In this week’s minor VOD releases, characters cover up murders, conspiracies and break-ups, while others investigate the inscrutable mysteries of the universe via questionable methods.
Trigger Point (Select theaters April 16; VOD April 23): Barry Pepper plays your basic secret agent living off the grid who’s called back into service when members of his former team are taken out by a mysterious assassin. Of course he’s eventually going to get double-crossed, and of course his onetime associate and only ally isn’t to be trusted, and not just because the guy is played by Colm Feore. People say things like “It seems this conspiracy goes deeper than you think.” Director Brad Turner has worked extensively on action-oriented TV series including 24, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the MacGyver reboot, and he stages one semi-exciting escape sequence set in a greenhouse complex. But most of Trigger Point is a combination of spy cliches and slapdash plotting, although at least Feore commits fully to the inanity. The filmmakers then have the audacity to tease multiple major unresolved plot elements, as if anyone is going to bother with a sequel to this movie. Grade: C
We Broke Up (Select theaters April 16; VOD April 23): Aya Cash channels a bit of her amusingly caustic You’re the Worst character in this melancholy romantic comedy. When Lori (Cash) freaks out over the spontaneous marriage proposal from Doug (The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper), he dumps her, fed up with her lack of commitment and ambition. The next day, they head off to a refurbished summer camp for the wedding of Lori’s impulsive sister Bea (Sarah Bolger), and they agree to keep their break-up a secret for the sake of family harmony. Director and co-writer Jeff Rosenberg throws in some wacky sitcom-style shenanigans, but he mostly keeps the comedy low-key, opting for a more measured exploration of emotional maturation. That makes the movie a bit plodding at times, but Cash and Harper both bring depth to their roles, and it’s refreshing to see what looks like a comedy of remarriage instead develop into a thoughtful consideration of the value of letting go. Grade: B
At Night Comes Wolves (VOD April 20): The grammatically incorrect title is indicative of the haphazard construction of this baffling thriller, which starts out as a fairly straightforward story about a woman leaving her jerk of a husband before expanding to encompass alien communication, ancient flora, diamond heists and the end of the world. That’s far more than writer-director T.J. Marine is equipped to handle, and the movie descends into incoherence as soon as Leah (Gabi Alves) walks out on the volatile Daniel (Jacob Allen Weldy). Apparently Daniel used to be the leader of a cult devoted to messages he received from aliens, and Leah later conveniently runs into two of Daniel’s former followers. The nonlinear storytelling (including flash-forwards that appear to be set in the post-apocalypse) only confuses Marine’s ostensible message about female empowerment, and the dialogue is full of mystical nonsense. Characters make grand yet meaningless pronouncements, and Marine treats all of this random absurdity with the solemnity of a term paper. Grade: C-
Murder Bury Win (VOD April 27): The world of highbrow crowd-funded board games is ripe for satire, but writer-director Michael Lovan’s debut feature isn’t particularly cutting, despite its plentiful violence. A trio of aspiring game designers attempting to raise money for their murder-themed board game find themselves with an actual dead body to dispose of, and they are not nearly as good at it in real life as they are in the game. The movie’s highlight is veteran character actor Craig Cackowski as the reclusive, egotistical board-game mogul who invites the trio to his remote lodge, and then dies in an inconveniently incriminating manner. Once he’s gone, the movie focuses on the irritating and unlikable main trio, and it’s not quite funny enough or twisted enough to work as a riff on something like Very Bad Things or Shallow Grave. The board game aspect mostly falls away in favor of repetitive bickering and cringe humor, and the attempted darkly ironic ending falls flat. Grade: C+
Making Sense (VOD April 27): Billed as “the first film to star five actors with disabilities who each lack of one of the primary senses,” this deeply misguided metaphysical drama recontextualizes the disabled as the “sensory enlightened,” positing that their compensations for missing senses can somehow combine to reveal a sixth sense (which is, of course, “our shared humanity”). That takes the form of some sci-fi mumbo jumbo about an experiment run by rogue researcher Dr. Frederik Amberger (Richard Klautsch), using equipment that makes it look like the characters are playing laser tag with the universe. Amberger recruits ambitious college student Jules (Jessi Melton) to help revive his experiment, but most of the movie features characters awkwardly talking about the meaning of life, and the experiment itself resembles summer camp trust exercises. Making Sense was partially sponsored by a disability advocacy organization and seems to have noble intentions, but its inert drama and dopey new-agey messaging come off as more condescending than inspirational. Grade: C-