Vic’s Review – “Grizzly” (2014)

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What’s it About?

Two estranged brothers reunite at their childhood home in the Alaskan wild. They set out on a two-day hike and are stalked by an unrelenting grizzly bear.

“Grizzly”

Directed by David Hackl

By Vic

Grizzly” director, David Hackl, has been around as a pretty competant production designer, AD and Second Unit Director for many recent pictures that have spanned a couple of “Saw” films and even the cool sci fi series “Lexx” from a few years back. His next film, “Life on the Line” will star heavy hitters like John Travolta and Kate Bosworth and is due later this year. His recent film, “Grizzly” was released in 2014 and I must admit to liking it’s laudable creature feature antics that slightly reflect entertaining “killer animal on the loose” flicks like “The Edge,” “The Ghost and Darkness” and even “Day of the Animals.”

Many can make the obvious comparisons of “Grizzly” being a land locked “Jaws,” of course, but this film is nowhere on the level and complexity of that movie but Hackl uses it as a template to exercise some reverent manipulations that reminds one of those fun days of goofy “man vs animal” films of the 70’s and 80’s. It is because of some of the tongue in cheek kitsch that Hackl throws into the movie that made it all kind of work for me. It isn’t the new “Jaws” or even as definitive as “The Ghost and the Darkness” but it surely has that goofy charm that fans of movies, like say, “Orca” could appreciate.

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James Marsden (X Men, 30 Rock, X2) plays the newly paroled Rowan, our protagonist, who is hired to return back home to his old Alaskan stomping grounds to track a missing poacher who has disappeared into the wild. When he returns, he immediately is pulled into a confrontation after accidentally propositioning a prostitute (accidentally, yeah right). Lo and behold, Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea, The Mist, The Punisher) plays his older brother, Beckett, who is also a Sheriff’s Deputy and ends up arresting Rowan.

The two brothers are forced into a reconciliation that will prove trouble-some. After letting him go and after the obligatory sibling angst and anger is explored, Beckett lets Rowan stay with him at his home. We eventually learn that Beckett’s wife, Michelle (Piper Perabo of Covert Affairs) is a mute-deaf, conservationist out in the Alaskan wilderness, taking pictures and documenting the wildlife, which includes observing the poaching and deforestation that is causing an increase in animal attacks. Especially those involving Grizzly bears. And this one Grizzly, is certainly not in a very kind mood and does not wish to share his forest with humans.

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Those who watch “Grizzly” will pretty much know what will unfold through-out the film since the film does not take great pains to be extremely unique or singularly inventive on any level. But what Hackl does is serve up a re-iteration of the classic “animal turned mass murderer” tropes and to the movie’s benefit, it all seems to work in a wacky (yeah, that’s a specific cinematic critique) and nail-bting way.

Billy Bob Thornton, for example, is the indisputable caricature of Quint from Jaws, a character that is a loner, a hunter, a tracker and who seems to know all about the Grizzly bear that is out slaughtering poachers, ax men and hikers alike. This Grizzly (No CGI involved with rendering this bad boy) is more like 3 tons of hungry, pissed off bear. Thornton’s Douglass, is totally like-able and accessible as the surly, abrasive and experienced Ahab figure in “Grizzly.” Douglass is the know it all animal expert that clashes with Beckett and his wife, Michelle, on almost every level.

Scott Glenn (Silence of the Lambs) plays an Alaskan Sheriff, named Sully, who is forced to hire Douglass as Beckett, Rowan and a local Doctor (and Rowan’s ex flame) named Kaley go out to find Michelle and try to prevent the Grizzly from more bodies from turning up as a result of the dangerous “Rogue” bear. Yeah, Thornton calls it a “rogue” bear. If ya gotta steal, then steal from the best, no? Hackl tackles the film commendably with nice and gritty cinematography by James Liston (Canin in the Woods), a slick and dangerous score by Marcus Trumpp (who capably scored World War Z) and a brisk, chop chop running time. Hackl’s decisive direction and knowledge of what makes it all work is indeed creditable.

The bear, named Bart, is a menacing monster. Hackl lets us see everything up close, including the attacks that look very real and had me wondering how they pulled it all off. I would safely assume that it was all done with professional wranglers and skilled stunt people alike. The film has it’s share of brutal attacks, gore, chases, close calls and stunts. As the body count continues and the confrontations increase, the movie has very little time for us to really examine everything that is going on.

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This is actually to the advantage of the film-makers. Here, Hackl gives us some character development but never really explores them throughly and I really didn’t care. In “Grizzly” just knowing and learning the basics about everyone is sufficient since I grew impatient for the mayhem to begin. And here, Hackl delivers the mayhem quicky and savagely.

The lush and beautiful British Columbia stands in as Alaska and Liston really shows us the surroundings with a dangerous eye, making the woods and the interiors an integral part of the story and the movie. The movie also nods and winks to many other similar films and sometimes Hackl film walks that thin line between reverance and mimickry. The Ahab-esque obssession of Thornton’s Douglass is a very relevant example.

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Every actor on display here is in it for the long haul and even though they escape any scenery chewing or over the top antics, they never really shine either. They seem as if going thru the motions most of the time until Hackl forces them into action, and then Jane, Marsden, Glenn and Perabo kick into high gear. It doesn’t hinder the fun at all, luckily. Thornton has the meaty role in this, though, and his bespeckled and driven Douglass is indeed the most colorful of the bunch. His final showdown with the Grizzly was actually pretty bad ass.

Hackl’s “Grizzly” is a capable, desolute and sometimes witty time waster. It is a meritorious “man vs animal and nature” outing that has much to enjoy in the action and bloodletting sequences but can get bogged down in the obvious “been there, seen that” elements in many places. The tension is just boilerplate and garden variety but the performances are not a complete waste, given the subject matter. The anemic performances actually contrast much of what else happens in the movie, when things are slow.

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Grizzly” can be weak in spots when trying to be heady and something more than what it is (the politics, arguments and debates over conservation, de-forestation and even the encroachment can be trite at times). But for a lazy afternoon, when sitting in your ass grove on the Sofa, you can’t go wrong checking out “Grizzly” between episodes of Helix or 12 Monkeys on Syfy. Definitely consider as a rental before a purchase or only buy if it is at a very wallet-happy price.

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21 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to catching this. It’s actually a remake of the 1976 GRIZZLY flick, which was an almost scene-for-scene landlocked rip-off of JAWS. Released a year after the blockbuster. I know it well as I got to project it when I worked the movie theater near home. Fine review, Vic.

    • I totally forgot to mention the remake info in this review! Got wrapped up in the write up and neglected to mention that little tid bit lol. Thanks for checking in, Michael! So cool that you ran the projector on the original. Must have been a cool and exciting job. Glad you enjoyed the review!

    • Haha, no, it is the real name of the stunt bear. His name was in the credits somewhere but that would have been epic if one of the victims were able to scream: “Don’t maul me Bart!”

      • Hahaha!!!! Oh man, how that would’ve been! 🙂

        Ok, that makes far more sense now. Naming the actual stunt bear something less threatening-sounding makes me feel better. Regardless of the bear, I want to see this. Sounds cool.

      • It’s not a bad flick. There are worse “animal hunting people” flicks out there and this one has that retro, tongue in cheek vibe going for it. Plenty of gory grizzly mayhem and action. Decent movie for a late Saturday afternoon. Hope you like it, Tom and thanks for checking in, man! I appreciate it!

    • Yeah, the bear is pretty aggressive and quite the beast in this movie. You will definitely like all of the mayhem. It’s a blast.

      Happy you enjoyed the review, Mark and thanks for checking in! By the way, going to track down “It Follows” Sounds pretty wicked.

    • My pleasure, Bill. Glad you enjoyed the review. Didn’t mean to drop it on your lap. I know you’re busy. I do appreciate your feedback 🙂 Been a while since anyone has call one of my reviews “Introspective” I like that! Hope you enjoy the film if you ever get around to it bro.

  2. Very well-written review. I was concerned about this one because of the delays and title-changes and I’d heard rumors of re-writes and re-shoots. Then there was some griping over at the imdb message board from people who somehow thought the filmmakers were trying to top “Moby Dick”. Nevermind all that. It looks and sounds like they accomplished, more or less, in making the movie they set out to make. I loved the “nature runs amok” era where there was earnestness mixed with just a little tongue-in-cheek (from the trailer “… The maze is SACRED that’s where NATURE’S in charge”). I’ll be picking up a copy in May.

    • Was not aware the film’s production was so troubled. I feel that whatever issues they had, was obviously remedied because the end result was fun, fast and ferocious. Definitely nothing in the metaphorical scale of Moby Dick, but surely ambitious and inventive with the budget and resources they had available. Thanks for reading and for the wonderful comment and feedback 😀👌🎥

  3. Damn dude, I was expecting more. That poster got me hyped. I’m glad that it’s still enjoyable though. The cast here is quite fun and I haven’t seen a cool man vs animal flick in quite some time.

    • It isnt too bad if you go in knowing that it doesn’t quite always hit every mark but it is indeed enjoyable in most places and the cast makes it a very watchable animal vs man flick. Hope you like it 😀👍🎥

  4. I’m a HUGE Grizzly ’76 fan (originally got to see at the cinema & drive-in). I’m stoked to see the 2014 remake! I’m hoping it will be released to theaters 1st??? Or just a DVD release? Not at all upset they decided to name the film after its predecessor, as long as it delivers! Would be pleased if it comes close to the excitement of 2006’s Abominable, a fine indy horror which also featured a terrific cast of genre vets (L. Henriksen, J. Combs, Dee Wallace). Only this time in Grizzly ’14, a “real” bear will be used as opposed to a costumed Yeti. 38 years for this remake is long enough! Can’t wait!!! Must mention a fabulous review too!

    • I need to catch Abominable. Never watched it. I also need to revisit the 76 Grizzly. Saw it once as a kid. Glad you enjoyed the review! Thanks for the feedback 👍🎥

  5. It was never a remake. The studio changed the title from the original, RED MACHINE which was inspired by Treadwell referring to a bear that terrified him. Things change through production. You should read the original screenplay for it. It’s far more terrifying than the film.

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