Jake Gyllenhaal and Toni Collette have a blast in Netflix horror Velvet Buzzsaw, but you won't
A very interesting mess.
Jake Gyllenhaal's previous team-up with writer/director Dan Gilroy resulted in the acidic Nightcrawler, one of the best and most underrated thrillers of the last decade or so.
The idea of them teaming up again on a horrific takedown of the modern world of art sounds like a great idea on paper, but unfortunately Gilroy can't get the two worlds to mesh properly.
One half hilarious cynical satire of the world of high-brow art and the critics who can make or break careers with a single review, this alone might have made for a great skewering of a subsection of society that takes itself way too seriously.
The other half, a potentially great horror movie dealing with a series of artworks that originated from a very tormented mind and appear to have fatal intentions for anyone who has profited from selling them, is another great idea that could have worked by itself.
Combined and Velvet Buzzsaw doesn't add up to the sum of its parts.
Gyllenhaal plays a bisexual critic diva who gets off on the power of his reviews, and he is initially posed as our way in to this world, as we're introduced to the rest of the cast through him: Toni Collette as a power-wigged art dealer, Rene Russo as a takes-no-bullshit artist's agent, John Malkovich as a blink-and-you'll-miss-him artist, and plenty more supporting characters besides, but the plot doesn't finally kick in until about the 25-minute mark, when an up-and-coming assistant (played by Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton) discovers hundreds of pieces of artwork in her apartment building.
The artist has been found dead, as has a set of instructions to have the artworks destroyed, but she ignores this when Gyllenhaal, Russo, and Collette stir up a bidding war well into the millions for the pieces.
From there, things get less and less interesting as the movie seems to drop any and all interest in the art world, and it essentially becomes a slasher movie that just happens to be filled with really famous people.
That by itself wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except it has already spent so much time introducing us to the cast and their world, that it doesn't set up the rules of it's own art ghost: Is it only killing people who make money from the paintings? Or literally anyone who has ever seen one? What killed the artist in the first place? Does only his art kill the victims? Or is it any art that this supposedly haunted art gets near?
When you're asking this many questions, then you're not invested in what you're watching.
And really the biggest question is how did so many actors of this calibre read this script and not see that it was kind of a big mess?
At the very least, Gyllenhaal and Collette have a blast playing their bigger-than-real-life characters, and one or two of the kills are original enough to make them stand out from the regular slasher fare, but in the end Gilroy just doesn't seems to know what he wants this movie to be.
Velvet Buzzsaw is available to watch on Netflix from Friday 1 February.
Clip via Netflix