Elijah Wood plays a man who finally gets to meet the father who abandoned him.
Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) is a musician who still lives with his wealthy mother. He receives a letter from his estranged father asking him to come for a visit. Norval arrives and is greeted by his father (Stephen McHattie), a gruff older man. While he starts off as warm, Norval’s father quickly breaks Norval’s phone and then begins verbally abusing him and even threatening physical violence. Norval is revealed to be fairly unaccomplished and mostly lives off of his mother’s wealth. When Norval has finally had enough and confronts his father, he’s attacked with a meat cleaver, before his father suddenly drops dead of a heart attack. Unable to have the body stored at the local coroner due to a shortage of space, Norval is forced to keep the embalmed corpse with him in the house. However, he soon discovers another man (Martin Donovan) tied up in the basement and a pair of men (Michael Smiley and Simon Chin) coming for the prisoner. It turns out Norval’s dad wasn’t exactly who he thought he was.
The opening to this film includes a pair of quotes from Shakespeare and Beyonce. That should tell you what kind of movie you’re in for. This film doesn’t take itself too seriously in a lot of ways, including having over-the-top violence and ridiculous characters, but it’s still got enough stakes to keep you invested and enough twists to keep you guessing. I imagine it is going to be extremely divisive, particularly because of the amount of gore in the second half, but if you’re willing to take it in stride, this film can work.
A big plus, naturally, is Elijah Wood’s performance. Playing a kind of douchey failure who is in rehab for alcoholism and lives with his mom doesn’t exactly seem like Wood’s wheelhouse, but he pulls it off really well. You can tell that he’s often full of sh*t, but you also realize that he knows it and that he’s doing it because he isn’t sure what he should do in his current situation. We spend essentially the entire movie with Norval, so it’s really essential that Wood’s performance keeps us invested, and it does.
The dialogue in the movie is solid, containing some very odd, but definitely interesting conversations that would usually not make it to the film. For example, there’s a random line saying that people who are evil have “raisins for eyes,” and it’s just as weird in context. Similarly, the screenplay has a lot of elements in it that many movies would exclude, such as showing failed attempts to undo locked chains or the realistic complications to trying to ambush someone. The fights in the film, too, are more complicated and gritty than one would usually assume for this kind of story.
The best thing the movie has going for it is that it is basically watching a huge catastrophe unfold from smaller origins, like seeing a small crack in a dam lead to a flood. Much like Noval, we’re unable to really fully grasp all of what’s happening because it just keeps coming at us faster and faster until we’re overwhelmed.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I’m not saying it’s a must-see, but if you like Elijah Wood as an actor, maybe put it somewhere on your wish-list.
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