‘Black Rock’: Deliver us

May 17, 2013

black rock

Having broken through as a filmmaker with the intriguing and moving “The Freebie,” actress Katie Aselton suffers the sophomore slump with her second film as a director, “Black Rock.”

Written by her husband, Mark Duplass, “Black Rock” is meant to be a “Deliverance”-style thriller, a girls-vs.-boys tale set on a deserted island off the coast of Maine. The girls have boated out there for a weekend getaway, a chance to reconnect and sort old personal grievances.

They’re played by Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth. Then they run into three men who are returned Iraq war veterans, also out for a little r’n’r. One of the women decides to hook up with one of the men – but when he gets too frisky, well, things go too far – and suddenly the men are hunting the women, who are just looking for a way off the island.

Oh, and did I mention that the men reveal themselves as having been dishonorably discharged for violence they perpetrated in Iraq?

That set-up seems perfunctory – and the action goes downhill from there. It feels amateurish, as though it was made up as they went along. Aselton has worked in the past from an outline rather than a script, and it’s hard to know just how scripted this film is. But it feels improvised in all the worst ways.

There’s not a lot of acting because it’s mostly about the action. Action is supposed to define character but, in this case, the characters are not fleshed out enough for us to care about any of them.

The women have their personal issues with each other, but that only feels like filler once the actual plot kicks in. The men are brutish and then mad and dangerous. The violence – because that’s what most of the action consists of – feels phony.

As does the entire film of “Black Rock,” which is both formulaic and as inert as the titular geological formation.

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