This week in movies you missed: No, not a SyFy film about a raging T. rex. An English film about a raging lower-class widower.
What You Missed
Have you ever seen one of those action movies where the hero has pronounced anger issues? But it's a good thing, because he uses his homicidal rage to go to town on bad guys? Tyrannosaur is not one of those movies.
Joseph (Peter Mullan), an unemployed widower in the north of England, has anger issues, all right. In the film's first scene, he goes ballistic (I think it was over sports scores, but I'm not sure) and kicks his dog to death. And this isn't a dog he hates or didn't want to keep feeding. It's a dog he later refers to, with palpable regret, as "my buddy."
That opening sums up what first-time feature-writer-director Paddy Considine has to say about rage: It's not as easy to channel or direct in real life as it is in action movies. When the otherwise taciturn Joseph gets angry (which is often), it's like a psychopath has taken control of his body. He threatens a clerk, smashes a store window, beats up some young toughs because their conversation annoys him. When he takes refuge in a Christian charity shop after this rampage, hiding behind a rack and sobbing, he suggests the Hulk reverting to Bruce Banner.
Touched, shop clerk Hannah (Olivia Colman), a meek, soft-spoken woman, offers to pray for him. When she tries to befriend Joseph, he insults her and her God as vehemently as he can, yet something draws her toward him. Maybe it's that she has her own experience with rage, frustration and helplessness from living with her seemingly exemplary middle-class husband (Eddie Marsan).
Hannah and Joseph begin an odd relationship that will lead to violence, but not of the kind you might predict.
Why You Missed It
An award-winning fest favorite, Tyrannosaur played in just five U.S. theaters. In short, it is a downer.
Should You Keep Missing It?
If you're not out after my description of the first scene, and you like to see great character actors get meaty lead roles, give Tyrannosaur a look.
I have mixed feelings about it, much as I did about Steve McQueen's Shame (soon to be on DVD). Both are compelling portraits of messed-up individuals, starkly told and superlatively acted, that offer little context for or explanation of the protagonist's problem. I'm not asking for a Lifetime movie approach to sex or rage addiction, complete with support-group visits and a life-affirming montage at the end. But I think I'd understand Joseph better — and feel the film's impact more — if I had personal experience in his social milieu. At least he has a distinct background, unlike Fassbender in Shame, who plays a rich Manhattanite who was from Ireland before he was from New Jersey (with a sister who sounds strangely British).
That said, if any film can make you feel sympathy for a dude who kicks his dog to death, Tyrannosaur is that film. Considine may be a touch too in love with Mullan's laconic, self-hating machismo (Joseph calls himself "Robert DeNiro" at one point), but it is a riveting performance. So is Colman's.
Included on the DVD is an earlier, shorter version of the film called "Dog Altogether," with the same stars; some might argue it tells the central story better than the feature (despite truncating it). Not included are subtitles, which would help American ears with the sometimes-thick accents.
Verdict: Just don't watch it with your dog.
More New DVD Releases You May Have Missed
- Angels Crest (Lynn Collins and Jeremy Piven in a small-town drama)
- Being Elmo (all about the guy behind the beloved puppet)
- Chasing Madoff (doc about the team of white-collar-crime investigators who nabbed him)
- The Double Hour (twisty potboiler from Italy)
- Karen Cries on the Bus (Colombian film about a housewife rediscovering herself)
- The Parking Lot Movie (a doc about "parking lot attendants and their strange rite of passage." We are intrigued.)
- The Sentiment of the Flesh (a Cronenbergian French film in which MRIs become sex toys, according to one review)
Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)