NOT ON TOP –
Feb. 25, 2021 – The muscular camerawork of Newton Thomas Sigel, with its swooping drone shots and virtuoso tracking sequences, is impressive on a craft level, especially if you’ve ever felt the need for a seeing-eye anal probe. But none of the tricksy visuals or ostentatious embellishments, like profane insults splashed across the screen in blood-red text, make you care about the characters. Which is too bad for Holland, who hurls himself into the role with the misapprehension that Cherry has something profound to say about the protagonist’s dark existential void.
Coming on the heels of Antonio Campos’ turgid Southern Gothic, The Devil All the Time, this suggests the talented Holland is anxious to avoid being locked into a squeaky-clean Peter Parker mold. But perhaps he needs to steer clear of contemporary American fiction as source material for a while.
The screenplay was adapted by the directors’ sister Angela Russo-Otstot (The Shield, V) and Jessica Goldberg (Hulu’s The Path) from U.S. Army vet Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical 2018 debut novel of the same name. But any authenticity in the spiral from undiagnosed PTSD through opioid and heroin addiction, bank robberies and prison time is also undermined by excessive observance of a literary model, right down to five individually titled chapters bookended by a prologue and epilogue.