Thoroughbreds (2017) ***
Dir.: Corey Finley; Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francis Swift; US 2016, 91′
THOROUGHBREDS is an impressive debut by director Corey Finley, who adapted the stylish neo-noir thriller from his own play. It’s a razor sharp portrayal of the set it sends up, but just a little bit to sleek to be totally convincing.
In wealthy, rural Connecticut, school friends Amanda (Cooke) and Lily (Taylor-Joy) are re-united by Amanda’s mother (Swift), who has sensed that Lily is an outcast after killing a sick horse in a very gruesome way. Amanda is fully aware of this, and she tries to lure Lily into a plot to murder her obnoxious stepfather Mark (Sparks) who wants her to go to a college for mal-adjusted students instead of one of her choice. Lily comes up with a great idea involving local lowlife Tim (Yelchin, superb in his last role). The pair try to trick Tim into doing the deadly deed, but he gets cold feet at the last minute. After accusing Amanda of being “not high on empathy” – fair statement – Lily is asked not to drink a knock-out cocktail by Amanda, who mixed it. But Lily is hell-bent on proving that she can outdo her friend.
The teenagers are a merciless duo, not really evil but full of malicious intent stemming from the privileges of their upbringing. There is also a good amount of believing all sort of half-baked theories, and finally, in Lily’s case, a sense of morbidity – drawing comparison with Heavenly Creatures. Yelchin is brilliant in the role of the sex-offender who seems to fall into the trap set for him, but just in time gets his neck out of a noose so carefully designed for him by the girls. Amanda’s step-dad is very menacing, the sounds of a rowing machine he seems to be addicted to, mix eerily with Erik Friedlander’s atonal score. Lyle Vincent’s handheld camera shows the teens’ disturbing dialogues against the opulent backdrop: the night time is their favoured setting, during the day they fade, like vampires, into a washed-out blue. Finley directs with great panache, his characters all more or less damaged, are trapped from the get-go. AS
ON RELEASE FROM 6 APRIL 2018 NATIONWIDE