What an ugly little movie. Closure (aka Straightheads in its native UK), a particularly disagreeable and unsatisfying revenge thriller, would barely warrant a mention, let alone a viewing, if it weren’t for the presence here of Gillian Anderson, who, I’m sad to report, seems to have fallen on particularly lean times career wise, or is in desperate need of a better agent, or both (that heavily rumored
sequel cannot come soon enough). A few minor triumphs playing rigidly icy, but secretly smoldering, society women corseted by Victorian prudery (The House of Mirth, and the BBC’s excellent miniseries of Bleak House) aside, Anderson has been all but missing since the end of the X-Files, appearing in a few minor support roles here or there, but otherwise off the radar.
Gillian Anderson, Danny Dyer, Ralph Brown, Kate Bunten, Antony Byrne
US DVD: 18 Sep 2007
Unfortunate, then, that she chose Closure to mark her return to a leading role. Given very little to work with—just the barest wisp of a character invented solely to be put through the wringer of crassly violent manipulation - Anderson acquits herself as well as she can as Alice, a (get this) chilly, steely-eyed, tight lipped, but secretly fiery, career woman working her way up the corporate ladder for some unspecified firm. One night, on a whim, she decides to invite the young man who has been installing alarms in her flat (Adam, played by one Danny Dyer, who never looks anything but totally lost) to accompany her to a party thrown by her boss. The party is located somewhere deep in the woods outside of London.
After some drunken fumbling and seduction at the party, leading to some very uncomfortable looking sex against a gnarled old tree, the two drive back to London via some rather ominous, poorly paved country roads. Through a set of preposterous circumstances to idiotic to repeat, they find themselves stranded off the side of the road, set upon by three local sociopaths in a jeep, who (the sociopaths, not the jeep) proceed to beat Adam senseless with a tire iron and viciously rape Alice, before driving off drunkenly chortling into the night.
Awakening bloodied and bruised and blinded (well, just Adam, and just in one eye), the two return to London to heal and to wonder why the police cannot do anything for them. Alice broods, Adam loses himself in a haze of pot and alcohol—their lives have stagnated, set adrift in a posttraumatic purgatory. Until, one day, quite by most lucky (or unlucky, as it were) happenstance, Alice recognizes one of the men who had assaulted her (though he, quite fortunately, doesn’t recognize her). Enraged and energized, she kicks plans for vengeance into high gear, tracking the man back to his home, and laying rather simplistic the groundwork for (in her mind) elaborate revenge. Adam reluctantly (at first) accompanies her, helping her with rifle training, and even agreeing to bug the man’s house with cameras in the hopes of finding out more about the other attackers.
It all comes to a head very quickly, with ludicrous revelations of what really led to that fateful night in the woods piling up so preposterously that it’s a wonder Anderson simply didn’t storm off the set after reading the script. The three assaulters are so cartoonish in their villainy that I almost could not believe they weren’t wearing black capes, stove pipe hats, and twirling their waxed mustaches. And Alice’s ultimate vengeance is so mind blowlingly hilariously over the top ridiculous, all I could do was laugh, more at its banal puerility than its graphic crudeness.
Closure would like to imagine it is probing into dark corners of the human psyche, exposing hidden truths about the nature of violence, of evil and of the morality of vengeance. It would like to imagine that its lean economy and brutal bursts of (nongraphic) violence are edgy and harsh and are some sort of commentary on how pornographic, rather than cathartic, film violence has become. It would like to imagine that it is a decent movie, maybe even a great movie, something visceral and profound, along the lines of A History of Violence, or Funny Games, or Straw Dogs.
But what Closure really is, is a totally hollow, ill-conceived and ill-executed abortion of a film, a facile and empty vessel for the cheap machinations of writer/ director Dan Reed, who mistakes juvenile, sensationalism for profundity, never once taking the time or effort to probe the implications of his primal brutalism. It’s all just so inexcusably morally sloppy.
In fact, everything from the top down – the direction, the script, the acting, the editing, the cinematography – is so poorly done, so obviously unfinished and un-thought out, that it’s a wonder this thing was ever greenlit, let alone released, albeit straight to DVD. Clocking in at a brief (but not brief enough) 80-minutes, its running time is basically the only thing Closure has going for it. But seriously, even if you are a die hard Gillian Anderson fan, you can find better ways to occupy 80 minutes of your time than watching this.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.
// Short Ends and Leader
"Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a darkly funny and philosophical cyberpunk locked-room thriller that tangles with the greatest sci-fi puzzle: What does it mean to be human?READ the article