Rajeev Masand

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That voice in the head

 
 

Venom

Rating: 2

October 05, 2018

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

Director: Ruben Fleischer

A wisecracking, sarcastic anti-hero, bent on taking out the villain who turned him into a mutant mess. You’re thinking Deadpool aren’t you? But I’m actually talking about Tom Hardy in and as half-man, half-alien Venom. Despite starring a charming leading man, and featuring some heavy-duty set pieces with a smattering of witty scenes, this movie simply isn’t the fun amusement park ride that Deadpool was.

The problem is that it can’t make up its mind about its tone: Should it be about the hilarious hijinks or the character’s inherently dark undercurrent?

Venom is the famous Spider-Man villain, the webbed superhero’s arch nemesis who appeared in many comic book issues and even in Sam Raimi’s 2007 film Spider-Man 3. But director Ruben Fleischer decides to go for the origin story here – showing us how a “loser”, Eddie Brock (played by Hardy), gets “infected” by the alien and turns into his alter ego Venom. In this movie, he is an anti-hero – Brock lends Venom a sense of right and wrong and together they go after the alien organisms that want to annihilate our world.

Sadly, the film can’t shake off its been-there-seen-that feel, starting with cocky investigative journalist Brock taking on the evil corporation magnate Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake has transported alien organisms to earth and wants to morph humans with the alien “symbiote”, callously using San Francisco’s homeless folks as lab rats. One of the film’s more engaging scenes is the one in which Brock breaks into the lab and gets infected. Venom can transform Brock into a super-being; an enormous, ugly creature with big snake eyes, a big slithery tongue and big, scary piranha-type teeth. Yes, Venom has enormous strength, but he also shapeshifts, has telepathic powers, and, to Brock’s horror, can control his mind.

The film’s best bits are the ones in which Brock acclimatizes to Venom. The repartee between Brock and the voice in his head reminds you of the Jim Carrey hit Liar Liar, while the physical comedy in which Venom possesses Brock, making him do things that he wants to resist, is reminiscent of another Carrey classic, The Mask.

The film has a thrilling bike chase through San Fran’s zigzag roads, much more enjoyable than the overwrought CGI battle between Venom and Drake’s symbiote Riot. There’s also an insipid love track between Eddie and his estranged fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams, who’s utterly wasted in the role). Even Riz Ahmed, as nefarious space corporation honcho Drake, is forgettable at best.

The film then rests largely on Hardy, who already delivered a memorable bad guy turn as Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Returns. Here he infuses Brock and his alter ego with a witty sort of charm, but it’s not enough to keep you invested.

I’m going with two out of five for Venom. It’s got a few inspired moments, but believe me you wouldn’t miss much if you caught a short snooze in between.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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