Fantasia Fest Coverage: The Righteous (2021) Review – ‘Excellent acting and direction but is sunk with a lackluster script’

Fantasia Fest Coverage: The Righteous (2021)

Directed By: Mark O’Brien

Starring: Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Mimi Kuzyk, Mayko Nguyen

Plot Summary: A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.

Religion is nothing new to the world of drama and horror in cinema. I think the subject is fertile ground not only for touching on the darker sides of the institution of religion but moreover to explore how said institute can reinforce bad behavior. I had actually sort of put off this review because, like Kratt, it’s a movie that is frustrating. Frustrating because there are elements that make up a good movie but ultimately it fails on some fundamental levels. First, I want to go into what works about the movie. Right away, O’Brien comes out swinging with gloomy and starkly beautiful black-and-white cinematography that sets the right mood. Also, O’Brien builds a nice mystery that keeps things engaging enough throughout the first half of the film. I also think maybe the best element of this movie is the acting.

Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk really showcase a level of acting that you only get from working thirty-plus years in the business, which they have. The writer director also wrote the part of the mysterious stranger for himself and, again, he does a fantastic job. It’s worth noting that Mark O’Brien has more credits as an actor than as a director. In fact, he reunites with his Ready or Not (2019) co-star Henry Czerny for this film.

So, the problem is not surprisingly baked in the screenplay. Much like Kratt, the movie is frustrating as it has elements that feel interesting, but it’s never taken far enough to be truly effective. It somehow feels over-written in some places with needless convolutions and also under-written where important elements are not clear or left weirdly ambiguous. Indeed, I talked to a fellow critic who also watched the movie, and we both had a difficult time piecing together some pretty important narrative threads. I don’t need a plot spoon fed to me, but I also can tell when someone drops the ball when it comes to fleshing out a world. This is Mark’s first feature film screenplay and not to sound harsh but it actually shows. It’s not that a singular vision can’t work but this feels like a vanity project that wasn’t as well thought out and executed as it could have been. I just wish that Mark would have hired a script doctor to tighten things up. Again, I think that the base ideas aren’t groundbreaking but are inherently interesting.

See also
'Frida' (2024) Review - Inside The Mind And Soul Of An Artist

The movie has some excellent acting and direction, but is sunk with a lackluster script that holds it back from being as good as it could have been.

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