âBlack Rockâ Movie Review: Girls Bonding Trip Gone Awry
Husband and wife Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, from the FX comedy The League, joined forces on Black Rock. Duplass wrote the script, while Aselton directed and co-stars in the film, and while fans of the funny duo may be expecting big laughs from this collaboration, Black Rock is anything but another comedy.
Black Rock is a Deliverance-type tale of three friends–Abby (Aselton), Lou (Lake Bell) and Sarah (Kate Bosworth)–who, due to Sarah’s scheme at reuniting Abby and Lou, who haven’t talked for years because of a longtime feud, have traveled to the coast of Maine to visit the island where the three women spent summers as kids. Soon after arriving on the secluded island, the friends begin searching through the woods for their buried time capsule, and with every step Lou and Abby open up old wounds and discuss the reason behind their estranged relationship.
In no time, three men who are hunting on the island encounter the women, startling them, one of whom happens to be an old classmate of theirs named Henry (Will Bouvier). Abby invites the guys to have a couple drinks by the campfire later that evening, where she embarrasses herself by flirting with Henry. It is soon revealed by Henry’s friends (Jay Paulson and Anslem Richardson) that the men met while on tour in Iraq and that they have all been dishonorably discharged. From this point on things take a turn for the worse. When Abby and Henry go off into the woods, Abby, fearing that Henry will rape her, kills him in self defense. Hearing the screams of terror, the group finds Henry’s body and things escalate as the women are forced to run and fight for their lives.
The film sets out to show the ‘women in distress’ cliché with a feminist twist, as the three women are set up against men who are trained to kill. However, the movie does little to show the strength of the women and their willingness to survive, and instead it just feels like a race to the credits filled with improvised dialogue and missed opportunities by the women to defeat their hunters. There isn’t a lot of acting in Black Rock as it’s supposed to center around the action and the tension, but sadly there’s little of that as well. The cat-and-mouse game between the men and women feels fake, but the realization of having to kill or be killed, and how that weighs on your psyche from the women’s perspective feels a little bit more realistic. Perhaps that’s why when in battle with the war veterans, the women spend more time crying and radiating with nervousness than acting with confidence and steadfast determination.
For a thriller that is supposed to build on action and tension, the film plays out entirely too fast and lacks the emotion that good thrillers provide. Black Rock also suffers from a lack of character development and suspense, but after all, it is a film about women who compete in hand-to-hand combat with trained killers and hold their own. If that was the point, then Aselton and Duplass did a slightly underwhelming, but satisfactory job. I can only hope that their next endeavor together is a comedy, because that is where the pair truly excels.
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