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[BD Review] ‘Stoker’ A Contemplative Artistic Thriller

One of the more highly anticipated films of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was Stoker, the first English-language feature from cult fave Chan-wook Park (the highly regarded Vengeance trilogy, including Oldboy). Despite a heavyweight cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Dermot Mulroney, Stoker still manages to retain Park’s distinctive fingerprints, indicating that even the Hollywood system can’t quell his particular brand of creativity. It may be slow, but it’s one hell of a good-looking movie.

When patriarch Richard (Mulroney) is killed in a mysterious accident, the wealthy, reclusive Stoker family struggles to pick up the pieces and move on. Distant from her workaholic husband, wife Kidman mourns the loss through sullen self-absorption, paying little attention to teenage daughter Mia Wasikowska, who spends most of the movie rocking that whole petulant Wasikowska thing. When Richard’s brother Charlie unexpectedly arrives for the funeral and announces his intention to move in with the family, the resulting mind games begin to corrode the Stokers, particularly niece Wasikowska, who feels strangely attracted to her uncle despite her best instincts.

British actor Matthew Goode plays the pivotal role of “Uncle Charlie”––in a presumed reference to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, which also featured a mmysteriousUncle Charlie come home to visit––a glinty-eyed seducer of women who is never quite what he seems. After a handful of flirtatious exchanges with Kidman, Uncle Charlie’s gaze eventually drifts to young Wasikowska, with whom he forges an even deeper connection. Once a dark secret is shared, it becomes even harder for Wasikowska to escape the influence of her increasingly malevolent uncle.

Stoker is an extremely slow-starter, a contemplative thriller that holds back the genre elements until the second half. As a murder mystery, it ranks as merely solid. But it’s virtually impossibly to overstate the beauty of Park’s visuals here. The rich color palette, captured with the assistance of longtime cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, is nothing less than breathtaking. Virtually any still image from the film could be framed and hung as a masterpiece. While it may lack the dark intensity of Park’s previous projects, Stoker is the textbook definition of an art film.



  • MattSlash

    I still want to see it, but not as much anymore after this review.

  • Evan3

    I REALLY want to see this (just caught Oldboy for the first time last year…. I know right?). @Ryan Daley – what was the reaction from the audience generally? Also, I absolutely hate Mia Wasikowsi – a horrible actress, the fact she’s in this is quite a downer.

  • If this were a film cast with Korean actors, I would be more interested in seeing it. As it stands, I’ll take a wait and read more reviews approach. I like Nicole Kidman, but not enough to sit through another lame American drama/mystery.

  • djblack1313

    i’m dying to see this! it looks great and it’s impressive that actor/writer Wentworth Miller wrote this! congrats to him! 🙂

    • Scorpionsy

      Yeah…I think he was better as an actor in Prison Break…this movie did not cut it for me, except in the visual art department. But by all means feel free to watch it and judge for yourself.

      • Scorpionsy

        Oh, and by the way…Wentworth Miller wrote this as you said…he does not act in this movie at all.

  • Scorpionsy

    I saw a special screening of Stoker a few days ago…and being a Huge fan of Old Boy (and the Vengeance triloy anyway)…I went in with high expectations.

    The good thing is how beautifully the movie was shot..almot like a painting. It has a beautiful visual style to it. But the Director did WAY too many extreme face clos-ups…sort of over did it for me.

    The story was interesting and the movie is a slow burn type movie but the pay off was not great…it can get really boring at times.

    Also, this movie is definitely influenced by Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” right down to the name “Uncle Charlie” but it takes a different direction also.

    I understand what the Director is trying to pull off…but this movie did not work for me as I had hoped and it could have been better. Sorry to disappoint you, kids.

    I give it a 2.5 out of 5

  • Scorpionsy

    Ryan Daley…being the creator of this page and BD reviewer for this movie, you should remove “Wentworth Miller” from the “Starring” credits section of your review above…as mentioned above he wrote this movie but does not “Star” or act in this movie.

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