We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
A hitman and a young woman, both scarred by past events and obsessed with revenge, meet and fall in love.
Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev's first Hollywood feature re-unites him with Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Revenge thriller mechanics and off-kilter art-house romance make for uneasy bedfellows, as do Rapace's reclusive, facially-scarred Beatrice and Colin Farrell's solitary, socially-awkward criminal. Beatrice lives with her solicitous mother, Valentine (Isabelle Huppert), in the apartment across the street from Victor's, and it is from her balcony that she sees him strangle a man to death. On their tense first date, Beatrice tries to blackmail Victor into killing the drunk driver who crashed into her car and destroyed her life. But Victor too is consumed with revenge, and the dead goon later turns up in the freezer at his gangster boss Alphonse's mansion – the latest cryptic message in a calculated, paranoia-inducing campaign. It's an intriguing and emotionally powerful set-up, especially when we later learn the brutal history behind Victor's patient, obsessive desire for vengeance.
Yet for all the confidence displayed in the first third of J H Wyman's script, it suffers from the same lack of structure and staying power as his last produced movie, The Mexican (2001), which starred Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Despite Oplev's meticulous attention to the intricate details of the film's serpentine plot, it is as sluggish as an anaconda after a heavy meal. The only plot element that injects any hint of suspense is Dominic Cooper's portrayal of the ambitious Darcy, whose terrier-like efforts to solve the mystery behind their iced colleague's murder give Victor some anxious moments. The climactic shoot-out is explosive yet unexciting, so as the overwrought storyline grinds towards its predictable end, we are left with a profound sense of what might have been. This is sad, because the unusually tight-lipped Farrell and the ever-watchable Rapace are utterly convincing as a pair of damaged souls groping for a glimmer of hope in a morass of moral darkness.
A lifeless attempt to fuse a taut crime thriller and a complex psychological drama.
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