The aspect of reluctant heroes is always painted on the path of a journey but also the reasoning behind it. Mixing elements of traditional and genre is always tricky especially doing within a period element. But with Asian cinema, pre-pandemic, understanding more the intersection of global tastes, “Monstrum” takes that into effect. But the reality is that South Korea has been ahead of the curve in this way for years, especially in horror and certain action offshoots including gangster. “Monstrum” also does its best in certain aspects to interrelate comedy. The story begins with two former generals and a young daughter trying to survive on the edge of barren fields. They enjoy their life for its simplicity but the daughter wants something more. One finds that they used to serve the king but was taken away when the father saves a girl (the daughter) instead of slaughtering her. The idea provides stakes but also a moral basis within the story. Running in the background of much of it is a political struggle. While not inherently dense or particular about what is being fought over, the aspect of grief is interrelated between both an ongoing plague (very pertinent right now) and stories of a monster rampaging.
The effective aspect of the story is trying and, in many times showing, that it could be one or the other. Eventually the general and his brother are brought back in at the request of the King (who has been manipulated by his prime minter and his minions) to find out the real truth. What is interesting even though it is set in 1506, is to bring in the daughter as a sort of investigator, even within the gender confines at the time while also giving her some progression of a traditional love story to satisfy perhaps more conservative audiences. The eventual discovery of a creature (which this reviewer won’t give away too much about) has interesting interrelations to many genre films including “The Dark Crystal”. The mythology of the beast is a little slight but in terms of simple entertainment works adequately. The comedy which is subtle (more in the form of the brother) gives the film a light touch which definitely makes it overall much more palpable especially when the action gets a little more performance oriented and less story based as the melee of sorts begins though its epilogue definitely understands this. “Monstrum” is an effective hybrid while understanding it nature and budgets ad uses it its avail.
By Tim Wassberg
The trajectory of high octane, almost video game mentality genre has its great moments. A couple years ago “Hardcore Henry” showed at Toronto Film Festival, the extreme levels from which a lot of ideas could flow. Ryan Reynolds’ upcoming “Free Guy” will appproach it from another perspective but one with more money and mainstream humor. “Guns Akimbo” is much more gritty but takes its point of view from similar approach. Daniel Radcliffe plays a mousy if not slightly passive game/code designer who trolls website with the implication that he will eventually be called on his miscredence. The overarching villain aspect of the piece is a form of Death Death Kill where opponents are set against each other in the real world trying to kill each other. The big winner is Nix, played by Samara Weaving of “Ready Or Not”, going full bore into a nightmare version of Tank Girl mixed with Harley Quinn. One can see glimpses of her uncle, Hugo Weaving in some of her viscosity. After “Ready Or Not”, this almost seems too archaic for her, though definitely powerful and comedic.
Ultimately the progression is about subverting expectations. Although some of plot twists start to play melodramatic so they can be ripped to shreds, the losses and stakes never really add up to much. The pace is fairly fast and furious. Some of the set pieces, especially a road race per se where Radcliffe can barely drive the car because guns are nailed to his hands, uniquely gratifying. These nailed hands is the main visual structure of the piece and Radcliffe embraces them as possible. When it was announced, the film was expected to played to its graphic novel beats. Radcliffe as always picks material not necessarily for the character itself but its concept within the world. Within the trinity trio of Harry Potter, he has been the one who has taken the most risks though Emma Watson has gone for bigger budget fare with varying success. The thematics here of identity and who we want to be and who we think we are definitely integrate into the story. The resolution is typical graphic novel style overload but undeniably entertaining with the set up ripe for engagement and continuation. “Guns Akimbo” is good fun with its tongue-in-cheek, a good sense of itself and a flagrant style.
By Tim Wassberg