Capsule reviews for Jan. 12

Acts of Violence

That’s what moviegoers might want to perpetrate upon the makers of this incoherent and woefully formulaic vigilante thriller about a young woman (Mia Bolona) who is abducted by cohorts of a notorious human trafficker (Mike Epps) during her bachelorette party. While waiting for a grizzled cop (Bruce Willis) to investigate, her fiancé (Ashton Holmes) enlists his ex-military older brother (Cole Hauser) for a revenge mission. The film’s threadbare dialogue and obvious gaps in logic cancel out any excitement generated by the action sequences or any sincerity in the performances. It results in a clichéd and predictable genre exercise during which the outcome is never in doubt. (Rated R, 86 minutes).


Freak Show

While the message is commendable, this subversive teen comedy about tolerance and gender identity ultimately feels as shallow and superficial as the characters it seeks to condemn. Billy (Alex Lawther) is a flamboyantly gay student whose love for glamorous gender-bending fashion doesn’t jive with the beliefs of classmates as conservative private school where he’s forced to relocate. He responds to the bullying by finding a few open-minded friends to back his nomination for homecoming queen to prove a point. The stylish directorial debut of actress Trudie Styler (wife of Sting) benefits from an eclectic cast but unfortunately detours into a predictable and heavy-handed political satire. (Not rated, 95 minutes).


The Insult

What it lacks in realistic grounding, this provocative Lebanese drama compensates with strong performances and thematic resonance beyond its setting. It begins with an argument in working-class Beirut between an auto mechanic (Adel Karam) and a Palestinian construction foreman (Kamel El Basha) that stubbornly winds up in court, where the conflict is escalated by opportunistic lawyers into a national referendum on religion, refugees, and civil rights. Even as it manipulates the tension level a bit too forcefully, the screenplay by director Ziad Doueiri (The Attack) crafts a compelling framework to discuss lingering Middle East tensions and sociopolitical issues that are felt around the world. (Rated R, 112 minutes).


Paddington 2

Even if it’s not as fresh as its predecessor, this sequel retains plenty of gentle charm while not becoming burdened by prior success or expectations. This stylish and amusing follow-up chronicles the adventures of the mischievous marmalade-loving bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) while saving up money for a birthday gift for his beloved aunt, only to have it stolen by a washed-up actor (Hugh Grant) with ulterior motives. However, Paddington winds up being arrested and sent to prison, while his London family schemes to free him. Returning director Paul King sprinkles plenty of amusing sight gags into the film, which also boasts a terrific ensemble cast. (Rated PG, 103 minutes).


Saturday Church

The traditional coming-of-age story is given a fresh contemporary twist in this compassionate musical drama about a Bronx teenager (Luka Kain) trying to cope with his father’s death while wrestling with questions about his own spirituality and gender identity. While he sneaks out and meets a group of supportive LGBTQ friends on the streets, he doesn’t find the same level of acceptance at home, especially from his disciplinarian aunt (Regina Taylor). The film injects some vibrant musical sequences to supplement familiar themes, but the screenplay by rookie director Damon Cardasis primarily deserves credit for conveying a message of tolerance that’s more heartfelt than heavy-handed. (Not rated, 82 minutes).