Out of the Blue, 2022.
Written and Directed by Neil LaBute.
Starring Diane Kruger, Ray Nicholson, Hank Azaria, Chase Sui Wonders, Victor Slezak, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Marilyn Swick, and Jeff Bouffard.
After spending time in prison following an assault charge, Connor Bates now works in a library and spends his free time running, swimming, and trying to piece his world back together. When he meets Marilyn Chambers, the wife of a wealthy businessman, they collide into an intense physical and emotional relationship that quickly escalates into idle talk about her husband’s murder.
Coming from writer/director Neil LaBute, it’s practically a foregone conclusion that Out of the Blue will take some absurd turns. However, the critical difference between this and something like the infamous Nicolas Cage-led The Wicker Man is that one of them is forgettable as soon as it’s over. I’m sure you already know which is which.
There’s nothing wrong with a fun, trashy erotic thriller when you have Diane Kruger on board as the physically abused wife of a wealthy businessman plotting a murder scheme. She casually asks for books containing similar scenarios while flirting with handsome librarians. The manipulated fool is Connor (Ray Nicholson), out of jail (I won’t spoil the crime, but it’s safe to say he’s a good person at heart that just made a mistake) and working such jobs while reporting to his hilariously outspoken probation officer (Hank Azaria).
Despite a good-natured and beautiful coworker (Marilyn Swick) expressing an interest in going on dates and bonding, Connor is drawn to the wish-fulfillment danger of Marilyn’s (Diane Kruger) life. They also start having sex all over the place (including in public libraries when no one is around), cementing Connor as someone who thinks with his dick.
Given all the murder mystery books and classic thrillers Connor is educated in, one would presume he would be a little smarter or at least somewhat aware that he’s being played (I realize this is kind of a spoiler, but it’s also not as long as one pays the slightest attention to the movie). Nevertheless, Marilyn explains that she has to cut things off because they will never be able to be together, not while her husband is in the picture. There’s also a stepdaughter (Chase Sui Wonders) Marilyn cares for, which further launches Connor into agreeing to a murder plan due to her proximity to the abuse.
There’s not much to the central affair beyond sex in unique places, meandering connections, and eventually misdirection. The performances are solid, and the chemistry is there, but there’s only so much that can be done with such sluggish storytelling (and only so much that can be enhanced by the occasional intriguing shot selection). While the gist of this plot is routine, the specifics are somewhat unclear and contain at least one surprising twist. But there’s also no characterization to make any of that meaningful to the viewer; it’s just a twist for the hell of it.
Out of the Blue consists of Connor making one dumb decision after another, reeled in by seduction and risk with hopes of coming out the other end as a savior. And if it’s trying to say something about male lust, the point is lost in trying to catch viewers off guard. In the end, it amounts to a decent laugh, and that’s it.
The film is awkwardly cut together with a chapter structure rapidly jumping through time by hours, days, or weeks (sometimes for 30-second pointless scenes before moving forward), it’s a pale imitation of the works referenced throughout the movie, and there’s little sympathy for these characters. That’s also what happens when characters resemble chess pieces for plot twists rather than human beings. Out of the Blue also plays things straight for too long, whereas embracing its trash and camp earlier could have benefited.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com