out of Five
Running time: 80
Engaging, gripping and tightly constructed thriller with a sharp script, effective action sequences and strong performances from all three leads.
What's it all about?
Directed by Katie Aselton (with a script by husband Mark Duplass), Black Rock stars Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Katie Aselton as dysfunctional childhood friends Sarah, Lou and Abby, who get together for a reunion weekend on the remote island of Black Rock, off the coast of Maine. However, their planned bonding – Sarah has essentially tricked the other two into coming along because neither of them have spoken to the other in years – is interrupted by the sudden appearance of ex-soldiers Henry (Will Bouvier), Derek (Jay Paulson) and Alex (Anslem Richardson), one of whom they recognise as an ex-classmate.
When a drunken flirtation between Abby and Henry goes horribly wrong, things quickly spiral out of control and the girls are forced to flee for their lives. However, as things get increasingly desperate, they realise they are going to have to adopt survivalist skills of their own if they're going to make it off the island alive.
The set-up is excellent, particularly the way the film starts off as a sort of indie female relationship drama, before heading into a shocking and altogether unexpected direction. Similarly, the performances are excellent: the girls' interactions feel believable and we genuinely care about their survival. It's also shrewdly cast in terms of audience expectations, with both Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth's characters differing significantly from their usual screen personas (especially Bell, who hitherto has been best known for wisecracking - and film-stealing - supporting roles in trashy romcoms like What Happens In Vegas).
Aselton handles the action sequences well and generates an effectively tense atmosphere throughout, heightened by a superb score from Ben Lovett. She's also not above throwing a little exploitation into the mix, in true genre movie fashion (there are nods to Deliverance).
Duplass' tightly constructed, economical script does a great job of dovetailing the emotional elements and the survivalist thriller tropes: needless to say, the two women who weren't speaking at the beginning are the two women forced to fight together to stay alive.
Similarly, Aselton keeps things moving at a decent pace and has a good eye for a striking image – the final shot of the film is particularly memorable.
Black Rock is a cut above the standard genre fare thanks to a strong script, exciting action sequences, atmospheric direction and superb performances from the three leads. It also marks out co-writer-director-star Katie Aselton as a future talent to watch. Recommended.