Saturday, January 2, 2010

Home Video: Surveillance

Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Release June 26, 2009

It’s always interesting to see movies made by children of famous filmmakers. In 2008, Jenny Lumet, daughter of Sidney Lumet, penned a brilliant script for “Rachel Getting Married.” Sofia Coppola found enormous success just like her father Francis Ford Coppola with “Lost in Translation,” and even picked up her own Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Jennifer Lynch is the daughter of one of the most intriguing and eclectic directors out there, David Lynch, who was produced such films are “Mulholland Drive” and “Blue Velvet,” as well as the cult television series “Twin Peaks.” The younger Lynch’s latest film, “Surveillance,” fits into that oeuvre quite well.

In some ways, Jennifer Lynch doesn’t make movies like her father, but there are also incredible similarities between the two. “Surveillance” takes strange events and manipulates them to be both interesting and disturbing. Seemingly inappropriate comedy is used to make situations all the creepier, and deadly scenarios take place in broad daylight to create a lasting, permanent sense of foreboding danger. But, in the same vein as her father David, the film comes to a quickened, somewhat senseless resolution that should have a much greater impact. The journey there is far more interesting, and there’s only so much value to a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the whole time and never throws you off it completely.

“Surveillance,” to its credit, has a brilliant setup and a clever style of execution. Two FBI agents arrive in a small town brutalized by serial killers to interview four police officers and the two survivors, one young drug addict and one traumatized young girl. The interviews are set up and conducted in a run-down, darkened station while the suspects and witnesses regale their interviewers with tweaked and altogether fabricated takes on the events as they actually occurred. It’s a town where police officers watch people drive by and then shoot their tires out in order to pull them over, terrorize them, and take their wallets as punishment for speeding. It’s quite a messed-up town worthy of existence in a film from the Lynch family.

The film’s greatest asset is its cast, which works with the material perfectly and enhances the bizarre feel. Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond are fantastically sedated and intimidating as the FBI agents who swoop in to take over the case. Michael Ironside is an appropriately gruff, growling police captain. Pell James and 11-year-old Ryan Simpkins (also appearing in “A Single Man” this year) are frenetic and fitting as the two survivors of the killings. Most impressive among the cast are two comedy stars, Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”) and French Stewart (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), who do a stellar job of seeing serious and pull off their roles impeccably. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as polished as the performances. It plays its dramatic hand far too early, and once things start to devolve, the film goes along with it and breaks down, tearing apart the credibility of all of its previously developed characters.


1 comment:

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