The Fury of a Patient Man (Arévalo, 2016) and Lowlife (Prows, 2017)

I didn’t know much about The Fury of a Patient Man going in and, aside from the nitpick that the title cards towards the beginning of the film separating this into something like chapters are totally unnecessary, Raúl Arévalo’s feature debut is quite good.

Antonio de la Torre is great in this, but he’s been good in everything I’ve seen him cropping up in recently – The Night Manager and Marshland both come to mind. He plays Jose, who is on some strange quest for revenge.

Arévalo shot this in super16 and blew it up to 35. I love the resulting look – dirty and dusty. His camera at the beginning is frantic and features some elaborate POVs. That settles down thereafter, when we move from prologue into the real story, and gradually towards connecting the threads.

It’s not that The Fury… is full of twists and turns. If you’ve seen enough genre films that fit this bill you get it early-on. It’s that Arévalo controls tension so well (a scene in a basement featuring football jerseys is probably the best, particularly the immediate aftermath), and that he makes Jose such an uncompromising protagonist, but hits perfect beats to somehow make him sympathetic. He also chooses great moments to keep things off-screen.

Lowlife

I’ve heard about Lowlife as it’s made its way on the festival circuit. Ryan Prows debut is really, really fun. There will be (or already have been) inevitable comparisons to Pulp Fiction, but those don’t matter. I’m really impressed with the multifaceted performances that Prows gets and how he balances really off-kilter comedy with some serious violence.

The violence at times in here hinges on the absurd, but it feels so intentional. When El Monstruo (played behind a mask for the entirety of the film by Ricardo Adam Zarate) exits frame and we see the results of his fight with a young quinceañera-celebrator’s father it’s hard to not gasp and laugh at once. There feels like a debt more to Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Verhoeven than anyone else.

Lowlife

I struggled at the beginning of the film with Mark Burnham’s performance as Teddy Haynes. It felt flat and easy. But a testament to actor and director: I think it really comes around and totally works in the end. Teddy seems to be operating on some other scale than the people who really feel the stakes in this film. That’s a risk, I think, but one that pays off.

Lowlife is in the early lead for my favorite score of 2018. Kreng’s score blasts at times – it almost gets too loud in a few scenes, which makes it even better. It’s so diverse and textured. I loved it.

I wonder what the kicking off point was for this script (credited to five writers!). Was it, “how do we bring a guy with a swastika tattoo on his face together with a black motel owner and her pregnant, mixed-race daughter”? Was it, “a luchador’s revenge”? For some reason I think that the initial idea simmered around Randy (Jon Oswald, who is so good in this) more than anyone else. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because he has a hero arc in such a short amount of time, and because his situation is absurd and sad at once (great dialogue when he talks briefly about his prison past and his unfortunate tattoo: “you think this was an option”?).

Regardless, Lowlife is a lot of fun and really delicately – not a word I think I’d usually associate with smashed in heads – dances between lunacy, high stakes drama, and fresh genre mechanics.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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