New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg’s films were a necessary lesson as I got better reviewing movies. I don’t particularly care for what Cronenberg sells the audience, but there’s clearly a lot of thought and care put into his vision, making rating one of his films always a difficult task. Expect a lot of coded language about Crimes of the Future from me: a film I admire in its vision but couldn’t quite meet on its level. Maybe it’s just not for me I guess? See? Those word choices are out of respect to David Cronenberg, crafting a world and vision wholly his own, for someone that isn’t me.

In the near future, Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux) are performance artists. Their art is surgery; in this time and place, humanity can’t feel pain anymore, and according to the government is perfectly evolved, so Saul uses his “disease” where his body naturally produces new organs to his advantage, publicly removing them in live surgical performance art. This “disease” makes Saul and Caprice mini celebrities with their performances, attracting investigators from the National Organ Registry Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart) as well as strange folk like the twitchy Lang (Scott Speedman) who want to use Saul and Caprice for their own special purposes.

Crimes is best when it lets Cronenberg be as weird as possible. That basically means the more time we spend in “futuristic surgical performance art” land, the better. I wish the movie didn’t spell it out, but clearly in a world without pain, “surgery is the new sex,” and every actor in this movie commits hard to this new belief. Props especially to Kristen Stewart, who appears ready to mount any surgical device that turns her on at a moment’s notice, and Viggo Mortensen, playing a “porn star.” The art displays range from this future’s version of a porno to straight up demonic nightmare in their depiction, finding that sweet spot of 2 parts deadly serious, 1 part ludicrously silly. The little details Cronenberg keeps adding into this world suck you in, only to have you laugh in your confusion as to how Cronenberg’s mind ended up where it did.

But when the plot rears its annoying head is when Crimes of the Future starts to fray at the edges. This particular Cronenberg movie is too big with its world; I would prefer Crimes to be like a 6 episode TV show to flesh out the other parts of this movie going on. Without spoiling, there’s a conspiracy, climate change is involved, and there’s thriller like confusing character motivations that all get crammed into this story. With no room to breathe, we get bare bones versions of everything, softening their impact and distracting from the weird fun stuff. Fortunately these side plots aren’t around enough to lose the audience completely, but you will find yourself wanting to check your phone a time or two until two naked ladies crawl into a humanoid surgical pod to feel sexual pleasure.

And that’s your Rorschach test for Crimes of the Future. If that last sentence made you go “that’s stupid”, then this isn’t your film. But if each word in that sentence made your eyes light up, then get the hell outta here to the nearest theatre as possible. And if you want to go see it because of the words “naked ladies,” go see it, but bring a camera of yourself watching the movie, and send that to me, so I can laugh at the extended disappointment you are going to feel.

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