★ / ★★★★
If given the choice to watch “High-Rise” again or to get punched in the face, I would choose to get punched in the face because at least the terrible experience would last only a split-second. Sure, the sting might last for a couple of minutes more but the alternative would lead to feeling confused, insulted, and outraged all over again. It were as if Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley, the writer and director, respectively, used the screenplay and film to wipe their asses and they had the audacity to present it to the world as art. Pretentious art. Bad art. Less than worthless art. Needless to say, I hated this film.
Although based on the novel, the picture is as subtle as unsuspecting hands on the table being struck with a hammer repeatedly until all the bones are crushed. The messages it attempts to convey about socioeconomic status and the short- as well as long-term effects of economic turmoil are obvious, turns repetitive quickly, and becomes so boring that there comes a point where every minute that trickles by feels like an eternity of pulling teeth. There is not one character worth empathizing with and so there is a lack of dramatic gravity.
One might think that by casting a charismatic dramatic performer like Tom Hiddleston to play Dr. Robert Laing, a recent occupant in a high-rise tower where the poorer tenants live on the lower floors while the wealthy throw extravagant parties on the upper floors, it would resurrect dead material. Instead, Hiddleston is not given anything to say or do that is remotely interesting. Once in a while, however, he is required to take his shirt and pants off in order to appeal to his admirers. I found the whole thing to be increasingly frustrating and disgusting.
The look of the picture is dull and uninspired for the most part. Before deplorable conditions take over the building, the pristine white floors and walls have a certain artificial look to them that is unconvincing even for a dystopian future universe. It looks too movie-like, a set, and so it is all the more a challenge to buy completely into the story being told. Just the same, when the state of the building turns to filth and the residents result to participating in torture, murder, rape, consensual orgies and the like, none of it is believable.
We get the impression that everyone is acting crazy because they are directed to act in such a manner. Long-winded dialogue is sprinkled from time to time but take a moment to look into the performers’ eyes: There is no conviction behind them and so what is paraded on screen appears to be a sham, a really bad, tasteless joke, simply random scenes cobbled together with seemingly minimal effort barely holding them together.
Since the material fails to provide a detailed and thorough context in terms of plot and why certain subplots are introduced—when, as it turns out, they serve little to no impact later on—in addition to the unimaginative aesthetics, it leaves the viewers no avenue to connect with the material in a meaningful way; it keeps us from a great distance and we are supposed to be impressed somehow.
There is a way to make allegories, metaphors, and symbolisms fascinating and worthy of exploration but “High-Rise” is not written, not directed, and does not function on a high enough level to earn viewers’ deep attention and insightful thoughts. It is an assault to the intelligence and patience of those hoping for an accurate and timeless satire about the social ladder—and, more importantly, those simply hoping to watch a good movie.