TEST PATTERN – movie review

TEST PATTERN
Kino Lorber
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Shatara Michelle Ford
Writer: Shatara Michelle Ford
Cast: Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean, Drew Fuller, Ben Levin, Amani Starnes, Caroline Bloom
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/6/21
Opens: February 19, 2021

Poster

Although “Test Pattern” is reasonably entertaining given the sympatico of the principal couple, the movie comes off more as a didactic fable, perhaps targeted to high-school seniors and college freshman. “Watch what you do” is the message, “Because you never really know what kind of person is showing interest in you.” The plot focuses on Renesha (Brittany S. Hall), a Black woman, and Evan (Will Brill), a White male, who meet at a party in Austin, Texas. Given the general nature of two events, one an outdoor get-together, the other a young people’s bar, you get the idea that we are indeed a post-racial culture, and this in Texas (although Austin, a college town, is known as a place that culturally could be Boston or Minneapolis or L.A.).

When Evan approaches a group of young women and asks Renesha for her phone number, the twenty-something women at her table giggle like a gaggle of high school kids, as though the request came from Brad Pitt or Robert Pattinson. In fact Evan is a tattoo artist who appears to make enough of a living to be independent with an SUV and appears to be outclassed by Renesha, who is more educated and living in a spacious, well-appointed flat. Social class notwithstanding, they click immediately, proceeding happily to the bedroom in what may me their first or second date.

Some time later, Renesha insists that she has a boyfriend at what was supposed to be a girls’ night out. She is chatted up by Mike (Drew Fuller) while Mike’s friend Chris (Ben Levin) displays her charm to Renesha’s friend Amber. (Once again, an indication of a post-racial society.) After being given a drink and a suspicious gummy bear, Renesha is hustled off to a hotel where she is unable to offer physical resistance to what essential is non-consensual sex, i.e. rape. Hearing about the disastrous evening, boyfriend Evan does not break up with her but instead drives her around to hospitals trying to get a rape kit, which she succeeds in receiving after being turned away at two medical centers. Will the rape kit indicate forcible sexual activity? More important, how is a young woman supposed to prove that she was sexually assaulted when she accompanied Mike to a hotel, seemingly penetrated without physical violence? If DNA inspected at police headquarters links to the guy, so what? Indications are consensual sex.

The film is sympathetically acted by Hall and Brill, who do not really look like a pair, as she dresses with classical taste while he dons a fashionably (?) torn white T-shirt. The film is billed as part psychological thriller, but that part is microscopically small. Save it for the sex-ed classrooms.

82 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

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

 

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN – movie review

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: David Lowery
Screenwriter: David Lowery, based on David Grann’s New Yorker magazine article
Cast: Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Isiah Whitlock Jr., John David Washington, Tom Waits, Sissy Spacek, Elisabeth Moss
Screened at: Fox, NYC, 9/27/18
Opens: September 28, 2018

The Old Man and the Gun Movie Poster

In the 1993 movie “Indecent Proposal,” a gentleman offers a million dollars to a married woman if she would have sex with him. This sounds like a no-brainer. One night of sex and the couple played by Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson would be set for life. Not even the hottest escort service could begin to match that indecent, albeit (to me) obvious grab. The guy with the money is played by Robert Redford, and the joke that went around is this:

Joyce: “Abby, would you have sex with Robert Redford for a million dollars?”
Abby: “Sure, but you’ll have to give me time to raise the money.”

Redford, one of the handsomest men ever to grace the movie screen, was then 57 years old looking like 40, so it’s no wonder such a dialogue could seem realistic. Now at 82, but in “The Old Man and the Gun” playing someone in his sixties (quite credibly), he sports face that had never tried the miracle of Botox though presumably the thick, avy, blond hair was once someone else’s. In any case he looks great, and as Forrest Tucker he is so smooth and civil, that I think he could still have women saving up to get the million dollars if he made such a proposal to them today.

Forrest Tucker is a true character. The full story which David Lowery adapted from David Grann’s New Yorker magazine can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/01/27/the-old-man-and-the-gun

It’s a great story, one you might read and be warned: you will likely want to subscribe to the New Yorker, the best magazine in your local kiosk. The tale recount the many times he escaped from prison: 16. It’s a manual to prisoners throughout the land on how they can do the same, and will make the most hardened convict wish to subscribe to the magazine.

In his farewell appearance—Redford retired last month but maybe we can organize demonstrations to change his mind—he takes on the role of this bank robber who sticks up banks not because he desperately needs money but because he’d rather live than make a living. With two cronies, Teddy Green (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), the partners serving as lookouts and getaway drivers, Tucker would enter a bank with the flimsiest of disguises—a thick mustache, a broad hat, nothing more except that he charms his victims who are almost happy to give him the bills—and by just showing a gun, he gets managers across five states to order tellers to fill Tucker’s brief case to the brim.

Not only do the bank people fall for him. So does Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), married to Maureen (Tika Sumpter) with two kids. His passion to track the man down and put him behind bars is secondary to any wish for a promotion: he is enamored with this outlier of a bandit who gets what he wants with his savoir faire and probably without even showing the gun. Chased by police cars, Tucker gets out of his car to help Jewel (Sissy Spacek), whom he meets cute while looking to repair her overheated car. (He uses the ploy to get the police cars to pass him by in a high-speed chase.) The movie’s center, in fact, is his chemistry with the woman in one of those rare films that have nothing to do with sex and everything to do with how the affection of two older people can be so intense that no hanky-panky is necessary. When Jewel finds out what her beau does for a living—no, make that what he does for a life—she disapproves, but she is not about to be judgmental.

This is the kind of policier that uses bank robbery almost as a MacGuffin. The real aim is to turn a bank robbery drama into the opposite of “Bonnie and Clyde” or the intense French thriller “Mesrine” and make it a story about a relationship between an older man and woman. It’s no wonder that it has been distributed by Fox Searchlight, the art studio under the Fox label, as many of us would probably pass this sort of drama by as just too sleepy. That’s too bad, because of all the movies you’ll see this year, the vast majority dealing with Millennials and folks around that age area, you’re not likely to find a couple with chemistry nearly as authentic and powerful as that between two first-class performers, Redford and Spacek.

93 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B+