×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Winged Creatures

The reverberating shock felt by the survivors of a senseless massacre in a suburban Los Angeles coffee shop results in paradoxically dull drama in "Winged Creatures." Most directly reminiscent of ABC's abruptly canceled series "The Nine," and aspiring to the tragic levels of Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter," Aussie helmer Rowan Woods' Hollywood debut gathers a large lineup of thesps for an ensembler that never coheres, with multiple storylines vying for attention. Carefully planned release date (still TBA) and notably positive critical response will be essential for anything more than mild B.O. results.

With:
Carla Davenport - Kate Beckinsale Anne Hagen - Dakota Fanning Dr. Bruce Laraby - Guy Pearce Charlie Archenault - Forest Whitaker Joan Laraby - Embeth Davidtz Ron Abler - Troy Garity Bob Jasperson - Jackie Earle Haley Kathy Hammet - Jennifer Hudson Jimmy Jasperson - Josh Hutcherson Doris Hagen - Jeanne Tripplehorn

The reverberating shock felt by the survivors of a senseless massacre in a suburban Los Angeles coffee shop results in paradoxically dull drama in “Winged Creatures.” Most directly reminiscent of ABC’s abruptly canceled series “The Nine,” and aspiring to the tragic levels of Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” Aussie helmer Rowan Woods’ Hollywood debut gathers a large lineup of thesps for an ensembler that never coheres, with multiple storylines vying for attention. Carefully planned release date (still TBA) and notably positive critical response will be essential for anything more than mild B.O. results.

Sony, which acquired the film at the script stage but has not yet finalized a distribution deal, may be hoping for the kind of mega-ensemble heat delivered by “Crash” — quite different in many respects, but similarly packed with actors playing stressed L.A. characters — but the likelihood of lightning striking twice is slim indeed. So-called “secret screening” at Los Angeles Film Fest felt more like a nervous test screening to gauge response than a festival event.

Sticking close to his well-received novel (which was published earlier this year and goes unmentioned in the credits), screenwriter Roy Freirich begins with the horror that sets things in motion. In a suburban diner in what looks like L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley area, customers are shocked by a gunman (Marty Maguire) who enters and fires a series of shots; the power of this meaningless act of violence will certainly be deeply upsetting to some viewers.

The most direct witness is waitress Carla (Kate Beckinsale), who has just shared a moment with Dr. Bruce Laraby (Guy Pearce) as he was leaving the diner, and inadvertently opening the door to the gunman. Near Carla is Charlie (Forest Whitaker), who has been thumbing a brochure about cancer at the counter.

Succeeding passages reveal additional moments from the massacre, including the full extent of the gunman’s cruel killing of Aaron (Tim Guinee), the father of Anne (Dakota Fanning), who’s hiding under a booth table with best friend Jimmy (Josh Hutcherson). After a tussle with Charlie, the gunman shoots himself.

In the local hospital’s emergency ward, Bruce futilely attempts to save the gunman’s life, and is told by fellow surgeon Dan (James LeGros) that doctors can’t play God. Thus begins a rather dull, repetitive pattern: The life-and-death event unleashes an extended encounter with God and fate, with each survivor managing it in a different manner.

Told that he’s “beyond lucky” to be alive, Charlie heads off to a casino. Anne resorts to her own personal brand of Christianity, preaching about obedience to God’s will to the point that mother Doris (Jeanne Tripplehorn) grows concerned for her sanity, even as Anne begins to draw a large assembly of believers at school.

Jimmy’s response is to go mute and shut down emotionally, resisting any help from hospital psychologist Ron (Troy Garity), while his father Bob (Jackie Earle Haley) fears his son’s condition may jeopardize his family’s health coverage. Strangest response of all comes from doc Bruce, who seems to be suffering from unarticulated survivor’s guilt, especially since he just happened to miss the massacre by moments.

The film’s long and busy parade of characters and their mini-dramas reaches burnout with Carla, pathetically holding a flame for Bruce while appearing to have no clue how to handle her colicky baby, and with Charlie, whose string of luck predictably goes south.

“Winged Creatures” lacks an organic sense of the unpredictability of human behavior, instead playing like a graph plotting out lines for characters to follow toward their inevitable redemption.

The cast at least doesn’t chew the scenery, and Woods (“Little Fish,” “The Boys”) disposes with conventional camera setups in favor of shots that focus on his actors. He places perhaps too much of a burden on them, however: The usually reliable Fanning and Whitaker seem to run out of steam on several occasions, while other actors like Haley, Davidtz and Tripplehorn deliver with greater impact. Pearce’s perf is fascinating for what his character conceals, which also applies to the formidable Hutcherson. Beckinsale, though topping the bill, leaves little impression.

Pic looks generally bland, though Woods manages some telling views of hospitals, casinos, diners and other iconic American spaces where people mingle and bump into each other — sometimes fatally. Marcelo Zarvos’ doomy, repetitive score tends to burden the film’s already burdensome flow.

Peace Arch Entertainment is distributing “Winged Creatures” under the title “Fragments.”

Popular on Variety

Winged Creatures

Production: A Peace Arch Entertainment presentation, in association with RGM Entertainment, of an Artina Films production. Produced by Robert Salerno. Executive producers, Naomi Despres, Gilbert Alloul, John Flock, Lewin Webb, Devesh Chetty, Robyn Gardiner. Co-producers, John J. Kelly, Roy Freirich. Directed by Rowan Woods. Screenplay, Roy Freirich, based on his novel.

Crew: Camera (FotoKem color), Eric Edwards; editor, Meg Reticker; music, Marcelo Zarvos; music supervisor, Matt Aberle; production designer, Max Biscoe; set decorator, Maria Nay; costume designer, Mary Claire Hannan; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Shawn Holden, Richard Van Dyke; sound designer, Scott Sanders; supervising sound editors, Barney Cabral, Rickley W. Dumm; re-recording mixers, Chris David, J. Stanley Johnson; special effects supervisor, Jefferson "Zuma Jay" Wagner; assistant director, John J. Kelly; casting, Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (Secret Screening), June 24, 2008. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: Carla Davenport - Kate Beckinsale Anne Hagen - Dakota Fanning Dr. Bruce Laraby - Guy Pearce Charlie Archenault - Forest Whitaker Joan Laraby - Embeth Davidtz Ron Abler - Troy Garity Bob Jasperson - Jackie Earle Haley Kathy Hammet - Jennifer Hudson Jimmy Jasperson - Josh Hutcherson Doris Hagen - Jeanne TripplehornWith: Robin Weigert, Tim Guinee, Marty Maguire, James LeGros, Julio Oscar Mechoso.

More Scene

  • Michael Shannon Benedict Cumberbatch Tuppence Middleton

    How Martin Scorsese Saved 'Current War' From Harvey Weinstein

    Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon finally gets to release his version of his long-in-the-making “The Current War.” The film, about the competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, was originally set to be distributed by the Weinstein Company after Harvey Weinstein recut it, much to Gomez-Rejon’s chagrin. To make matters worse, Weinstein premiered the movie at the [...]

  • Law Roach Kiki Layne

    Law Roach, Kiki Layne Highlight the Serious Side of Fashion at InStyle Awards

    “I’m not supposed to be here,” stylist of the year honoree Law Roach told the well-heeled guests assembled Monday night for the 5th annual InStyle Awards. “Where I’m from, no one makes it to these rooms…and I stand here for two reasons right? One, that someone told me I was special; and two, that somebody [...]

  • Debra-Messing-Donald-Trump

    Debra Messing Lampoons Donald Trump in Play Based on Mueller Report

    Debra Messing portrayed President Donald Trump in an all-star play based on the Mueller report on Monday at Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre. Wearing a light pant suit and sitting with legs spread confidently, Messing nailed Trump’s mannerisms in the one-night-only play, “You Can’t Make This Sh*t Up,” which raised funds for a Barbara Boxer-led PAC [...]

  • Kathryn Hahn Mrs. Fletcher

    Kathryn Hahn Talks Working With an Intimacy Coordinator on 'Mrs. Fletcher'

    HBO’s new comedy “Mrs. Fletcher” follows the journey of an empty-nester divorcee who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and sexual exploration following her son’s departure for college. At the series premiere on Monday night at the Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles, Kathryn Hahn discussed playing the titular role of Eve Fletcher, a middle-aged woman [...]

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content