Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fantasia 2020.14 (and NYAFF 2020.01): Legally Declared Dead, A Witness Out of the Blue, I WeirDO, Ròm, Chasing Dream, and 12 Hour Shift

I thought I was done after "Day 12", but just as I was wrapping up (and getting to move onto the New York Asian Film Festival's online event) I got an email from Hong Kong with a screener link for closing night film Legally Declared Dead, and, hey, I get it - I didn't ask until almost the end of the festival, it's a 12-hour time difference, and Hong Kongers have other things to be worried about. And, hey, it was one of the entries in the NYAFF line-up that was geo-locked to New York, so it worked out.

As for NYAFF, that was an interesting situation. It overlapped with Fantasia (and I opted to start with the stuff that was in both slates), so I knew I was going to only get half of what I could from my pass, and even before everything got postponed and went virtual this year, I was kind of curious how it would change now that it was a separate entity from Subway Cinema, who were the guys I had a sense of. I don't know that it changed too much, in terms of what they selected, but I'm curious what it would have been like in Lincoln Center. Subway Cinema has a freewheeling personality, and I don't know what the new crew would be like. Maybe next year.

This year, they went virtual, and decided to do it via the Smart Cinema platform, which is mobile-only, so to watch it on my TV, I had to have it bounce from the cable modem/router to my phone, and then cast it to the Roku, which means bouncing it back to the router, which sent it to the Roku, and, I dunno, it seems to me like you could just have a Roku app (or even just something I could use on a laptop that I could connect to the receiver via HDMI), use ⅓ the bandwidth in the apartment, and maybe get better quality.

There were other issues with it as well - for whatever reason, the controls would keep popping up on my phone's screen and get streamed to the TV, which was irritating, and while the first thing I streamed, A Witness Out of the Blue, came through okay, I started getting some nasty buffering during I WeirdDO later that night. It got so brutally bad during Ròm that I couldn't really say it was like watching a movie, it was so chopped up, the 78-minute film taking at least 3 hours to watch.. It was better during Chasing Dream, but it wasn't until after watching Johnnie To's movie that I figured out to use the cache button on the app, let that get to 100%, and then start the movie. The app is basically built for the Chinese market with the "USA" version really aimed at expats and Chinese-American users, so it was pretty unintuitive for my basically monolingual self. I've got a coupon for another movie after my email to customer service, but I don't know that I'll use it. The selection isn't great and it makes the phone run hot and drain the battery.

Still, the movies in this first group were by and large pretty good; I'm hoping Chasing Dream gets some kind of Region A release, if not a 4K one, so that I can really see it properly; I'm loving Johnnie To's big, flashy period, even if I got to know his work through the gritty crime stuff. I figured that I was done with Fantasia at that point, but two weeks after the festival ended, I got an email saying I had a screener for 12 Hour Shift. It didn't say it was a response to my request, so for all I know Magnolia may just be shooting them out all over or the website that hosted it might be doing a "you reviewed Class Action Park, so…" thing. Dunno. I assume it got to me as part of Fantasia, but I don't really know. 2020's weird.

Legally Declared Dead

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Festival, internet)

Steve Yuen Kim-Wai's Legally Declared Dead is one of those thrillers that is chock-full of ridiculous things and occasionally looks like there Kwai could have put in more, if he'd felt like it, but he's got just enough sense to recognize where the point of diminishing returns is. It's a nutty movie, and probably a B-movie under most conditions, but it got to hit screens in Hong Kong and the genre festival circuit when neither China nor the West was releasing much of anything. It's more than enough fun for those circumstances and will probably hold up well enough afterward.

It starts by introducing Yip Wing-Shun (Carlos Chan Ka-Lok), a young salesman for an insurance brokerage who endeavors to be honest but frequently finds himself awkwardly explaining that he is only a middle-man. He's requested for an on-site meeting by Chu Chung-Tak (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), who shows up gruff and barely talks to Wing-Shun, leading him through the rickety house in the New Territories until they come upon Chu's son hanging from the ceiling. It is obviously fishy as hell - in Hong Kong, insurance can pay out for a suicide after thirteen months, Chu has gambling debts, and it is just one week past that - but the investigating detective (Fire Lee Ka-Wing) can't prove anything. It gets under Wing-Shun's skin, in part because his brother committed suicide when they were the boy's age, so he sets out to make sure that Chu's wife Shum Chi-Ling (Karena Lam Ka-Yan) isn't the next victim. Girlfriend Man Wai-Yee (Kathy Yuen Ka-Yee), a psychology grad student, says this probably isn't healthy, but her thesis advisor Kam Ching-Sek (Kiu Kai-Chi) is eager to prove a point about the "criminal personality".

There's a twist or two coming up later, but Yuen sets it up in such a way that the main one is not only revealed fairly early, but Wing-Shun looks kind of dumb for missing . That's usually frustrating, but it works here because, without getting too heavy-handed about it, Yuen has a pretty reasonable idea of how regular people actually interact with crime - most criminals are pretty dumb, but most would-be amateur sleuths aren't as clever as they think, and the people for whom this is their job (whether insurance company, detective, or gangster) are punching a clock and know that it's not cost-effective to chase down every hunch. That there are no criminal masterminds or super-sleuths doesn't necessarily lead to arch, Coen-like absurdity, but it doesn't lead to a clever game of cat-and-mouse either - some people may be awful and some may care too much, but Yuen does a smart job of putting things in a place where one doesn't feel disappointed when a character doesn't do the smart or logical thing in a situation.

The fact of this often has the movie feeling like it's a bit upside-down. Wing-Shun is obviously the protagonist, but it's not surprising that Anthony Wong and Karena Lam get billed first; they're more established stars and they play more colorful characters. The fun thing about what Wong and Lam are up to is that, given their profile and the genre and the billing, the viewer is likely to be on the lookout for a late dropping of the mask, but Yuen has them around with no reason to pretend enough that the audience has to be ready to accept them at face value and see how much life gets breathed into the pair. This doesn't make Carlos Chan boring in comparison; he and Yuen nail how Yip Wing-Shun is earnest and righteous in his quest despite doggedly barking up the wrong tree to the point where it's almost funny, but the fact that he never actually crosses that line is what makes in poignant.

Yuen is at his best when he keeps things sharp - there's a sequence where Catherine Chow Ka-Yee appears as the woman who sold Chi-Ling and Chung-Tak their original insurance policy that sleekly shows her being somewhat amoral without making her a villain, and aside from being a nifty and useful scene on its own, it does a great job of defining Wing-Shun as not that sort of person, for better or worse. Things are less steady when Yuen goes for broader horror-movie villainy; there is often fun in the last stretch, but one can see a character ping-ponging between being clever on the one hand and too nutty or impulsive to succeed on the other several times a scene.

It leads to a capper that is as split as the rest of the movie - on one side, stark in how a character is portrayed as destroyed by the mess they wandered into, but on the other, making one want to rewind to see if a character last seen thirty seconds earlier lived, died, or had some sort of massive change of heart which is understandable if not necessarily warranted. But, then, how else should it end? Legally Declared Dead is a jumble of things that play as 75% "life is jumbled and messy" and 25% "this stretches belief", and maybe it just means that it fits these times.

Full review at eFilmCritic

Fan zui xian chang (A Witness Out of the Blue)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (New York Asian Film Festival, Smart Cinema cast to Roku)

It is entirely fair to want more of the parrot in A Witness Out of the Blue; it's the hook in the opening scene and the focus of the opening credits, and probably what you'd bring up when describing the movie to someone else. The good news is that even if the movie doesn't have as many parrot-related shenanigans as one might hope, it's a nicely twisty little mystery that does a bit of everything, to the point where it's almost too much.

The crime is the murder of Homer Tsui (Deep Ng Ho-Hong), and though it should be open-and-shut for detective Larry Lam (Louis Cheung Kai-Chung) and his pattern Charmaine (Cherry Ngan Cheuk-Ling) - Tsui was part of a crew that robbed a jewelry shop three months earlier and ringleader Seang Wong (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) was seen leaving the room - the only actual witness to the crime is Tsui's parrot. Lam would investigate this, and according to his captain Yip Sau-Ching (Philip Keung Hiu-Man), that sort of thing is why Lam's colleagues nicknamed him "Garbage". Yip is laser-focused on Wong because they have a long history right up to one of Yip's undercovers being killed in the robbery. The thing is, Wong isn't particularly behaving like a guilty man but more like someone trying to solve the crime on his own, subletting a nearby room from half-blind Joy (Jessica Hester) and poking around, leading Lam to look at other suspects, from accomplices Clark Auyeung (Sam Lee Chan-Sam) and "Redhead" (Ling Man-Lung); to butcher Bull Yiu (Patrick Tam Yiu-Man), whose mother had a heart attack during the robbery, shop employee Sandy Yeung (Fiona Sit hoi-Kei), who sustained a spinal injury, and boyfriend Tony Ho (Andy On Chi-Kit), a guard at the shop; to the captain himself.

There's also a subplot about Lam being in hock to a loan shark (Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching) because he's built a cat sanctuary on top of an apartment building, and then there are the three elderly flatmates with whom Joy shares her apartment. It's kind of a lot, and while a fair amount is not necessary, that's part and parcel of it being a mystery; something has to be explained away, something outside the main plot has to give a character an idea that connects the dots, and so on. There are times when the clutter gets to be just a bit much - a character exits off-screen in such a way that a viewer might wonder if he's meant to actually be dead, for instance, and for all that the parrot is a lot of fun, writer/director Andrew Fung Chih-Chiang doesn't find a way to keep him at the center.

What he does manage is to build something that is both a serious crime movie and a breezy mystery, often more tilted toward the former, a bit surprising considering that he has spent much of his career writing broad comedies with Stephen Chow. A large part of what makes the blend work is the way that each of the three leads pushes at the expected characterizations: None of them are actually playing their characters as funny, but they all seem to be pushing at the edge of where they're played straight: Louis Koo, in particular, plays Wong as almost too intense, such that it initially seems like he's an action-movie villain who has wandered into this mystery by accident, but the exaggerated gruffness isn't a put-on or quite a poke at the trope. Koo seems to be hitting a narrow target and doing it better than when he's trying to play it entirely straight. It's a neat contrast to Louis Cheung, whose Larry isn't exactly hapless but does tend to be sloppy and distracted, and when it comes time for cops-and-robbers stuff, he almost always gets outclassed. Meanwhile, Philip Keung is the mirror image of Louis Koo as Yip Sau-Ching - exaggeratedly intense, but not quite to the point of parody.

Knowing what he's got going on with these different genres means Fung can be clever about how he switches things around, with a couple of eyebrow-raising moments as things are suddenly more high-stakes than they appeared or being able to find a laugh in every moment when Lam confronts Wong or in Wong's awkward interplay with a new sidekick. He mostly avoids things getting shaky toward the end, when Lam's got to actually solve the case and the film's got to find a satisfying way for things to end with Wong, and he probably could have done a lot more with Cherry Ngan's Charmaine (and, really, all the women in the film).

A Witness Out of the Blue isn't quite the light mystery-comedy that it looks like, but it's good enough that this won't necessarily be a problem for very long. Yes, I would have liked more with the parrot (and maybe less with bugs), but there's a pretty decent movie here if you enjoy it for what it is rather than what it looks like.

Full review at eFilmCritic

Guai Tai (I WeirDO)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 6 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (New York Asian Film Festival, Smart Cinema cast to Roku)

The screwy capitalization/punctuation of I WeirDO feels like it's something that should get under the skin of its main characters, both dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I wonder if the Chinese title ("Guai Tai") gets that across. I kind of hope not; this is a pretty good movie despite filmmaker Liao Ming-Yi's tendency to seemingly go for the gimmick on both ends, and that shouldn't be overwhelmed by the way it tries to get cute.

Not that the pair Liao introduces the audience to aren't cute already. Chen Po-Ching (Austin Lin Po-Hung), who has mysophobia as a main symptom of his OCD, only leaves his house once a month to do his shopping, see his doctor, etc. That routine is disrupted when his usual grocery store is closed for refurbishment, and when taking the train to the next-nearest one, he's surprised to see someone else in the same raincoat/mask/gloves/boots combo, who goes to the same supermarket and also loads up on cleaning products. She's Chen Ching (Nikki Hsieh Hsin-Ying) - no relation; Chen is just a fairly common name in Taiwan - and her symptoms are similar, but she also develops a rash when outdoors for too long and feels compelled to steal something every day. They understand and like each other, and it turns out they complement each other in ways beyond that; soon they're living and working together. What could ruin that?

That'd be telling, but it's a big enough shift that the movie's first trick can fall by the wayside just as it's starting to get tiresome: Though a fair number of features have been shot on phones (this one claims to be the first in Asia), few have done so with the phone held vertically as is initially the case here. It's a tricky thing to finagle - for all that it can highlight Po-Ching and Ching's lives as constricted, that frame is human-shaped enough that it is natural to fill the frame with an actor and as a result not see how they fit into their background, with the alternative a lot of empty space on an already constricted screen. Fortunately, it's composed well and this lasts just long enough to click in the viewer's mind as this film's normal, and that means that when Liao switches to something more conventional, the switch is jarring for a second but then settles into something that, on the one hand, is more comfortable for the audience to interpret, but on the other carries through as always being different from how the film started.

The overall mood of the film seems to change as well. The opening portion of the film is filled with bright, solid colors, the precise positioning and arrangement a by-product of their OCD but also pleasing to look at, with the film never downplaying that these two have genuine mental-health issues, but allowing them to have enough control over their lives to come off as eccentric, functional within their limits. Lin Po-Hung and Nikki Hsieh do a nice job of capturing how the two are socially maladroit while still giving the audience a sense of who they are beyond that fact. There's a certain obligatory practicality in how they pair up that the audience is meant to recognize, but they and Liao do nifty work in nudging them toward the point where their relief to find someone who understands them goes from something that might blind them to other issues to the basis for a solid relationship. When things change, the environments seem more ordinary. Not drab, exactly, but out of their control, which highlights the precarity of the cocoon they've built for themselves.

It ties into how the latter part of the movie seems to lose it way at times, both Lin and Hsieh are always believable in the moment, even as their characters' priorities shift, but the fact that Chen Ching in particular is so solitary means that that a lot of what's in her head comes out as narration. A lot of things that happen to push things forward occur off-screen, and though it's certainly not uncommon for people to not put in enough effort to make things work, there's a pretty long stretch where the audience can get impatient with these people not talking honestly even if it now being hard to communicate is the point. It wobbles a bit more at the very end, where Liao makes it fairly clear that things are being driven as much out of the characters' fears as their actual intentions, but in such a way that the audience and characters don't have time to work through that at all, so it can come off as a game.

That may be saying too much, but it's hard to talk about I WeirDO without talking about the whole thing, and that's in many ways a strength - it's made with purpose and the finale is a crucial part of the film. It's not always a complete success, but it is nevertheless a movie that makes a good impression and gets better as it lingers in one's mind afterward.

Full review at eFilmCritic


N/A (out of four)
Seen 6 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (New York Asian Film Festival, Smart Cinema cast to Roku)

I feel like I can't say a whole lot about Ròm, because while this isn't as much a movie driven by a relentless pace as I expected, the experience of watching it was just so elongated and stuttery that it's almost impossible for me to talk about it in terms of a movie that has any sort of momentum. Just a mess all around as an experience that kept it from feeling like a movie.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to watch it again, because Tran Anh Khoa is darn impressive as the title character, as is Nguyen Phan Anh Tu as his rival Phuc, both similar types of hardscrabble kids (though quite distinct), vacillating between friendly and fierce backstabbing rivalry. There are stories swirling around them that feel like they could really tie into big themes about how life in Ho Chi Minh City (or anywhere) is a gamble, sometimes with everything at risk, and how the individuals making these bets are risking everything with all the seemingly small, local concerns tied together behind the scenes. There's a lot going on and the tangled maze of the city becomes dizzying though it's not entirely impossible to find one's way through.

Like I said, I'm awful curious to see it properly.

Chihuo Quan Wang (Chasing Dream)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (New York Asian Film Festival, Smart Cinema cast to Roku)

Johnnie To no longer cranks out movies at the same two-a-year clip that he maintained from the time he started directing features in the late 1980s until about 2012, but it doesn't feel right to say that he's slowed down - previous film Three was a nifty little thriller with a rocket-propelled finale, and Office was a star-studded 3D musical drama set in a stunning open set, both ambitious in their own ways. His latest has similar no-holding-back energy - it's likes someone decided Rocky and A Star Is Born needed to be mashed-up into a romantic comedy and To was the guy to make sure they fit absolutely everything in.

On the one hand, it's the story of Tiger (Jacky Heung Cho), an up-and-coming mixed-martial-artist tagged with a "gluttonous boxer" gimmick, but it starts with ring girl Cuckoo Du (Wang Keru) showing up late. Tiger doesn't mind - he recognizes her as the granddaughter of the owner of a noodle shop back in his hometown - but sponsor/manager Gao Qiang (Chen Bin) also recognizes her, as someone who owes his debt-collection business a lot of money. Tiger convinces Gao to let him deal with her, but soon he's getting yanked into her deal: She says her debt was run up by ex-boyfriend Qu Fengfeng (Ma Xiaohui), who also stole her songs and ditched her once he started to become a big pop idol. Now he's one of the hosts of talent-search show Perfect Diva, and Cuckoo fully intends to make it onto the show and rip him a new one even if she doesn't win.

There's usually a section in movies like this where the singer is refining her craft, done as a sort of montage, with time clearly passing over the course of five minutes or so. That's not the pace that To and his team of writers are looking to set, though, so instead this happens over the course of a day, as Cuckoo goes to her first audition, blows it spectacularly, gets some bad advice from Tiger about what went wrong and then cajoles him into driving him to the Perfect Diva audition happening in the next city, and again and again until it's got to be pushing midnight. It's brilliant in a lot of ways - it lets the audience actually see Cuckoo adapting, rather than just taking the progression for granted as an obligatory thing to be skipped over, it gets Cuckoo's timeline in sync with Tiger's, and it undercuts any sort of expectation one might have of earnest solemnity right away. Cuckoo starts out as hilariously terrible on stage, and Tiger is constantly wrong and ridiculous as he tries to encourage her, and yet, the cast and crew are able to sell that Cuckoo does, in fact, have the raw talent even if she lacks the instincts while Tiger quite clearly has a great big honest heart even if he has clearly already taken way too many blows to the head.

It's not entirely surprising that Cuckoo's quest becomes the thing that drives the movie after that, to the point where the film seems eager to jettison the fighting: For all that Tiger isn't that bright, he's not stupidly stubborn about continuing to fight after being told that he's probably two or three matches away from glaucoma, Parkinson's, and more; that hot pot restaurant he talked about opening after retirement starts to sound pretty good. Sure, there's a certain inevitability to how he'll eventually have a final climactic match - though Master Ma Qing (Shao Bing) looks down on MMA as a corruption of pure, beautiful boxing, Tiger respects him far too much to not come to his defense when he's in trouble - but for long stretches, Jacky Heung's main job is to make Tiger purely happy for the success Cuckoo is finding, and that joy carries the film for quite a while.

That characterization makes it easy to dismiss Jacky Heung's work as Tiger as one-note, and his simplicity is a big part of the character's appeal, but it's not as easy as it looks - not many people manage the combination of good intentions and the sort of chippy aggression you need to be this sort of fighter - but he gets to play against expectation a lot and make Tiger funny without being the butt of the jokes. Wang Keru is just as funny as Cuckoo (she gets to do physical comedy and dance well), and she gets to hold on to a great deal of anger and shame at being fooled without coming off as abrasive. They complement each other well enough that the story doesn't need to throw a bunch of conflict-creating obstacles in their way. There's fun group around them, too - Ma Xiaohui spends every couple of minutes he gets on screen as Fengfeng looking quietly panicked that Cuckoo will immediately destroy him somehow, and it is always hilarious, while Wu Yitong, a couple seats away as a fellow judge, always looks ready to help though too ethical to do more than give Cuckoo a platform. A running joke with Kelly Yu Wenwen as a contestant ready to sacrifice anything for rock is never not deadpan funny while still letting her be a worthy competitor.

And, on top of that, there's Johnnie To just generally being a terrific filmmaker that not enough people outside of Asia have heard of, and even those that have probably don't know that he's as good at romantic comedy as he is at action and crime. He has a good-as-expected crew working the fight scenes, but also has a great time having cinematographer Cheng Siu-Keung move the camera around the warehouse Tiger calls home, having a blast with all the scaffolding where solid walls and floors should be so that they can look through them or divide the screen without it seeming unnatural. Things move fast enough that one is aware of the speed but with such confidence and clarity that it never feels too fast.

It will probably be another year or two before To's next feature, although we should see his long-gestating Hong Kong anthology Septet soon, and while him no longer being able to keep up that pace (or having to) is a shame for those who want more, at least he's not short-changing us in the meantime, but using the resources that come with a Chinese co-production to stretch his limits more toward the grandiose.

Full review at eFilmCritic

12 Hour Shift

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 17 September 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Festival (?), internet)

As good as Angela Bettis and Chloe Farnworth in 12 Hour Shift, I'm mildly surprised that writer/director Brea Grant didn't keep either role for herself; it wouldn't be her first time on both sides of the camera and it certainly feels like the sort of part a filmmaker writes for herself. It's a great showcase but it might be nice if there were a little more around it - in trying to create an overwhelming situation, Grant doesn't give any particular thing much chance to be particularly stressful.

Bettis plays Mandy, a nurse at an Arkansas hospital in 1999, mostly good at her job but on probation for previous screw-ups. She's working a double, and it looks to be fairly quiet: Mr. Collins (Ted Ferguson) is in for his dialysis, and he's the most active - there's a woman in a coma whose daughter needs reassurance, a death-row inmate (David Arquette) who has attempted suicide, and an anonymous overdose whom Mandy appears to recognize. Of course, there's also Regina (Chloe Farnworth), a cousin-by-marriage tasked with delivering the organs that Mandy and Karen at the front desk (Nike Gamby-Turner) arrange, and Regina isn't that bright; she leaves a bag containing a kidney on the loading dock and a goon (Mick Foley) has been sent to make sure she goes back to the hospital rather than just running.

Mandy isn't at the center of absolutely everything, but Grant is pretty stingy about following anyone but her or Regina, and at times that's pretty useful: By not giving the viewer the completely omniscient point of view, Grant does a nice job of putting the audience in Mandy's headspace, not really knowing everything that's going on but familiar enough with most of the pieces that the audience is never too far ahead. The downside is that it doesn't give her much chance to let all the things happening around Mandy amount to much; characters and their stories show up for a scene or two but feel fairly disposable, just there for more mayhem at the finale, but not because circumstances put them on a collision course in a way that's exciting.

If one figures that the point is to create an environment where Mandy fits - shunted out of sight with disreputable things just part of the background noise - then all that bouncing around does its job. Bettis inhabits Mandy like she moved in a generation ago, playing her like someone whose work is a huge part of what keeps her hostility at bay. Mandy is not a woman who outwardly struggles with her worse impulses, and by and large doesn't particularly like people, but Bettis doesn't need to underline and boldface it, and makes the moments when Mandy gets pushed out of her usual range more interesting, both when her anger gets the better of her and when she betrays guilt or affection. Chloe Farnworth's Regina maybe winds up on both ends of those reactions, and her performance is a smart complement to Bettis's restraint, a thick layer of friendly stupidity that occasionally gives way to some ruthless survival instincts without the two ever seeming in conflict. There are moments when Bettis seems to be playing straight man to Farnworth's clown, but Farnworth and Grant have a nifty ability to find the point where Regina's tendency toward chaos is right on the line between cute and monstrous without one quite cloaking the other.

There's a nice group around them that doesn't get all that much to do and could probably benefit from Grant maybe letting the larger world around Mandy and Regina step forward a bit: Nikea Gamby-Turner plays Karen as the closest thing Mandy has to a friend and confidante at work, pepping up every scene she's in even as she's carefully written as a work friend rather than someone who Mandy is genuinely close to. Kit Williamson makes what is arguably the film's most darkly comic scene work by playing it light - and truth be told, I was kind of hoping Grant would dig in more into how is shows that most people will convince themselves there's a reasonable explanation to even the most horrific sights; she seems to be onto something there, but there's too much going on. Even guys like David Arquette and Mick Foley, who are often cast to bring a little more personality to characters who aren't on screen that much, can't make their sections of the story feel important enough to really put pressure on Mandy and Regina.

They don't need to, exactly; Bettis and Farnworth are strong enough to carry the movie and Grant ties things together well enough that the film never feels sloppy. If anything, it's so focused on its greatest strengths that it seldom has time to explore the side stories that give this sort of movie a little bit more color.

Full review at eFilmCritic

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