Do a Shot: when the gunman hijack the van
Down a (Male?) Body Shot: Female empowerment comes alive
Shotgun Two Beers Instantaneously: when we meet “the biker” and the film loses its way
Mercifully Down a Natural Light: after the shoehorned-in action-packed ending
Bonus Director’s Rule:
Take a Shot of Tequila: whenever you see Frank Grillo angry
By: Jake Turner (Three Beers) –
Ah, the independent film. It’s the last piece of originality that keeps away from the Hollywood Recycle Bin or Comic Book Overload. We get films like Whiplash and RockNRolla, once in a while. However, just like mainstream films, they can also have glaring issues. Big Sky had an good theme with terrific performances, but it just felt like an aspiring mess in the end.
One of the biggest risks that an actor can take is to not overdo a character with mental issues or a severe fear of something. It can end up being great like Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, or over the top mawkish like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio and Sean Penn in I Am Sam. Big Sky tackles agoraphobia respectfully with Bella Thorne playing Hazel, a woman suffering with it. Her mom, Dee (Kyra Sedgwick), can’t even get Hazel downstairs for any reason, on account of a fear of places that causes panic and helplessness. The two women head to a treatment center in the New Mexico desert, until two gunmen in animal masks attack their van, shooting most of the passengers and kidnapping one. Except one… the one in the closed box in the back. After Dee is found shot (because of her uncontrollable laughing), Hazel knows that she has to conquer her fears and save her mother. She ventures out into the bleak desert.
What a performance by Thorne; she continuously tries to keep her panic from taking over her by looking at her hand and repeating that there is no visual pain to her hands or body. She uses her intelligence to find the path to something, anything that would involve help, but with little water or any sense of direction. Sedgwick holds her own as usual against the gunmen and while dealing with a bullet wound. The individual scenes with Thorne and Sedgwick are the best part because they center on a theme of female empowerment and independence.
Don’t mess with Sedgwick
Female empowerment. Good teacher for Thorne.
Compliments to the bleak cinematography and lack of musical overture, which build up a great level of suspense within Hazel and Dee’s scary ordeal and keep it stripped-down.
Even though the acting is terrific, aside from Hazel, all of the characters are immensely one-note. The gunmen (Aaron Tveit, Frank Grillo) are given nothing to do, but have a vague reason to kill innocent lives given by a mysterious voice (through the phone, yeah, haven’t seen that before) ordering them to find… Hazel?
There is no background to these two characters, especially Tveit’s Pru, who for some reason believes having a gun in his hand makes him powerful. So, we steer into stereotypical crime clichés and the other gunmen has a “secret”, but just look at his uniform for the easiest twist ever. New characters are brought into the story in the second half of the movie that derail such a superb first act and bring NOTHING to the film.
If it’s bad enough, I get pushed back in Graceland.
Oh, the pacing and story of this movie. I love slow potboilers- I just saw The Gift a week ago and that’s how you tell a realistic mystery with many layers. The layers to this story felt shoehorned in and unnecessary (especially when we meet “the biker”). Director Jorge Michel Grau (ambitious but missing the mark) can’t stop the film from veering off course. It finishes its bumpy road trip with a incoherent twist and a horribly shot action-packed Hollywood ending that made me roll my eyes in disappointment.
The Griswolds handled the desert better.
Big Sky is ambitious in its stripped down scope with respectable performances, but suffers from one-note characters, an overblown multi-themed second act, and an ending that took away from its theme of female empowerment. You will appreciate it for its effort, but this Sky’s forecast has too many storm clouds in the end.