Rev Film Fest 2019 round-up: "Aquarela", "Dragged Across Concrete", "Tumbbad"
Revelation Film Festival is underway at Luna Cinemas Leederville and SX. Revelation screens 80+ foreign and domestic films, short films and documentaries all day, every day from the 4th - 17th of July. Here is a round-up of some of the films we’ve seen so far:
DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE
As a fan of S. Craig Zahler’s previous works (the gory, Kurt Russel-led Western/Horror Bone Tomahawk and the Vince Vaughn-led, grindhouse, Bryson-Boxing Brawl in Cell Block 99), I eagerly jumped at the chance to see his newest thriller, Dragged Across Concrete.
When aging detective Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and his younger partner, Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), are removed from active duty for excessive force, they use their crooked connections to thwart and steal from an infamous criminal, hoping to make haste with the stolen goods. Dragged Across Concrete is as gritty as it sounds and, whilst the act itself never occurs, the personal and violent title scrapes the viewers senses over the asphalt, leaving marks that will last long after the film finishes.
Like its namesake, Concrete is bleak, dark and painful. And, like the lower socioeconomic town in which our characters roam, the ever-writing story highlights the grim and glum rubbish on every street corner. The characters we meet within Concrete are fantastically full. Each has their flaws, dreams and challenges. Some of these they must overcome and others that crush them.
There is far more to Concrete than a police procedural. The moral and ethical ambiguity of our lead detectives creates an interesting retrospective. Whilst both men mean well and only wish to support their families, both choose to descend further into violence over atonement. The question here is not “will our heroes solve the case in time?”, it’s when will they go too deep and how far is too far gone?
Concrete is a slow and steady tale, a staple of writer/director Zahler (whose work deserves more recognition): lingering takes and steady dialogue steer most of the film. Once it explodes into action, however, the film is grim, gory and satisfying. Whilst its pacing can get tedious, the mounting tension, beautiful cinematography, explosive finale and fantastic casting (and damn-near resurrection) of Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn cement Dragged Across Concrete as another fantastic genre jump from Zahler and a crime-lovers must-watch.
4 out of 5 stars
Aquarela is less a documentary and more a showcase that follows the slow and treacherous passage of ice to water. The film had me vice-grip for the first thirty minutes as it followed the efforts of a rescue team on the slowly melting icecaps in a truly heart-stopping sequence. From there, the intensity of Aquarela simmers down to a treatise on the beauty of water and ice. Whilst the film is absolutely beautiful, featuring some of the most gorgeous cinematography I have witnessed in recent memory (picture 70 minutes of establishing shots), it fails to keep up a narrative of any sort to accompany the stunning cinematography.
This could have been a beautiful documentary about the abhorrent and unstoppable power of water. As it stands, Aquarela is more an excessive ASMR video with a strange amount of death metal in its soundtrack.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Part Indiana Jones, part The Great Gatsby, Tumbbad is an Indian adventure/drama that chronicles the life of Vinayak (Sohum Shah). Vinayak makes his fortune from looting an abandoned mansion which is home to an ancient evil. Greed, jealousy and envy subsequently throw Vinayak’s adventures and marriage into turmoil.
Tumbbad starts strong, hitting the ground running with the appearance of a freaky, ghoulish creature which is made even better by the film’s practical effects and strong lore. After this first chapter ends, however, the film shifts tone, departing from the horror genre in favour of drama; swapping adventure and mysticism for marital and financial conflict.
Tumbbad’s middle act is an unfortunate slog, serving only to fill time between its stronger opening and ending. Unfortunately, the horror also isn’t quite horrifying enough. A good scare can make or break a film but, after the one-off opening, Tumbbad chooses to use a new setup and payoff three times consecutively, swapping the practical effects for a CGI creature with diminishing returns.
Tumbbad has its moments and these are beautifully captured by Pankaj Kumar, who eyes fire and fog with all their menace. But these beautiful moments are few and far between. If it had kept to its horror roots, Tumbbad would have been an effective and terrifying film with fantastic lore. But its tonal imbalance simply doesn’t do justice to the great efforts that clearly went on behind the scenes.
2.5 out of 5 stars