*NOTE: This review is going to be a CAPSULE review, which means it’ll be a tight, quick critique of the film.
Extracurricular is wild, rambunctious film that subverts the hostage genre. This is a hostage film that is about far more than that hostage that is taking place. This is a movie that looks at broken families, corrupt governments, and a man desperate to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.
The film looks at a recently divorced father (a heartbreaking and intense Milivoj Beader) of a nine-year-old, furious his daughter can’t spend her birthday with him, who bursts into her classroom with a birthday cake and a rifle. A hostage crisis ensues, which brings in the local police, a corrupt politician, and a news reporter looking to crack the next big story.
Director Ivan-Goran Vitez starts the film out as what seems to be a classic hostage film. Vitez does an excellent job of introducing us to the number of important characters that will be utilized throughout the film, making sure we know all the players and what they’re all about. But the film quickly turns into something far more complex and deeper. Vitez doesn’t make our disgruntled father a bad guy, but a lonely man who only wants to see his daughter on her birthday and we watch as the once aggressive angry man turns remorseful and sad.
There is also the B-story of the corrupt mayor (played with an amusing smarm by Zeljko Königsknecht) who looks to use this hostage situation as a way to gain political leverage so close to the election. This part of the film is both the funniest part of the film and the darkest, as the mayor’s plan gets darker and sicker as the day goes on.
The best aspect of Extracurricular is how well Vitez balances tone and genre. This is a movie that looks at the family dynamic and what it means to love your family. It is also a darkly funny political comedy in the same vein as Armando Iannucci as well as unique hostage film the finishes off with wild, unexpected finale. Vitez balances all of these stories, along with a dozen unique characters, to give us a smart, thrilling, funny, emotional, well-acted film that will keep you on the edge until the very end.
Extracurricular is playing at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival in the GLOBAL CURRENTS category.
The 55th Chicago International Film Festival takes place at the AMC River East in Chicago, Illinois from October 16th – October 27th.
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