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Rated 3 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Art Fights Back
by Betty Jo Tucker

According to Marshall McLuhan, “Art is what you can get away with.” Writer/director Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw turns that quotation upside down. In this uneven thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, art doesn’t let you get away with anything. It just takes longer than expected. The story focuses on a stash of paintings discovered upon the death of an unknown artist -- and how his mesmerizing work creates a furor in the art world.

However, these paintings are not like any others. There is something supernatural about them. And everyone associated with their discovery and distribution are in danger, including the young woman who found the paintings, the art gallery personnel selling them, and the art critic who decides to write a biography of the artist. But excitement with the find and the money or deals to be made from this discovery seem overwhelming. It’s like an otherworldly offer they can’t refuse.     


Velvet Buzzsaw will chill your skin

when you find out the shape art's in.

Jake Gyllenhaal in a strange role,

playing it to the hilt his goal.


This art critic thinks he’s the best.

His critiques beat all the rest.

But when he falls for dead man’s art

normal things start falling apart.


Zawe Ashton gets greedy here.

So we’re afraid to give a cheer.

Yet might we do the very thing

that she does for the golden ring?


John Malkovich, Rene Russo

add strong support. So here we go

along for such a scary ride

about what in ART we can’t abide.


Gyllenhaal’s fans will be surprised with the way he portrays Mort, the egotistic art critic. His mannerisms, haircut, facial expressions and body language match nothing you have seen him do on screen before. He’s totally convincing, so you forget about the actor and just concentrate on the unique character he plays. He’s not as memorable as the unscrupulous videographer he portrayed in Nightcrawler, also directed by Gilroy. But he’s definitely different!

Although not a perfect film, Velvet Buzzsaw offers subtle humor along with exciting thrills and chills, especially when the paintings start coming to life. Amazing visual effects enhance our experience, for sure. In fact, I had to close my eyes during a couple of scenes because the blood and gore became too realistic.       

And don’t worry about how long it takes to get to the action or that too many characters seem in the way. Fortunately, the last part of Velvet Buzzsaw makes the waiting worthwhile. 

(Released by Netflix and rated “R” by MPAA.)

For more information about this film, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website. 

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