Thursday 17 January 2019

Distorted (Canada 2018: Dir Rob W. King)

King's latest movie, his first since the dystopian Nicolas Cage vehicle The Humanity Bureau back in 2017, covers similarly glum territory - cynical government forces and expendable humans - but to somewhat better effect.

Lauren Curran (Christina Ricci), a self confessed manic depressive, is looking for new surroundings to take her mind off her past troubles. Husband Russell (Brendan Fletcher) finds a luxury tower block in the middle of nowhere called The Pinnacle, boasting state of the art features but offering her the solitude she craves (a very Ballardian concept).

But of course a happy life in her new home wouldn't make for a very interesting movie, so it's not long before the clearly still troubled Lauren develops paranoid feelings, mainly centred on other residents of the high rise, but made worse when she 'sees' subliminal messaging coming from the TV. Russell has been through all this before - there is a painful back story around the death of their child - and remains understanding but increasingly intolerant of her theories.

It's only when she stumbles across a journalist and dark tech expert in a chat room (real name Vernon, played by Trump baiting John Cusack) that she realises her supposed delusions are rooted in truth, and the complex in which she lives has an altogether more sinister purpose.

Distorted is refreshingly old school in its 'who can you trust?' storyline and subject matter of surveillance and mind control - although as Vernon comments, when he assures Lauren of the truth behind her suppositions, the world has finally arrived at the technological point where the wildest ravings of conspiracy theorists can now fairly easily be enacted.

Former child starlet Ricci, now approaching 40, still has the wide eyed innocent look which has probably denied her many leading roles but which suits her well as the vulnerable Lauren, and her ability to transform from scared wife to a woman of action is good to see. Her co star, John Cusack, is his insouciant best in a role requiring him to do little more than mutter tech speak and walk around in a hooded black anorak, looking like the murderous Cash Flagg persona of the late great film director Ray Dennis Steckler. And Brendan Fletcher is landed with the role of the husband who may be straight down the line or up to his neck in it, which to be fair he could do in his sleep.

At a little over an hour and a quarter, the movie zips along very nicely. It's only the last third where there's clearly been some judicious editing, which may have been done to maintain narrative pace but not without sacrificing some clarity of plot. But it's good to see an old fashioned conspiracy movie without an over reliance on hardware, favouring character over set pieces.

Distorted will be available on digital download from 4th February.

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