Maple Pictures' December '07 Releases
Born Killers (January 10/08)
Though the packaging seems to promise a gritty action flick, Born Killers is actually a low-key (and downright strange) little drama that's generally a lot more effective than one might've suspected. The story follows close-knit siblings John (Jake Muxworthy) and Michael (Gabriel Mann) as they travel the country killing random strangers and taking all their money, with problems emerging after both men find themselves reluctant to kill a sweet young woman named Archer (played by Kelli Garner). There's certainly more to the film than just that, but it does become clear that Born Killers owes a fair bit of its mild success to the inclusion of several unexpected twists that have been sprinkled throughout the narrative. Screenwriter Kendell Delcambre offers up a series of flashbacks that effectively explain why the brothers behave as they do, with Tom Sizemore's chilling performance as John and Michael's sociopathic father certainly leaving little doubt as to where the boys learned the tricks of their peculiar trade. The film, which bears similarities to Hampton Fancher's The Minus Man both in tone and execution, eventually morphs into something resembling a tender love story, yet there's little doubt that it works - though the increasingly pronounced emphasis on John's familial woes does become somewhat tiresome. While Born Killers' understated vibe ensures that a number of questions are left unanswered, the film is ultimately a satisfying and thoroughly original piece of work that's well worth checking out.
Shattered (January 10/08)
While there's little doubt that Shattered does suffer from its share of problems - ie its characters' actions are often dictated by plot rather than logic - the film is nevertheless a fairly effective little thriller that's backed by a blistering pace and a trio of expectedly strong performances. Gerard Butler and Maria Bello star as Neil and Abby, a happily-married couple whose placid existence is brutally interrupted after a sadistic psychopath (Pierce Brosnan's Tom) kidnaps their young daughter. Though it first appears as though he simply wants money (and lots of it), Tom eventually reveals a far more sinister plan for the couple - as he forces the two to jump through a series of arduous, increasingly embarrassing hoops. Director Mike Barker's sporadically ostentatious stylistic choices aside, Shattered generally comes off as a slick effort that works best during its more overtly thrillerish sequences - with Brosnan's electrifying performance certainly playing a key role in the movie's success. There's a genuinely unexpected twist regarding his character's motivations late in the picture, though it's the inclusion of a subsequent twist that leaves the movie with an exceedingly sour aftertaste ("absurd" is too mild a word to adequately describe it). Still, as disappointing as its conclusion may be, Shattered is nevertheless a mindlessly fun piece of work that's a must for fans of the three actors.