You Must Watch The Most Underrated Sci-Fi Crime Thriller On HBO Max ASAP
Sci-Fi Thrillers can fall through the cracks.
Especially in the midst of a busy summer season, it is always the responsibility of a studio’s marketing department to ensure that audiences show up. Original concept science fiction requires marketing that signals both the strength of its distribution and the general appeal of its premises.
When it comes to big studio sci-fi, the well has also been basically poisoned at this point by years of generic, underwhelming cinema that doesn’t do much except blow the conceptual fumes of the previous films. All this to say that when Close released in theaters in the summer of 2018, the odds were against it.
Not only were the public looking elsewhere, with studio behemoths like Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the mega, and Crazy Rich Asians (no more surprise Research) still dominates the box office. But Lionsgate had marketed the film mostly after the fact. Perhaps too scattered by the August heatwave, the studio had launched a solid performer, the comedy The spy who dumped me, a few weeks earlier, and he was already in the process of marketing Paul Feig’s brighter asset A simple favor, next month.
So when Close debuted to the tune of $ 3.1million nationally, a quick drop in the bargain basket seemed inevitable even before registering one of the biggest collapses of the second weekend in history , making $ 804,401 in her graduate school. (Translation: ouch.) Now that the movie is streaming on HBO Max, here’s why it deserves a second chance to find a bigger audience.
Jonathan and Josh Baker directed Close to extend their short film Men’s bag, who had starred at SXSW in 2015. In addition to the initial premise of the short, the film follows a young boy named Eli (Myles Truitt, who will next appear in Strange things) who runs away with his ex-convict older brother, Jimmy (Environmentis Jack Reynor).
Essentially a hot crime thriller with a sci-fi twist, Close establishes a gritty, real-world motive for the brothers’ escape and a more genre-appropriate complication that will influence its ultimate direction.
While searching for copper wire for sale in an abandoned Detroit building, Eli came across the wreckage of a high-tech skirmish between the forces of the future. In all the rubble and between the armored corpses, Eli finds a strange device that activates on contact. Dreaming about this high-tech machinery, he later retrieves it, hiding the device in the house he shares with his adoptive father Hal (Dennis Quaid).
Meanwhile, brother Jimmy – Hal’s eldest biological son – has returned home on parole, much to Hal’s dismay. He owes protection money, and a sizable sum, to a local crime lord named Taylor (James Franco, suitably menacing). After begging Hal to help him steal the necessary funds from Hal’s employer, Jimmy finds himself on the street, where he decides to break into the office safe and steal it himself. But when Hal anticipates this and shows up to intervene, Taylor shoots him. Devastated, Jimmy retaliates, killing Taylor’s brother and running away.
Feeding Eli a lie about their father’s whereabouts, Jimmy comes out of the dodge and brings his brother with him to keep him safe – not realizing that Eli has put the mysterious weapon in his bag. Swinging in a dive bar, the two meet heart-to-heart stripper Milly (Zoë Kravitz), only for Jimmy to get lost and draw the club owner’s ire. At this point, Eli panics and shoots the gun, causing a pool table to explode into pieces. Unbeknownst to one of them, firing the weapon causes it to emit an energy signature, one that two ominous (and admittedly resembling Daft Punk) characters on motorcycles detect and quickly begin to hunt down. .
At this point everything CloseThe moving parts of are starting to fall into place, especially as it becomes clear that Taylor is not far behind Jimmy and Eli. When Milly joins them on their unmistakably unhappy road trip, she begins a romance with Jimmy and takes on a somewhat motherly role towards Eli. Without the chemistry that Kravitz builds with Reynor, this plot development would collapse. Instead, she has a certain hard charisma that uplifts the strength of Closeall.
Always, Close is above all a showcase for its two male protagonists. As a lifelong misfire, taking into account the brutal consequences of his desperate decision-making, Reynor provides the necessary pain and pathos. He has an excellent track record as Truitt, a young naturalistic actor whose expressive and astonishing traits serve as a track record for the film’s emotional twists and its eventual transformation into a more Spielbergian sci-fi vehicle.
Faster than you think, Close approaches its final centerpiece: a tense shootout at a police station, where all parties interested in Eli, Jimmy, and their mysterious weapon converge in a hail of explosions and bullets. Taylor comes in first, which is in keeping with the tone of Close like a crime thriller based on a young man’s efforts to lift his family out of the deadly position he has put them in.
But when the aforementioned masked characters on motorcycles appear, the information they need to share with Eli sends Close in a more enigmatic, synthesizer-focused sci-fi space. (The ambient score, by the Scottish post-rock band Mogwai, is an area in which Close looks like a much bigger movie than its failed theatrical release supports.)
And given that Truitt will appear in the fourth season of Strange things, it’s interesting to consider what a terrific audition tape this film must have made. While Eli is forced to contemplate the existence of warring worlds apart from his own, Truitt displays a raw gravity that keeps the film anchored in place (if not, to risk spoiler, time).
Close features two more solid performances from big Hollywood stars. Carrie Coon (responsible for giving one of the best TV performances of all time on HBO Leftovers) takes on the supporting role of an FBI agent on everyone’s trail. Michael B. Jordan (Hollywood’s next generation star actor best known for Black Panther, Creed, and Without remorse) adorns the third act of the film with a surprise appearance too important to Close’the biggest twist to even hint.
That so many top talent have been attracted to Close should, in this case, be read as an endorsement in its own right. The film is far from perfect, and it could benefit from a more balanced balance between its family conflicts and its sci-fi elements. Corn Close is also a far cry from the conceptual flop its poor box office performance might indicate, and its best moments suggest other sci-fi odyssey down the road like Jeff Nichols’ one. Midnight Special and John Carpenter Man of stars. It’s a great business.
Close may not match their heights, but it’s quietly wonderful, solidly executed sci-fi entertainment that plays best on a quiet weeknight in the fall – when the sky is full of stars and feels a bit more secret than usual.
Close is now streaming on HBO Max.