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

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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.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.