Review: Behemoth

Score: D+

Director: Peter Szewczyk

Cast: Josh Eisenberg, Jennifer Churchich, Richard Wagner, Paul Statman

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rated: NR

There's an effective thriller buried somewhere deep inside Behemoth. But its script, which has the double whammy of being overstuffed and poorly written, means it never gets unleashed.

The movie cheats a bit by our protagonist Josh (Josh Eisenberg) already linking his daughter's mysterious illness to the major chemical company whose negligence he recently exposed. After "doing his own research online" - an incredibly stupid proposition, especially in the midst of a global pandemic - he brings his friends Keelee (Jennifer Churchich) and Dominic (Richard Wagner) along to confront the evil CEO Luis Woeland (Paul Statman). When he evades their questions, they ambush him after a conference, trying to get their own sense of justice. In the chaos, Josh has a bullet wound and Luis becomes their prisoner.

Putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations is the basis of many a great story. But the film wants to show off, instead of confining the characters to a motel room and raising the dramatic stakes. Both director Peter Szewczyk and co-writer Derrick Ligas have VFX backgrounds on films like Avatar and Mary Poppins Returns. So it makes sense they'd want to show off their abilities (which are impressive given the film's tiny budget). But the CGI beasts, melting walls and portals to hell don't make sense for a story like this. This was a prime opportunity to show off practical effects, especially as characters can't trust their bodies or their minds.

Statman at least has some fun as the devilish CEO, pitting our three reluctant kidnappers against one another. But he's the only one in a movie that takes itself far too seriously and self-righteously. (The movie even begins by having Josh listen to a podcast decrying fluoride and people who use the term "conspiracy theories.") The big bad is clearly supposed to be DuPont, but we already have a much better movie about their very real evil. It starred Mark Ruffalo and came out less than two years ago, but too few people saw Dark Waters.

Behemoth wants to serve as both impressive demo reel and powerful statement. It succeeds as the former, but fails spectacularly at the latter.

*This film is available theatrically and on VOD platforms.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.