BLOW THE MAN DOWN – movie review

Amazon Studios
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole
Screenwriter: Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole
Cast: Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, Marceline Hugot, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/20/20
Opens: March 20, 2020

Early on we see a sign in one house “Bed and Breakfast,” which coyly hides the term “Bordello,” which would have completed the alliteration. The real problem is that if the Bed and Breakfast place were really open for innocent enough tourists, where would they get the business? The small town in Maine is utterly provincial, and to top it off the area is regularly snowed in with damp weather that might make London seek like a climatic dream. This is a bad location for tourism but a good one for mystery. Bodies turn up including one of a hooker, but the real interest of writer-directors Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole is the dark secret that involves not just the madam but a trio of elderly women who appear ready for redemption.

“Blow the Man Down” is a sea shanty sung in the opening scene with delightful harmony by a group of grizzled fishermen, and another shanty will serve to bookmark this movie, which was awarded best screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival. The script is an original, nicely combining a detective story with a look at an ambiance of a part of America not often seen in the movies.

Priscilla Connolly (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) do not look like sisters and what’s more, despite their kinship they exhibit different personalities. When their mother dies, the sisters are determined to continue the fish business, though Mary Beth, unlike her sister, talks often of wanting to bolt from the town. They have occasional chats with their mother’s pals Susie (June Squibb), Gail (Annette O’Toole), and Doreen (Marceline Hugot).

Mary Beth, always the adventurer, picks up a guy at the bar, becoming anxious when she sees a gun in the glove compartment and a trunk filled with blood. He calls her “cute,” touches her leg, finally attacking her, resulting in his being harpooned in the neck and as dead as a punctured lobster. You and I would probably plead self defense, but the defender instead informs her sister who help in burying the body in the deep.

The person of major audience interest is Margo Martindale as the town madam, Enid, longtime friend of the trio of elderly ladies, any one of whom could serve as the lead in Joseph Kesselring’s play “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Nobody will mess with Enid until somebody does, when her three pals, after hearing that one of her hookers has been shot in the head. Gayle Rankin performs as a character who is one of Enid’s workers, and Will Brittain pounds the beat as Justin, a young police officer who has a liking for Priscilla and, in one scene as you think that he will collar the two sisters, he instead follows up his undeaclared courtship by accepting an invitation to the sisters’ fish dinner.

At our time, when women are increasingly empowering themselves, “Blow the Man Down” serves as another example of how the sisterhood look out for one another. The film does not try to satirize small-town living or houses of ill repute but accepts the flaws of this remote coastal village of Easter Cove without judging.

90 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

GERALD’S GAME – movie reveiw


Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Grade: B
Director:  Mike Flanagan
Written by: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan, from Stephen King’s novel “Gerald’s Game” (published 9/27/16)
Cast:  Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken, Kate Siegel
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/27/17
Opens: September 29, 2017
Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Gerald's Game
Joan Baez does a great job singing the traditional song that opens “Hard if the fortune of all womankind/ They’re always controlled/ they’re always confined/ Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/ A slave to her husband all the rest of her life.”  This sounds more like a fantasy inspired by Saudi Arabian culture but it’s not at all untrue when dealing with our own country.  And who better to show the monstrous dimensions of male control than Stephen King?  Mike Flanagan adapts King’s novel to construct a tale that’s perhaps too theatrical for the movie (most of the action takes place inside a single room), but given top performances by Carla Gugino as the “controlled and confined” woman and Bruce Greenwood as the all-powerful controlling force, “Gerald’s Game” is a contest that’s worth your playing time.

In the well-paced, mostly slow-moving story, Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) and her rich husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) head for the summer home in Maine, intent on spicing up their marriage.  Gerald’s game starts out simple enough: he handcuffs her to the bed and refuses to honor her protests,  keeping her chained as a physical manifestation of their unequal bond.  When he drop dead of a heart attack after taking Viagra, she is stuck.  Unable to release the handcuffs and threatened by a stray dog that first works on Gerald’s body before considering a move on Jessie, she lets her imagination take hold, remembering—as Joan Baez might say “didn’t I tell you?”—an event that began when she was thirteen (played by Chiara Aurelia) and molested by her father, Tom (Henry Thomas).  Soon enough she begins to talk to herself, a fleshed-out image of her, commenting like a Greek chorus on her plight.

Though King’s novel takes place entirely within a room and positions Gerald as a schlemiel who resents his trophy wife, here the man is a hunk in the form of Bruce Greenwood, who paces around with a pair of clinging undershorts as though expected to have sex with her without stripping.  While Jessie struggles to free herself, the hallucinatory image of her husband talks calmly, giving the viewer a picture of empathy.  But Gerald is no pal, goading her with descriptions of how she will die of dehydration, while her own image tells her that “you and Gerald will be together, inside the dog.”

Carla’s confrontation after escaping is with an actual monster (Carel Struycken), an effect that’s like a bludgeon after the more sophisticated encounters that she has experienced.  All in all, a restrained look at the kind of horror to which Stephen King is accustomed, leaving behind the immature ravings and bloodshed of a monster for the more subtle and nuanced story.  If you’re a fella and go to this movie with a date, be prepared to hide under the theater seat.

Unrated.  103 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?