At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

NEVER LET GO (SONY)

By • Sep 25th, 2017 •

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DVD review by Roy Frumkes

Howard and Jonathan Ford had a fascinating franchise going. THE DEAD (2010) was set somewhere in Africa, followed by THE DEAD 2: INDIA (2013). I really thought they were going to have their zombies visit a new country in each film. What a collection that would have been, like getting all the United States quarters.

But….they’ve moved on. NEVER LET GO is written, directed and co-produced by Howard Ford. Brother Jonathan is not involved this time. But the wonderful sense of place that distinguished their former films is here in full bloom. It would have been on the short list of Best Locations of the Year if I’d seen it two years ago during its original release.

The box cover proclaims “They’ve taken from the wrong mother.” Of course what we have here is a variation on TAKEN, one of the great exploitations films of the 2000’s. The Liam Neesin thriller was one of the most successfully linear films I’ve ever seen and, as was proved in the two pleasant sequels, tinder doesn’t go up again so easily. The same can be said of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW’s creators’ failed attempt at a similar, subsequent crowd pleaser.

The challenge here was to cleave as closely as possible to the elements of TAKEN that made it such a superb entertainment, while introducing enough new elements to the formula to keep it from being reviled as an out-and-out retread.

So right off the bat, it’s a female protagonist whose child is stolen, not a man, and that, in today’s environment, is a change with lots of implications and narrative opportunities. Angela Dixon plays the vulnerable yet lethal mother whose infant daughter is snatched in what seems to be a blonde-baby-for-sale scheme in an Arab country. Turns out not to be exactly what it seems, but that is third act stuff so I’m leaving it alone for the purposes of this review. Our emotionally-compromised (enough so that she’s established as taking serious meds) mother shifts into first gear and goes after the kidnappers, wreaking mayhem and serious damage to all those standing in her way, which includes both the bad guys and the police.

The chases through Moroccan streets and bi-ways are beautiful and riveting. This is Ford in his element, aided by Location Manager Jaouad El Kaciimi. Later on, when we reach those script pages – usually around page 70 – where keeping the energy up is a trial for most screenwriters, the film does falter, and the increasing use of slo-mo shots to signal emotional stress is misconceived and over used. [Howard, believe me, I’ve written 25 screenplays, created a franchise, did script doctoring in Hwood, and even teach screenwriting at The School of Visual Arts. Please take it seriously when I ask, what harm would cutting out two minutes do? It would still be over 90 minutes long. I recommend whittling some of the slo-mo stuff down, even as late as now. Call it a new director’s cut.] Toward the end it picks up again, and it wraps up quite well, with some gratifying third act twists.

Ms. Dixon is appropriate and effective. Her close-up profiles are not particularly attractive. In head-on dramatic shots and action long shots the camera likes her better, slim, lithe, and compelling. She runs well, fights well, and exudes concern. You believe in her resourcefulness and frustration. I assumed she was a former stunt woman, but could find no evidence of that.

Ms. Dixon receives staunch support from Velibor Topic, Heather Peace and Rami Nasr. Cinematography (Travellian Skipaldi) and editing (Peter Dobson) are exemplary and in great part make the film the fun experience it is.

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