I don’t want to give anything away, but the final scene with the family leads to some of the biggest laughs of the whole film.  The humor comes more from the situation and how absurd it is opposed to actual jokes.  You laugh because if this happened in real life, you’d either scream or faint.  When you see it in a movie, your natural reaction is laughter followed by the thought, “Glad that didn’t happen to me.”  “Ready or Not” is filled with these moments.

“Ready or Not” is rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.  There are some very graphic shootings, stabbings, and an arrow in the mouth.  A waste pit filled with corpses leads to a character vomiting.  A young boy gets punched in the face.  A woman is beaten to death with a box, leaving a large pool of blood around her head.  The ending of the film is very gory.  Drug use is suggested with white powder under a character’s nose then that character being shown using cocaine.  There is also mention of a cannabis edible.  Foul language is common throughout.

I have only one complaint about the film.  The event that sets up the ending felt a bit contrived and convenient.  I won’t give anything away, but Grace is able to escape her murder a little too easily considering the family believes they have everything to lose if she isn’t dead by dawn.  That said, “Ready or Not” is a very fun thriller that delivers great tension, gory kills and some big laughs.  If you’re looking for something that isn’t based on a comic book and isn’t a sequel, this might be perfect for you.

“Ready or Not” gets five stars.

Only one new movie this week and I will definitely see and review it.

IT: Chapter 2—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is struggling with grief and anger after her teenage daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) was raped and burned to death less than a mile from her home. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in her daughter’s case after nearly a year, Mildred approaches the owner of the local outside advertising company Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) about buying three billboards on the road where her daughter’s body was found with the following message: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, and “How come, Chief Willoughby?” Naturally, the billboards create quite a stink around Ebbing, Missouri. Police chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) visits Mildred and explains there are no witnesses and the DNA found at the scene doesn’t match anyone in the national database. Unsatisfied with that answer, Mildred intends on keeping the billboards up for a year despite Willoughby’s revealing he has terminal cancer. Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is also upset by the billboards but he plans on taking a more direct approach: Harassing anyone associated with Mildred including Red and Mildred’s employer. Undaunted, Mildred intends on continuing her advertising campaign despite the public pressure as well as the complaints of her son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) and ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes).

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a deceptively complex film. There are various layers of story that must be peeled back to reveal the core of the narrative. It is a movie that requires patience as it reveals itself to be something other than the status quo. It isn’t strictly a black comedy, a whodunit, a domestic drama or a thriller. It is a combination of all those genres with a little something extra thrown in that’s difficult to identify until you realize the obvious: “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is life.

Director and writer Martin McDonagh has crafted a rare and beautiful thing: A script that plays with convention and turns the obvious into the enemy. There is nothing in the movie that makes you think, “Seen that before.” It takes no easy way out; the characters make painful and challenging decisions and still manage to seem real.

McDonagh has a history of making unique movies as he’s the writer and director of “Seven Psychopaths” and “In Bruges.” He is also a very successful playwright, referred to in a New York Times article as the most important living Irish playwright with some of his plays running on Broadway and receiving Tony nominations. It isn’t a surprise that someone so successful at bringing characters to life in live theatre would also be able to create stunningly unique and vibrant characters for the screen. The fact McDonagh also has a handle on the visual aspects of cinema is the real surprise; crafting shots that are simple yet cinematic and tell a story all on their own.

McDonagh also gets spectacular performances from a stellar cast. Frances McDormand is a force of nature as Mildred. Always ready to defend herself and her beliefs with a quick curse or a long story, Mildred is not to be trifled with. She doesn’t take well to physical attacks either as a dentist finds out. Mildred is pushed into carrying out these actions by feelings of grief and guilt that are always just under the surface. If her daughter hadn’t been so brutally murdered she might only be an angry ex-wife with two mouthy kids and a humdrum life; but with Angela’s death Mildred has an all-consuming cause to occupy her mind and as she proves that can be a dangerous thing. McDormand gives a fiery performance and never shows one moment of weakness. It is a riveting portrayal of a woman that feels as if there is nothing she can’t do and with nothing left to lose despite having a teenage son left at home. Mildred is a flawed and broken woman and McDormand gives a flawless performance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her nominated for an Oscar.

Sam Rockwell also burns up the screen as racist drunk cop Jason Dixon. Rockwell is a chameleon, able to disappear into a role so completely you assume he is the character in life. Rockwell portrays a sad man that is realizing his dreams may be out of reach and that make him angry. He takes that anger out on the suspects brought in, especially those that are people of color. He makes no apologies for his beliefs that we later on learn are not as tightly held as we might think. Rockwell creates a despicable character that you still have some sympathy for. He’s broken but redeemable. This is also a performance that could get some award season attention.

Also on the list is Woody Harrelson as Police Chief Bill Willoughby. While not in the film as much as McDormand and Rockwell, Harrelson’s Willoughby is in a way the heart of the film. Both Mildred and Jason are on the opposite ends of the spectrum as far as their beliefs and action while Bill is firmly in the middle. As can be seen in his interactions with both of them, Willoughby is attempting to be a calming force on both of them. It takes an extreme action by the chief to get both their attentions. Harrelson is fantastic and in a way steals the movie every time he’s on screen. It is a measured and calm performance that belies the depth of the character’s impact. I don’t want to give too much away but there are moments in Harrelson’s performance that will break your heart. He too may need to rent a tuxedo for the Academy Awards.

The secondary characters are also expertly performed and written. Peter Dinklage has a small (no pun intended) role as a local car dealer with a crush on Mildred. Their one and only date proves to be disastrous. John Hawkes plays Mildred’s ex-husband Charlie like a coiled snake always ready to pounce. Robbie Hayes is the depressed son of Mildred and Charlie and shows the perfect amount of teen disdain for his parents while also backing off when he realizes he has crossed a line. Samara Weaving has only two scenes in the film as Charlie’s 19-year old girlfriend but makes the most of it with a couple of perfectly timed comedic performances. The entire cast is perfect and makes for a wonderful movie-going experience.

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references. We see a couple of characters violently beaten in two different scenes. One is thrown out a second-story window onto the street below. There is also a suicide shown where a character is shot in the head. The sexual references are mostly mild but the context of one reference is extremely disturbing. Foul language is common throughout the film.

It isn’t often that a film can take what could have been a simple and boring story and throw in enough twists and unusual choices to turn it into a fascinating movie that demands your attention. “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is just that film. With a multi-layered story, three fascinating primary characters and a cast that combines to deliver several amazing performances, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” is the perfect film. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” gets five guitars.

Two new movies are opening this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Just Getting Started—

The Disaster Artist—

Listen to The Fractured Frame podcast available at WIMZ.com and wherever you download podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.