Movie Review: ‘GALVESTON’ flatly adapts a gripping crime novel

Kip Mooney // Film Critic

GALVESTON

Rated R, 93 minutes.
Director: Mélanie Laurent
Cast: Ben FosterElle FanningLili Reinhart and Beau Bridges

Nic Pizzolatto, for all his faults as a writer, knows how to make gripping, engaging art. It might not be the highest quality, and you’ll either love it or hate it, but it’s rarely boring. So it’s baffling that with perfect casting and an interesting director, the film adaptation of his 2010 novel GALVESTON is so bland. It doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t succeed either.

Ben Foster continues his excellent run of indie movies as Roy, a take-no-bull criminal who flees the scene of an ambush gone wrong. Alongside him is teen prostitute Raquel (Elle Fanning), the only survivor of the shootout. They plan to hide out along the Texas Gulf Coast, but Raquel complicates their trip when she asks him to stop-off in her hometown of Orange, where she picks up her young daughter and kills her abusive father.

The film does almost all its character development at the cheap motel where the three of them hide out, stave off boredom and plan their next moves. Foster and Fanning are great as expected, but Laurent directs them with such an icy remove that none of their big, emotional scenes have much impact. They just evaporate the second they’re over.

There’s also the problem for Texas viewers, who will immediately tell that this thing wasn’t shot anywhere near Galveston. (Much of it was filmed in Georgia.) If the movie was more powerful, this wouldn’t be such a distraction. Yet it joins a long line of smaller-budgeted films who have no incentive to film in Texas (Thanks, lawmakers!) and leave for other states, even if their geography isn’t particularly close.

Yet, with all its faults, the movie is never terrible. Yes, the decision to alter some events in the third act lessens the impact of the finale. But it also shows flashes of directorial brilliance in its action scenes. It’s not bad, it’s not great. As parents might say, “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.”

Grade: C+

GALVESTON is now playing in limited release and Video-On-Demand.

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