Dan Gilroy directs Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Zawe Ashton in this horror comedy that satirises the conceptual art world.
Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler and Roman J Israel locked into unhinged characters whose outsider status was exacerbated by capitalist greed to criminal ends. They were superior cinematic character studies; gifting their respective movie star leads the chance to explore dark shadows in their range without going full “comic book villain”. One would have hoped Velvet Buzzsaw would have seen Gilroy and Gyllenhaal reunite to recreate that old Nightcrawler magic in the pretentious and mercenary art world. And while Gyllenhaal is fantastic as the bisexual taste gatekeeper ‘Morf’ and Gilroy does essay the corrupt ways this industry generates profit over preservation… it just is too unfocused. Not enough Morf, not enough comedy, and biteless horror. The scares, as gallery works come to life to kill, often feel like messy first draft afterthoughts. They lack irony and happen to characters who are so one-note awful you cannot care for them. Essentially you have a lot of talented people making a film that might have gone direct-to-video in the 1990s. It went straight to Netflix this year but I’m assuming all involved thought they were making a prestige project for the streaming service, not Wishmaster: The Jackson Pollock Years.