Take a Drink: anytime David smiles
Do a Shot: for each plot twist
Take a Drink: for each adrenalin-pumping moment
Take a Drink: anytime a character does
Do a Shot: to each stylish shot
By: Matt Conway (A Toast) –
Despite 2014 being an overall so-so year for film in a lot of categories, it’s been one of the best years in a long time for action films. Most years tend to have one or two good action films, but this year in particular has had quite a few good ones, with most of them being big surprises. Despite there being a lot of bigger films this summer, Edge of Tomorrow ended up being honestly the best summer blockbuster in a long time, featuring fantastic action setpieces along with some laughs. Then came John Wick last month, which shocked me in being a kick-ass B movie with some surprisingly great self-aware moments.
Perhaps the most hyped action film of the year, though, by film fans is The Guest. The film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, and even the SWSX Film Festival. However, due to it being released by a relatively small studio, the film never reached the masses, and is already almost out of most theaters. It’s a shame that this happened to the film, as its another fantastic action/genre film, and just a blast of fun.
The Guest follows a soldier who visits the family whose son he knew at war before he passed. From there, shit gets crazy.
Despite genre films not being known for their performances, The Guest features one truly standout performance with the lead Dan Stevens. Stevens honestly gives one of the year’s better performances here as David, who plays this mysterious character perfectly. He has flashes of darkness while being a seemingly nice guy who is trying his best to help this family out. His performance rides a tight line, and it’s Stevens who rides that line perfectly.
The supporting players also do a solid job. Lance Reddick has always had great presence in anything he does, from commercials to the smaller roles he has in films. Here, he does a very good job as a government agent trying to find out more about David. Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer both have the task of playing the teens of the family who get to know David, and are both convincing in their respective roles. While these performances do not blow off anyone’s socks, they are solid, while most action films can’t get even that from their cast.
Quickly turning into one of the best genre directors working today is Adam Wingard, and he outdoes himself here. Despite working with quite a few budget restrictions, Wingard makes this film look up to par with typical Hollywood action films, but injects a great deal of life into the movie. Wingard directs The Guest as a throwback to the genre 80’s actioners of the past, and instead of imitating a lot of those cliches, he is able to make this film feel of that genre. The film moves at a fast and furious clip, and is always quite exciting. Wingard is also able to balance the tone nicely, with the film going from light to edgy with relative ease.
Wingard especially excels in directing the action scenes. Every action scene in this movie is filmed to perfection, with a great deal of style and a real “it” factor. A lot of these action setpieces, despite their relatively small scope, feel very bad ass, and have a lot of stunts and tricks that are creatively designed. The Guest also is able to really utilize its R-rating, with the film showing off some gleefully vile use of blood that looks very realistic.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of The Guest is the script and just how good the screenplay is. A lot of modern action films these days disregard the script, trying to just slap a movie together with a strong lead and standard issue action setpieces. Like the great John Wick, The Guest is surprisingly rather funny, as scribe Simon Barrett is able to create some good gags around David’s stoic persona. The dialogue in general has a great sense of realism to it, avoiding cliches of the genre.
Barrett’s script especially shines in the story department. The Guest may be one of the more unpredictable films this year, with the story moving in directions that I really never saw coming. Barrett’s script throws out quite a few hints and red herrings to keep the audience guessing until the third act action-packed explosion. It’s a real treat where the story goes, with a finale that feels very satisfying and quite haunting at the same time.
The Guest continues this year’s trend of surprisingly great action flicks, with the film featuring a star-making performance by Dan Stevens and a great deal of fun moments. This has future cult-classic written all over it, and hopefully it picks up a wider audience when it hits home video.