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‘Old’ Review

You know society is officially starting to get back to normal when we get another M. Night Shyamalan joint.

“Old” is the latest twisty-turny thriller from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, and his first since 2019’s “Glass.” It stars Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie, and Alex Wolff as a family who get stranded on a beach with several other tourists, only to find themselves mysteriously aging rapidly.

M. Night Shyamalan has had a pretty spotty career, with three or four films on his record that have been universally accepted as good while also creating some of the most mocked films of the 21st century (“The Last Airbender” and “After Earth” to name two; “The Happening” is its own thing, that horror film is a comedic masterpiece). Here, Shyamalan finds himself somewhere in the middle of good and bad, presenting big ideas with hit-and-miss execution.

With Shyamalan’s films, much like Quetin Tarantino or Michael Bay, you pretty much know what you are going to get; the question is will it be the good version or the bad. Shyamalan has directed some terrific performances over the years (like a young Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense” or James McAvoy in “Split”) but he has also overseen some terrible work, like Mark Wahlberg in “The Happening” or the entire cast in “Last Airbender.” Some of the cast is fine here, with Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps turning in serviceable work as a drifting-apart couple.

However Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie, both of whom are among the best young actors working today and have given some great performances in the past, are pretty terrible. You can put part of it on the fact they are 20-year-olds having to pretend to have the mentality of a 10-year-old, but they overact and/or undersell a lot of their dialogue, to the point of sometimes comedic results.

Now that’s not all their fault, as in true Shyamalan fashion the writing in the film is pretty bad. Characters literally introduce themselves to complete strangers with their names and occupation (“my name is Jarin, I am a nurse”) or have a perfect understanding of something completely random that just so happens to come in perfectly handy for an exact situation (“I was on my collegiate swim team!”). It gets to the point of being so eye-rolling that you chuckle, which maybe is part of the point.

The famous M. Night twist is actually solid, if not slightly underdeveloped, and did do enough for me to redeem the film in-part. I can predict that some people will have checked long before they arrive at the big reveal and for those people it may be too little too late, and that is understandable.

The problem with “Old” is that it is best enjoyed in a situation where you and some friends can openly laugh at the sheer lunacy of the events transpiring on-screen, and that is not something that is (at least respectfully) able to happen in a theater. It is dumb and only answers half the questions it raises, but I can’t say I was ever bored watching it. It is impossible to tell if M. Night is trolling audiences and making his movies dumb and ripe for parody on purpose or by happenstance, but maybe at this point in his career it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. So is “Old” worth seeing? I mean no, but also yes.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘Pig’ Review

When you make a half-dozen movies every year, eventually one of them has to be good!

“Pig” stars Nicolas Cage as a recluse truffle hunter in the Oregon wilderness that sets out on a mission to recover his prized pig after it is stolen. Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin also star while Michael Sarnoski makes his directorial debut.

There once was a time where Nic Cage’s name meant something, and I don’t just mean because his actual surname is Coppola. He was starring in blockbusters like “The Rock” and “National Treasure” while also getting critical praise in dramas like “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Adaptation.” In recent years, however, Cage has become an internet meme and found himself down a similar path as Bruce Willis and John Travolta, 90s stars who opt to take a quick paycheck in a non-theatrical release no matter the quality. While “Pig” is a low-budget film, it gives Cage a seemingly rare opportunity to remind us how talented he can be, and that he doesn’t need to overact or yell to get his points across.

Overall I am a fan of Nic Cage, I think his vintage days of “The Rock” and “Matchstick Men” had him giving the exact blend of seriousness and tongue-in-cheek needed for his roles. Here, Cage plays a hermit who is perfectly content with his humble shack in the forest. We peel back the layers of Cage’s past as the film progresses so I won’t go into much detail here, but it’s clear that no one forced him into this simpler life, scoffing at cell phones and Bugattis; he chose to not live by society’s standards of “normal.”

The film has an odd, at times hypnotic sense about it, and the pacing is deliberate. Running just 92 minutes the film is certainly at times slow but it’s never boring. It knows what it has to do and who we have to meet, and rookie writer/director Michael Sarnoski doesn’t waste any of our time. 

I went into this film completely cold save for the most basic of of plot summaries and suggest you should too, but if you need the elevator pitch then this is “First Cow” meets “John Wick” (and my friend said it also features a touch of “Ratatouille” thrown in). It’s the kind of film that just gets more bizarre as it goes but you are so entranced by it you don’t mind. Once you reach the final destination, you’re left pondering topics such as loss, regret, and self-worth, certainly more than any film featuring Nicolas Cage as a man searching for a lost pig has any right to make you feel. 

“Pig” is a weird film and I can imagine won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. At times it introduces aspects of this truffle hunting world that get no full explanation or wrap-up, and for some that may be bothersome. But if you like your Cage calm and your stories entrancing, this one brings home the bacon.

Critics Rating: 7/10