Capsule reviews for May 10

Aftershock

This gritty, low-budget take on the disaster film takes place in Chile, where friends Gringo (Eli Roth), Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) are enjoying a week of tropical scenery and exotic women. Their vacation is shattered when a massive earthquake strikes a nightclub in a coastal town, causing chaos and destruction, and turning their getaway into a fight for survival in more ways than one. The tense disaster sequence is a highlight, establishing a level of suspense that the rest of the film cannot match. The cosmopolitan cast never develops much chemistry, and the script settles into a predictable pattern of gory mayhem. (Rated R, 89 minutes).

 

Java Heat

Its independent roots can’t disguise the Hollywood conventions in this thriller that takes place on the titular Indonesian island, where a Marine posing as an American graduate student (Kellan Lutz) forms an unlikely partnership with a Muslim detective (Ario Bayu) after a suicide bombing. Their target is a terrorist (Mickey Rourke) trying to steal valuable jewels. There’s an international component to the usual buddy-cop premise, but the two stars lack chemistry and Rourke as the villain seems to be the only actor not taking this mess seriously. Despite some appealing exotic locales, the action sequences and plot twists are right off the genre assembly line. (Rated R, 104 minutes).

 

No One Lives

The abundant gore isn’t the only carnage in this ridiculous low-budget revenge thriller in which the title essentially describes it all. The film follows a wealthy young couple on a cross-country road trip abducted by a gang of serial killers. But the tables are turned when the driver (Luke Evans) displays a sociopathic side of his own, resulting in a series of grisly and elaborate death sequences. Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) brings a stylish touch to the lurid material. However, the script only succeeds at providing unintentional humor, with a structure devoid of meaningful surprises and an emphasis on macho posturing. (Rated R, 86 minutes).

 

Sightseers

It’s usually difficult to find serial killers who are sympathetic and even charming, but this amusing dark comedy does just that without sacrificing its moral compass. Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) are lovers who take a vacation together in Yorkshire, discovering that their impulsive passion is deepened by a twisted mutual attraction to murder. Director Ben Wheatley (Kill List) delicately balances the sardonic quirks and sadistic gore without allowing the film to descend into cartoonish territory. Instead, its familiar structure remains driven by characters. The performances are sharp, with bonus points for a scene-stealing turn by Eileen Atkins as Tina’s disapproving mother. (Not rated, 88 minutes).

 

Venus and Serena

Love them or hate them, tennis aficionados have to admit that the Williams sisters have revolutionized the sport. This straightforward documentary provides only modest insight into their upbringing in Compton, Calif., their relationship to their ruthless father who drove them to be successful in the sport, their inseparable camaraderie with one another, struggles with racism and fame, and their legacy with fans and the media. Specifically, the film focuses on a challenging 2011 season for both sisters while looking back on their careers. It might allow further appreciation of their accomplishments, but the one-sided approach too easily glosses over the more controversial aspects of their lives. (Rated PG-13, 99 minutes).

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