Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tyrannosaur' Movie Review

Paddy Considine is known primarily as a character actor, with some small parts in some big movies, like “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Cinderella Man”, some bigger parts in smaller films. He also has a few writing credits to his name, most notably 2004’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”, which he also starred in. This year he added to his resume, making his feature film directorial debut with the bleak, violent drama, “Tyrannosaur”.

Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a man saturated in violence and driven by rage. The very first scene illustrates his lighting fast temper, and he commits a heinous act—thankfully off-screen—destroying maybe the only thing in the world that he cares about. A widower, Joseph is a lost soul, sinking into a lonely oblivion of alcoholism and self-hatred. Mullan has an incredible face, the deeply etched lines are like a roadmap of pints, shots, fistfights, and broken hearts. He’s not quite a criminal, but he’s not exactly on the up and up. Mostly an aging, working-class street tough with a mean streak, Joseph’s only real friend is Sam (Samuel Bottomley), a neighborhood kid with his own terrible set of problems.

When you’re always angry, constantly ready to resort to physical violence, a sadist, and a bully, some of your shit is going to come back to haunt you. On the run from one such situation, trying to avoid the consequences of his actions, a drunk, emotionally wrought Joseph ducks into a small second hand store. Hannah (Olivia Colman), the proprietor, is an earnest, Christian woman. Married to James (Eddie Marsan), who regularly rapes, abuses, and even pisses on her, she is trapped in her own version of an ugly, alcoholic hell.

Both off course, both looking for redemption or rescue, their lives colliding in mid-downward spiral, Joseph and Hannah form a tenuous bond, and cling to each other for dear life. Hannah sees the good in Joseph, and he sees the man he could be when he is with her. Despite his penchant for brutality, Joseph is deeply affected by his actions. It kills him to watch Sam and Hannah, the only people—outside of a dying friend—who mean anything to him, in pain. You can do whatever the hell you want to him, but won’t stand for it when it comes to them.

Mullan and Colman have a great onscreen dynamic. Joseph’s brutish exterior conceals something much deeper and more sincere. Hannah’s meek, bullied victim uses her religion as a crutch, but has been pushed and pushed and pushed, until, inevitably, something inside of her has to snap, which it does in an unexpected way. Hannah doesn’t fear Joseph, there is nothing he can do to her that James hasn’t already done, and done worse. Watching the two interact, trying to figure the other one out, is what carries “Tyrannosaur”, and both deliver resolute, unwavering performances.

“Tyrannosaur” is not an easy film. It is grim, grizzled, and depressing, and at times the hopelessness can be overwhelming, almost oppressive. Everyone is stuck. Everyone is broken. Everyone is desperate and floundering. Even in the film’s brief moments of hope and possibility, you’re never so foolish as to actually believe that things are going to work out well. It’s not that kind of movie. However, even within the weighty bleakness, Considine paints a poetic picture. Absolutely brutal and unflinching, “Tyrannosaur” is also a beautiful, human story of the search.

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