CANNES FILM REVIEW: Jennifer Lynch’s ‘Surveillance’

surveillance x650By Ray Bennett

CANNES – Jennifer Lynch’s morbid thriller “Surveillance” begins with masked intruders killing people and the slaughter never stops. It’s been 15 years since David Lynch’s daughter gave the world “Boxing Helena,” but she hasn’t lost her interest in minds that are seriously demented.

Somewhere in the desert, two flamboyantly reckless killers are leaving a trail of death including that of a local police office. His colleagues are not best pleased when two assured FBI agents show up to interview three witnesses to the most recent carnage.

With a high splatter quotient and many scenes of deviant humiliation, the film will have its fans even if the eventual twist hardly comes as a surprise and probably isn’t meant to. “Surveillance” will please the B-movie crowd in theaters and on into the ancillaries.

Police Captain Billings (Michael Ironside) and his men are not happy at all when FBI Agents Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman, pictured with Ormond) arrive to take over a case they are keen to solve. It doesn’t help that for all their professionalism the two feds appear to be very tightly wound.

Hallaway separates the three witnesses — a female druggie (Pell James), a little girl (Ryan Simpkins) and a wounded police officer (co-scripter and producer Kent Harper) — and watches them via camera as they relate the horrific incident on a deserted road in which five people were slain.

Each has a different take on what transpired but the agents have reason to believe which ones are lying as the story unfolds in flashbacks.

The film looks great with cinematographer Peter Wunstorf using different stock and inventive angles to good effect while Todd Bryanton’s score helps maintain a constant undercurrent of dread. Lynch fills the screen with elements that some viewers of the film will want to go back to watch more than once, although not this one.

Venue: Festival de Cannes, Out of Competition; Cast: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, Kent Harper, Michael Ironside; Director: Jennifer Lynch; Screenwriters: Jennifer Lynch, Kent Harper; Director of photography: Peter Wunstorf; Production designer Sara McCudden; Music: Todd Bryanton; Costume designer: Cathy McComb; Editor: Daryl K. Davis; Producers: Kent Harper, Marco Mehlitz, David Michaels, Stephen Onda; Executive producers: Gary Hamilton, Harrison Kordestani, David Lynch; No MPAA rating; running time, 98 mins.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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