6.5/10 After an eight year gap between writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s (son of David) feature length film debut “Antiviral” and his 2020 follow up “Possessor”, we thankfully get a much shorter waiting time period with his third film, “Infinity Pool”. Cronenberg is very much his father’s son and while he has shown signs of greatness across all three of his films, he continues to fall just short of excellence as his influences/inspirations and their shadows loom too large over his body of work. While “Antiviral” had social commentary about idolizing celebrities to the point of fans contracting their diseases, “Possessor” took the “Inception” plot and flipped it on its head by having people enter the bodies of others to carry out mission objectives. “Infinity Pool” sees wealthy tourist Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) and her husband James (Alexander Skarsgård) vacationing to an island getaway since James is suffering from writer’s block and looking for inspiration. They come across Gabi Bauer (Mia Goth) and her group of cohorts who claim to admire the book that James wrote years ago. Long story short, James accidentally runs a man over, killing him and is arrested. Yet in this world, the wealthy can have themselves cloned and have their clone put to death instead of themselves. This allows the corrupt government/police to make a profit while still claiming that they achieved justice but this lets the rich continue to commit any crimes they so please, so long as they can pay to have themselves cloned and force the punishment onto their clone. The idea is fascinating and the performances are phenomenal. Following last year’s double feature of “X” and “Pearl”, Mia Goth continues to be one of the bravest actresses working today, never afraid to push boundaries. Skarsgård has also been on a hot streak lately, coming off of last year’s “The Northman” but this time he plays the opposite of his character from last year’s Viking epic. The unsettling yet subtle score, paired with the trippy lighting/cinematography and rapid editing, make the audience feel like we are losing our minds right alongside James. What started as a quick way out of avoiding the death penalty in a foreign country quickly devolves into an unhealthy fixation on hurting his own clone, getting caught up in the mind altering impacts of substance abuse/group sex and an extreme overcorrection to his mundane life where his wife is the bread earner and he hasn’t produced anything of value in years. From a technical standpoint the film is well made and the pacing works. The problems for Cronenberg continue to be that be borrows a bit too heavily from other films. The starting point of a rich, white couple in a foreign country having the drunk husband run over and kill a local man, only to be at the mercy of corrupt, local officials was the exact same inciting incident in “The Forgiven” with Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain (and ironically “Antiviral” star Caleb Landry Jones and “Possessor” star Christopher Abbott) just six months before the release of “Infinity Pool”. The character of James also seems heavily inspired by Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. Both men are writers struggling with writer’s block who take their families to an isolated, getaway location to focus on some work just before the season changes and weather shuts their respective hotels down for months. Both men become greatly influenced by their surrounding environments, caring less and less about their family lives, succumbing to physical temptations both in substances and sex and losing their minds as they commit acts of violence. Cronenberg definitely has a lot to say in his films but borrowing too heavily from noticeable, popular films continues to leave much to be desired by the time the end credits begin to roll. Whether he needs to keep thinking of provocative, original stories from within his own head or just adapt a novel so he doesn’t need to worry about outside influences interfering as much, Cronenberg certainly knows how to get solid performances out of his actors and create uncomfortable tones/moods for his films. If only his scripts could match his technical prowess. While his three films are all decent but flawed, I am still holding out for a truly inspiring breath of fresh air from this rising talent.

#FosterThePeople / #ToInfinityPoolAndBeyond / #LeaveEmBehind / #BDSEm / #DeadPool / #LikeAGothToAJames

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