Ben Foster and Elle Fanning star in Mealanie Laurent’s grim and harrowing crime thriller, Galveston. From a story by Nic Pizzolatto, the True Detective creator has adapted the screenplay from his own novel of the same name. Roy (Ben Foster) is a hitman for the mob who believes he has terminal lung cancer. When his boss sets him up in a double cross, he kills his would be assassins and discovers Rocky (Elle Fanning), a young escort who is held captive. Reluctantly he takes her with him, retreating to his hometown of Galveston to plot his retribution. On their journey Rocky rescues her three year old sister from her step-dad. The unlikely trio form a bond and Roy’s cold heart is warmed, finding he has something to live for beyond vengeance.
Galveston is a slow burner that’s a love story at heart. Foster and Fanning have a great chemistry as Roy’s moody outlook in life is slowly chipped away at. His fondness for Rocky and her sister develops over time which changes his priorities. It’s a stoic and hard performance by Foster who drips with menace. Fanning delivers a strong portrayal as Rocky, her apparent naivety overshadowed by her compassion. Drawing her strength through determination to do the right thing, their feelings for each other are a fading light in this harsh world.
Dagmar Weaver-Madsen’s sun scorched cinematography ramps up the heat and shines a bright light on the horrors that unfold. It’s a harrowing tale with a gut punch twist. The finale might leave a bad taste in your mouth but this isn’t a film about justice, it’s about redemption of the characters, not tying up loose plot points. The final third is a difficult watch with Laurent proving less is more with the most shocking scene happening not only off camera, but between scenes. It’s not gratuitous or graphic yet the framing of a particular shot will haunt you long past the credits have rolled.
Laurent showcases the humanity of the film’s two leads as they battle against the tide of the criminal world they’re embroiled in. The events are bleak but the characters have an enduring hope even if their circumstances deny them a happy ending. There is an incredible depth to Roy and Rocky whose backstories are never fleshed out with Laurent and Pizzolatto opting to explore the characters through their current actions and not let them be defined by their pasts.
The film doesn’t leave any loose ends, but only within the confines of its own aim. The resolution might make most uncomfortable, and it should. What it should not do is leave anyone dissatisfied. This isn’t a cookie cutter revenge movie, and anyone familiar with the author should expect no less. With a lean runtime, Galveston doesn’t overstay its welcome. Instead it’s a tight thriller with great performances with more heartbreak than the average romance film. A hard hitting movie that pulls no punches.
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