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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Anna', 'Velvet Buzzsaw' | Action Thriller, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zawe Ashton

Sasha Luss in a polo, Zawe Ashton and Jake Gyllenhaal sitting
Anna (L), Velvet Buzzsaw (R)


Anna can only be described as a disappointment that is playing one monotonous note all the way through because it’s as predictable as you can imagine an action thriller to be. It’s mostly stereotypes walking around and meeting in different rooms, to the point that you have no one to care about in a story that you don’t care about either. The expected double and triple crossing shakes up the structure pretty nicely, giving the second half much needed fresh air to breathe.

Actors do their best with limited arcs they’re given including the leading woman Sasha Luss (Anna) who’s mostly known for modelling. Helen Mirren as her boss Olga steals the scenes she’s in, asserting power and fierceness for every word spoken. Use of languages and the final ”escape” sequence didn’t feel thought through at all, closing the looping circle of we-have-seen-this-all-before.

Smileys: Structure, Helen Mirren

Frowneys: Characterisation, story, originality


Sasha Luss wearing a polo
Summit Entertainment


Joining the unfavourable company of projects that were so keen on exploring an idea that you forget to tell a solid story, Velvet Buzzsaw turned out to be more of a buzzkill than anything velvety. Much of the force which was behind 2014’s ‘Nightcrawler’ have some sort of reunion for it, including director and writer Dan Gilroy. The movie is self-described as satirical horror focusing on the kooky art scene and its possible commercialisation and while that does sound fun, there’s just too much of everything. In a feature length, when you spend so much time writing fools into bigger fools, you just end up fooling yourself. Eye for an eye, you could say.

Even for a film about the art industry and things related to that, the featured visuals are honestly something you’d expect to see in modern galleries. Paintings that the story revolves around are interesting and moody while there is also specifically one art piece called Sphere which is both amusing and serves a purpose later on. It’s just too bad that the represented art is the only unique thing offered as the film as a whole lacks bite and passion. A lot of it is revealed through clumsy dialogue but the satire is dire, horror elements are shamefully boring and there isn’t a single character you feel invested in whether in a good or bad way.

Velvet Buzzsaw is saying absolutely nothing by using a lot of words but more so it’s amazing how technically woeful it is considering the talent behind it. Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders’ score doesn’t fit the film at all, horror scenes start to sound like a telenovela at some point. Editing of the picture feels incoherent because the cuts are abrupt again and again, making you think that maybe there weren’t enough good takes to choose from. That causes conversations to seem unnatural, almost like a quick Youtube tutorial where no breaths are allowed. Those moments can not be saved even by a compelling cast which includes Jake Gyllenhaal (Morf), Rene Russo (Rhodora), Zawe Ashton (Josephina) and Toni Collette (Gretchen). Ashton is basically thrown to the wolves here as she seems to be in a mystery thriller while Collette is the most in tune with the attempted tone.

Smileys: Set decoration

Frowneys: Editing, dialogue, Zawe Ashton, score

It’s certainly a movie, I just don’t know why it is one.


Zawe Ashton and Jake Gyllenhaal sitting in front of a mural

After Misery's logo with the text ''all things film & television'' underneath it.
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