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Non-Review Review: Lost Girls

Lost Girls is a solid and unfussy true crime drama, anchored in a strong central performance from Amy Ryan.

There are interesting ideas simmering in the background of Lost Girls. Director Liz Garbus is best known as a documentarian, and there are certainly aspects of Lost Girls that feel like they belong more comfortably in a documentary than a narrative feature. Michael Werwie’s script is adapted from Robert Kolker’s book of the same name, looking at the case of the Long Island Serial Killer. The killer was never caught, with some speculation as to whether his last documented murder occurred in 2010 or 2013. The investigation is currently ongoing, which gives the film a certain edge and rawness.

However, Garbus works hard to keep things tasteful and restrained. In actual narrative terms, Lost Girls is fairly conventional. It often feels assembled from a list of scenes that audiences expect to see in a drama like this. There are plenty of scenes of concerned mother Mari Gilbert yelling at impotent authority figures, countless scenes dictating the indifference or ineptitude of the authority figures tasked with protecting these young women, lots of emotional scenes in which Mari comes to terms with her own imperfections as a mother following her daughter’s disappearance.

However, the most interesting aspects of this “unsolved American mystery” lurk at the edge of the frame, recalling the quiet tweaks that Just Mercy made to the death penalty drama this past awards season. Lost Girls is a serial killer film that is much more interested in systemic injustice than it is in the sensationalist actions of a single monstrous villain. Lost Girls never quite manages to convincingly restructure the serial killer investigation movie template to the extent of something like Zodiac, but perhaps it doesn’t have to. It is more interesting for subtle shifts in emphasis within a familiar formula.

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Non-Review Review: Escape Plan

Escape Plan doesn’t demand too much. It doesn’t demand too much from its lead actors, and it doesn’t demand too much from its audience. A film about watching two of the biggest action stars of the eighties teaming up should be a celebratory occasion – a trip down memory lane, one last go-around for old time’s sake as we watch this dynamic duo escape a mysterious “off the grid” prison which seems quite like the place I imagined all eighties action stars go in the end.

Instead, Escape Plan feels like the middle section of John Woo’s Face/Off extended out to a two-hour feature film, the story of a man who shouldn’t be in prison forced to escape from a futuristic science-fiction gulag through a series of overly-elaborate action set-pieces. There is, quite frankly, not enough here to support the movie’s extended runtime, with the script never daring to swerve sharply away from expectations or clichés. Escape Plan delivers exactly what the premise promises, but nothing more and never with anything approaching enthusiasm.

Old-timer hard-timers...

Old-timer hard-timers…

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