Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Romance, the 80’s and crime fill the enjoyable Love Lies Bleeding

Director Rose Maud has switched genres, trading horror for a romantic crime drama in her second film, “Love Lies Bleeding.” Glass and Weronika Tofilska wrote the script, and A24 produced the movie. The story takes place in 1989 and revolves around Lou (played by Kristen Stewart), a reclusive gym manager, who falls in love with Jackie (played by Katy O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder heading to Las Vegas to chase her dreams. However, their passion ignites violence, and they get pulled into the web of Lou’s criminal family, led by her father, Lou Sr. (played by Ed Harris).

The narrative centers on the enigmatic gym manager Stewart portrays, whose performance is marked by a brooding intensity that effectively dispels any notions of her previous role in the “Twilight” franchise. Though her demeanor is measured, her past is shrouded in darkness, and her relationships with the local criminal organization are intricate and multilayered. With astute finesse, Stewart brings to life the character of Lou, a woman who is perennially tense and seemingly on the verge of losing her temper.

Nevertheless, she manages to suppress this impulse, thereby fueling her anxiety further. Her attention to detail is impressive, as seen in her nervous fidgeting with beer can seals during confrontations with Jackie and her slouched posture that highlights her exhaustion and latent brutality. Her mastery of comedic timing is exemplified by her ability to evoke laughter with a single word, “no,” during one of the film’s most suspenseful scenes.

The dynamic between the two leads is electrifying, with tensions simmering just below the surface as they navigate a world filled with greed, ambition, and violence. As Jackie hopes to rise through the ranks of the bodybuilding world, she finds himself drawn deeper into the dangerous underworld that Lou inhabits. I wasn’t familiar with O’Brian, whose previous work caught me off guard. The actress perfectly embodies essential physical traits for her role as Jackie while simultaneously revealing an emotional vulnerability.

Jenna Malone and Dave Franco have delivered commendable supporting performances portraying the roles of Lou’s sister and brother-in-law, respectively. Her signature theatricality marks Malone’s acting, while Franco’s performance is notably less exaggerated than his previous works, which can be attributed to his adherence to the cues provided by his esteemed co-stars. However, veteran actor Ed Harris stands out with his impeccable portrayal of Lou Sr. Harris successfully embodies his character’s unconventional appearance with a restrained demeanor, effectively juxtaposing his menacing nature, which is starkly evident when he unpredictably bursts into fits of anger throughout the movie. Harris’s performance establishes him as a formidable antagonist in this role and deserves commendation for his outstanding acting abilities.

Cinematically, the film skillfully captures the decadence and excess of the 1980s, from the pulsating beats of the era’s music to the garish glamor of the bodybuilding scene. The cinematography is bold and vibrant, immersing the audience in a world where every muscle flex and whispered conversation holds weight. “Love Lies Bleeding” is a thrilling and thought-provoking exploration of the lengths people will go to pursue their desires and the sacrifices they are willing to make. With stellar performances, a compelling narrative, and a pulsating soundtrack, this film is worth checking out for anyone craving a tale of ambition, love, and the price of power.

Final Grade: B+

“Love Lies Bleeding” is in theaters now.

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