Daniel Nava of Chicago Cinema Circuit reviews “Bleed For This,” “Nocturnal Animals,” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”



owever I may want to classify Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, as either Paul Verhoeven or Brian De Palma-lite or some middle-brow rendition of Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, it ultimately comes across as dismissive and in the pejorative. It’s the sort of film that I actively admire even if I end up speaking mostly negatively about it.  Moment to moment, Nocturnal Animals can frustrate or intoxicate, blending components of lurid pulp and melodrama that (barely) function in their perpetual tonal conflict. It’s vapid and trashy and yet so bewildering and crafted with such élan that it’s (almost) respectable.


Last week saw the release of Denis Villeneuve’s somber science-fiction film Arrival in the (literal) wake of Hilary Clinton’s defeated campaign. It’s an eerily humanistic plea that sought for diplomacy above all, and was the kind of solemn exercise that can prove comforting. This week, however, with the release of Ben Younger’s Bleed for This, we confront a heady reality of Great White Anxiety and rejuvenated hyper-individualism. Detailing the story of 1980s boxer Vinny Pazienza, Bleed for This does not merely acknowledge but embraces its totems of white male privilege, bluntly and without irony treating male egocentrism as virtue. This is a film that will rub many the wrong way, just as it will likely become another beacon of hypermasculine admiration for the “silent majority”.


Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the novel, written by Ben Fountain, never struck me as the kind of cultural totem that would survive or warrant much reevaluation. It’s a cumbersome, if not entertaining, depiction of a young man’s act of heroism during wartime and the subsequent media frenzy that comes with valorizing our heroes. It’s largely contained within a football stadium, where Billy Lynn and his compatriots of “Bravo” team are shuttled about like cattle for photo ops, conveying the oft times patronizing aspects of America’s southern quote unquote patriotism. Whatever attempts of profundity that Fountain strains for is usually circumvented through his humor, which is perhaps why the novel is (mistakenly) compared to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. It’s an intriguing contemporary read, but something that’s ultimately too fleeting and inconsequential to mediate on.


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