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'24 Exposures' review: Swanberg knows what you did in the dark

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

12:00 AM CST, February 6, 2014

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**1/2 (out of four)

You can pretend you haven't, or you can just admit it -- everyone's seen one of those late-night thrillers on Cinemax rife with  low-budget murders and soft-core intimacy.

Taking time off from his casual, mostly improvised observations of relationships ("Drinking Buddies," "Nights and Weekends"), Chicago writer-director Joe Swanberg maintains focus on the gaps that exist between couples even as he tackles an erotic mystery. Fetish photographer Billy (Adam Wingard, who directed Swanberg in "You're Next") can't help but drift over intangible lines when he chooses models based on attraction, something that inevitably causes problems with his girlfriend/colleague, Alex (Caroline White). Perhaps the couple asks for it by engaging in a threesome with Callie (Anna Kendrick look-alike Sophia Takal), but Billy doesn't know what he's getting into with Rebecca (Helen Rogers) and her jealous boyfriend. Or maybe he's too drawn to her to care. As all this lust swirls, an unhappy detective ("You're Next" writer Simon Barrett) investigates the murder of a young woman.

Throughout "24 Exposures," Swanberg intentionally creates confusion about which shots of dead-looking girls are crime scenes and which are posed in Billy's photos. It's an interesting parallel, at least superficially acknowledging the disturbing notion that anyone would be turned on by a fake portrait of a girl in a bathtub with her wrists slit. The movie doesn't really delve into these ideas, though, nor does it play with the conventions of the style it imitates.

"24 Exposures" hinges on temptation and jealousy but, like its influences, works better as a familiar turn-on than a riveting cop drama that happens to be steamy.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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