×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Ranger’

Punk rockers are led as lambs to the slaughter in yet another homage to '80s slasher movies.

Director:
Jenn Wexler
With:
Chloe Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeremy Holm.

1 hour 17 minutes

Filmmaker Jenn Wexler provides more fodder for the VOD pipeline with “The Ranger,” yet another entry in the ever-expanding subgenre of ’80s slasher-movie homages. Diehard gorehounds may be disappointed by its relatively infrequent reliance on graphic and grisly mayhem (relative to this particular subgenre’s standards, that is), but Wexler’s discretion in this area turns out to be one of her film’s few distinguishing characteristics.

At this late date, it’s really no longer a novelty for a horror movie to boast a strong-willed female lead who, when push comes to shove, effectively pushes back against the boogeyman. To be fair, however, Chloe Levine (of Netflix’s “The Defenders”) is thoroughly persuasive as a young woman empowered by her ordeal. Levine plays Chelsea, a pink-haired punk rocker who goes on the lam with four similarly punkish companions after police stage a drug raid at their favorite club, and Garth (Granit Lahu), her hot-headed boyfriend, stabs a cop as they escape.

Just before they hit the road, Chelsea briefly contemplates finishing off the wounded officer with his own revolver. It’s the first sign of her connection to the little girl in the film’s ambiguous prologue, a portentous scene where the youngster agrees to some sort of deception with a doting park ranger (Jeremy Holm of “Mr. Robot” and “House of Cards”) before another intrusion by law-enforcement personnel.

Not at all surprisingly, that same park ranger reappears as Chelsea and her friends reach their destination, the secluded cabin in the woods (yes, this is that kind of movie) where little Chelsea and her late uncle spent many happy days together years earlier. Sounding like a cross between Jack Webb’s stiff-backed Sgt. Joe Friday from “Dragnet” and Patrick Warburton’s smug “control enthusiast” in the National Car Rental television spots, the ranger sternly rattles off a list of rules and regulations that proscribe littering, wild partying, and general misbehavior on what he pointedly describes as “my mountain.” Naturally, the unwelcome visitors — except for Chelsea, who clearly knows better — proceed to light bonfires, ingest mind-altering drugs, play music at a deafening volume, and even spray-paint trees surrounding the cabin. Inevitably, they pay dearly for their crimes against Mother Nature.

Wexler, directing a screenplay she co-wrote with Giaco Furino, dawdles a bit before the movie’s first kill, giving most of the misbehavers more than enough screen time to come across as negligible at best, obnoxious at worst, and therefore eminently disposable. It’s not exactly a spoiler to reveal that everything leads to a climactic confrontation between Chelsea, whose capacity for violence may stem from a childhood trauma, and the ranger, who insists on seeing a kindred spirit in the resourceful punk grrl. Along the way, there are strong suggestions that a killing once deemed accidental may have been intentional, and somewhat hazier hints that the culprit was entirely justified in pulling the trigger. Curiously enough, however, Wexler stops far short of providing a satisfying payoff for these plants.

As Chelsea, Levine neatly balances fierce urgency and mortal terror, which goes a long way toward giving “The Ranger” some semblance of credibility. Holm provides effective counterpoint with an amusingly stylized performance that might have been even more flat-out entertaining had he been encouraged to venture a tad farther over the top. As it stands, he smoothly alternates between intimidating authority figure and broad comic relief, with sporadic flashes of gleeful sadism for good measure.

Speaking of sadism: If you’ve ever enjoyed “The Most Beautiful Girl,” Charlie Rich’s enduringly popular 1973 country-pop hit, you may find yourself squirming (or laughing, or both) each time Wexler impudently employs it on her movie’s otherwise punk rock-skewing soundtrack.

Film Review: 'The Ranger'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Midnighters), March 12, 2018. Running time: 77 MIN.

Production: A Glass Eye Pix, Hood River Entertainment production. Producers: Andrew van den Houten, Larry Fessenden, Ashleigh Snead, Heather Buckley, Jenn Wexler. Executive producers: Darryl Gariglio, Giles Daoust, Catherine Dumonceaux.

Crew: Director: Jenn Wexler. Screenplay: Wexler, Giaco Furino. Camera (color): James Siewert. Editor: Wexler, Abbey Killheffer. Music: Wade MacNeil, Andrew Gordon Macpherson.

With: Chloe Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeremy Holm.

More Film

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content