The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - BEAST BEAST | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - BEAST BEAST

beast beast review
The lives of three suburban youngsters intertwine, leading to a tragic incident.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Danny Madden

Starring: Shirley Chen, Jose Angeles, Will Madden, Courtney Dietz, Daniel Rashid, Anissa Matlock

beast beast poster

An expansion of an earlier short, writer/director Danny Madden's feature debut Beast Beast owes much to the slacker cinema of 1990s American indies. With its cast of teens and young twentysomethings negotiating a suburban landscape, it recalls the films of Richard Linklater, Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark. But with its commentary on the added pressures of social media, it's very much a movie of its time.

Madden's film interlinks the stories of three specific characters. Krista (Shirley Chen) is a theatre geek, spending her evenings rehearsing for an upcoming school play and uploading videos that showcase her acting chops to the internet. Similarly obsessed with his online image is her next door neighbour, 24-year-old Adam (the director's brother, Will Madden), a gun obsessive who pours all his time into a YouTube channel where he demonstrates weapons techniques, much to the chagrin of his understandably worried parents. A newcomer to this patch of suburbia is Nito (Jose Angeles), a skateboarder and parkour enthusiast who despite not even owning a phone, has managed to achieve what Krista and Adam crave – videos of him performing acrobatics have racked up millions of views online.

beast beast review

Nito falls in with a gang of teenage criminals led by an older girl, Lena (Anissa Matlock), a suburban Ma Barker who enlists his physical skills – Nito is put to use climbing into stores at night and breaking into homes. He also catches the eye of Krista, and when the two collaborate on her latest performance project they quickly fall for one another. Meanwhile, Adam is growing increasingly frustrated by his lack of success in finding an online audience, something that will change following a violent incident.

The storytelling principle of Chekhov's Gun states that if a gun is introduced in a piece of drama, it must be fired at some later point in the narrative. With an entire wall of Chekhov's pistols, shotguns and assault rifles carefully arranged as the backdrop for his YouTube tutorials, it's immediately obvious where Adam's particular plot-line is headed. When it does indeed materialise in the final act, the aftermath is a little hard to swallow and the movie rushes through a revenge plot that probably needs an entire movie of its own to fully satisfy.

beast beast review

Up to that misjudged point, Beast Beast is one of the more convincing portrayals of suburban teen ennui of recent times. The lead trio are all excellent, particularly Madden as the tightly wound Adam, whose golf caddy aesthetic conceals a powder keg about to hook up with a lit match. As we watch him don fake smiles to record outros for his videos before returning to glum uncertainty once the recording has stopped, we're given a glimpse of how things might have turned out for Patrick Bateman had he not landed a job on Wall Street.

The real find though is Angeles, whose parkour and skateboard skills are simply breath-taking. So rare is it to see such physical action in American movies that despite being a low-key indie drama, Beast Beast has more thrilling action than any Marvel superhero movie. Only Tom Cruise is using his body in this way in American cinema, and watching Angeles leap through car windows and defy gravity with his skateboard brought me back to my childhood watching Jackie Chan with my jaw wide open.

beast beast review

It's Krista's story that binds all this together, which makes it all the more odd that of the central trio, she's the one who feels the least developed, despite some great work from Chen. Her obsession with acting suggests she's putting on some sort of a mask, but we're given no real clues as to the real Krista she might be hiding, or what she might be using her acting to escape from (I've seen Asian-American critics bemoan the film's lack of willingness to explore the particular pressures placed on teens of that ethnic group by their parents).

Beast Beast doesn't quite coalesce as neatly as it might like, but there's something affecting about its rough edges. Mining three striking performances from his young leads and displaying a talent for structuring a story to elicit the maximum build-up of tension, Madden has marked himself as one to watch. How many views his own work will rack up remains to be seen.

Beast Beast
 is on UK/ROI Digital from April 30th.

2021 movie reviews