‘Black Rock’ falls back on disappointingly familiar ingredients

Black RockBlack Rock
Directed by Katie Aselton
Screenplay by Mark Duplass
Story by Katie Aselton
2012, USA

Three best friends on a wilderness excursion find themselves in grave danger after an unfortunate encounter with a trio of x-war vets, on a hunting trip. Sound familiar? This indie, female-centric take on Deliverance features a great cast (Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth and Katie Aselton), decent cinematography and a tense score – but what starts brimming with potential, becomes nothing more than an average (at best) thriller.

Triple-threat director/co-writer/actor Katie Aselton, working with a script from husband Mark Duplass (co-writer of Jeff, Who Lives at Home, among others), sets up a battle-of-the-sexes; but sadly the feminist overtones just aren’t enough. This backwoods survival thriller resembles a number of films ranging from The Most Dangerous Game to I Spit on Your Grave to the cult 1976 post-Vietnam fable Shoot. But Black Rock is nowhere near as groundbreaking as Dangerous Game, nor as gutsy as Grave nor as political as Shoot. Filmmakers have often taken a very basic premise and used it as a dais to explore larger themes, but Black Rock fails to do so. I kept waiting for Black Rock to turn into something more: a deep mediation on gender roles, or even an examination of the government’s wavering response to the veterans returning home. But Black Rock ultimately falls back on disappointingly familiar ingredients and what follows is a game of cat and mouse between two war vets and a couple of beautiful women who put up a fight with sticks and stones.

The cast of ladies turn in wildly physical, primal performances but we don’t really get to know any of these women, so it’s hard to feel invested in the characters beyond hoping for their survival. Once the script shifts from drama to horror, it gets increasingly routine. 83 minutes roll by, only to sit and watch a predictable and clumsy climax unfold – and by the end, viewers can’t tell the difference between the good girls and bad guys.

– Ricky D

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