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January 27, 2022

Movie Review: McAvoy shines in so-so ‘Split’

If there’s any doubt that James McAvoy is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today, “Split” serves as a testament to his overwhelming talent and devotion to every role he takes. 

And this might truly be McAvoy’s (“X-Men,” “Wanted”) best performance of his career. 

He plays Kevin “Wendell” Crumb, a man suffering through dissociative identity disorder (DID), which gives him 23 distinctly different personalities, that feels compelled to kidnap three teenaged girls and keep them captive.

The premise is simple and nothing out of the ordinary for a horror/thriller but the overall story has enough depth to keep you, at the very least, thinking and engaged. 

Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula are fine as bland it-girls Claire and Marcia, respectively, but the movie slogs through its first disjointed act, which also introduces Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), Kevin’s therapist and confidant who has tabbed DID as the key to human evolution.

Everything really takes off when Anya Taylor-Joy’s (“The Witch,” “Morgan”) Casey, an introverted loner who undoubtedly has a troubled and secretive past, and McAvoy are alone and feeding off one another. Taylor-Joy is subtle, scared and somber and is a perfect ying to McAvoy’s yang.

There are moments between the two…err…three…err…four that could lift this movie into cult classic territory, especially when McAvoy turns back the clock to play a 9-year-old kid named Hedwig. His hilarious but creepy prepubescent representation is just one of many roles McAvoy knocks out of the park in his film-stealing performance. The 37-year-old Scottish actor is haunting, confusing and earnest in every scene.

But the film ultimately takes a nosedive in its disappointing final act. After superbly building tension with mystery and well-executed monologues from McAvoy, it turns to a cheesy Hollywood escape-impending-death ending. No spoilers, but as the movie started to veer in a different direction I started to cringe. 

I guess that is what to be expected with an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Shyamalan has whiffed badly with his last six movies after his promising directorial start with “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.” This, despite its falls, is a nice rebound for Shyamalan, who also penned the script. While some of the dialogue is forgettable — especially the lines coming from Buckley’s Dr. Fletcher, who is all tell and no show — and there are definitely scenes that could have been trimmed or cut out completely to tighten up the runtime, most of Shyamalan’s vision works.

The music is good bordering on great and the cinematography is superb. Some scenes are so beautifully shot you will wonder why Universal did not release this movie in time to earn some Oscar buzz.

Some will say McAvoy’s performance will demand at least a nomination come Oscar time next year and you can very well make an argument for it. But, considering that there are still 11 more months of movies left in 2017, I doubt that this showing will stick around in most people’s minds for that long.

That being said, it still deserves a view.

7/10

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BOX OFFICE REVIEW

1. “Split”: $40,010,975 (Week 1); Universal. 

2. “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage”: $20,130,142 (Week 1); Paramount.

3. “Hidden Figures”: $15,721, 606 (Week 5); Fox. Total earnings: $83.7 million

4. “Sing”: $9,003,780 (Week 5); Universal. Total earnings: $249.3 million

5. “La La Land”: $8,427,583 (Week 7); Lionsgate. Total earnings: $89.7 million

•••

COMING SOON

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” — Picking up immediately after the events in “Resident Evil: Retribution,” Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began — The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. 

     – Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

     – Cast: Ruby Rose, Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen

“A Dog’s Purpose” — A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners.

     – Director: Lasse Hallström

     – Cast: Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Josh Gad

“Gold” — An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold.

     – Director: Stephen Gaghan

    – Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Toby Kebbel

“The Salesman”: Forushande (The Salesman) is the story of a couple whose relationship begins to turn sour during their performance of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

     – Director: Asghar Farhadi

     – Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati

•••

SWEET STREAM

“Sing Street” (Netflix): For my money, this is the best movie on Netflix right now and not many know about it. “Sing Street” (John Carney) is a coming-of-age story set in Dublin, Ireland during the ‘80s. It’s a feel-good movie that is eyeballs deep in the rock ’n’ roll culture, featuring music from The Cure, A-ha, Duran Duran and, my personal favorite, Hall & Oates — among others. A film that is carried by dialogue, comedy and superb moments of old-school musical creation, “Sing Street” is ultimately a story of brotherhood that has heart.

•••

“For the Love of Flicks” is a weekly column written by Sports Editor Tony Nunez. For comments or suggestions, email [email protected].

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