Encapsulated Cinema: Transit, The Aggression Scale, and Chronicle

Transit (2012)
Jim Caviezel is an interesting action hero. Although I don’t find the characters he plays to be particularly heroic or likeable, I think the guy’s performances are always spot-on. Such is the case with director Antonio Negret’s 2012 chase flick “Transit”, a moderately enjoyable suspense/thriller released as part of the After Dark Action series. Of the two I’ve seen — the other being “Dragon Eyes” — “Transit” is easily the weakest, due in part to a script that’s as predictable as it is moronic. Caviezel stars as an ex-con who’s attempting to put the pieces of his shattered family back together after spending some quality time in the hoosegow. During a particularly dysfunctional road trip with the wife and kids, the group runs afoul of some brooding criminals who use the bickering brood to smuggle their loot through a police check point. Intrigue and suspense promptly ensue. Despite a few moments of unexpected brutality, “Transit” unfolds in a most unremarkable manner. The formula is played note-for-note, which leaves little room for originality. Still, the adrenaline rush the film provides is quite adequate, which is really the only fair way to judge a movie like this. Enjoyable, but far from memorable.

The Aggression Scale (2012)
Considering how much I hated director Steven C. Miller’s feature-length debut “Automaton Transfusion”, I had zero hopes for his third effort, the 2012 action/thriller “The Aggression Scale”. To my surprise, the film completely blew my grungy little socks off. The recipe for flick is actually quite brilliant: Take the framework for Chris Columbus’ “Home Alone”, add a metric ton of brutal, bloody suspense, and mix in a handful of shockingly strong performances. The end result is damn-near perfect, minus a few hiccups towards the end. The film — a tense little yarn about a group of gun-totting criminals and their encounter with an unnaturally aggressive teenage boy — takes its time getting to the good stuff, which is a very smart move on Miller’s part. What keeps “The Aggression Scale” from wallowing in the shallow waters of cheap exploitation is the emotional bond the audience makes with these characters. Even when the blood starts flowing, Miller makes sure to slow things down so you can see how all of this violence is affecting our heroes. As fantastic as the first hour-and-fifteen minutes were, the last gag, as it were, feels too much like a “Home Alone” set piece than something I’m supposed to take seriously. In fact, I kept waiting for Daniel Stern to show up and start shrieking. This is disappointing, as “The Aggression Scale” had skillfully managed to avoid comparisons to this holiday-themed franchise until that point. Otherwise, it’s fantastic.

Chronicle (2012)
Director Josh Trank’s teenage “superhero” flick “Chronicle” left me feeling indifferent. My initial reaction to having watched the movie was overwhelmingly lukewarm; I honestly didn’t really feel one way or the other about it. A few days later, I’d practically forgotten I’d even watched the damned thing. Despite sporting a clever concept and delivering a fantastic final reel showdown, Trank and company took things one step too far with an epilogue that ultimately ruins the impressive intensity contained within the finale. It’s a needlessly melodramatic, teary-eyed moment that sticks out like a sore thumb. However, despite these problems, “Chronicle” is an entertaining piece of throwaway cinema that actually manages to do something a little different with the whole “found footage”, faux documentary gimmick everyone feels the need to utilize these days. Dane DeHaan is the film’s true highlight, as it’s his emotional performance that gives the picture some much-needed depth. The Blu-ray edition of “Chronicle” features an extended version of the flick containing footage not seen in theaters. And while I’m not entirely sure what was cut back into the film, there wasn’t a point where I felt like the tale had overstayed its welcome. Except for the epilogue, of course. It’s unforgivably cheesy, and blemishes an otherwise memorable alternative to the typical superhero story.