Tag Archives: Aaron Paul

Hellion (2014)

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The lukewarm critical response to “Hellion” is utter bollocks. This is how indie dramas are meant to be done, rough and real and full of heartbreak. I’m not acting as a shyster voucher for “Hellion” because Jesse Freaking Pinkman‘s in it (although he is, and he’s great, guys,) but because it’s a legitimately good movie with fantastic performances all around (including from stand-out child actors Josh Wiggins and Deke Garner, who give two of the best juvenile portrayals I’ve seen in a long time.)

Despite its sensationalistic title (which puts you in mind of a “Rosemary’s Baby”-type chiller about malignant demon-spawn,) “Hellion” just feels very real. It’s an outstanding Southern-fried drama in the same league as “Winter’s Bone,” “Sling Blade,” and “Mud.” BMX-obsessed delinquent Jacob (Wiggins) is a damaged, resentful 13-year-old boy who’s leading his little brother Wes (Garner) into the same trouble that’s he’s perpetually been in since his mom died.

The boy’s exasperated father, Hollis (Paul,) is a well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual hard drinker, who hasn’t handled the death of his wife so well himself. When Wes gets taken by CPS and placed in the home of his aunt (Juliette Lewis,) Hollis realizes he has to clean his act up in order to get his child back, but his oldest is going up a rocky road that there won’t be any easy return from.

All the scenes, especially the ones involving Jacob and his group of Bravado-filled friends (who talk like real pre-teens and don’t look about thirty, as per most movie adolescents) and Jacob and his impressionable, sweet little brother seem very true to life. The Child Protective Services people and the cops are portrayed realistically and effectively (the police, particularly and due in no small part to the ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ hooplah, are often depicted as the Antichrist in less fair-minded films and TV shows.

“Hellion” is very much an improvement upon the eponymous short on which it was based, which I truthfully only watched a few minutes of.) One drastic change made was that in the short the father was a stereotypical “I’ll make a man out of you yet boy- get me the belt!” uber-hick character (coincidently, he is not played by Aaron Paul in that version.) Hollis in the feature film is much less clichéd in that he seems like a gentle person and not a mean drunk despite being an alcoholic.

When he butts heads with Jacob he is just trying to reinforce discipline, not being abusive. And he refrains from physical discipline at many times when I might’ve hauled off and smacked the kid some. However, he is not a very effective parent in the long run. The filmmaker also does a good job portraying Aunt Pam (Lewis) as meddling without making it a black-and-white situation.

“Hellion”‘s script is both tough and compassionate, the way I want to write when I ‘grow up.’ Aaron Paul proves he can do more than being Heisenberg’s sidekick (which he’s good at, admittedly) and it’ll be an f’ing crime if the kid actors don’t get a lot more work in the years to come. Sod the critics on this one, watch this movie!

Aaron Paul

The Last House on the Left (2009)

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The way I see it, the remake of “The Last House on the Left” is a very small premise stretched to fit a reasonably long running time, without the smarts that these kind of movies need to avoid being underwhelming. The build-up to the inevitable rape scene took forever, followed by a long and excessively gruesome rape and a monotonous series of revenge killings. The saving grace of the movie was the acting, which was better than you might expect. All the actors, Goldwyn, Paxton, Paul, and Co-. gave perfectly acceptable performances. The movie itself, however, was gory and exploitive without having much of a message or brain at all.

The plot is mind-bogglingly simple, but could have been effective in a smarter movie- John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma (Monica Potter) take their attractive, all-American daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) into their summer house in the woods. John and Emma decide to have a nice candlelit dinner while Mari takes the car and meets a friend, Paige (Martha McIsaac.) Paige decides to procure some pot from a dodgy shoplifter (Spencer Treat Clark) and Mari reluctantly goes along with it, against her own better judgment.

They meet the guy at a remote cabin and are interrupted by a group of killers on the lam, who assault Mari and leave her for dead with a bullet in her back. Then the miscreants seek refuge from the storm in the home of Mari’s unassuming parents. Needless to say, the word gets out, and, well, let the bloodletting begin. “The Last House on the Left” stares into our hearts with blackened eyes and dares us to say we would do anything different- to protect our family, our pack, from unimaginable evil. However, its message ends there. Unless you have your heart set on seeing a brutal rape of a crying, pleading girl, you’re better off watching “Dead Man’s Shoes” for a thriller on the consequences of revenge.

The trouble with this movie is not just the gape-mouthed simplicity of the plot, but the fact that the ensuing revenge is almost cartoonish in execution. “You wanna know what I did to your daughter?” the ringleader of the thugs, Krug (Garret Dillahunt,) growls at a desperate husband and father. I think anyone is capable of revenge, so really, in all my cynicism, I am the perfect audience for this movie.

But without the integrity nor the insight to pull this one off, the movie rubs our faces in its grim vision like a dog in shit. I don’t know what it takes us for more, sadists or masochists. The choice for last scene ( a borderline ludicrous sequence involving a microwave oven used in a unconventional manner) shows us where the film’s heart really lies- not in redemption but in ugliness and brutality.

“Breaking Bad”‘s Aaron Paul is in it too, going on in in full creeper mode, and guess what? He’s good. He’s likely to ruin Jesse Pinkman for you for a while afterward, not that Jesse was any boy scout, mind you. They’re all good, but it’s all for naught.”The Last House on the Left” is like a hulking, simple-minded cousin who hugs you a little too close  and hard, and doesn’t seem to comprehend that you’re, y’know, family. You don’t want to decline his embrace in the spirit of kinship (or, in the case of LHOTL, you don’t want to harshly criticize the movie, in the spirit of trying to appreciate a well-acted horror film,) but like a lecherous hug from Mongo, there’s more ick than appeal.

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