Velvet Buzzsaw

Rated 2.0

The reliable combo of writer-director Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal (they partnered up on Nightcrawler) takes a creative step backward with this art world satire/horror effort. Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, an art critic losing his lust for the profession. His love affair with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), an art house employee, gets confusing in many ways when she comes across paintings by a dead man in her apartment building. The paintings, which the artist had literally put his blood into, have deadly consequences for those who gaze upon them. Gyllenhaal is his usual sharp self in the role, creating something funny without obviously going for laughs. Rene Russo is equally good as a ruthless art dealer, willing to cut down anybody who gets in her way. The supporting cast includes Toni Collette, John Malkovich and Billy Magnusson, which lends to the feeling that the film should be more than what it is. It’s sharp satire for its first half, then a sloppy horror film for its second. It’s not scary by any means, and it tries a little too hard to be. Gilroy takes his eye off the ball, loses focus, and wastes a promising premise and solid performances. (Streaming on Netflix during a limited theatrical release.)