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Black Rock

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Katie Aselton's smart-till-it-isn't thriller Black Rock centers on a tense scene of hero-pantsing and gender inversion. The piece-of-shit bad guys, vets of our desert wars, have tied up a trio of Massachusetts women who sport New Girl bangs and an understanding that this world has a use for them. The vets-- who throughout most of movie history would be the heroes-- have all been dishonorably discharged, are given to fits of inarticulate rage, and stand psyched to gut the women. But the women-- who throughout most of movie history would be saved by some other soldier-- turn out to be the one thing these killers can't handle. One of them, Abbie (Katie Aselton, who also directed) faces down the lead killer and snarls, "You fucking pussy!" This throws the bad guys, gives the women the chance to light out into the wilderness, and sets us up for what the press notes call "a dangerous game of cat and mouse." (Is there any other kind?) The story and its violence are deeply silly, but there's something nervy and upsetting, too. Here’s a bloody babes-in-the-woods adventure flick whose leads suffer great viciousness at the hands of the dregs of the American military. Black Rock upends most American action films' nativist impulses, but it never quite settles into satirizing or transcending them. Instead, after a strong setup, it offers the usual escalating skirmishes and brutal climax in the service of a mirror-image fear: not that the country might be taken away, but that it might be taken back.

Alan Scherstuhl

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