The Vicious Kind -- Film Review

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A dysfunctional-family drama that manages to shed its air of familiarity thanks to intriguing characters, "The Vicious Kind" reveals writer-director Lee Toland Krieger as a talent worth watching. Already the recipient of two Independent Spirit Award nominations (for screenplay and lead actor Adam Scott), the film opened exclusively Friday.11 in Los Angeles before an expanded release next year.

Virtually a four-character drama, the film deals with the fractured relationships among siblings Caleb (Scott); his virginal younger brother, Peter (Alex Frost); and their father, Daniel (J.K. Simmons), to whom Caleb hasn't spoken in the eight years since their mother's death. Adding combustibility to the mix is Peter's beautiful new girlfriend, Emma (Brittany Snow), who travels with him home for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, her arrival stirs up complicated feelings for Caleb, whose deeply misogynistic attitude toward women has been fueled by a recent break-up with a cheating girlfriend to whom Emma apparently bears a strong resemblance.

Caleb's none too subtly expressed hostility toward Emma soon transforms into something more complicated as his attraction to her becomes more and more evident. It eventually becomes apparent that his feelings are not entirely unreciprocated.

Again, there's nothing terribly fresh about all this, but Krieger's scabrous dialogue (it's easy to see what attracted the interest of executive producer Neil LaBute, whose work this picture often resembles) and incisive characterizations consistently sustain interest, and the performers provide intriguingly complex layers to their characters. Scott and Snow are the obvious standouts, but Frost and Simmons are equally fine in their less showy roles.

Opened: Friday, Dec. 11
Production: 72nd Street Prods., Candleridge Entertainment
Cast: Adam Scott, Brittany Snow, Alex Frost, J.K. Simmons
Director-screenwriter: Lee Toland Krieger
Producers: Tim Harms, Lindsay Lanzillota, Lee Toland Krieger
Executive producers: Neil LaBute, Chris Finefrock, Ryan Horton, Andy Rudenstein, Jeff Gross
Director of photography: Bradley Stonesifer
Editor: Regino Roy III
Production designer: Grady Cooley
Costume designer: Lindy McMichael
Music: Jeff Cardoni
Rated R, 93 minutes
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