Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Ranger: Punks in the Park

Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot must be pleased with themselves. Thanks to them, we have the National Park system, providing stalking grounds for psycho-killers out to prey on clueless visitors. It is a national crisis, but at least Chelsea and her friends will not be missed if the titular madman successfully bumps them off, one-by-one, in Jenn Wexler’s The Ranger (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

After stabbing a cop to escape a drug bust, Chelsea’s bandmates decide to hole-up in her Uncle Pete’s old cabin until the heat blows over. Wisely, they do everything they can to antagonize the park ranger on their way in. Ordinarily, that would be a bad strategy for fugitives from justice, but it is particularly unfortunate in this case, because the Ranger is a raging psychopath. He also happens to remember Chelsea from the time she spent up there as a young girl. Of course, the Ranger hasn’t aged a day over all those years, but that is the benefit of that clean mountain air, right?

The Ranger also knows a thing or two about her that she maybe tried to forget. He definitely thinks they share a connection, so he will not try to kill her—just the rest of her friends. Frankly, it would be no great tragedy for the world to lose these obnoxious, drug-dealing, substance-abusing, cop-bashing, nature-defiling, self-centered brats. In fact, the film would work much better if it invited us to root for the Ranger as he stalked the punk rock punks, but Wexler makes him such a creepy sadist, we’re left with nobody to root for and nothing to hold our interest.

This film is really just a mess, starting with the flashback prologue that is hard to reconcile with the rest of the film. This is a lazy screenplay that shows us things for cheap effect and then forgets about them—continuity be damned.

It is surprising to see the Glass Eye Pix logo affixed to The Ranger, because their films are usually much smarter than this. At least, that also means Larry Fessenden’s reassuring presence graces the film, in flashbacks as Uncle Pete. Chloe Levine fares decently as Chelsea, but Jeremy Holm’s Ranger comes across like a poor man’s Patrick Warburton.

For real punk fans, the soundtrack is legit, so there’s that. That is about all it has to redeem itself. Not recommended, The Ranger opens this Friday (8/17) in New York, at the IFC Center.