Venice Film Review: ‘Go With Me’

Anthony Hopkins has rarely seemed more disengaged than he does in Daniel Alfredson's rote woodlands revenge thriller.

Julia Stiles, Anthony Hopkins, Alexander Ludwig, Ray Liotta, Hal Holbrook, Lochlyn Munro, Steve Bacic, Aaron Pearl, Aleks Paunovic, Tara Arroyave. (English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4061010/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You can, to adjust a phrase, see the forest for the trees in “Go With Me” — if only because mist-shrouded woodland scenery is about the only distinguished feature of Daniel Alfredson’s turgid, tension-free revenge thriller. Adapting Castle Freeman Jr.’s slim, well-regarded novel into a film of equivalent brevity but markedly little momentum, this straightforward tale of three mismatched justice-seekers on the trail of a local logging-country psycho conceals any trace of artistry or wit in its paper-mill pulp. Given strangely little bluster by a muted, disengaged Anthony Hopkins — whose recent line in glazed ham would at least have livened up a gloomy exercise — “Go With Me” won’t find many auds to take up its eponymous invitation. 

Alfredson made his name in 2009 with the second two films in the original Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy, seguing earlier this year into English-lingo filmmaking with the shaky Euro-thriller “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken,” also starring Hopkins. “Go With Me” is unlikely to secure him directorial assignments more illustrious than this kind of VOD fodder, though he does bring a certain bleak Scandi-noir gloss to its unspecified slice of the Pacific Northwest — relocated from the novel’s setting of Vermont, but represented onscreen by British Columbia.

In fact, you’d be hard pressed to guess where exactly this hard little story takes place, given the lack of regional flavor in the workaday dialogue and the fact that Hopkins’s character, while a fixture of the area, seemingly takes regular vacations to Swansea for elocution training. Scribes Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs notionally retain the novel’s most eccentric narrative conceit: a kind of indigenous Greek chorus, made up of grizzled, seen-it-all onlookers who observe and comment on the action at hand. Their contribution is too cursory and irregular to give proceedings much spark; what could have been a “Winter’s Bone”-style marriage of genre storytelling and earthy local idiom is instead a simple story most functionally told.

Tightening her jaw and making the best of it, Julia Stiles plays Lillian, a local daughter who has recently returned home after a spell in Seattle. Inheriting the rural home of her late mother and making ends meet with waitressing and substitute teaching gigs, she finds her quietly independent new life disrupted by the unnerving presence of Blackway (Liotta), a hoodlum widely feared in the area, who stalks and menaces the young woman for reasons that never become obvious. When he attacks Lillian in her home, she oddly decides against alerting the authorities; when her mother’s cat turns up headless on the doorstep, she decides enough is enough. A local sheriff, however, tells her that she may as well leave town, since the police can do nothing to control Blackway, a former deputy. (Again, no explanation for this curious state of affairs is offered: “Go With It,” by this point, would be a more appropriate title.)

The sheriff does refer her, however, to a weathered group of timberyard menfolk, presided over by the crusty Whizzer (a wasted Hal Holbrook); one of them, he says, may be able to help her. Lester (Hopkins) isn’t the man he (or she) has in mind, but he’s the lone volunteer. Roping in Nate (Alexander Ludwig), a hulking, slow-witted young man to whom Lester has a fatherly attachment, and a daunting arsenal of backwoods firearms, they set off to track down the elusive Blackway. It’s a search short on twists and revelations, leading to an equally unspectacular faceoff; what might work on the page as pared-back plotting to sustain more vivid expression of character falls flat on screen. Despite Lillian’s plainly imperilled position, and the allusion to Lester’s own tragic backstory, the film’s yarn rarely seems more than anecdotal.

Hopkins’ presence as a producer here might imply some personal investment in the project, though you wouldn’t guess from his shrugging, low-temperature turn — if a degree of weariness seems appropriate in playing the long-suffering Lester, the actor might have overshot a tad. Stiles isn’t given much more to play than stout resolve, which she does well enough; Liotta is tasked with husky, sinister villain mechanics, which he doesn’t. Though saddled with some mannered vocal and physical tics, Ludwig registers as the most engagingly, fallibly human presence here, even if his role hardly adds up to more than the others.

Widescreen lensing by Rasmus Videbaek (“A Royal Affair,” “Virgin Mountain”) is on the murky side, but it does conjure up some boilerplate atmosphere in the pic’s frosty interiors and long-shadowed fir woodlands. Said atmosphere is then decidedly overegged by composers Klas Wahl and Anders Niska’s swarming score, which, like the script, does little to enhance the film’s sense of place.

Popular on Variety

Venice Film Review: 'Go With Me'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Sept. 11, 2015. Running time: 89 MIN.

Production: (U.S.-Canada-Sweden) An Enderby Entertainment, Gotham Group production. (International sales: Electric Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Rick Dugdale, Anthony Hopkins, Gregory Jacobs, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lindsay Williams. Executive producers, Joe Gangemi, Daniel Petrie Jr., Jonathan Hendriksen, Tim Williams, Yoshi Kawamura, Don Monaco, Patricia Monaco, Sean Lydiard, Jim Steele. Co-executive producers, Hank Greer, Laurel Greer.

Crew: Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Screenplay, Joe Gangemi, Gregory Jacobs, based on the novel by Castle Freeman Jr. Camera (color, widescreen), Rasmus Videbaek; editor, Hakan Karlsson; music, Klas Wahl, Anders Niska; production designer, James Hazell; set decorator, Denise Nadredre; costume designer, Jenni Gullett; sound, Rob McDonagh; supervising sound editor, Ken Skoglund; re-recording mixers, Skoglund, Lasse Liljeholm; stunt coordinator, Heath Stevenson; line producer, Mary Guilfoyle; assistant director, Sandra Mayo; casting, Julia Kim, Candice Elzinga.

With: Julia Stiles, Anthony Hopkins, Alexander Ludwig, Ray Liotta, Hal Holbrook, Lochlyn Munro, Steve Bacic, Aaron Pearl, Aleks Paunovic, Tara Arroyave. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Inauguracion SANFIC 2019

    15th Sanfic Touts Attendance Rise, Hosts Gael Garcia Bernal, Wagner Moura

    Chile’s Santiago International Film Festival (Sanfic) launched its 15th edition Sunday Aug. 18 with three of Latin America’s best-known actors, Gael Garcia Bernal, Wagner Moura (“Narcos”) and Graciela Borges (“La Cienaga”), to which it bestowed career recognition awards. “It’s been 15 years in which we have presented more than 1,400 films,” noted Francisca Saieh, director [...]

  • Kristen Stewart Underwater

    Watch Kristen Stewart Fight Sea Monsters in 'Underwater' Trailer

    Vampires, ghosts and now sea monsters? Clearly there is no monster actress Kristen Stewart cannot tame. In the first trailer for the submerged thriller “Underwater,” Stewart is a member of a stranded submarine crew. The trailer begins with the radio message: “You are now 5,000 miles from land and you are descending seven miles to [...]

  • Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo

    Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo Competition Film ‘Heidi’

    A leading figure of the Romanian New Wave, Cătălin Mitulescu has had a heralded career since winning the Palme d’Or for his 2004 short film “Traffic.” His first two features, “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006) and “Loverboy” (2011), both premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. He also co-produced and [...]

  • Betty Gilpin'Stuber' film premiere, Arrivals, Regal

    'GLOW' Star Betty Gilpin in Talks to Join Chris Pratt in 'Ghost Draft' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fresh off her Emmy nomination for Netflix’s “GLOW,” Betty Gilpin has found her next project. The actress is in talks to join Chris Pratt in “Ghost Drama,” a sci-fi action film from Skydance and Paramount. Gilpin would join a cast that also includes “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. Directed by “Lego Batman” filmmaker Chris McKay [...]

  • Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’

    Director Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’ and His Bulgarian Trilogy

    Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev earned critical acclaim for his 2017 feature “Directions,” which was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. The first installment in a planned trilogy about the social inequality and moral ills plaguing both Bulgaria and Europe at large, the film followed six cab drivers over the course of 24 hours as [...]

  • Meryl Streep Best Movie Lines

    HBO Max Lands Steven Soderbergh's Next Film Starring Meryl Streep

    HBO Max has picked up Steven Soderbergh’s next film, the comedy “Let Them All Talk” starring Meryl Streep. Joining Streep in the ensemble cast are Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. The screenplay was written by short story author and MacArthur Fellow recipient Deborah Eisenberg. It’s the story of a celebrated author [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content