No segue. Didn’t even know this movie was coming out until I saw what was playing at my local cinemas.
The story looks like it’s about a mother who finds out that her son has been kidnapped by… ISIS? Al-qaeda? Terrorists overseas. But the government doesn’t seem to be trying to save him so she takes matters into her own hands for reasons that I couldn’t quite follow.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Susan Sarandon (BAD MOMS X-MAS , MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL , and upcoming films THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN  and GOING PLACES ), Julian Morris (MARK FELT ), Edie Falco (LANDLINE ), Matt Bomer (MAGNIFICENT 7  and MAGIC MIKE 2 ), and Lola Kirke (GEMINI , AMERICAN MADE , and the upcoming AMERICAN WOMAN ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Maryam Keshavarz, known for stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of. Keshavarz’s partner-in-pen is Jonathan Mastro, known for stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of. Composing the score is Gingger Shankar, known for stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Drew Daniels, known for IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017). Finally, the editor is Andrea Chignoli, known for stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of, and the upcoming AMIGAS AMIGAS (2018).
This could be good. Sarandon is always reliable with giving out a quality performance and I sure haven’t seen her do drama in some time, so I’m on board.
This is my honest opinion of: VIPER CLUB
Helen Sterling (Susan Sarandon) is a nurse who is struggling with the lack of help she’s getting from the FBI, due to her son Andy (Julian Morris) being held hostage by a terrorist group overseas. Soon, she is approached by Charlotte (Edie Falco), a representative of the Viper Club, an organization that helps captured Americans with ransoms that the government refuses to pay by going through illegal channels.
And… it’s meh.
I think my biggest issue with this film is how it demonizes the government. Look, no one likes politics. It’s confusing, it’s complicated, it’s frustrating, and infuriating. I get it, believe me. But the government is there for a reason and they see the things that we average Americans don’t. They have perspective that we don’t have. The government cares, but they have to remain partial and weigh long term consequences of their choices. Sometimes that means making hard choices and biding time to come up with better solutions. Yes, corruption exists, we have a giant orange man-baby in the office, but I prefer to give other agencies like the FBI the benefit of the doubt, that they know what they’re doing. I understand that it’s a woman who is angry with the situation, but the rest of the movie acts like they know that the FBI is jerking off in the office without trying to help and coming up with solutions to saving Andy and whoever else is out there. It’d be fine if the Viper Club acknowledged the FBI’s limitations, not condemning them for it, and were simply acting the part of a vigilante type of organization trying to help the individuals being pushed away. But they’re written in a way like they’re spiting the government and they’re doing the real work that the government won’t do. The only element that makes up for this is that the one FBI agent that we actually get to know is a legitimately sympathetic dude who does what he can to help, but is still going to do his job.
But all of that is simply a disagreement in the way the script is written. Let’s get to some more tangible, less ranty problems that I have.
One of the more surprising problems with this movie is how boring it is. A majority of the films is just Sarandon sitting around looking sad with nothing happening. It’s likely that this movie was supposed to be a case study in hopelessness, but it’s not presented very interestingly. Helen isn’t drinking, lashing out at everyone, breaking down in public, nothing to show a growing sense of distress. Other problems include constant references to characters that we never meet, weird reality-questioning moments, like a nurse being able to tell a doctor what to do, and even tonal problems happen at least once.
But I can’t keep ragging on this movie and it would be best to point out the positives.
Sarandon is really good, as per usual, so none of the problems with this movie are her fault in the slightest. You feel her anger and frustrations when the FBI gives her blanket statements and you feel her hope when someone offers her the chances that she’s been so desperate to get. Falco, Bomer, Sheila Vand, they all do a great job for what they’re given. They work well off of each other, everything feels natural, the performances are nothing short of top notch. Nothing that’s going to stand the test of time, but valiant efforts all around.
<<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ In place of Helen’s depression scenes, it might have done the movie some good to show Andy’s side of the story. All we ever see of his character is during flashbacks, and honestly, he’s kind of just a whiner. You know that person who complains about how good he has it in his middle class home, but acts like it’s the worst hand that someone can be dealt, so he goes on a crusade to help people? Yeah, he’s that kind of character. I’m pretty sure the intention is that he’s a dude who just wants to be a journalist who tells the truth, as opposed to the media that isn’t always reliable and has a strong sense of truth and justice, but he’s written with a weird juvenile way. At least if we had more of his perspective and what he was like as a captive, which is apparently pretty noble and likable, then we would feel a lot worse in the end when we see that he’s been killed. On that note, this movie ends on a huge downer. I know life doesn’t always go in our favor, but I think it’s more important to save lessons like that for true stories, not fiction… or, maybe save it for a more compelling movie. And with no real sense of hope for her character, no follow-up on the folks who donated thousands of dollars, the Viper Club guys who’ve been helping her, it just ends on Andy’s death and Helen’s defeat, then roll credits. One would think that there would be some kind of closing statement, like “there are currently 300 people captured in the Middle East and only one in fifty ever go home” or something like that to show a point, but… nope, it’s just some flashback moments to when Andy was a kid and then… credits. Kinda depressing and I hate using that sentence to describe a movie. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, I guess this movie wasn’t what I expected. I know I rambled on forever regarding the problems, so it probably looks like that I really didn’t like it. Truth is, it just went in one ear and out the other. It’s unremarkable and not interesting. Boring most of the time. The acting is fine, but it’s nothing to write home about. Ultimately, I think it’s going to be forgotten. As a recommendation, viewer beware. Save it for a rental, and it may not even be worth it then. But no means is this a bad movie, but it’s a whole lot of nothing.
My honest rating for VIPER CLUB: a weak 3/5
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