The Keeping Room & Momentum
A tale of karmic and vengeful retribution plays out in the waning days of the American Civil War.
The Keeping Room offers up assault suspense not unlike the original Straw Dogs. Three women take refuge in their Southern mansion and fight off a group of “rogue Union soldiers.” A superlative cast includes Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, along with newcomers Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller. A prologue establishes Worthington and Soller as unforgiving thugs, the latter rapes and kills his victims while the former just plains shoots people in the head. Nice to see Worthington playing a real gruff bad guy, the total opposite of most of his leading man roles.
Director Daniel Barber finds a kind of picturesque beauty in the woods and countryside of the Deep South. One scene has the femmes framed in the front while in the background a grand democracy of forest of tree sways slightly as the skies reflect a barrage of distant cannon fire. Barber hails from London and his previous feature film was the revenge actioner Harry Brown, starring Michael Caine.
Keeping Room shows an ability to move between scenes of gunplay and more lyrical sequences where characters stop and talk to each other. Steinfeld plays a traumatized orphan who’s taken in by Marling, herself tending to her farm with the help of her slave Mad (Otaru).
The Keeping Room opens in an exclusive engagement at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park starting Friday, October 16.
Another exclusive, Momentum, opening at the AMC Gulf Point stars Olga Kurylenko as a freelance bank robber with a secret agent past.
On one hand it’s refreshing to see Kurylenko playing the sort of routine action role played by male counterparts. On the other hand how does an assassination team shoot up a hotel floor with ear blasting weapons and yet just waltz away because nobody called the police. Momentum grounds itself not in real life crime but rather in fetishizing the accouterments of the crime.
That means an emphasis on some space age crime suits the robbers use that covers them head to toe in rubbery outfits with helmets equipped with voice modification devices so you can’t tell if the baddies are men, women or robots. It also means that Kurylenko goes from action sequence to action sequence in some rather hot robes and dresses. Of course the main villain has Kurylenko striped down to her undies while they torture her leg in a vice, a warehouse set piece that actually turns out to be the best part of the film. Morgan Freeman (briefly) and James Purefoy show up for scenery chewing.
— Michael Bergeron