Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Return to Sender, a Payback Thriller with No Pay-Off
victim of a violent sex crime is dead set on vengeance. She is also determined
to remodel her front porch. It is like Death
Wish, with Bob Villa. Eventually, she will get down to the business of
payback, but first, let’s match some paint chips with Fouad Mikati’s tone-deaf Return to Sender (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.
Wells is a slightly germophobic RN about to be promoted to the surgical team,
until she is brutally raped by William Finn. The sociopath is not particularly
bright, so he is quickly caught and convicted. However, Wells finds herself
trapped in a spiral of depression. Then one day, she starts writing Finn in
prison. Her first few letters are returned, marked you-know-what, but
eventually they start corresponding and even meeting face-to-face during
course, as a model prison in what must be the speediest criminal justice system
in the country, Finn is soon paroled. Naturally, he looks up Wells, who puts
him to work erecting some flimsy lattice-work around her porch. Sure, she will
get medieval on him, but not while there are still home improvements that need
to be done.
Return is just a sad
excuse for a vigilante movie. Inexplicably, after making us sit through the interminable
carpentry scenes, Mikati keeps the actual pay-off entirely off-screen. Talk
about having contempt for our time. To make matters exponentially worse,
Patricia Beauchamp and Joe Gossett’s saggy script unambiguously suggests Wells
is a bit of a sociopath herself, thereby implying her need for vengeance is
somehow a misbegotten product of her extreme persona. One also sort of picks up
on a misogynist vibe— one that kind of-sort of darkly insinuates she maybe had
it coming, which is profoundly problematic.
Pike commands the screen as Wells, but she is definitely revisiting last year’s
Amazing Amy terrain here. Unfortunately, the rest of the casting defies all
logic. Frankly, it is hard to believe Pike and Nick Nolte exist in the same universe.
As father and daughter? Sorry, just don’t see it. Similarly, it is hard to buy
into the scrawny, vegan-looking Shiloh Fernandez as a terrifying sex criminal.
Yet, it is probably most depressing to see indie icon Illeana Douglas
completely wasted doing a walk-on as a crass realtor.
It is all just a bizarrely misconceived mess
that somehow goes out of its way to alienate every possible audience segment.
We don’t even get to see the final finished porch. Not recommended for anyone, Return to Sender opens tomorrow (8/14) in New York at the AMC Empire and also releases on iTunes.
Labels: Rosamund Pike, Vigilante Films