Here are my reviews of Broadcast Signal Intrusion and The Oxy Kingpins from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION
Broadcast Signal Intrusion is the cinematic equivalent of a NASCAR driver driving a perfect race, having the lead the entire race only to have his tires blow out in the final lap. It is a film that for the first two acts and even part of the third act, the film was spectacular. I was simply riveted by everything happening in the film and felt that it had the makings to be one of the great movies of 2021 and SXSW. But the film’s confusing and disappointing finale stops the film from true greatness.
Set in Chicago in 1999, the film follows James (Harry Shum Jr.) a video archivist still struggling with the death of his wife who unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion will give you Blow Up vibes sprinkled with a little bit of Zodiac. This is a movie about a man using obsession to cope with loss, only to get lost in it all. Director Jacob Gentry does a masterful job of building tension and intrigue. When James sees the creepy pirate broadcast for the first time, we feel exactly what James feels: shock, confusion, and fascination. But as James digs deeper, the videos become more shocking and terrifying and only take James and us further down a rabbit whole that takes James out of Chicago and to other bizarre places like abandoned storage units and a farm in Joliet and meet a bunch of people who may help or hurt James, a gamble he is willing to take, but one that has us on the edge of our seat.
The look and tone of this movie are great. The movie is reminiscent of a neo-noir with a lot of dark shadows and a dark pallet and a haunting score. Shum Jr. gives a layered, gripping performance and takes us on James’ dark journey emotionally and mentally.
It’s honestly a shame the film botched the ending. The ending wasn’t what I expected, which was fine, because this movie is loaded with twists and turns and a conventional ending would have been worse. But I felt like the ending was rushed and it all happened so quickly and was so chaotic that I am still trying to put everything together. Little progress has been made on that front and I’m still confused. Still, even with the disappointing ending, Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a chilling thriller that will have your mind spinning.
THE OXY KINGPINS
The Oxy Kingpins is a documentary that shows us some of the biggest drug dealers in the world and how they aid in the opioid addiction in America. No, these aren’t the corner-slinging drug dealers you’re used to. These are the CEO’s of major pharmaceutical companies and they do nothing to stop the opioid addiction in America and only help in its growth.
The film starts off very fast, exciting, and interesting. We open talking to a once big-time drug dealer names Alex, who used to sell heroine before he started selling oxycontin. It was interesting to hear Alex talk about the process of how he transitioned from selling heroine to oxycontin and it was shocking to hear how easy it was for him to get the oxycontin, which was as easy as having someone get a simple prescription from a doctor. Alex also talks about his rise and fall as a drug dealer, making over a million dollars a year with his oxycontin business, only for him to get eventually get caught by the feds. I wish the movie focused on Alex the entire time. It was entertaining but also a really in-depth at the life of a big-time drug dealer.
But the film really slows down when it shifts its focus from Alex and his dealing of the oxycontin to focusing on the seemingly never-ending battle of the government versus the pharmaceutical executives and becomes a bit of a slog for a quick, 82-minute documentary. Though heartbreaking to hear what opioids can do to a person and infuriating at how little the executives care about the regulation of their products, none of what was shown here is new or surprising.
The Oxy Kingpins is an interesting enough documentary about America’s opioid addiction, even if none of it is surprising.
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