Monday, April 16, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Tyrannosaur (2011) ***

NR, 92 min.
Director/Writer: Paddy Considine
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell, Ned Dennehy, Samuel Bottomley, Sally Carman

Paddy Considine’s “Tyrannosaur” begins with a scene that disturbed me to the core. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as disturbing were I not a dog person, but even a cat person might take umbrage with it. The fact that this scene is offensive to someone who enjoys animals doesn’t mean the movie is bad. The impact of this opening is important to the filmmakers’ purpose.

The film depicts a brute of a man who exists in an near constant state of rage. What he does to his own dog at the opening of the movie is a wake up call for him. He loves his dog despite his brutality against it. Sometimes it takes a relationship that exists on a simple level to show us our souls. This man of rage begins to try to be different. The movie has no illusions that such a character change is an easy or even a permanent thing.

The great Scottish actor Peter Mullan plays the man. Mullan has been submitting quietly unsettling performances in films like “Riff-Raff”, “The Claim”, and even “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” for over 20 years, but most Americans wouldn’t recognize him. This is one of his rare roles that gives him a chance to stretch into a character that has a full arc. He’s really very good.

He meets a woman in his attempt to reform. Played by Olivia Colman, she offers him help, which he rudely rejects at first. The heart inside his cold core won’t allow him to leave her alone. I love how the Brits don’t feel the need to cast a supermodel in the lead female role. She has her own demon in the form of an abusive husband, played by another great British character actor, Eddie Marsan, best known as Inspector Lestrade from “Sherlock Holmes”.

Any time a movie goes down such dark paths, it is difficult for it to find a satisfactory course. In the case of “Tyrannosaur”, it takes some more typical turns of people suddenly realizing they have a heart and kindness they’d never seen before. But, it also doesn’t give the characters any breaks in the end. It understands that bad people can be good and good people can be bad. It’s how they live up to their actions that make them interesting or not.

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