REVIEW: REPRISAL – SEASON 1

Reprisal (2019)

Starring

Abigail Spencer (Cowboys & Aliens)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Mena Massoud (Aladdin)
David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad)
Rhys Wakefield (The Purge)
Madison Davenport (Sharpe Objcts)
Craig Tate (12 Years a Slave)
Wavyy Jonez (See You Yesterday)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Gilbert Owuor (Mute)
Shane Callahan (American Soul)
Rory Cochrane (Argo)
Bethany Anne Lind (Doom Patrol)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)

Abigail Spencer in Reprisal (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Blake Sheldon (Afterlife)
Lea DeLaria (Cars 3)
Happy Anderson (The Knick)
Blake Perlman (Hand of God)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
Scarlett Blum (The Outsider)
Jason Davis (The Accountant)
David Dastmalchain (The Dark Knight)

Still of Rebeca Robles and Madison Davenport in REPRISAL on HuluThe term “noir” gets slapped on a lot of things these days that don’t deserve it, as an all-purpose identifier for productions that are grim and violent and impressed with themselves. It’s there in the news release for Hulu’s new series “Reprisal”: “a hyper-noir story that follows a relentless femme fatale.”15-1“Reprisal” isn’t really noir, though. It doesn’t have the style or the romance or the fatalism. It’s an example — fairly diverting, but never entirely satisfying — of another currently popular television genre: the fairy tale of aggrieved American manhood, even though in this case the bitter hero is a heroine. Pumped up with rural gothic atmosphere and punctuated with self-consciously curated pop songs, these shows are what happen when you read “Mystery Train” and “Fight Club” and don’t find any appreciable intellectual distance between the two. These fantasias stretch across genres, and if you’re not looking for them you might not realize how common they are among the assertively woke shows that are drawing more attention at the moment. Notable examples include “Banshee” and “Rectify”; current shows like “True Detective” and “Watchmen” share some of the characteristics. Certain actors make a living off them — Ron Perlman, who’s completely in his element as a quietly menacing mob boss in “Reprisal,” has been a stalwart of the genre through “Sons of Anarchy” and “Hand of God.”c-i-a-ii-target-alexaThe settings are generally Southern (though occasionally Western or Midwestern), and “Reprisal” takes place in an imaginary South, unlocated except for a reference to its being 900 miles from Detroit. (The show was filmed in North Carolina.) Restaurants have names like Slimmy Hank’s Egg Pit and Bolo’s Worldwide Rathskeller; an important scene of the action is a motel called Donuts & Duvets. Time and history are also slightly unmoored. The crucial role of flip phones seems to put us in a more or less recent past, though the prevalence of Tommy guns and vintage hot rods argues for something further back. Newscasts report a glowing orange anomaly in the atmosphere, and characters recall their service in the War for the Archipelago.997768d2-460f-4cbd-a2ca-f0d5648b23faAt the center of this hothouse setting dreamed up by the writer and producer Josh Corbin is a monolithic road house called a Bang-a-Rang. It’s a little bit Cirque du Soleil, a little bit Kit Kat Klub (with Lea DeLaria in the Joel Grey M.C. role), all with a naughty-high-school-drama vibe, as if Baz Luhrmann and David Lynch had collaborated on an after-hours club inside a Walmart. It’s the headquarters of a criminal gang called the Banished Brawlers, who spend most of their time hanging out at the Bang-a-Rang and getting misty-eyed about how they’ve found a “family” based on shared pain and manly camaraderie. There is a story here also, but it feels wan and patched together — so much of the show’s imagination has gone into the world building and the artisanal Americana and the stylistic flourishes, like the bloody, crunching scenes of violence set to oddball musical choices like “25 or 6 to 4” or “Dammit, Janet” (from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”).ReprisalThe Brawlers are enjoying a period of peaceful coexistence with their rival gangs (who have equally pretentious names like the Happiness Ghouls), but they’re haunted by an original sin: the betrayal and brutalization years before of the gang leader’s sister, who was dragged behind a truck and left for dead. “Reprisal” — with the double meaning of revenge and repetition — traces her implacable campaign to clear her name and get satisfaction, with extreme prejudice, from the various men who wronged her. There are cultural-political themes and sexual politics in the mix here. The mostly white good old boys of the Bang-a-Rang feel their long-held privileges, and the sanctity of their fraternal bond, are under unfair assault. The sister is joined in her campaign by a formerly abused, newly empowered homemaker and a pair of small-time African-American Robin Hoods. Caught in the middle are the Bang-a-Rang’s strippers and entertainers, who pick up shotguns when needed. (A lot of the show’s budget went to red light filters, smoke and pasties.)15-1The sister is played by Abigail Spencer, whose sculpted features and reserved delivery give her an air of retro glamour that’s been exploited before in the lightweight time-travel adventure “Timeless” and the heavy drama “Rectify” — if you’re trying to bake up a noir, she’s the starter. If there’s a monotone quality to her performance here — as there is to that of Rodrigo Santoro (“Westworld”), who plays the most thoughtful of the Brawlers — it’s probably because the show doesn’t take their characters anywhere we can’t see coming. If you like the combination of violent action, sentimental fantasy, literary pretension and periodic slapstick humor that “Reprisal” offers, you may enjoy it well enough. Or you may wish you were watching something with the energy of “Banshee,” the clammy atmosphere of “Quarry” or the charm of “Hap and Leonard.” But that’s what streaming is for.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE POSSESSION

Starring

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead)
Kyra Sedgwick (Man On A Ledge)
Madison Davenport (Sharp Objects)
Natasha Calis (Daydream Nation)
Grant Show (Born To Race)
Matisyahu (A Buddy Story)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: TSCC)

A newly separated couple Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) live in different homes. After Clyde picks up their two children, Emily “Em” (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport), for the weekend, they stop at a yard sale where Em becomes intrigued by an old wooden box that has Hebrew letters engraved on it. Clyde buys the box for Em, and they later find that there seems no way to open it. That night, Em hears whispering coming from the box. She is able to open it, and finds a tooth, a dead moth, a wooden figurine, and a ring, which she begins to wear. Em becomes solitary, and her behavior becomes increasingly sinister; she stabs her father in the hand with a fork during breakfast. That night, the house, especially Em’s bedroom, becomes infested with moths.Kyra Sedgwick and Madison Davenport in The Possession (2012)At school, Em violently attacks a classmate when he takes her box, resulting in a meeting with Clyde, Stephanie, the principal and the teacher. Em’s teacher recommends that she spend time away from the box, so it is left in the classroom. That night, curious about the mysterious noises from the box, the teacher tries to open it, but a malevolent force, the dybbuk, murders her by violently throwing her out a window. Em tells Clyde about an invisible hag who lives in her box who says that Em is “special”. Alarmed by her behavior, Clyde attempts to dispose of the box. During their next weekend at Clyde’s, Emily gets progressively more upset with the disappearance of the box. She begins yelling at Clyde in the hall with Hannah watching in the back. The dybbuk seems to slap Em across the face. She begins yelling, asking why she’s hitting her, from Hannah’s perspective it looks like her father actually does. Em flees the house, recovers the box and the dybbuk begins conversing with her in a strange language.Natasha Calis in The Possession (2012)Clyde takes the box to a university professor who tells him that it is a dybbuk box that dates back to the 1920s; it was used to contain a dybbuk, a dislocated spirit as powerful as a devil. Clyde enters Em’s room and reads Psalm 91; a dark but invisible force throws the Tanakh across the room. Clyde then travels to a Hasidic community in Brooklyn and learns from a Jewish priest named Tzadok (Matisyahu) that the possession has three main stages; in the third stage, the dybbuk latches onto its human host, becoming one entity with it. The only way to defeat the dybbuk is to lock it back inside the box via a forced ritual. Upon further examination on the box, Tzadok learns that the dybbuk’s name is “Abyzou”, or the “Taker of Children”.Em has a seizure and is taken to the hospital for an MRI. During the procedure, Stephanie and Hannah are horrified when they see the dybbuk’s face in the MRI scans next to Em’s heart. Clyde and Tzadok join the family at the hospital and attempt to conduct an exorcism. Where Em is taken to a room that has a tub full of water and a stretcher to keep Em stable during the exorcism. During the exorcism, the possessed Em attacks Tzadok. Clyde grabs Em from him, and Em runs out of the room. Clyde follows her out and finally finds her in the morgue where the lights are off. As he nears her, she starts to attack him. Clyde survives the attack, but the dybbuk is passed from Em to him. Tzadok performs a successful exorcism; Abyzou emerges from Clyde and crawls back into the box. The family is reunited, with Clyde and Stephanie’s love rekindled. Tzadok drives away with the box in Clyde’s vehicle. The car is hit by a truck, killing him. The box lands safely from the wreckage, and Abyzou’s whispering is heard from it, the same Polish rhyme heard at the beginning of the film.Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Matisyahu, and Natasha Calis in The Possession (2012)It is a well written, acted, and executed movie that while it may seem slow moving is well worth the watch.

REVIEW: NOAH

Starring

Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys)
Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Emma Watson (Harry Potter)
Ray Winstone (The Gunman)
Logan Lerman (The Three Musketeers)
Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending)
Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal)
Marton Csokas (The Equalizer)
Madison Davenport (Sharp Objects)
Frank Langella (Masters of The Universe)
Nick Nolte (Gangster Squad)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Jack Angel (A.I.)

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in Noah (2014)As a young boy, Noah witnesses his father, Lamech, killed by a young Tubal-cain. Years later, an adult Noah lives with his wife Naameh and their sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After seeing a flower grow instantly from the ground and being haunted by dreams of a great flood, Noah takes them to visit his grandfather Methuselah.Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Douglas Booth, and Leo McHugh Carroll in Noah (2014)They encounter a group of people recently killed and take in and adopt the lone survivor, a girl named Ila. Ila is treated for an abdominal wound and will survive, but Naameh determines that she will be unable to have children. Noah and his family are chased by the murderers and seek refuge with the fallen angels known as the “Watchers”, in whose territory Methuselah lives. The Watchers are confined on Earth as stone golems for helping humans banished from the Garden of Eden. Methuselah gives Noah a seed from Eden and tells Noah that he was chosen for a reason. Returning to his tent that night, Noah plants the seed in the ground. The Watchers arrive the next morning and debate whether they should help Noah until they see water spout from the spot where Noah planted the seed. After a forest grows instantly, the Watchers agree to help Noah and his family build an ark.Emma Watson in Noah (2014)After birds fly to the ark, Tubal-cain arrives with his followers and confronts Noah. Noah defies Tubal-cain and remarks that there is no escape for the line of Cain. Tubal-cain retreats and decides to build weapons to defeat the Watchers and take the ark. As the ark nears completion, animals of various species enter the ark and are sedated with incense. With Ila having become enamored of Shem, Noah goes to a nearby settlement to find wives for Ham and Japheth but, seeing the settlers selling their daughters for food, he abandons his effort and begins believing that the Creator wants all of humanity dead. He tells his family that he will not seek wives for his younger sons. After the flood, they will be the last humans and there will be no new human generations.Russell Crowe in Noah (2014)Devastated that he will be alone his entire life, Ham runs into the forest. Naameh begs Noah to reconsider but, when he will not, she goes to Methuselah for help. Ila encounters Methuselah who cures her infertility. Ham, searching for a wife on his own, befriends the refugee Na’el. After it starts raining, Tubal-cain becomes angry that he was not chosen to be saved and incites his followers to make a run for the ark. Noah finds Ham in the forest and forces Ham to save himself, but leaves Na’el to die when she is caught in an animal trap. Noah’s family enter the ark except for Methuselah, who remains in the forest and is swept away by the rushing waters. The Watchers fight off Tubal-cain and his mob of followers, sacrificing themselves and ascending to heaven, their reward for protecting Noah. As the flood drowns the remaining humans, an injured Tubal-cain climbs onto the ark and solicits Ham, playing on anger toward Noah for allowing Na’el to die.Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in Noah (2014)Ila discovers she is pregnant as the rains stop and begs the Creator to let the child live. Noah interprets the ending of the rain to mean he must ensure the extinction of humans and, against his wife’s protests, resolves that, if the child is a girl, he will kill her. Months pass, and Ila and Shem build a raft to escape Noah’s resolve, but Noah discovers and burns it. Ila then starts feeling labor pains and gives birth to twin girls. After Ham calls Noah telling him the beasts are awake and eating each other, Tubal-cain emerges and attempts to hit Noah. Noah and Tubal-cain engage in combat. Shem promises Ila that Noah will not harm their daughters and goes to stop him. He attacks Noah as Tubal-cain falls to the ground only to be knocked out. Tubal-cain eventually forces Noah to the edge of the raft, but Ham kills him with a dagger before he can shove Noah in the ocean. Noah picks himself up and finds Ila and the babies, intending to kill the children, but spares them upon looking at his granddaughters and only feeling love.Jennifer Connelly in Noah (2014)Upon exiting the ark on the new land, a shameful Noah goes into isolation in a nearby cave, making wine in which to drown his sorrows. Ham expresses disappointment for his father’s current state of unseemly drunkenness and nakedness before leaving his kin to live alone. Having reconciled at the behest of Ila, Noah blesses the family as the beginning of a new human race and all witness waves of immense celestial rainbows.Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Douglas Booth, and Leo McHugh Carroll in Noah (2014)There is a lot of brutal, gory, violent and disturbing content and some sexuality in this, none of it gratuitous. I recommend this to anyone not put off by it being based on a Genesis account or the fact that it takes liberties with it.