Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Maika Monroe, Blake Baumgartner, Kyra Sedgwick
Directors: Dan Bark, Robert Olsen
I’ve seen a lot of movies come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but it’s nice to see something small and satisfying come out of a different festival. Sure SXSW had some big mainstream releases that premiered there, but sometimes it’s worth looking at the smaller pictures for a level of quality that’s not always seen in larger-scale movies. With Villains, we see what happens when talented, creative people come together to make a unique and funny thriller that borders on the bizarre more often than not. Dark, exciting, and weird enough in context, Villains takes a claustrophobic scenario and makes it manageable for most of the 88 minute runtime.
The film follows Mickey (Skarsgard) and Jules (Monroe), two criminals who rob gas stations with the goal of getting enough money to eventually move to Florida and live the rest of their lives. When their car runs out of gas and they break into a house in the middle of nowhere to get the supplies they need to get to Florida, they stumble across a scenario they knew nothing about and end up fighting for their lives. With an independent movie with a smaller budget like this, there’s a little bit more freedom for the actors to play around with and really come into their own with. Especially with the amount of comedic content in this movie, Skarsgard and Monroe seem to be having a great time embracing how ridiculous their predicament is and how they can make the most of it in this movie. Not only that, but the chemistry between Skarsgard and Monroe is undeniable and makes viewers feel as though we’re watching the life-threatening struggles of a real couple. They have a tangible energy and this allows viewers to get emotionally attached to the two of them. From the thrilling side of things, as ridiculous and absurd as some moments are, I have to give the movie credit for being unique and going the extra mile for its craft. You never really know what’s coming next for these two so it shows that the movie is strong enough to make some of these stranger transitions work in the greater context of the movie. Sure some of the decisions may come off as bonkers and out of the ordinary, but this can be an abstract and non-traditional movie so it works within the parameters created by the film’s universe. You can tell this movie will be a blast from the opening scene where we see one of the most interesting robberies since Pulp Fiction and that type of energy is carried throughout the rest of the movie. With every twist and turn in this movie I just kept asking for more and fortunately Villains almost constantly delivers. For two directors I’ve never heard about, they’ve certainly shown their talents in Villains and I hope this is enough for them to get a chance at something larger and more prolific in the future. There aren’t too many thrillers that combine this level of comedy into the central portions of their plot, so I can really see these two directors breaking out if a studio decides to put their faith in them.
Overall, Villains is a dynamic movie that highlights Skarsgard and Monroe’s talents in a way that very few movies have done so before. I don’t think too many people will know about or actively seek out Villains, but those watch it will be deeply rewarded with a rich, dramatic movie with several memorable and shocking moments to keep the audience captivated until the final credits roll.
Overall Score: 8/10