Starring: Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), Nicole Kidman (Eyes Wide Shut), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Director: Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy)
Writer: Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes
Release Date: 1 March (US, UK)
For a movie from the director of the brutal but brilliant Korean picture Oldboy, you’d hope that his Hollywood debut would have much more impact. Sadly, Stoker is a misfire of a film; one that has a solid starting point but ends up crashing short of the finish line.
The basic premise of the film is intriguing and it is what mainly carries the film throughout. It fulfils what most thrillers lack these days: unpredictability. I honestly had no idea where this movie was going, and once the truth is revealed it is genuinely shocking. Unfortunately, the film then falls into a rushed and anti-climactic ending, one that doesn’t seem to gel with the previous eighty minutes. The film is very much a slow burner, making the film feel much longer than its actual brief runtime. This works well at the start, but the film begins to drag before suddenly moving too quickly to properly comprehend the meaning of its ending. The film’s writing is inconsistent, moving from pretty decent to downright amateurish. The film’s opening scenes are full of “subtle” exposition that feels unnatural, and everyone outside of the main characters feels like a cookie-cutter stereotype. Wentworth Miller has never been that great an actor, but he should probably take a few more writing classes before he attempts to touch a word processor again.
The film has a strong principal cast who are given material juicy enough to have fun with, but they all often seem lost and confused. Wasikowska is again playing the emo-ish oddball she usually plays but to much more eerie effect, but she never really gives us enough to fully understand what is going through her warped mind. Matthew Goode’s performance feels too over the top; I know we’re supposed to be suspicious of him, but does he constantly have to act so creepy. We get it! Nicole Kidman is decent in her part but never gets enough to do, and Jacki Weaver briefly enters the picture before unceremoniously disappearing. The actors don’t feel well directed enough, possibly the result of a foreign director’s vision either not being spelled out well enough or getting lost in translation.
If I can say anything extremely positive about the film, it at least looks very pretty. The cinematography makes a lot of use of long tracking shots that are executed well, as well as plenty of other neat camera tricks. This gives the film a sense of style and originality the rest of the film is sorely lacking.
Stoker is a film that I can’t hate, but it lacks so much that I can scarcely call it good. It lacks enough originality and suspense to make it feel compelling, further worsened by poor writing, mediocre performances and a confusing ending. Park Chan-Wook was aiming for a Hitchcockian feel with this one but we instead got a Brian DePalma film, and not a good one.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/10