Don’t’ kill me, Furioza, and Choose or Die.
This started out as my weekly review round-up for the latest movies that I’ve seen on Netflix, but the news broke out about Netflix’s public loss of subscribers and their subsequent plans to cut back on animation projects, which sparked some reactions that I wanted to share. To my good fortune, the movies that I saw from the service this past week all encompass the various reactions I have after seeing new titles announced from Netflix in the past year subject to their background and origins.
Don’t Kill me, for example, seems to be a production that was finished and purchased by Netflix at a later date (at least the streaming rights). Directed by Andrea De Sica, based on a book by Chiara Palazzolo with writing credits for the movie given to the director and 6 (!) other writers, and starring Alice Pagani as Mirta, a teenager who overdoses with her boyfriend Robin (Rocco Fasano) but is brought back to life under mysterious circumstances and has an intense craving for human blood. In short, it’s Twilight but grittier and Italian. My reaction to this was one of cautiousness; I’ve seen this type of movie before being a horrendous experience like A Classic Horror Story or The Open House, but I’ve seen it be great like His House or a solid experience like No one gets out alive. Stylish, often non-English productions that have a cool premise and seem to have a handle on what they want the movie to be. Don’t Kill me is mostly a boring, good-looking, and competently made movie that has a few neat ideas it doesn’t explore and leaves the audience with an unsatisfactory experience that at least provides solid visuals and strong lead performance.
I had a similar reaction to the next movie reveal, Furioza, but it turned out to be a solid experience. Originally a 4-episode limited series for Canal+, it was adapted and reformatted as a feature film for Netflix, directed by Cyprian T. Olencki, with writing credits given to the director, Tomasz Klimala, and Tomasz Dembicki. It stars Mateusz Banasiuk as Dawid, a doctor, and ex-hooligan who is suddenly visited by his ex Dzika (Weronika Ksialkiewicz) and told that she now is part of a task force that is aiming to take down the organization that his brother (Wojciech Zielinski) is running, but she is willing to strike a deal with him if Dawid infiltrates the organization and helps the cops bring them down. Not the most original concept or the tightest of executions, but Furioza has pretty great fight scenes and delivers a good experience in the ‘football-hooligans’ sub-genre of crime dramas. It suffers from poor pacing and themes that are a staple of the genre (as well as this movie) such as loyalty, family, and the excitement of such illicit activities being a poisoned chalice that will lead to misery, essentially being a set dressing that gets little to no focus. Having said that, there is such a dryness in this genre and so many poor attempts at it that Furioza’s ‘by the book’ approach and solid execution is enough to recommend and enjoy.
Lastly, Choose or Die had me morbidly curious to see how awful it would turn out to be. From the trailer alone I could see the cheap scares, laughable story, and ‘elevator pitch’ concept that clearly doesn’t have a lot going on. This is a boring movie with no interesting aspects whatsoever; the horror seems to flip from Saw-styled torture and gore to YA-oriented tropes; the story hints at social issues, but it feels like pandering, like using long and fancy words to sound smart when you know what you’re saying is dumb; the performances are awful and the directing is even worse. This is the kind of movie that Netflix has allowed in its service more often these days and it is a contributing factor to that loss of subscribers; the worst offense for any type of entertainment is to conjure no reaction from the person experiencing it. Choose or Die only managed to create one question in my head: Why? What did it want to be? What was it going for? What was the point?
I think that reaction is what harms current Netflix more than anything else. I’ve seen shows and movies on Netflix I haven’t enjoyed (that is part of entertainment in general), but I’ve rarely felt like they were pointless, yet during this past year I’ve often found that to be the case. They still make great shows and movies, and for a period of time they managed to get a “viral” hit every couple of months, but all the goodwill starts draining when apathetic entertainment gets dumped in the service. Just in the previous Netflix review round-up I did, movies like Lady Bug and The Privilege are movies I disliked, but the latter in particular made me feel nothing; I can see how Lady Bug is for a very specific audience and I was not part of that, but I can’t imagine how anyone can see The Privilege and be entertained by it. Netflix’s strength, when compared to other services, is its diversity; from pop culture phenomenons like Stranger Things and Squid Game to documentaries like Making a Murdered and Wild Wild Country, award-winning films like The Irishman and Power of the Dog. In that collection I could add (for each category) a “hidden gem” that most wouldn’t remember it was actually a Netflix original; Bojack Horseman, Dick Johnson is dead, Okja. That diversity can only be maintained by taking risks and looking at options from all over the world, but Netflix hasn’t managed a gem like The Ritual or a decent genre-flick like Eli in such a long time (The Trip from 2021 being an exception). Cutting down on animation is not the way to stop this downward trend. The only way to stop it is to stop treating its audience like a hungry pig that will devour anything thrown at it; I don’t mind Mute because that was an attempt at something that didn’t succeed. I feel like my time is wasted when watching Choose or Die or any other pointless “content” just thrown in to keep numbers high for investment meetings. It is widely assumed that the recent drop in subscribers has been due to Netflix suspending its service in Russia, but the company cites direct competitors like Disney+ and Hulu as reasons for the decrease as well. Each service comes with its own set of perks and cons, but Netflix’s perks (a service with quality and quantity for every taste) have started to fall behind, while their cons (a lot of the content is of lesser quality) are starting to become more of an issue, and the company needs to find a way to lure back subscribers before their stumble becomes a fall.