Just over three weeks ago, we discussed an upcoming film called Beast Beast. Directed by Danny Madden, Beast Beast explores issues surrounding gun violence. I had the absolute pleasure of watching Beast Beast this week and part of me was nervous. How would I feel after watching it? A lot of movies that I watch portray gun violence in a very empty way. It’s unapologetic and sometimes extreme. I’d be lying if I said films like John Wick weren’t fun or cool. But Beast Beast takes a more personal stance on it. The biggest difference being that we’re dealing with young teenagers. Let me rephrase that, we’re dealing with actual characters that have heart, passions, regrets, and motivations.
Originally, my initial thoughts were “oh no”. I was was expecting an incredibly heavy and overly depressing story. The final act definitely falls into that “heavy” category but I was surprised by the intricate and detailed mode of storytelling that was reinforced by three coming-of-age stories that align beautifully. Gun violence is without a doubt a key component in this movie, but it doesn’t drive the story until the very end. What we get is a well-thought-out story that focuses on three different life styles all of which are simultaneously impacted by the pull of a trigger.
Jose Angeles as Nito
We’re presented with three main characters. Krista who is a passionate and very innocent theater lover. The troubled Nito who unfortunately joins a group of misfits who go around causing mischief. Finally, we have gun enthusiast Adam who attempts to turn his passion into a career by making informative videos about weapons. We follow each character very intensely. It doesn’t take long to fully understand them. We understand their goals and their struggles very early on as we witness a blooming relationship between Krista and Nito and the rising tension as Adam’s dream falls apart.
What I truly admired was the unpredictability of Beast Beast. On several occasions, we’re presented with a scenario that could go south very quickly but it doesn’t. It teases us. Not only that, but it plays around with the potential perpetrator. Some of us could quite easily guess who it is, but Beast Beast places multiple red herrings that make us think that any one of them could be responsible. Even if you can guess, the actual circumstances don’t become clear until all three stories have aligned properly and by then… it’s too late.
Shirley Chen as Krista
I found myself fully invested in all three characters. I was desperate to see everything work out for them, particularly because they weren’t bad people. Sure, Adam’s love for guns is questionable and so is Nito’s decision to join a rough crowd. But they’re not bad… they’re just teenagers trying to find their place in the world. Beast Beast is an unbiased film. What do I mean by that? Well, the characters are neither good nor bad, there’s this grey area and this applies to all of them. What that does is completely shroud the movie in mystery whereby the identity of the shooter and victim are obscured. You’ll have your predictions but sometimes you’ll sit and think “maybe I got it wrong”.
This is a character driven story and it succeeded due to the writing and the actors. The cast, while reasonably small, is fantastic. Having a small cast works in the film’s favor as our attention is permanently on Krista, Nito, and Adam. They all provide convincing performances and it took me back to my days at school. There was always the soft trouble maker, the theater lover and someone with a strange hobby. It did a great job at capturing that “at-school” essence by giving us relatable characters.
I was particularly captured by Will Madden’s performance as Adam. I found his character very interesting since we’re in an age where YouTube fame is a desperate desire so to see that progression from chasing a goal to then getting frustrated by the lack of views (a potential red herring) was somewhat relatable. Madden was also able to harness Adam’s anger purely in his eyes. We can see his frustration and his anger and it made him very unpredictable at times.
Will Madden as Adam
Krista also took me by surprise, I’m stepping in spoiler territory here so I’ll keep it brief. Once again, Beast Beast played with my expectations. They were absolutely building up to a certain type of ending that revolved around ideas of revenge, but then they did something completely unique with it. I’m glad they did because it still suited Krista as a character without being too extreme or out of character. The brilliant thing about it is that the seeds are planted very early on, yet my mind was so focused on what I would deem as a predictable resolution that I didn’t see the true ending sneak up behind me. It was a very clever way to bring the film to a close as well as divert it away from a traditional and maybe even stereotypical ending.
Beast Beast is a wonderful exploration of teenage life that explores multiple ways of living and overall lifestyles. The film is supported by a fantastic cast who are able to convey raw performances that are very grounded. While this film unfortunately deals with gun violence, it does it in a way that is both respectable in regards to not glorifying violence and realistic in terms of the circumstances. What Beast Beast succeeds at most is subverting our expectations. By laying down multiple red herrings, the film brilliantly disguises its true intentions.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Beast Beast on Digital Download 30 April. You can check out more film reviews, here.
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