Review by Bryan Yentz
Starring Brittany Ashworth and Gregory Fitoussi
Written and Directed by Mathieu Turi
I’ll be up front, HOSTILE was not what I was expecting. While I shrugged my shoulders at the dime-a-dozen RESIDENT EVIL-esque trailer, it was the sight of Xavier Gens’ name attached to the project that engaged my curiosity. I’m a fan of the writer/director (despite his recent effort COLD SKIN being a middling affair in ambition) and if he was condoning the picture with his very own moniker, well then, I’m in.
Unfortunately, as I said above, HOSTILE defied expectations but not in a positive way. Really, this isn’t a post-apocalyptic film. Yes, the movie is bookended by a sandscape of doom and gloom (with sporadic scenes dusted between), but a heavy portion of the movie is actually spent in flashback, as a dramatic romance between our protagonist Juliet (Brittany Ashworth) and a prince charming named Jack (Gregory Fitoussi). You see, in the present post-apocalypse, Juliet has crashed her vehicle and broken her leg. Now stranded, she’s stalked by an inconvenient zombie-mutant that occasionally groans, shuffles and bangs on her incapacitated ride. What’s she to do? Well, she improvises some meager survival tactics, but spends the majority of her night remembering the past, namely the tragic love she had with Jack prior to whatever ruined the Earth.
In some universe, this crossbreed of genre could work (I mean, it kinda already did with IT STAINS THE SANDS RED), but the biggest, most glaring, most blatant flaw that brings down all of HOSTILE’s potentially moving intentions is its central “heroine”. I can’t remember a film in recent memory that has crafted an entire feature around a more unlikable character, but HOSTILE has now taken that mantle. Normally, a narrative offers a semblance, a smidge, a miniscule piece of positivity to a lead character—that a viewer might support and ultimately root for, even when they do some negative things. But not here! Within the first few minutes, HOSTILE presents Juliet as a loner “badass” that loots about the desert and doesn’t give two shits about others (even if they’re bleeding out from a gutted stomach). However, as soon as her backstory begins, HOSTILE becomes a stream of sequences wherein Juliet is simply shown to be a consistently awful person. There is rarely a single moment of the movie wherein she isn’t a toxic, sarcastic, whiny brat who either verbally assaults or threatens anyone that doesn’t abide by her mode of entitlement. And we’re supposed to pity her? Such an abnormal choice in character focus is brought further down by Brittany Ashworth’s low-quality line-readings, who reports her dialogue with some wince-inducing inflections—as if she had just read her parts moments before filming.
Jack is the epitome of a “good guy” (almost to an unrealistic fault). He does everything for her, saves her from her vices, loves her, coddles her, buys her anything her heart desires and allows her a new life outside the confines of whoring and drugs. What is her reaction? Any thanks? Nope! Every scene of potential bliss is ruined by her unpleasant (and limited) dialogue which consists of her yelling, swearing or arguing with him. One moment has her become flustered with him because he’s not thinking of enough nice things to say about her in a quick enough manner. Seriously. Her character offers nothing meaningful to any discussion and she constantly derails every moment of sincerity in order to fuel her own hubris.
In another ridiculous sequence (during the post-apocalyptic portion), she’s told via walkie-talkie that her survivalist comrades can’t reach her until morning due to the threat of zombie-mutant hordes at night. So what does she do? Calmly assess her situation and devise a plan to barricade herself in the wrecked ride? Nope! She yells into the mic that she will hunt down and murder (yes that’s right!), hunt down and MURDER her comrade(s) for considering the safety of the entire group over her. During her tirade, her compatriot disconnects, which further infuriates and confuses her. Um, you uh, just threatened to kill them? Maybe that’s why they don’t want to talk to you now?
As a character, there’s no arc. She doesn’t learn from mistakes, she just keeps taking out her aggression on people that don’t deserve it (and consistently becoming sadder as the plot shambles onward isn’t any sort of a revelation, it’s just a character trait). Again, in a normal narrative of this nature, the flashbacks would be utilized as a means of showing how she got to this point, how her past helped her become a survivor in dire circumstances, how she learned to fight, use firearms, how it gave her the necessary training to fend for herself, but HOSTILE forgoes such personal development in favor of what? Plot holes and inconsistencies? That sometimes relationships can just suck? Due to her looking the exact same as she did in the flashbacks, we can surmise that the post-apocalypse occurred quite recently, so there was ZERO time for her to go from spoiled child to uber-survivor. That there’s not even a hint as to how society could so hastily drop off the map into a hellhole is another question mark that’s never even slightly addressed (and no, a news report of a single chemical attack in a single metro doesn’t justify the whole world crumbling). By the end, HOSTILE even tries to win some good grace with a “twist” that’s way too obvious and strains all credibility in a false attempt to get one last tear-jerk from the audience.
I’m not sure which came first, the post-apocalyptic story or that of the present-day romance, but it’s as if the filmmakers knew they didn’t have enough content to support either, so they just forced them together—in turn, failing at both. Maybe another draft was in order? One that either wrote Juliet to be the least bit sympathetic instead of a bully? Or better yet, how about one that excised her from the script completely?