film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, August 13, 2023

River Wild 2023 * * * Stars


"That's not true". Oh but it is my friends. Someone's got a gun with unlimited ammo and you must go with him down those stony rapids. 

Anyway 2023's River Wild represents a more indie-like version of the original The River Wild from 29 years back. It doesn't feel like a B-movie, doesn't harbor any commercial remnants, and comes off as riveting even for its non-lean, ninety-one minutes. Hey, I'm okay with that and I didn't think I would being that I don't dig remakes. Directed by Ben Ketal and featuring an almost unrecognizable Leighton Meester in one of the lead roles, River Wild only appears like the previous installment in terms of title, hostage plot, and that whole whitewater rafting thing. "Time to float". Uh, you ain't kidding. 

Filmed in Hungary and distributed by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, River Wild is about a trip down a river with two tourists, a brother and sister, and a would-be antagonist bent on ruining said trip. The actors involved (Adam Brody, Meester, Taran Killam) don't feel like paper mache pawns or thriller character stereotypes. They're veridical and you root for them good or bad. Whereas '94's The River Wild featured the bad guys as people the protagonists didn't know from Adam, the new River Wild has the bad dude as someone everyone is already familiar with (like family). A nice divulgence if I do say so myself. 

Back and forth buoyant structure pics aside, River Wild has helmer Ketal committing to every shot, using overheads, wide-s, darkened hues, and beautified, Hungarian wildlife scenery (you gotta love the waterfalls). His film is dense and atmospheric, made to provide tension when needed as almost every scene signals a little danger right around the corner. Basically every violent confrontation stings, every rough mano a mano provides a payoff, every unfolding intricacy a slight revelation. Yup, you can get into this "wild". 

Written by Jesse Burleson 

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