Â The Hollow Point comes at a time when Mexican drug cartel stories are dominating the big screen (and small), and with attention-grabbing forerunners like Sicario and Narcos leading the pack, good films like it get left behind. That saturation of a fashionable theme is a double-edged sword for some of the smaller films, whereby the cinematic climate may be right, but people’s appetites are already being filled.
Director Gonzalo LÃ³pez-Gallego, who cut his teeth on movies like Apollo 18 and Open Grave, delivers what is easily his best and most mature film to date. Set in a small border town, the film follows a new sheriff (Patrick Wilson) who finds himself standing off against a merciless hitman (John Leguizamo) after his predecessor (Ian McShane) shoots and kills a suspected weapon mule. With the town under the impending threat of a full blown drug war, it’s up to the one man to uncover the network’s local connections and put an end to the system.
It is a striking film, and one that deserves to stand out amongst the pack far more prominently than it does. LÃ³pez-Gallego has found his form and with The Hollow Point he has proven himself to be a skilled craftsman. The first impression from the opening sequence is that it’s a good-looking film. The camera is tightly controlled with a marriage of close-ups and wide-shots that demonstrate a strong understanding of storytelling, while the use of smooth aerial shots and a panning camera add fluidity to the narrative. For a film that bypassed a theatrical release, it is far more cinematic than it ought to be and showcases a director’s strong understanding of production value.
The ensemble cast is excellent, with Wilson, McShane and Leguizamo being supported by Jim Belushi, Lynn Collins and Michael Flynn. No one looks out of place within the context of the story and Wilson’s performance here is up there with his best. His character arc sees him evolve from a friendly, naive sheriff to a pitiless executioner, and his transition is effortless. McShane offers more of what he does best (gruff and unruly) and brings a welcome level of unpredictability to the story. Leguizamo turns up his ‘bad guy’ dial to max as he butchers his way across the screen as the feared psychopath working his way though a hit list, and of course it would be remiss of me to leave Belushi out of the appraisal. His performance as a shady car-salesman caught up with the cartel is outstanding, and his commitment to the role deserves a mention.
The film’s writer is Nils Lyew, who appears to have made his debut with The Hollow Point, and if this is the case then I am excited to see what he offers next. His script is very tight, with every scene directly facilitating the next. With the exception of a small and unnecessary backstory to Wilson’s character, and perhaps a moderately excessive finale, he has written a compelling and cleverly structured action/thriller that deserves more attention than it’s likely to receive.
The Hollow Point is a smart, edgy and unexpected film, with surprises carefully placed throughout. It is violent and gripping, and also relentless, and makes no apologies for exploring new terrain in a landscape full of similarly themed stories.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10