This is not, in the end, a tale of hubris brought low, or even of a tacky life staring down a long lens at a tawdry, dwindling death. Instead it’s a chilling parable about the sins of the father becoming the punishments of the son, and about the moral arc of the universe bending, across generations, toward the coldest justice imaginable.
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Michael Thomas’ imposing performance will be the hook for a film that, while executed with Seidl’s typical steely control, might strike his followers as being a touch too familiar – while non-adepts will find its darker dimensions altogether too bleak for comfort.
This stands as one of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s better but not quite best features in a pretty consistent career, not as scurrilously seedy as him at his worst, or as merciless, but not as ambitious or startlingly insightful as his best.
The film fleshes out the perhaps familiar characterizations at its center by tying contemporary wounds to the persistent presence of Europe’s ugly history.
Perhaps this one doesn’t take Seidl’s creative career much further down the road to (or away from) perdition, but it is managed with unflinching conviction, a tremendous compositional sense and an amazing flair for discovering extraordinary locations.
Thomas’ Bravo, recalling both Mikey Saber and Mickey Rourke, has a protruding gut, slicked-back hair, an alcohol problem, and some deep-rooted mommy issues. The film is all his.