Written and directed by: Dan Gilroy

Produced by: Jennifer Fox

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Tom Sturridge, John Malcovich, Zawe Ashton, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, Natalia Dyer etc.

Picture the scene: a starving child in Africa passively stares at a camera while a fly irritates their big sad eyes, and they do not know when their next meal is coming from. Meanwhile, in a New York auction house a painting by Cezanne or Gauguin or Picasso is selling for over $200 million dollars! What the fuck is wrong with the world?!  I’m not saying these paintings aren’t great art it’s just that there is NO WAY that amount of money should be paid for a painting when there is starvation, disease, and poverty in the world. It’s just an indictment of the sickness of humanity, that we place such value on what effectively amounts to canvas and paint placed in a particular manner by some dead person. It’s utter madness!!


Yeah, sure, maybe I DON’T GET IT!! Maybe one should be allowed to express themselves from a creative and emotional perspective but THEY ALSO WANT PRAISE FOR IT!!! And MONEY! And adulation! Of course, certain painters, sculptors and creative types expressing themselves can become a transcendental experience but mostly it’s a bunch of pretentious wankers conning us into thinking what they are doing is important. Come the fictitious revolution occuring in my imagination, most modern artists will be on the hypothetical spikes adorning the made-up barricades.

Tony Gilroy’s third film Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) taps into some of the ire I feel for the art world. It’s full of fake plastic and unlikable characters who spend their days stabbing and fucking each other in the back, all trying to sell us the next big fat artistic lie. When a never-famous painter dies his work becomes a cause celebre and further in-fighting ensues in an attempt to monetize his apparent genius. Jake Gyllenhaal leads an impressive ensemble cast as arsehole critic, Morf Vandewalt; while Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Tom Sturridge, John Malcovich and Zawe Ashton revel in their narcissitic and parasitic roles as agents, artists and art-whores.

Ultimately, this is a very broad comedic satire with some decent horror deaths thrown in. At times I felt like it should have been shot with a cast of unknowns on 16mm film, rather than the A-list hi-definition gloss presented. Firmly in the B-movie territory of say Final Destination and Driller Killer, it’s neither scary or bloody enough to make a convincing horror or gorefest. Having said that there are some fantastic deaths, very witty dialogue and memorable images throughout. Lastly, Gilroy’s work has kind of gone backwards since his phenomenal debut Nightcrawler, and this, without wishing to sound like a pretentious critic, is certainly a very minor work. Overall, though I enjoyed the coruscating digs at the modern art-world and all the arseholes who inhabit it; so that made it well worth a watch.

Mark: 7.5 out of 11

12 thoughts on “VELVET BUZZSAW (2019) – NETFLIX FILM REVIEW”

  1. I didn’t like it as much as you did. I liked the satire, costuming, music, and Gyllenhaal’s performance, but everything else felt quite lackluster, especially its visual presentation, characters, story, and the way it failed at blending tones. It was quite a disappointing film for me, especially after “Nightcrawler”.

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    1. I know what you mean but the visuals were good especially the Sphere and the “killers” paintings and Hobo art piece. The image of Russo sitting in garden with the two shadows and mirroring the painting was very striking. But yes, the story did not hold water really and the characters were very stereotypical, often in a negative way. Having said that I think that was the point. They are as shallow as that from Gilroy’s perspective.

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      1. Save for the shots you mentioned, I thought it was a visually very bland film. The lighting felt off since it made the shots look very flat and way too clean, as you mention in your review, which I didn’t find fitting with either of the tones the film was going for. The shot compositions on their own were mostly very basic as well. The film’s shot like a cheap tv-show, and I didn’t find it particularly visually appealing. There are some cool ideas in there that could’ve been great if presented more originally, think of a certain death in a room with dripping paint, but Gilroy’s approach is completely devoid of any tension or creativity, which makes these scenes fall flat. “Velvet Buzzsaw”‘s lackluster visual presentation is especially noticeable if you’d compare shots from this film to shots of “The Square”, another satire about the art world, which was masterfully shot, using lighting, eye-lines, and camera positions to their fullest effect. It just goes to show what kind of wasted potential their was in “Velvet Buzzsaw”.

        As for characters, it might have been the point to have the characters stay stereotypical, though I think it didn’t do the film any favors and it would’ve benefited they added at least something to them. I didn’t find myself caring for any of the characters, because of how shallow their characters were, but also because of how ignorant assholes they were, which made the supposedly scary scenes a whole lot less suspenseful, as it didn’t matter to me if they died or not. They could’ve fleshed the characters out some more since the only thing that I know about them is really the bare minimum; their name and profession. The only character I sort of cared for was Gyllenhaal’s Morf, though this was more due to his performance than due to the way that his character was written.

        Also, I thought that there were way too many characters in the film in the first place. Think of John Malkovich’s character, for example, who doesn’t serve any purpose in the film, except for a few jokes. I’d rather have had a film with a central protagonist and a fleshed out story than what we have now. If they’d focused on Gyllenhaal’s character, I think we’d have had a more interesting and compelling film. Even if they got rid of just a few of the characters, they’d have had more time to work on the story and have me care for the characters a bit more.

        Anyway, I’m glad that you were able to somewhat enjoy the film :). It just didn’t do it for me, but as long as people are able to enjoy it, I’m happy.

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      2. I didn’t really mind that there were well-known actors in it, though I did think that not all of them gave a great performance. They were mostly fine, but they didn’t add any depth to the characters, except for Gyllenhaal. Zawe Ashton’s acting, in particular, was very monotone. It often felt as if she was pretending to be her character, which is a sign that her performance wasn’t great, unlike Gyllenhaal, who became the character, if that makes any sense whatsoever haha

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      3. What I mean is they, like Malkovich, we’re not given much to do so kind of phoned it in. I’d say Ashton, who is an excellent actor, was probably directed in that way; but I’d say her shallow character did come off poorly in the story. Yes, lots of missed opportunities in this one, but anything that slates the art world and kills s few of them off in a movie is fine by me 😊😊😊

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      4. Oh, I see what you mean, and I agree, they basically phoned it in. I also agree with you on Ashton. She was great in everything else I’ve seen her in, so it’s probably down to not-so-great directing and her hollow character.

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  2. I rather enjoyed this one. Wonderful script and interestingly detestable characters. But it’s surprisingly very much in the b-movie territory, like you said. It’s a good thing I have a soft spot for over-the-top horror!

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