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.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A person receives a phone call from an unseen sniper informing him that if he doesn’t obey a set of instructions precisely, he’ll be shot. If he attempts to flee, he’ll also be shot. Off the top of my head I can think of that dopey Colin Farrell movie Phone Booth and the earlier/better Liberty Stands Still. Now I can add Grand Piano to that list.
In this case, the victim (Elijah Wood) isn’t being taught a moral lesson — at least not as such — so it’s slightly different. It’s also set up a bit more plausibly, since the action takes place in an enclosed theater rather than a crowded city street with all the impossible-to-predict variables that entails. The other thing that separates it is some astonishing piano playing.
Though there are moments of character development and a few brutal thrills, the focus is genuinely on the music. The centerpiece is a fictional composition called “La Cinquette,” a song so difficult only a handful of people in the world can play it.
The build-up is so tastefully explained, even if you have no understanding of such things (as I surely do not) you can’t help but sit in rapt attention when Wood finally starts in on “the unplayable piece.” I have no idea what kind of special effects and/or voodoo they used for this stuff because there are numerous closeups in which Woods’ hands and face are fully visible and it always looks like he’s really playing playing these insane pieces of music. Maybe Elijah Wood is secretly a concert-level pianist.
I’m not happy about it but I have to say I’m starting to become a fan of E-Wood. I never thought I’d get over the atrocity he committed against The Lord of the Rings but between this, Maniac and his
Woodshed SpectreVision stuff, he’s starting to win me over. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to hear that.
John Cusack is in this movie too, playing the Wesley Snipes/Kiefer Sutherland sniper character. Without exaggeration or irony, this is his most gripping performance in a long time. Cusack is a little like Ben Kingsley at this point in his career, or to a lesser extent Robert De Niro. All three are still top flight actors but they will take literally any gig, no matter how cheap or rushed.
Cusack is just as likely to appear in a great movie (The Butler) as he is some ridiculous straight-to-VOD crap (The Factory), often in the same year. If you look at his IMDB page, he has EIGHT movies coming out in 2014. Eight! How can someone with such a long and successful career need money that badly? Maybe he’s letting his brother-in-law Paulie manage his money?
Added bonus: BILL S. PRESTON ESQUIRE IS IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE.