“High-Rise”

I haven’t been to the theater since I saw “Don’t Breathe.” There hasn’t been much out and I’ve had other events. However, I’m getting caught up on some Netflix and VOD releases, including “High-Rise.”

“High-Rise” is director Ben Wheatley’s (that bizarre hitman horror movie “Kill List”) third film and takes place in a tower block in the 1970s’ UK. Tom Hiddleston stars as Robert, a doctor who moves into the complex where he’s introduced to the hedonistic lifestyle and elitist attitudes among attendees.

Between the narcissism and increasing power outages, a class war ensues. The working-class families live in the lower floors and fight over food and power; on the other hand, the wealthy on the higher floors (including Robert) engage in orgies, lavish parties, and eating dogs.

“High-Rise” is a wildly transgressive piece of film with shades of Kubrick mashed with “Mad Men,” “Dredd,” and “Snowpiercer.” It’s ambitious and bold; however, that’s both admirable and frustrating.

“High-Rise” begins morbidly with a mad Robert cooking a dog before he tells his story in flashbacks. We then see a gruesome autopsy scene that’s used as foreshadowing for what’s to come. This again is admirable, but once the second act begins, the narrative structure becomes about as chaotic as the story itself.

We see an orgy, then a riot, then another orgy, then animals die, then another orgy, and finally rape and torture. This is expected in transgressive films, but it becomes boring and repetitive after a while. The film goes further downhill through its contradicting logic.

Jeremy Irons plays the tower architect, Royal. Irons plays him with charisma and menace, but his motives seem to change in every scene. He wants to fix the building one minute, but then he later monologues about creating a better society through the chaos?

Luke Evans plays Richard, a documentary filmmaker who intends to expose Royal’s agenda. He resorts to raping and torturing a woman for information, and a psychologist still diagnoses him as the sanest person in the tower? WTF?!

Hiddleston is the strongest part in the movie. He plays Robert as a Don Draper-type with his cool suits and womanizing attitude. We see he’s also in pain and feels alone. He’s more vulnerable when the residents go berserk, leading Robert to manically paint himself and his apartment.

“High-Rise” is a polarizing movie because of its content and narrative. Sure, the themes and commentary are timely, but Wheatley seems more comfortable focusing on shock value than his message. It’s a shame.

Grade: C-

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