The title might suggest mawkish rom-com, but indie British director Michael Winterbottom's latest film is an imperfect but still compelling road-trip thriller set in Pakistan and India. It stars Dev Patel (HOTEL MUMBAI) as a British psycho-killer paid to abduct the British-Pakistani bride at her wedding. The twist is that she's in on the heist, not wanting to be married off to a suitable boy. In fact, the whole thing has been concocted by her and her unsuitable Indian boyfriend, whose family handily run a jewellery store. The joy of a film like this should be in the double-crosses and power-plays, and while we get some of that, it's never cleanly enough delineated or carried out with enough conviction. Radhika Apte - so fantastic in the Netflix series SACRED GAMES - is once again the scene stealer in this film, playing the victim who's actually far more capable and wily than she might at first appear. This is quite an achievement given that so much of her character is slippery - and her motivations unclear. In fact, I am quite sure that my version of what happens is squarely prejudiced by my view that no sensible woman could fall for someone as monstrously psychotic as Dev Patel's character. Sadly, his character is far less well drawn. How is it that this boy who can't speak any Asian languages and doesn't seem that competent with a gun, is nonetheless very comfortable wheeling and dealing cars, fake IDs, and ruthlessly killing people? It just doesn't really hang together, and I didn't buy Patel as an assassin. This isn't because he can't act - it's because the script doesn't give him enough.
Other than the performances I really enjoyed the cinematography and production choice of being in the midst of real Indian locales, with real Indian extras. For example, the sheer authenticity of having an actual Rajasthani jeweller in his shop - or the mobile phone seller - adds up to a film that really takes the time to situate us in a reality despite the high concept plot.
THE WEDDING GUEST is rated R and has a running time of 96 minutes. The movie played Toronto 2019 and opened earlier this year in the USA. It is now on release in the UK in cinemas and on streaming services.
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