‘Medusa Deluxe’ Evaluation: A Flashy, One-Take Hairdressing Homicide-Thriller
In “Medusa Deluxe,” the serpents aren’t within the hair, however throughout it: a writhing, hissing collective of human predators slinking across the numerous parlors and platforms of a high-level hairdressing competitors. Most are venomous, and not less than one is lethal, or so it appears when a star stylist is discovered, not simply murdered however fairly actually scalped, the evening earlier than his broadly anticipated victory within the contest. That’s the setup for British writer-director Thomas Hardiman’s splashy, hooky debut characteristic “Medusa Deluxe,” an arch, gossip-fueled homicide thriller that delights extra in rounding up its many uncommon suspects than in any form of logical, procedural detective work: Whodunnit isn’t a urgent query in a movie the place everyone seems to be 100% that bitch.
It sounds good on paper, and appears nice on display, thanks in no small half to genius DP Robbie Ryan — who, following vertiginous collaborations with the likes of Andrea Arnold and Yorgos Lanthimos, lastly will get so as to add a one-take film to his résumé. At the very least, that’s how “Medusa Deluxe” is introduced, with its numerous bobbing, weaving Steadicam pictures deftly glued collectively by editor Fouad Gaber to counsel agitated, unbroken movement, extra akin to the showy, elastic artifice of “Birdman” than the gritty immersiveness of final yr’s “Boiling Level.” Nonetheless, this kinetic if not-quite-novel presentation doesn’t totally patch over the weaknesses of Hardiman’s script, with its exhausting whirl of characters extra colourful than they’re shaded, and plotting that finally runs out of compelling diversions from the matter at hand.
That gained’t cease this energetic, acid-bright confection from pleasing additional pageant crowds following its premiere in Locarno’s public-oriented Piazza Grande strand, whereas it’s straightforward to see why distributors have already pocketed Hardiman’s calling card, with A24 nabbing North American rights and Mubi taking a surfeit of world territories. They could discover this star-free, vibes-driven affair a more durable promote past the fest circuit, but it surely is smart to get in on the bottom flooring with Hardiman, whose penchant for salty dialogue and ostentatious staging distinguishes him from many latest British freshmen, and will conceivably be put to extra industrial use in future tasks.
“Medusa Deluxe” owns its garishness from the leap, kicking off with a digitally animated overture that zooms dizzily by a surreal wilderness of skyscraper-sized hairdressing merchandise and implements, earlier than Ryan’s roving digicam picks up the baton and maintains the tempo. We’re launched to rival salon homeowners Cleve (mile-a-minute ensemble standout Clare Perkins, previously a daily on U.Okay. cleaning soap “EastEnders”) and Divine (Kayla Meikle), whose loveless, expletive-laden back-and-forth as they practise their outlandish tonsorial creations units the tone of discourse for the subsequent 90-odd minutes. Cleve, specifically, spews forth a scarcely parsable torrent of group historical past involving previous buddies, enemies and colleagues, with a memorable upshot: “Trainee hairdressers don’t survive exploding vehicles.”
Any intrigue over that is put aside, nevertheless, when the information reaches them that competitors favourite Mosca has been discovered useless within the compound, the flesh torn from his as soon as presumably well-kept scalp. The messenger is the occasion’s lavishly pompadoured, lace-shirted, perma-vaping organizer Rene (Darrell D’Silva), who simply occurs to be a former lover of the deceased. His successor in Mosca’s affections, the high-strung, high-camp Angel (Luke Pasqualino), quickly arrives on the scene, glamorously weeping and wailing, with the couple’s younger child — the least shrill presence right here by far — in tow.
Different gamers on this unruly recreation of Clue embrace brash blonde Kendra (Harriet Webb), whose no-bull, confidante-to-all air cuts by the prevailing hostility, a gaggle of fretful, rumor-dispensing fashions, and glowering safety guard Gac (Heider Ali), who could or could not carry some unsavory secrets and techniques referring to the useless man — and whose cleanly shaved dome couldn’t mark him extra manifestly as an unwelcome outsider on this world. Performances throughout the ensemble vary from entertaining barnstorming to overcranked hysteria, with nobody a lot motivated to discover a actual, uncooked character beneath a flurry of posing and angle.
“Medusa Deluxe” makes no apologies for its reliance on stereotypes as huge and broad and space-taking as most of the ornate coiffures it so lovingly showcases — a very lavish bouquet is due chief hairstylist and Wella inventive director Eugene Souleiman, whose convincingly editorial creations lend this low-budget enterprise a obligatory spritz of high-fashion credibility. However after a time, the mix of abrasive, impenetrably shellacked characters and intentionally, hopelessly tangled shaggy-dog storytelling begins to pall, and viewers might need for an easier method in.
Any and all compensations arrive by way of the movie’s formal brio, as Ryan’s digicam retains sashaying undaunted by the chaos, assuming and switching scorching, fluorescent coloration schemes like so many discarded outfits, all in time to a sparse, throbbing rating by British electro artist Koreless. Simply once you count on the filmmaking to completely wig out, nevertheless, Hardiman unexpectedly cuts, choosing a feelgood, disco-soundtracked curtain name that owes extra to “Mamma Mia!” than the movie’s previous chook’s-nest of influences, overlaying early Almodóvar, Altman, Sally Potter and a splash of British teatime tv. Whether or not these characters have earned such an indulgence is moot: Within the mirror-strewn world of “Medusa Deluxe,” virtually everyone seems to be the star of their very own melodrama, and styled accordingly.