Kristen Stewart steals David Cronenberg’s ‘Crimes of the Future’
Future Crimes (2022)
Neon/Rated R/107 mins
Written and directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Robert Lantos
With Léa Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman, Don McKellar and Wilket Bungué
Cinematography by Douglas Koch, editing by Christopher Donaldson with music by Howard Shore
Limited theatrical release June 3 courtesy of Neon
One problem that comes with being a filmmaker whose name is shorthand for a specific type of movie or TV show is that even your all-solid variation on your genuine article threatens to turn out to be relatively outdated. or not so different from the above. This goes double for filmmakers who venture outside of their comfort zone and then return to their favorite sandbox, as often the film in question can feel more about reclaiming old glories than pushing boundaries. Future Crimes, which David Cronenberg originally wrote two decades ago, marks his unofficial return to so-called “body horror.” Like any recent/future Tim Burton fantasy, a Cronenberg movie of this nature has to contend with past glories and decades of films made by filmmakers who grew up in his shadow.
The film, whose release is limited this weekend, flirts with this enigma but skates on an unusual technicality. It’s a chilling sci-fi thriller that’s horrifying precisely because it’s not treated like a horror movie. It’s not particularly mysterious and there’s hardly any urgency to its crime-meets-art plot. Rather, the dark but often comically morbid image is a biased commentary from the master himself taking stock of his generational influence and, much like Steven Spielberg at the end of Loan player one, finding him willing. Beyond its metatextual value, it’s a grimy, understated, and often face-value game anchored by two moody performances (Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux) and enhanced by an unusually luscious and stylized performance courtesy of Kristen Stewart. The movie earns an extra kick in the ass every time she appears.
She is one of a handful of supporting players (alongside, flippantly, Scott Speedman and Wilket Bungué) in this claustrophobic, small-scale indie, as the over-excited assistant at the National Organ Registry. With, uh… coughing reverently-coughing… she plays the part with an unusual vocal chuckle, sometimes coming off a bit like Keifer Sutherland in dark city. He’s an almost cartoonish character in an otherwise close-to-vest movie, and I mean that as a compliment because it’s 100% entertaining. Beyond Stewart, everyone does what is expected for this unsurprising drama (as befits the budget and scope). The central hook, a world where humans can block out pain and thus choose to undergo selective and often outrageous self-surgery, provides most of the glare. If the film has a “fatal” flaw, it’s because its subtext is more interesting than its text.
The film presents a future world, represented by dank, dark interiors, black shadows and muffled whispers, where (as the tagline goes) “surgery is the new sex”. The fact that the film centers its narrative on a tortured older male performer (in more ways than one) can’t help but make everything feel quasi-autobiographical or confessional, but the film’s superficial narrative is just that. There’s a major moral dilemma involving questions of consent when it comes to post-mortem performance art, and a slow-building subplot concerning the proverbial next phase of human evolution (no spoilers, but this concerns how humans might adapt to a waste-ravaged planet). But otherwise, it’s a slow, stationary piece of unnecessarily calm indie fantasy that rests its laurels mainly on its lofty concept and the craftsmanship expected of an icon that “accepts no substitutes”.
However, if Cronenberg playing in a sandbox he helped define for an entire generation is enough, then you’ll get what you came for. Future Crimes. The film’s basic gimmick, that the characters treat its gruesome imagery as just another day at the office, also negates the emotional impact of its more grotesque imagery. Simply put, when you know the parts aren’t hurting, it eases our empathic agony. There are some interesting ideas throughout its 107 minute runtime, including the puzzling notion of an ‘inner beauty contest’, and again I got a kick out of the counter-type performance. of Stewart. Whether Future Crimes doesn’t quite compare to the filmmaker’s previous modern classics, well, honestly, I don’t expect Cameron Crowe to waltz on one set and give us another almost known That is.