Capsule reviews for Oct. 27

Acts of Vengeance

The smartest aspect of this formulaic low-budget vigilante thriller are the Marcus Aurelius quotes that introduce each chapter. Otherwise, as the title dictates, it’s pretty standard fare, starring a charismatic Antonio Banderas as a workaholic attorney whose wife and daughter are murdered on the way home from a school talent show. With police unable to pinpoint any suspects, he decides to bulk up and take an oath of silence until he tracks down the killer himself. His quest for revenge leads to plenty of violent confrontations with random thugs, of course, which are capably staged yet hardly sufficient to stand out in a crowded genre. (Rated R, 86 minutes).


Crash Pad

Perhaps offering proof that no premise is too outlandish to be greenlit, this low-brow romantic comedy fails to put a fresh spin on the modern cinematic “bromance.” Stensland (Domhnall Gleeson) is a slacker whose affair with a marketing executive (Christina Applegate) backfires after he finds out she’s married after the fact. Then the husband (Thomas Haden Church) decides to become Stensland’s roommate as a joint act of revenge. While the resulting mayhem provides some scattered big laughs — thanks mostly to an effective odd-couple chemistry between Gleeson and Church — the film’s annoying casual misogyny and tiresome bickering derail any consistent comic momentum toward a predictable resolution. (Rated R, 93 minutes).


The Departure

How do you spend every day talking about death without becoming depressed? That’s a challenge handled better by this modestly ambitious documentary than by its subject, Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist monk in Japan who holds retreats at his temple for suicidal visitors while dealing with health challenges that force him to confront his own will to live. Credit director Lana Wilson (After Tiller) for dealing profoundly with matters of literal life-or-death urgency in a way that doesn’t wallow in suffering, but also finds hope in Nemoto’s mission and his abilities. Deliberately paced but rewarding patience, the contemplative film is quietly powerful and appropriately life-affirming. (Not rated, 87 minutes).


Faces Places

Despite an age difference of more than a half-century, legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda, 89, and French street artist J.R., 34, make a great screen combo in this delightful travelogue that doubles as a meditation on art and aging. The duo takes a road trip through rural France, during which they use a special camera to create large-scale photographs to share memories with those they meet. Their bond deepens over an admiration of each other’s work, a curiosity for exploring the unknown, and a shared passion for creativity in general. Conceptually simple yet completely unique, the charming film is both intensely personal and poignantly universal. (Rated PG, 89 minutes).


Loving Vincent

The effort might outweigh the impact in this unique tribute to Vincent van Gogh, but what an effort it is — a film comprised of more than 60,000 hand-painted frames in the ultimate example of illustrating the artist’s life through his work. Even if the result only sporadically comes to life in a dramatic sense, the film from directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman is quite a technical achievement as it animates some van Gogh’s most famous paintings. Still, art history aficionados might quibble with the ethics of such an approach, while the meandering story detailing the mystery behind the painter’s final days tests your patience. (Rated PG-13, 94 minutes).


The Square

Behind all of the elaborate visuals and complex themes, it’s the simplicity of the execution that drives this ambitious deadpan satire from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure) that skewers the stuffiness of the worldwide modern-art scene. It follows an esteemed museum curator (Claes Bang) whose latest installation encourages altruism from his upscale clientele, yet those good intentions result only in random incidents and frustrating absurdity that threatens to tear his life apart. While Ostlund’s reach sometimes exceeds his grasp, his bilingual script is consistently powerful and amusing, with thought-provoking social commentary lurking beneath the bizarre surface gags. It’s unsettling, even confusing, but also captivating. (Rated R, 142 minutes).


The Work

This intensely powerful documentary takes place entirely inside the maximum-security walls of California’s Folsom State Prison, far removed from the days of the 1968 Johnny Cash concert. It chronicles a four-day men’s group therapy session involving inmates and select members of the general public, who talk through their differences and try to heal their psychological wounds. Shot in a strictly observational style by rookie director Jairus McLeary, the film’s remarkable intimacy and the raw honesty of the participants can be startling to the point of discomfort, but that’s the point. Catharsis for both the prisoners and the outsiders isn’t easy to achieve, yet worth the effort. (Not rated, 89 minutes).