A southern gothic tale that descends into predictability
Bella Thorne stars in this thriller about a young woman who returns to her home town to seek justice on her abusive father. But on arrival at his rundown property, she discovers that somebody has gotten to him before her.
After finding his murdered body she decides to remain in town to both investigate his death and to learn more about the childhood that she barely remembers.
For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie is reasonably enjoyable. The townsfolk clearly have things to hide, including the town sheriff (Mickey Rourke), and the town that Thorne wanders around in is suitably bleak and dusty. The movie has a quirky sense of humour too, as evidenced by the rodent that randomly rolls by in a hamster ball when Thorne is exploring the exterior of her late father’s home.
In terms of atmosphere, director Chad Faust nails it during the opening section and his direction is ably backed up by the melancholy soundtrack that adds to the overall sense of menace that he is trying to create. For a while, there is much to like in the movie as Thorne explores the town and gets to know its inhabitants, and within these early scenes, the mystery is an involving one.
It’s just a shame that things fall apart early on in the movie when the identity of the dead man’s killers is quickly revealed. It then becomes just another woman in peril movie as she is abducted by the creeps that killed her papa, with the occasional twist and turn to make things slightly interesting.
The increasingly weak dialogue and boringly played scenes between Thorne and her abductors do much to undermine what has come before and after a while, you could be forgiven if you decided to busy yourself elsewhere while the movie played in the background.
Despite the dip in quality, Thorne gives a fairly decent performance as the woman in pursuit of revenge. She has done much over the years to shake off the sugar-coated image she gained early on in her career, appearing in such movies as Assassination Nation and The Babysitter: Killer Queen to showcase a more ‘adult’ image. The movies she has starred in have varied in quality (mainly bordering on the weak side) but at least she has grown as an actress over the years, which is evidenced in Girl, as she gives her rawest performance yet.
It’s always good to see Mickey Rourke on-screen although he hasn’t really shined as an actor since 2015’s Ashby. This is partly because of his questionable career choices, with Girl being the latest average production that he has starred in. But while the script for this one doesn’t give him a lot to work with, he still manages to elevate this film when he’s on screen, even if he tends to mumble his way through the generic lines of dialogue he has been given.
Outside of these two performances, mention must also be made of Faust, who not only directed and wrote the screenplay for this southern gothic tale but who takes a leading turn in it too. He stars as Charmer, one of the few characters to be given a name (Thorne is only known as ‘girl’), and he gives a charismatic performance as a man who isn’t quite the friendly individual that he initially appears to be.
There are other characters in the movie but very few of them are given the screen time they need to make their presence felt. This is a pity as the story would have been stronger if Thorne’s vengeful daughter had a few more run-ins with the oddball folk of her decaying home town. There would have been a greater sense of mystery as, like Thorne, we could have had a few more suspects to consider when trying to work out the identity of the killer(s), and more fun could have been had with the various quirks in their personalities.
In the end though, the director decided to rush through proceedings so we don’t have a lot of time to wonder whodunnit. There is a late-in-the-day reveal that is surprising and this almost lifts the movie from the predictable route that it has followed. But by the time this moment arrives, it’s almost too-little-too-late as the scenes preceding it have done little to maintain a lot of interest or tension.
There is always a sense of loss when movies fail to live up to their early potential. This is certainly the case with this one as there was a lot to like during the beginning, with its quirky sense of humour and excellent scene-setting. If it had continued in this vein and delved deeper into the lives of the characters and the corruption that was prevalent in the town, it could have been a much better movie. Sadly, it dissolved into something we have seen plenty of times before, with little to recommend it after the initial setup.
Despite the movie’s problems, I get the feeling Faust has a bright future ahead as a director. If he can find/write a screenplay that can match his ability to craft a visually interesting and atmospheric film, he could make a name for himself in Hollywood. ‘Girl’ will never be remembered as his best film (I hope) but at least it has given him the opportunity to showcase what he can do with a camera.
Verdict - 4.1/10