The reason why (some) movie reviews suck

Last year, I lamented the tendency of movie reviews to reveal too much about the plot (see here), to the extent to which you wonder whether there is a point in watching the movie at all.

Below is a classic example why so many movie reviews these days suck dogs balls.  It’s from a reviewer at the Sydney Morning Herald, just one of the most respected papers in the land.

The movie reviewed is Law Abiding Citizen (which I recently reviewed here).  If you don’t want to know everything about the movie, stop reading NOW!

Here are the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the review:

“His wife and young daughter are murdered during a brutal home invasion that opens the film. The killers are quickly caught but Jamie Foxx’s Nick Rice, a gung-ho young assistant district attorney obsessed with maintaining his 95 per cent conviction rate, isn’t convinced he has enough evidence to see the case through. As a result, he makes a deal. The cockiest of the two killers gleefully consents to testify against his accomplice in return for a reduced sentence.”

“Ten years pass and we pick up the story as the less-fortunate crim is being executed by lethal injection. It’s an inordinately grisly scene, since the drugs don’t work as they should and he dies in agony. The other killer, however, is already basking in his freedom – but not for long. Clyde is waiting for him.”

These two paragraphs are enough to ruin the film, but the reviewer doesn’t stop there.   This is then followed by stuff like:

“Clyde arranges a DVD of the operation to be sent to Rice’s home, where his unsuspecting young daughter happens to see it.”

“…Clyde is incarcerated for his act of revenge. Not that he calls it revenge. In his view, he’s on a crusade aimed at the legal system itself. Consequently, he’s determined to kill everyone who’s had anything to do with his family’s murder case.”

“The casualties are now mounting at a steady rate as Rice and Irish actor Colm Meaney – cast as a strangely laid-back detective – try to work out how Clyde is managing these multiple murders from his cell, deep in solitary.”

“At one point, the forceful African-American actress Viola Davis ( Doubt) storms in to do a cameo as the mayor, a political powerhouse with a firm belief in the motivational effectiveness of verbal abuse. She’s entrusted with the film’s silliest line.”

That’s like 90% of the movie, right there.  And about half of the review.  I understand the need to give a bit of background, but what is the point of a review like this?  And why is the Herald hiring writers who basically ruin the entire movie for potential viewers?

Dogs balls.

[PS: for the record, the reviewer gave the film 1 star]

5 thoughts on “The reason why (some) movie reviews suck”

  1. As soon as you said “gave the film 1 star” I understood. Well, at least for my own experience of reading “give everything away reviews” Most of the ones I’ve encountered come from the fact that the critic hated the movie so therefore feels no need to keep its plot a secret. I think deep down, well, not so deep, he/she does it on purpose to keep people from going to see the film. Their reasoning being, they are saving you from bad movies.

    Not so long ago, a critic gave Woody Allen’s MATCH POINT 2 stars out of five. He started the review with this: “another murder-your-mistress-thriller.” Now, that may or may not have been obvious when watching the movie, but did he had to give it away? No. He didn’t like the movie, so he felt no qualms about keeping its plot a secret.

    btw, your comment section it’s still possessed by the paranormal activity demon. And it isn’t my pc! I’m writing this from a friend’s pc on the other side of town.

    1. I never thought of it that way!

      I have no idea what is going on with the comment section – what actually happens? Does it flip out? Do demons start popping up? I need to get to the bottom of this so that I can ask the lovely geniuses at WordPress how to exorcise this thing!

  2. Agreed. Don’t spend your review summarizing the plot. Give a short blurb of what its about, and that’s it. In fact, you probably don’t even need to do that, but for some its probably hard to get away from those summaries (myself included).

    1. Totally. I don’t understand why certain reviewers like to give away the first half of a film or spoil certain twists. As another blogger said, it’s probably to save readers from wasting their time on the film – but isn’t that a bit presumptuous?

  3. Not only that, but it just makes for a bad review too. Chances are whoever is reading it knows something about the film’s storyline. When half of a review is outlining the plot, i get bored just reading it.

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