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Venom (Movie Review)

Venom (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a down-and-out former journalist, finds himself infected with an alien symbiote after investigating an evil biotech company. The symbiote, named Venom, quickly warms to Eddie as his new host, and the two team-up to prevent an invasion that would end life on earth.

REVIEW: Long considered one of the most unadaptable comic book characters, having been dealt with disastrously (against director Sam Raimi’s wishes) in SPIDER-MAN 3, VENOM finally gets his own shot at superhero stardom with Ruben Fleischer’s tongue-in-cheek origin tale. Produced “in association” with Marvel, VENOM is actually quite different from their usual fare, in good ways and bad. On the one hand, it’s refreshingly its own thing and doesn’t feel assembly line, but on the other it’s similar to the “let’s try anything because what the hell” approach that ruined a lot of other non MCU films. The result is a movie that succeeds more often than not. When it’s good, it’s quite good. When it’s bad, it’s quite bad.

In many ways, Tom Hardy’s performance is gonna be make or break for fans and I could see it being divisive. No one will ever be able to accuse him of phoning it in, but the very method performance is oddball for sure. He plays the infected Eddie like a cross between fifties-era Marlon Brando, nineties-era Al Pacino and mugging for the cameras Jerry Lewis, making him unlike any superhero lead you’ve ever seen. The constantly mumbling, shuffling Hardy also makes for one of the all-time least convincing broadcast journalists of all time, but I digress.

Fact is, as weird as Hardy’s performance is, in some ways it’s mesmerizing. He commits so fully to the part that it’s admirable in that it never feels like a paycheck part. And once he’s infected, the give and take between Eddie and Venom has an eighties buddy-cop movie vibe that’s silly but also pretty fun. Considering the light, midnight movie tone, it works although die-hard fans might be angry this isn’t the R-rated, all-out horror version they might have wanted.

Hardy’s presence also seems to have helped them pull in a great supporting cast, with Riz Ahmed having fun as the movie’s big bad, Carlton Drake. Of them all, Michelle Williams fares the best as Eddie’s former flame, with her bringing warmth and humor to the part. In a nice twist, they also don’t take the easy route of making her square new boyfriend a jerk. Eddie’s romantic competition in this is a slightly dorky doctor, but also someone who genuinely tries to help his rival survive his infection. He’s a doctor with his oath being more important than his personal life. It’s a nice touch because, realistically, a good doctor would want to help regardless.

Really, the cast and the Brock/Venom relationship makes the movie mostly work, but it does have other issues. For one, the CGI action is relatively unimpressive, thanks to the high bar movies like this have to clear because of Disney. This feels like a B-level superhero flick, and not a franchise launching tent-pole movie. Also, at just over ninety minutes (the actual running time is just over 110 minutes – but it has 15 minutes of credits) everything is quite-rushed, but never boring.

In the end, VENOM is a silly b-movie. If you can go in with that mindset, you’ll have fun. It’s not top-tier superhero stuff, but I still had a decent amount of fun with it.

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