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'Black Rock' review: Dishonorable discharge

** (out of four)

The hunted-in-the-woods thriller “Black Rock” would excite a lot more fans if Mark Duplass had finished writing the script.

Instead, Duplass (the weak “Jeff, Who Lives At Home,” the fantastic “The Puffy Chair”) gives his director/star/"The League" co-star/wife Katie Aselton only bare bones to work with, leading to a 75-minute movie with characters who haven’t been thought through at all. For no particular reason, Sarah (Kate Bosworth) invites both Lou (Lake Bell) and Abby (Aselton) to camp on the island they frequented as kids, even though Lou and Abby had a falling out years ago.

Perhaps the movie’s point is that a friend sleeping with your significant other isn’t a life-or-death situation. Soon after the girls come across a trio of guys, the ladies are running for their lives, and who hooked up with whom isn’t really an issue anymore.

Aselton has cited “Deliverance” as an inspiration, but “Black Rock” hardly develops beyond its plot summary. The filmmaker does nothing to get beneath the surface of the enemy dudes, military veterans who have only been back 18 days. Despite featuring a few searing images and chilling choices, the movie still unfolds as if it’s trying to be predictable. The person you expect to get shot gets shot; the cathartic emotional conversation happens exactly when you think it should.

Genre pieces can be straightforward but shouldn't confuse shallowness with efficiency. Continually during “Black Rock,” you remember the open-ended exploration of Aselton’s “The Freebie” and wonder why she treats the mind and body with so much less care than the heart.


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