Reviews: Don't Let Go and The Fanatic
David Oyelowo in a sci-fi crime thriller and John Travolta in a movie by Fred Durst.
Don't Let Go is a characteristically tight, tense Blumhouse thriller that gets considerable mileage out of its modest budget, clever premise, and likeable cast (David Oyelowo, Mykelti Williamson, Brian Tyree Henry, and breakthrough teen Storm Reid, of HBO's Euphoria). Unfortunately, the movie's tricky structure—it's a time-traveling police procedural—is maybe a little too clever. Or maybe it just seems that way to those not clever enough themselves to follow its knot-like narrative switchbacks. I'm sure these people exist.
Jack Radcliffe (Oyelowo) is a veteran L.A. cop who worries about his bipolar brother (Henry), a musician with a drug problem in his past. Jack happily plays a paternal role in the life of his niece, Ashley (Reid), and has given her a nice new phone to call him on whenever she needs help. One day she does this and Jack hears sounds of struggle on Ashley's end of the call. Panicking, he rushes to his brother's home and finds that the whole family has been slaughtered, Ashley included.
Jack is devastated. After a while, he gets another call—and it's from Ashley again! She's fine and she's in her bedroom at home—the same place where Jack recently found her body. Jack asks Ashley what the date is wherever she's calling from; she looks at a paper and says it's June 25. It's June 29 where Jack is. But where is that?
Turns out Jack is living four days into Ashley's future, and she's living four days in Jack's past—before the bloodbath that ended her life. Can Jack save Ashley somehow? By this point, he's acting pretty oddly, and his chief (Alfred Molina) is getting suspicious; fortunately, Jack's longtime partner, Bobby (Williamson), has his back. But nothing is quite what it seems, and as the movie winds on, we hear talk of a mysterious character called Georgie, and a deadly conspiracy of some sort; and pretty soon, it saddens me to report, the picture devolves into an exercise in racing and chasing and predictable blam-blam-kapow. By the time we get to the part where the story's two-different-worlds problem is supposed to be resolved, I have to confess I'd lost interest.
Storm Reid, with her lively smile and her ultra-long extensions whipping the air, is the movie's sparkiest presence—especially since Oyelowo (also one of the film's producers) is confined to a character as glum as Jack. The picture was shot two years ago and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January. After it drew an unenthusiastic response, the director, Jacob Estes, re-edited it. In vain, I'd say.
I'm sorry to bring this movie to your attention, but I must. The Fanatic is a film directed by Fred Durst—it's his third feature in 12 years, actually—and it contains a scene in which we see a father and his son driving in a car and the father, in the mood for a tune, asking the boy if he'd like to hear a little Limp Bizkit. I didn't catch what the son said, but Dad does indeed hit the Bizkit button, and my face fell right into my hands.
Already enlivening the proceedings maximally is John Travolta, who stars in this thing—lurches through it, more accurately—as Moose, a severely autistic horror-movie fan with an elaborate assortment of tics and jitters and a mullet that might have been administered with a weed whacker. Moose has become obsessed with a horror star named Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), and after the actor blows him off at a memorabilia-signing session, Moose decides to get Dunbar's undivided attention by any means necessary.
What follows makes very little sense—but then what precedes it is quite light on credibility as well. We're asked to believe that Moose makes a living as a street entertainer, standing around on L.A. sidewalks costumed as a bobby out of foggy old London town. (Would anyone pay to witness this?) We're asked to accept that a line like "I can't talk long, I gotta poo" doesn't rank extremely high on the numbskull spectrum. (The script was cowritten by Durst, who once came up with Chocolate Starfish for part of an album title.) And finally, when Moose's desperate search for celebrity connection results in a bloody home invasion, we're asked to nod along to the sight of a man being stabbed in the chest (with an autograph pen!), then later shot multiple times, kicked down a flight of stairs, stabbed in the eye and relieved of his right hand—and yet still being capable of shuffling along the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his way to who the fuck knows where.
There's a twist ending, and as you'd expect, it makes not the slightest effort to add up.