Lizzie

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: R for grisly violence, nudity, a sexual scene.

Theaters: Edina, Oakdale Ultracinema, Rosedale, Showplace Icon.

 

There is something freeing about the savage killings in this distinctly feminist take on the notorious Lizzie Borden, history’s most famous, if unproven, mom-and-pop slayer.

As played with fierce conviction by Chloë Sevigny (whose longtime fascination with Borden led her to commission the script), Lizzie is headstrong, wily and, possibly, an epileptic. A 32-year-old society spinster in one of Massachusetts’ wealthiest families, she moves resolutely through the gloomy Borden household, every creak and groan contributing to its coffinlike atmosphere.

The arrival of Bridget (Kristen Stewart, wary and watchful), a deceptively timid Irish maid, arouses Lizzie’s interest and her father’s, too: twin longings that will help explain Lizzie’s eventual violence and subvert a plot reeking with male power.

The murders are framed as a cathartic response to years of oppression by her miserly father (Jamey Sheridan) and loathed stepmother (Fiona Shaw). When Lizzie strips naked before hacking her two tormentors to slivers, her nudity isn’t simply practical: It’s the repudiation of a 19th-century wardrobe that controlled women’s movements as thoroughly as men did.

“Lizzie” isn’t perfect — the pacing flags — but Sevigny’s intelligence and formidable control keep the melodrama grounded. Her empathy for Borden, whose fragile constitution belies a searing will, is palpable.

Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

 

 

 

Blaze

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: R for profanity, sex, drug use.

Theater: Lagoon.

 

Director and co-writer Ethan Hawke’s rambling, low-key look at country-blues singer Blaze Foley (played by folk-rock musician Ben Dickey in a craftily immersive acting debut) is a film for the most patient and mellow of viewers.

Although this overlong, shaggy slice of musical Americana offers many rewards, especially for fans of the kind of sad and soulful tunes that form the film’s backbone, it may prove too slow and idiosyncratic for those used to more propulsive, accessibly told biopics — or movies in general.

Nonetheless, Hawke shows a clear passion for his subject as well as for the often singular, eccentric route by which creative expression finds its voice.

That Hawke so closely aligns his cinematic style with the story’s disorderly, scruffily offbeat characters and settings is both a strength and a liability. His kaleidoscopic, at times ghostly, approach proves a valiant if studied effort, one that occasionally calls to mind Terrence Malick’s 2017 free-form music drama, “Song to Song.”

For the uninitiated, Blaze Foley (whose real name was Michael David Fuller) was a singer and songwriter who was part of the Texas outlaw music movement from the mid-1970s until his 1989 death at age 39.

The script is by Hawke and Foley’s onetime wife and muse, Sybil Rosen, based on her 2008 memoir, “Living in the Woods in a Tree.” (Yes, they lived in a treehouse.) It swings, glides, leaps and overlaps among the various stages of his life. The script’s phraseology keeps its subject at a kind of mythical arm’s length, depriving us of some of the straighter answers and feelings inquiring minds might want to know.

Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

Crime + Punishment

⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Unrated

Theater: St. Anthony Main.

 

This documentary, which won a special jury award for social impact at the Sundance Film Festival, meticulously and dismayingly exposes the practice of New York City police officers being expected to meet monthly quotas for arrests and summonses.

Though the practice supposedly was outlawed in 2010, director Stephen Maing focuses on a group of officers who said they were pressured to still meet quotas and punished when they refused to comply. Supervisors are recorded threatening reprisals against the officers, some of whom are then disciplined for trivial infractions, given undesirable assignments and blocked when they seek promotion.

The officers, mostly Latino and African-American, see the quotas as both a symptom and a cause of the antagonistic relationship between the police and the public, especially young, nonwhite men. Their story unfolds alongside another case, in which a private investigator tries to exonerate a young Latino charged with a shooting. Maing illuminates how abusive policing, the cash bail system, political paralysis and other factors combine to form a web of injustice that often ensnares the innocent.

While the film is New York-centric, the emotions it stirs are not. Maing brings viewers into the daily lives of police officers, some of them veterans with decades of service behind them, who are willing to risk their careers for what they believe is right.

a.o. Scott, New York Times