The Movie Waffler New Release Review - GOD IS A BULLET | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - GOD IS A BULLET

God is a Bullet review
A small town cop takes the law into his hands when his daughter is abducted by a cult.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nick Cassavettes

Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maika Monroe, Jamie Foxx, Karl Glusman

God is a Bullet poster

God is a Bullet opens with the claim that it's "based on a true story" and closes with a disclaimer informing the viewer that what you've just watched actually bears no relation to anything that occurred in real life. It's indicative of the schizophrenic quality of writer/director Nick Cassavettes' adaptation of the 1999 book by "Boston Teran," a pseudonym for what some believe to be a collective of respected writers having some fun in the paperback world of genre fiction. Cassavettes can't decide if he's making a gritty, existential Paul Schrader thriller or a trashy Michael Winner romp. His film falls flat on its face when it tries to imitate Schrader, whose 1979 Hardcore seems to be the main inspiration here, but is more successful at replicating the over-the-top reactionary scuzziness of Winner's films. Schrader is one of the best filmmakers of his generation while Winner is a hack, so I guess it's no surprise that the latter is the easier to imitate.

God is a Bullet review

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is miscast as mild-mannered, God-fearing small town cop Bob Hightower. We're supposed to buy in to the Danish hunk as a rural American rube because he's decked out in a Ned Flanders mustache and square haircut. Bob's world is shattered when a Manson-esque cult kills his ex-wife and kidnaps his teenage daughter. With his police department proving inept at tracking down a bunch of goons whose prominent face tattoos and impractical leather outfits would make them stand out at a Mad Max cosplay convention, Bob decides to take things into his own hands.

This sees Bob team up with Case (Maika Monroe), a spunky escapee from a cult known as "The Left-Handed Path," which she believes is responsible for the attack. It's the sort of pairing Schrader has fallen back on several times - the repressed, conservative older man and the libertine young woman – but in Cassavettes' hands it becomes a clunky reworking of the classic It Happened One Night "Will they, won't they?" dynamic as the two form an unlikely attraction.

God is a Bullet review

With Bob forced by Case to get his body and face tattooed (by a character played by Jamie Foxx and named "The Ferryman," in case you didn't already get the metaphor) in order to fit in with her underworld, there's a better version of this film in which Bob begins to embrace this nihilistic world he's entered. It's the movie Schrader would likely give us, but perhaps not what you should expect from the director of The Notebook. It's briefly hinted at here when Bob sells out a female cult member, leading to her demise, but it never reaches the levels of George C. Scott in Schrader's Hardcore or his self-directed 1972 revenger Rage.

Bob has more in common with the sort of figures played by Charles Bronson in the 1970s and '80s. Bronson was uniquely skilled at playing men who seemed like your average uptight suburbanite until he took his shirt off to reveal ridiculously toned abs. Coster-Waldau certainly has the abs but never convinces as a "desk cowboy," as his Sheriff describes him. This isn't helped by Bob's unconvincingly rapid transition into John Rambo, stapling laughably gaping knife wounds in his stomach and surviving a snake bite to the neck.

God is a Bullet review

The over-the-top hero, the sassy young heroine and the Hills Have Eyes villains would all work if the movie was content to be the sort of exploitation fare such stereotypes suggest. But Cassavettes has loftier ambitions, which results in eye-rolling monologues about faith and some terrible use of rock music in montages so badly synced with the chosen songs they become the cinematic equivalent of listening to a DJ who can't beat match. Plenty of filmmakers have managed to pull off the trick of combining arthouse with grindhouse, including Cassavettes' own parents, but perhaps the trick is to have an equal appreciation for both forms.

God is a Bullet
 is on Sky Cinema from September 22nd.

2023 movie reviews