‘Galveston’ Is A Neo-Noir Revelation (FILM REVIEW)


Neo-noir has rarely been so bleak, so dark, so pitch black as it is in Galveston. Given that it’s based on a novel by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. He’s never exactly been one to roll around in positivity and light, and tonally his novel works as sort of a proto-season one exploration of man’s darkness.

Cinematically, it’s been translated to a lean 90-minutes of gut-wrenching nihilism that forces you down paths you’ll regret having taken. This is a compliment, for the record. Galveston is a film that relishes in its bleakness and hopes you will, too. They certainly make it easy.

Director Melanie Laurent (best known, perhaps, for playing Shoshanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) has crafted a truly electric thriller that elevates the crime genre to stratospheric heights. Galveston is front to back gripping, and it’s her guiding hand that takes Pizzolatto’s narrative and makes pure, cinematic revelry.

Ben Foster stars as Roy Cady, a hitman betrayed by his boss (Beau Bridges) in a set up gone wrong. While making his escape from his would be murder, he rescues Raquel (Elle Fanning), a prostitute running from demons of her own. Together, the two plan a tactical retreat to Galveston, Texas, where Roy grew up, in order to plan their revenge.

From this simple set up grows a complex web of motivation, depravity, and darkness. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but at a sparse 90 minutes, it still burns pretty bright. Foster gives a revelatory turn as Roy, his dead eyed gaze suggesting so much unrevealed trauma and backstory. Other films might have been tempted to explore this further, but Laurent and screenwriter Jim Hammett makes economical use of their narrative, zeroing in on the story at hand while leaving the rest open to interpretation.

He is equally matched by Fanning, whose subtle performance here suggests a nuanced take on abuse and survival and the impact on one’s life. She and Foster make an odd pairing, but their combination is a volatile mix of raw, human emotion that lends so much depth to the story at hand. While the overall narrative is fairly straightforward, there are more than a few emotional twists that propel the film and take it beyond the limits of traditional noir.

While Galveston probably won’t push any needles, it’s still a wonderfully bleak masterwork in crime and psychology worthy of reflection. Fans of noir will more than find their kicks in this beautiful film that stares hard into the abyss of human possibility. Though encased solidly in darkness and despair, it’s not without its glimpses of light and hopes of redemption, making it a character study of significant nuance and revelatory delights.

Galveston is now playing in select theaters and on demand.

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