Capsule reviews for Dec. 8

Hollow in the Land

This gritty low-budget thriller hints at intriguing character-driven issues beneath the surface that are compromised by formulaic plotting. It follows Alison (Dianna Agron), a teenager from a family with a criminal legacy whose troubled younger brother (Jared Abrahamson) becomes a suspect in a murder after disappearing from their rural Canadian town — where the economy is driven by a pulp mill. So Alison searches for him and for the truth, threatening her own innocence in the process. Rookie director Scooter Corkle supplies some stylish touches amid the stark mountain landscapes, although his earnest screenplay strains credibility while traversing familiar territory during Alison’s misguided quest for justice. (Not rated, 92 minutes).


November Criminals

Sharp talent on both sides of the camera can’t enliven this mediocre melodrama from director Sacha Gervasi (Hitchcock) that begins as a mildly compelling examination of grief and catharsis before detouring into contrived vigilante territory. Addison (Ansel Elgort) is a high-school senior in Washington, D.C., still grieving his mother’s death when a friend (Jared Kemp) is murdered in a coffee shop. Unhappy with the police investigation (and its racial assumptions, given that the deceased is black), Addison becomes obsessed investigating the killing himself, revealing secrets that endanger himself and his girlfriend (Chloe Grace Moretz). Considering its subject matter, the result never generates much emotional resonance. (Rated PG-13, 86 minutes).


The Pirates of Somalia

In terms of theme, not quality, this true-life drama provides a companion piece to Captain Phillips. It likewise takes place in 2008, centering on aspiring Canadian journalist Jay (Evan Peters) who heads to the east African country ostensibly to write a book. Helped by a translator (Barkhad Abdi), he perilously attempts to infiltrate the seafaring criminal element. There’s actually a heartfelt message based on Jay’s eventual affection for Somalia and its people. Yet in the process, director Bryan Buckley (The Bronze) never makes the case that he’s the character most worthy of our attention or sympathy. The supporting cast includes Al Pacino and Melanie Griffith. (Rated R, 118 minutes).