Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Saturn Bowling

Maybe Armand (not really Jr.) would have been less violent if hockey had been his estranged father’s sport. Instead, Armand (not really Sr.) was all about hunting and bowling. Admittedly, the latter should be rather peaceful, but his illegitimate son makes it lethally dangerous when he takes over management of his late father’s late-night bowling lane in Patricia Mazuy’s Saturn Bowling, which apparently currently playing in New York (instead of opening this Friday, as previously scheduled).

Guillaume would like to keep Saturne (en français) Bowling open, but he is already plenty busy as police detective on the fast-track to advancement. His illegitimate brother Armand would be the logical choice to manage it, even though they were never close (as per their father’s wishes), but Armand must respect a few traditions. Their dad’s dog will still have the run of the place, as will his hunting buddies. Guillaume eventually agrees, because he has no other prospects, but the old cantankerous coots really rub him the wrong way.

The advantage of a nightlife spot like Saturne Bowling is it provides Armand an opportunity to hit on women. When he finally convinces one to come up to his apartment above the lanes, he beats her to death in a horrifyingly violent scene. Seriously, it is more disturbing than anything I have seen in the last year’s worth of horror movies, so consider yourself cautioned.
 Of course, he will do it again—and it will be Guillaume’s job to catch him.

Mazuy definitely displays an unflinching commitment to explore the dark side of human nature, but it is often so busy being dark, it neglects the work necessary to be suspenseful. When it is shocking, it is truly shocking, but the rest of the time, it is just dark and seedy. That atmosphere certainly gives the film a strong flavor, but it does not build or compound towards a worthy finish.

Arieh Worthalter is impressive as Guillaume and he has some nice scenes with Y-Lan Lucas as Xuan, a potential love-interest and anti-hunting activist his dad’s old cronies are threatening. Achille Reggiani is also believably thuggish as Armand, sort of like a French Neil Maskell.

Unfortunately, Mazuy never fully pulls the audience into the animalistic world. The viewing experience is either slow and deliberate or troublingly brutal. However, cinematographer Simon Beaufils gives it a classically noir look, thanks to the neon lighting and shadowy streets. Ironically, Saturne Bowling actually looks like an inviting place, as long as you don’t go home with the staff. Just not quite there to recommend,
Saturn Bowling is now playing in New York at the Cinema Village.