Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
I’m a Lena Headey fan. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was (were?) hit or miss, but she was fantastic in Dredd and 300. When I read the Song of Ice and Fire books I actually pictured her as Catelyn, though I admit she’s really come into her own as the boozy queen of Westeros.
In The Broken (Netflix, Amazon Prime) – which, yes, shit title – Headey gives another strong performance. Two, actually. What sets her apart from most shrieking genre starlets is a kind of porcelain stoicism. You get the sense she’s struggling to contain deep wells of emotion that might at any moment erupt through a deceptively delicate exterior. The Broken dumps a bunch of weird shit on Headey’s character without much effort to provide a coherent explanation for any of it. Why do inanimate objects seem to sway when there’s no breeze? Did that guy just flash demon eyes? Why is he drooling? Unsurprisingly, answers to questions like that don’t matter much. The spooky details are just there to chip away at any sense of stability and comfort, and for the most part they do.
While The Broken serves up ample portions of gloomy psychological tension, like many UK thrillers it stumbles when it ventures into physical horror. Those few moments are especially jarring because most of the movie is made up of quiet scenes of pensive dread, punctuated by a tasteful jump scare here or there. Often a stationary camera lingers on a clock or a photograph for an eternity, prompting the audience to wonder what, if anything, it’s supposed to notice. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, a woman is brutally murdered by having a fist rammed down her throat. It’s incongruous and unecessary. Plus it hardly seems like a very practical way to do someone in. I’m not even sure how you die from that. Do you suffocate? Does the fist reach all the way down to a major organ? Or do you just die of shock when you realize there’s an arm in your mouth?
Added bonus: for no apparent reason, the very awesome Richard Jenkins is in this movie. Casting like that fascinates me. Was there some explanation I missed for why his character had to be an American ambassador? Or did the director’s spirit guide order him to cast the dad from Six Feet Under? My money’s on the spirit guide.