A sociopath, a hypnotist, a homeless starlet, a voyeur and a man with multiple personalities walk into this week’s selection of low-profile VOD releases.
The Mimic (VOD and select theaters February 5): Writer-director Thomas F. Mazziotti clearly likes the sound of his own words, and he crams a whole lot of them into barely 80 minutes of this exhaustingly zippy comedy. The main character (Thomas Sadoski) is convinced that his new neighbor (Jake Robinson) is a sociopath, although neither the character (designated only as “the narrator”) nor Mazziotti seems to have a firm grasp on what a sociopath actually is. Robinson’s character (referred to as “the kid”) may or may not be a sociopath, but he’s definitely annoying, as is the narrator and pretty much every other character in this painfully overwritten movie. The rapid-fire banter is smug and empty, and almost always accompanied by an aggressively whimsical musical score. Mazziotti attempts some meta-commentary by throwing in a scene of “the filmmakers” writing the script, but the only message The Mimic conveys is that its creator is as insufferable as his characters. Grade: C
The Right One (VOD February 5; DVD/Blu-ray February 9): A man responds to his severe childhood trauma by adopting a series of alternate personas as a coping mechanism to function in his daily life, and this is fodder for … a cute romantic comedy? That’s just one of the baffling choices in this feature filmmaking debut from reality-TV veteran Ken Mok (creator of America’s Next Top Model). Romance novelist Sara (Cleopatra Coleman) is, of course, unlucky in love, until she comes across Godfrey (Nick Thune), a chameleon of sorts who appears to be a snooty art critic, a cowboy singer-songwriter or an underground rave DJ, depending on the circumstances. Godfrey is more off-putting than endearing, and the stars have no chemistry together. The more the movie reveals about Sara’s quirky love interest (who won’t tell her his real name or anything about his actual life), the less convincing it becomes as a romance. Grade: C
X (VOD and DVD February 9): For a movie about masquerade-style sex parties, Scott J. Ramsey’s X is surprisingly tedious, a slow-moving melodrama that’s more interested in petty betrayals than it is in kinky liaisons. Christian (Hope Raymond) is the doyenne of high-end Bay Area orgies, which she stages under cover of running an upscale charity. Her world is thrown into chaos by the unauthorized arrival of star cam girl and burlesque performer Stella-Marie (Eliza Boivin), who is also Christian’s former high school classmate and unrequited crush object. Ramsey treats the characters’ fits of jealousy like world-shattering tragedies, and the movie takes 90 minutes (out of a two-hour-plus running time) to get to an incident that warrants the heavy, solemn tone. The orgies themselves are disappointingly tame, full of chaste writhing, and the heightened drama suffers from stilted dialogue that is almost entirely post-dubbed. Grade: C-
Murderous Trance (VOD and DVD/Blu-ray February 9): In time-honored B-movie tradition, this English-language Danish period drama (known overseas as The Guardian Angel) has received a more salacious title for its American release. The movie itself is far more staid than the new title implies, telling the true story of Bjørn Schouw Nielsen (Josh Lucas, working on his Ralph Fiennes impression), who was convicted of using hypnosis to convince a former cellmate of his to commit a bank robbery. Here, Nielsen is portrayed as a devious criminal mastermind, toying with the detective (Game of Thrones’ Pilou Asbæk) who’s determined to bring him to justice, and even targeting the detective’s wife for mental manipulation. Lucas is miscast yet but clearly having fun, but Asbæk makes for an underwhelming foil as the dogged investigator. Set in 1951, the movie tries to connect Nielsen’s crimes to the legacy of Nazism, although the thematic resonance doesn’t quite land, and the goofy mysticism undermines the potentially thoughtful observations. Grade: C+
Paradise Cove (VOD February 12): Married couple Knox (Todd Grinnell) and Tracey (Mena Suvari) inherit a Malibu beach house from Knox’s late mother, with the intention of fixing it up and selling it for a quick profit. But they haven’t counted on Bree (Kristin Bauer van Straten), a homeless woman (and former member of upper-class Malibu society) who’s squatting under the house. The sultry, unhinged Bree is like a Real Housewife crossed with the villain of a ’90s B-movie thriller, with remarkably luminous hair and skin for someone without access to regular hygiene. Van Straten goes full camp with her performance, while Grinnell and Suvari attempt to take the ridiculous material seriously, including a turgid subplot about the couple’s frustrated efforts to conceive a child. The character motivations often make no sense, and the filmmakers contrive increasingly far-fetched reasons for Bree to remain at large. The portrayal of the homeless would be offensive if it weren’t so laughably inept. Grade: C-