Ever since Netflix have proven themselves as a fantastic streaming platform, everyone gets hyped about their ‘Originals’. Velvet Buzzsaw was no exception, and when the first trailer dropped I was so excited to watch it. Everything about it seemed great; it was written and directed by Dan Gilroy (the guy who gave us the fantastic Nightcrawler), and the cast was incredible. Who could say no to Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo AND Toni Collette? Not me. Unfortunately, this wonderful mix didn’t live up to my expectations at all and left me feeling very disappointed.
The main issue I had with Velvet Buzzsaw is that the pacing is horrendously slow. The first 45 minutes felt like nothing but exposition, when it was a relatively simple concept for the audience to grasp. The film follows a bunch of art critics, artists and patrons of the arts as they uncover a series of paintings from an unknown artist. However, they’re not your normal paintings because a supernatural force lurks within them waiting to enact revenge. That’s it, that’s the synopsis. So why waste so much screen time dragging things out? The trailer made this look like a fast paced, intense thriller, but the reality is nothing like that.
It’s a shame the pacing and screenplay is so weak, because Velvet Buzzsaw does have a few redeeming features. The quality of acting is very good, and visually it’s beautiful to look at, particularly the locations and the paintings that appear throughout. I especially enjoyed the characters Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and Gretchen (Toni Collette), as they embody the typically powerful, ruthless and bitchy personas one would expect from this industry. They satirise art lovers perfectly, which is partially why I haven’t rated this film lower. In all honesty, these actors deserved better than the script they were dealt, and it’s a shame such talent was wasted here. I’m having trouble understanding how you can take such an interesting concept and brilliant actors, and make it so boring.
Even the inevitable death scenes are pretty dull, and play like a straight to TV horror film that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Velvet Buzzsaw fails to execute any sort of suspense, or even terror, so when people eventually die you’re just sat there like “Huh, is that it?”. After such a slow first act, you expect some kind of payoff, but it never arrives. Again, the trailer had some pretty scary moments that made me expect a few jump scares or intense moments. I’m confused about why this was even marketed as a horror-thriller, when it lacks so many of the aspects that make both those genres great. I didn’t feel scared at all, and even when the characters we were supposed to hate met their demise, there was no morbid satisfaction in it. To be completely honest, I was apathetic towards the whole thing. I just wanted it to end.
If you are a fan of slow-burning films that take a while to get going, then you might enjoy Velvet Buzzsaw more than I did. I don’t necessarily have a problem with these types of films, but you still need to keep the audience gripped somehow. You need to give people a reason to keep watching.
Gilroy’s attempt to show the horrors of the art world falls flat, and certainly doesn’t live up to the expectations based on the success of Nightcrawler. Part of me even wondered how this was the same man, it felt so vastly different to his other work. Netflix Originals rarely let me down, but this time, they really did.
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette