Jake Gyllenhaal has proven time and again his deserved status as one of Hollywood’s best leading men.
Coming off a commanding turn in last year’s Southpaw, Demolition doesn’t stray too far from the boxing hit’s territory, with high-flying exec Davis losing his wife in a freak accident and soon forced to come to terms with the less than idyllic aspects of what he thought was a perfect life.
Here, instead of taking one of the traditional filmic routes reserved for widowers, outright quitting his job or going off the rails at his workplace and colleagues, among them incidentally his recently deceased wife’s father (Chris Cooper in sterling from), Davis decides to tear some stuff down.
In one of the film’s most wryly amusing sequences Davis rocks up at a demolition site and forthrightly inserts himself into the action, one of many things smashed and pummelled mercillessly in Davis’ cathartic outbursts at his current and former life. Too entering the picture are a mysterious station wagon that follows him around, customer service rep Karen (Naomi Watts) who reads his numerous complaint letters after a bad vending machine experience, further littered with innumerable details about Davis’ misfortunes, and her son Chris (Judah Lewis carving out a worthy performance in his first ever film role).
There’s a lot going on in this movie, and sometimes a little too much. The entertaining phone-tag and burgeoning dynamic between Davis and Karen are abandoned for whole hefts of the film to focus on her son, or Davis’ parents-in-law, or the vivid destruction of his own home. Tid-bits of new sub-plots or fresh confrontations come up out of the blue while others, such as his interactions with a daily co-commuter, lay abandoned, distracting but not too detrimental in an otherwise highly emotive, fresh take on well-travelled road.
A particularly macabre and laughably senseless sequence involving Davis, Chris and a bullet-proof vest (not to be recreated at home) are among many aptly bringing to the forefront Demolition’s central character’s cataclysmic, bleak retrenchment of his previous existence and the novel approach to Davis’ travails.
Carried more than ably by its polished cast, not least of all Gyllenhaal who has gone from strength to strength, not even a haphazard approach to its material can take too much away from Dallas Buyers Club Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s amusing, stirring effort.
Demolition is screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival on Wednesday 15 June and Thursday 16 June, for tickets head to the Festival website