Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Chloe Moretz, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan
Plot: Libby Day, the only survivor of her family massacre at the hands of her older brother Ben 30 years ago, is forced to revisit the crime when a club of private investigators and true crime fans approach her about the truth, believing that Ben is innocent.
Review: Dark Places is based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote last year's hit Gone Girl. In comparison however, this film is much more low key and more importantly, not the thriller the trailer is marketing it as.
The story is about Libby Day, who was eight years old when her family was brutally killed, apparently by her own brother, Ben in 1985. Thirty years later, Libby is a mess, not having moved on from that tragedy, living on royalties from the book she made about the incident as well as donations from sympathetic members of the public. She's running out of money when she's approached by Lyle Wirth, a member of the Kill Club, a group of people made up of true crime fans and PIs, who believe that Ben is innocent. In exchange for money, they want Libby to revisit the tragedy and find out the truth. So Libby has to dig up her past and talk to people she had left behind: her brother, her estranged father as well as her brother's friends.
Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner sets the film on two courses, one in 1985 and one in the present. The past thread shows the events that led to the massacre while the present thread shows Libby and her investigation of events. The past thread is the duller of the two, though a few good performances here and there just manages to save it from being a waste of time. Perhaps they spent too much time in this thread, with possibly the sole purpose of throwing red herrings at the audience, and the effort doesn't quite work. The present thread works better, thanks to a solid performance from Charlize Theron, who makes Libby seem unlikable at first, but slowly grows on you as the film progresses.
Christina Hendricks puts in a good performance as Libby's mother Patty, who has to remain strong for her kids as a handful of problems threaten to derail the family which led to the tragedy. Tye Sheridan and Corey Stoll both do well as the younger and older Ben, while Chloe Moretz is convincing enough as the younger Ben's wild girlfriend Diondra, though she doesn't get much screen time. Nicholas Hoult also does his best as Lyle, but like Moretz, doesn't have much to do despite the both of them getting top billing.
As mentioned, the film isn't really a thriller like the trailers will have you believe. In fact, it's more of a slow burn mystery movie, and almost devoid of any thrills. There's some suspense towards the end but even that ends almost as quickly as it started. That and the way the film ends makes Dark Places look like a TV movie, and with the star power involved, it deserves better.
Overall, it's not a total drag. Dark Places works mostly because of Charlize Theron, and with some tighter editing and a bit more suspense, it would be more interesting. (6/10)