The Grey screened in LA last night and we've got a report!
Normally I don't like running test screening reviews. We get a lot of people sending them in but I don't see much purpose in running them. But when we got word from last night's test screening of THE GREY - you know, the rad Liam Neeson vs. wolf that promises Liam Neeson boxing a wolf with broken glass knuckles? - I felt like I had to share. Why? Because Liam Neeson never boxes a wolf with broken glass knuckles in the film.
The who to the what now?
According to JoBlo.com reader George Gafadino, it's true. That money shot in the trailer that got everyone excited, leads to nothing. Another shameful example of misleading marketing. But does that tarnish the film? I'll let George explain... [NOTE: Some MAJOR SPOILERS lie ahead.]
Just wanted to drop you guys a line and share my reaction to Joe Carnahan's THE GREY. First off, this is easily Joe Carnahan's best film. I've seen all his work in theaters but nothing grabbed me like this. I'll admit, it was the idea of Liam Neeson battling wolves that got me initially hooked, and that's actually the film's only HUGE problem, but more on that in a bit.
What impressed me was the level of depth that (some) of the characters get. This could've very easily been a B movie slasher flick with a killer picking them off one by one type thing but it's not. It's not as elevated as ALIEN in that sense but it's close. You feel for Neeson and most of his crew through- -out the picture and they all get their moment to shine with a heartfelt scene (or two).
One character, who I thought was surely going to die soon because he started off as a foil to Neeson's character and the others, actually has a great arc and you end up rooting for him by the end. There are some real heartbreaking moments the characters get that made me tear up more than once. It's a welcome surprise by how good those moments are pulled off.
The plane crash. Bitchin'. About as effective as the crash in CASTAWAY. When it was over, the audience applauded.
The wolves. Excellent. Scary as hell. A few genuine "holy shit" jump moments. Carnahan makes them very effective by showing them at a minimun ala JAWS or ALIEN and they are aided by an excellent sound design that moves them beyond wolves as animals and more like wolves as monsters (in a good way). Even if some of the CG is a touch... CG, you're still scared for the characters to survive them.
Liam Neeson. Buzz was that he could get an Oscar nod for this and he damn well should. Most of the movie he's playing the good ol' reliable Liam Neeson we know and love, but towards the end as the walls close in, holy shit, he brings it. There's one scene in particular where all seems lost where he just loses it emotionally that brought me to tears. It's so raw and true, it just rocks. I don't want to spoil much but when that moment happened, THAT'S where I said to myself "he should get nominated for this".
The one nagging problem. He doesn't fight the wolf with glass knuckles.
At least not in this cut.
EVERYTHING up to that point works and then... it's over. Carnahan is trying to say "It doesn't matter if we see him fight the wolf, he's at peace with himself and his fate and that's enough, emotionally." But it's not. The way the film is being marketed, the trailer, the poster. It's making it look like a NEESON VS. WOLF showdown type thing. And I want to see that! And I bet you do too! I admire Carnahan for trying something ballsy like that, but it's not about going against expectations. It's a major emotional set up with a half pay off.
But I stress, everything else in this movie rocks. I really, really loved it. It just needs an ending. I pray Carnahan is able to get Neeson back and shoot the fight that WE'RE ALL promised. Not just because it's in the marketing or for commercial reasons or because the good guy has to fight the bad guy in the third act etc... it's because the story calls for it. It sets it up through out the film. Watching, you expect it. And you don't get it. It needs to be there.
If Carnahan puts in a final confrontation with the wolf that is emotionally satisfying, this could easily be one of, if not the best "Man Vs Nature" films ever made.
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