Title: Velvet Buzzsaw
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy
Music: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Sedale Threatt Jr.
Not artists themselves, but prigs like gallerists, art critics, curators, these who have power to peg art works and destine artists’ futurity, are scathingly dinged in Dan Gilroy’s third feature, VELVET BUZZSAW, a glossy critique on the contemporary art scene with a name ensemble headlined by his NIGHTCRAWLER collaborators Gyllenhaal and Russo (aka. Ms. Gilroy).
The trouble starts from Josephina (Ashton), the former protégé of Rhodora Haze (Russo), the owner of Haze Gallery, who falls into the latter’s disfavor and finds numerous grisly art pieces left by a reclusive painter Vetril Dease, apparently kicked the bucket when he was destroying his copious works, rather easily, Josephina appropriates the dead artist’s unauthorized corpus and leverages it to be a co-partner of Rhodora, to exhibit Dease’s works which meets with instant success. But the bisexual art critic Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), currently dating Josephina, burrows into the disturbing backstory of Dease, troubled childhood, patricide, a stir-crazy head case, those usual suspects surface and soon, mysterious forces animating themselves from all kind of art works to dispatch those are linked by Dease’s works (though no buyers are victimized), henceforth, the story slips into a high-end killing spree in the pattern of FINALE DESTINATION, and Gilroy seems to lose his mettle to tackle the sinister undertow of these unscrupulous waters, instead, apart from hoary jokes of mistaking grisly, blood-spattering murder scene as a contemporary art piece, he just goes through the motions with due responsibility.
While Gilroy and his art production team does a worthwhile job in curating scrumptious art scenes that dazzles our eyes, the ensemble cast only does a serviceable job even talents are overbrimming. John Malkovich’s venerated artist has nothing much to do, Tom Sturridge always looks more supercilious than the role he is offered, luckily we can always count on Toni Collette to delectably twist her knife in anybody’s wounds as the fickle, bob towhead, curator-wanna-be Gretchen.
Among three protagonists, whose doomed fates are brilliantly streaking to a morbid confluence as they are chased by each’s scorned art to their own undoings, Zawe Ashton is the weaker link as if she is constantly bewildered by what is written on her script and aggrieved for some on-set maltreatment; Reno Russo is uncharacteristically good, leaves an emotional vacuum regarding her betrayed past as a riot grrrl with a veneer of impenetrable ambiguity, and impassively lets rip her grasping ambition as both a taste and money maker, plumb apposite to her character; finally, Jake Gyllenhaal, regrettably refraining from going back on the gay front (with a beefcake named Sedale Threatt Jr. as Morf’s ex, nonetheless), but purveying audience with an epicene mannerism and jacked-up physique, is squandered as a nervous wreck among a pool of equally unsympathetic artsy-fartsy posers.
A descent from a master storyteller to a schlockmeister amounts to the distance between NIGHTCRAWLER and VELVET BUZZSAW, any viewers of Denzel Washington’s star vehicle ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (2016), please weigh in.