Reel to Real

‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ and ‘The Guilty’ allow two great actors to showcase their chops

Two great actors get to showcase their incredible acting chops in two roles that require each of them to do a lot of solo acting and play off themselves.

Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Night Crawler”) – two future Oscar winners (seriously, how have they not won yet? And even more surprising: they each only have ONE nomination!) – can be seen in two films that couldn’t be more different.

But those films – which both became available in wide release last Friday – demonstrate how skilled both men are at being the only person in a scene for lengthy periods, and at being able to capture and hold your attention.

Hardy’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” opened in theaters last week, and quickly had the best opening weekend in North America of any picture released during the pandemic.

Gyllenhaal’s “The Guilty”, is a remake of a well-regarded Danish film. It had a limited theatrical release last month, but became available on Netflix last weekend as well.

‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is entertaining and even fun

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Rated T)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris

Genre: Action/Sci-fi

Where to watch: In theaters

Dwight’s Rating:

When it comes to sequels, we often say that viewing the previous film isn’t a requirement.

In fact, some folks insist that someone new to a series or franchise should be able to watch and not be confused and feel as though they’ve missed too much. If it’s really decent, it should at least inspire you to go back and watch what came before.

And while you can watch the new film, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and pretty much understand what’s happening, I do think having known how we got to this point would definitely help prepare you for the irreverence that lies ahead.

This is a sequel to the wacky 2018 action flick “Venom”, based on the Marvel characters. The picture is from Sony, and not from the Disney side of Marvel Universe.

While plenty people were not fans of the original, I quite enjoyed it, and appreciated its bizarre blend of humor and action. “Let There Be Carnage” picks up where that one left off.

Tom Hardy is back as Eddie Brock, and is still struggling to coexist with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom, who has pretty much invaded and is inhabiting his body. When deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) also becomes host to an alien “symbiote”, Brock and Venom must put aside their differences to stop his reign of terror.

The plot feels like a standard go-to storyline for countless Marvel flicks (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least two Spider-Man movies with similar themes), so there’s absolutely nothing new here. And the action progresses in the most usual and derivative way.

But what makes this series unique is the humor. The Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde-all-at-the-same-time conflicts between Eddie and Venom are strange and disturbing, but often hilarious. Hardy is one of the most versatile actors around today, and gets to demonstrate some extreme range.

Don’t get me wrong: this is some really silly stuff, and there are big holes in the plot, and at times the goofiness can seem incessant, and it frequently gets annoying. However, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”, is more often than not quite entertaining and even fun.

‘The Guilty’ ride is captivating from start to finish

“The Guilty” (US Rated R)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard

Genre: Crime/Drama

Where to watch: Netflix

Dwight’s Rating:

This is a fascinating concept!

A troubled police detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) demoted to 911 operator duty scrambles to save a distressed caller during a harrowing day of revelations and reckonings.

We don’t see any of the “action”. For the entire film, we are with Gyllenhaal, who is stuck at the 911 call center.

He is on the screen in nearly every frame. We experience all of his reactions – to the calls and his fellow 911 operators, the helplessness he is experiencing, the anguish from what he’s hearing, and the pain he’s enduring in his personal life.

It gets intense, especially aided by Gyllenhaal’s spirited performance, playing this man on the edge.

Will he crack and run out and become a vigilante? Throughout the whole experience, you’re kept guessing. And there are surprises – one after the other.

While energy levels do sag a tad from time to time, for the most part, “The Guilty” maintains a steady boil. The concept surprisingly doesn’t wear thin, and the ride is captivating from start to finish.

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight and follow him on Twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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