Nightcrawler was frightening and creepy. In that film, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a rogue videographer who caters his services to network head Renee Russo. Theirs is a relationship of use and abuse, and a partnership of drawing in money and building a rep. Nightcrawler is a film that prompts heavy conversation, or a shower, which makes for the best type of film.
Writer/Director Dan Gilroy’s follow up is akin to ordering a signature cocktail at an Iowa honky-tonk: lacking, disappointing, and forgettable.
Velvet Buzzsaw, a horror/comedy set in the ultra-competitive and acceptably-incestuous LA modern art scene, is as silly as it is campy. The film is safe, instead of edgy; mindless instead of biting.
Relying again on the talents of Gyllenhaal and Russo, with an underused assist by John Malkovich, is the only thing preventing this Netflix original from being consigned to the MOCA back room.
Gyllenhaal plays a top-tier art critic who experiments with the whole friends-with-benefits routine. Said friend works for a top-tier art gallery run by the ruthless, ex-punk rocker Russo and discovers a roomful of paintings left behind by a dead artist. Paintings mixed… with the artist’s blood. But before the Vincent Price cackle can commence, said plot element is washed away with an ample helping of thinner. Gilroy instead focuses much of the film on art scene satire. Creepiness traded in for goofiness; thoughtfulness with questioning. Gyllenhaal and Russo retain a bootleg reproduction of their needing relationship. This needed to shine in Technicolor; instead it was muted into a Kansas gray.
Velvet Buzzsaw is wildly inconsistent and ultimately disappointing. Instead of finding that lost Rembrandt, Netflix paints us a McDonald’s Value Meal: greasy, ubiquitous, and partially digestible.