Actor Dennis Quaid has been in some good thrillers. D.O.A. and Switchback are just a couple of my favorites, because he's so very good as "the guy looking for answers". On camera, Quaid seems genuinely concerned (let's think of him as the anti- Vince Vaughn). In Horsemen Quaid plays Det. Aidan Breslin, a forensic odontologist who is very concerned indeed after he wakes up one morning to a shocking case handed to him on a silver platter… almost literally. The gleaming room service tray is found by a hunter in the forest, and it is brimming with bloody, pulled teeth.
As Breslin and his mustachioed partner "Stingray" (Clifton Collins Jr.) begin to unravel the crime's biblical proportions, work consumes their lives. All Stingray has to worry about is his ever-present pot of lip-balm (a gag which never really pans out), but Breslin's a lone father with two school-age boys to raise. Alex (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Sean (Liam James) are trying to deal with their mom's death and their dad's desertion as best they can, but Breslin can hardly manage a backward glance when the next holy-hell case comes his way — this one creates even more orphans, and a leaves man without his wife.
Principal to the plot are the murdered woman's husband, psychologist David Spitz (Peter Stormare), and their adopted eldest daughter, Kristen (Ziyi Zhang). More people die, mostly in the same nightmarish manner (think: Saw meets Hellraiser), and finally Breslin has the revelation (way after we do) that he's after a sadistic puppet-master who looks to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for inspiration. Once the impetus is known, the question remains: Who is it?
We can figure it out pretty easily. But you know what? It's OK. While Horsemen is definitely no more than a souped up, extended episode of "Criminal Minds" or "CSI: New York", I for one simply enjoyed this pony ride while it lasted. It's not the kind of movie I'll watch again, but to me it was (in varying degrees, no particular order) comparable to Primal Fear, Mr. Brooks, Stigmata, The Exorcist III, or Copycat.
Aside from a somewhat disconcerting performance from Zhang (her physicality is spot-on, while her vocal rhythm and pitch are often completely off), the cast is excellent across the board. Quaid does his thing providing a strong, steady focal, while peripheral performances from minor players like Patrick Fugit and Eric Balfour are allowed to pop.
Horsemen is helmer Jonas Åkerlund's second feature length film, trotting slowly after his 2002 meth-head mindbender, Spun. He shows a great deal of promise, but quite frankly, given his background as the director of some of the greatest rock videos of the decade (Åkerlund has worked with the likes of Madonna, Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Moby, and The Prodigy), I had to wonder how on earth he let Horsemen's schmaltzy, Lifetime Movie style score get by him. The music is extremely annoying to say the least; but the visuals offer some salve. Shot on location in winter wonderland Winnipeg, DP Eric Broms' work is quite a sight. The gleaming, icy exteriors are juxtaposed with rich, warm colors inside, flattering fill-light for the actors, and what's more, he employs a wide array of angles (low, wide, close, bird's eye, a little Dutch tilt now and again) without being ostentatious. Horsemen is hardly an art film, but it does look very good and I appreciate that.
Horsemen may not cross the finish line ahead of its field, but it certainly deserves better than the limited run it had in theaters. If you did not "come and see" it on the big screen and you're a fan of gory crime thrillers, it's definitely a decent rental.
When it comes to the extras on the DVD, there are just enough. We get a little more character insight via deleted scenes (especially in regard to David Spitz, and Breslin's sons), and there is also a director and DP commentary (skip it — it seems choppily edited, and the speakers are pretty stilted to begin with).
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