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November 3, 2016

Black Rock

by Franz Patrick

Black Rock (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Sarah (Kate Bosworth) has a plan: by inviting two of her unwitting best friends to a small island getaway, Abby (Katie Aselton) and Lou (Lake Bell), who had ended their friendship six years ago, will be forced to interact, reconnect, and be great friends they once were. Their vacation is interrupted, however, when three Iraqi veterans (Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, Anslem Richardson) show up and Abby, after a couple of drinks, begins to flirt—hard—with one of the men. Soon, the women are separated and hunted around the island.

A lot of movies settle for being so ordinary. “Black Rock,” based on the screenplay by Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, is one of them. Perhaps the writers’ intention is to create a simple thriller, a survival tale about women with a lot of inner turmoil who must then solve the disorder they feel inside by going through rigorous physical challenges. However, the story might be easy to understand but the characters are so dull. Furthermore, the would-be suspenseful chases and kills occur to justify showing something—anything—on screen.

We do not believe the friendship among Abby, Lou, and Sarah. The script is responsible because the dialogue sounds like it is taken from any forgotten horror-thrillers. Barely do we get a chance to know them as people with lives outside of the island and so when they are eventually thrusted into life-or-death situations, it is difficult to care. I did not want to see them die, but at the same time if they were to end up being killed, I did not get a sense of how their deaths might have made a difference out there in the world.

The chases are standard and not smartly edited. When the trio get separated because they run in opposite directions, the soldiers decide to stick together. We clearly see which woman they choose to follow. As Sarah, Lou, and Abby make their way through the woods, the film is edited as if each man were hunting one woman. Why bother cutting to the other two women running for their lives when it is obvious that the hunters, moving as a group, are in pursuit of only one of their targets? The focus should have been on the person who is in most danger, without distraction of confused editing.

At times the picture is unintentionally funny either due to bad acting or bad writing. What bothered me most is its desperation to inject the subject of women feeling empowered. While that may be a commendable quality in a sharp screenplay, it just comes across so silly here. Each moment that highlights “girl power” is like enduring nails being scraped on a chalkboard. It feels inappropriate, an assault to a subject that is worth discussing or exploring seriously.

“Black Rock,” directed by Katie Aselton, is akin to finding coal in a stocking—disappointing, maddening, exasperating. If you had been very bad in the past year, this movie is for you, I guess. But for those of us who had been very good, what have we done to deserve such punishment?


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