“Velvet Buzzsaw” review: False promises and snobbish art dealers

Another great ensemble of actors wasted in a lackluster Netflix original.

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ is the second collaboration between Dan Gillroy and Jake Gyllenhaal, after the wonderful 2014 thriller “Nightcrawler.” Ultimately, while having some good elements, Buzzsaw just ends up being okay more than anything, with several factors showing why it is so apparent.

The film focuses on a few high art dealer types (Zawe Ashton, Rene Russo, and Gyllenhaal) who come across a dead artist’s work that all wows them with their morbidity and darkness, and strange things start occurring.

The best thing this movie has going for it is the cast. Gyllenhaal is phenomenal as usual, with everyone else doing just as well, and makes this film watchable. It would be a disservice not to mention Billy Magnussen, Toni Collette and Natalia Dyer, who also do great jobs.

But while the acting is great, the characters is where the first substantial problem shows itself. Not a single one is likable, or even interesting.  All of them are relatively dull, aside from Gyllenhaal’s Morf, who actually has some depth to him. There isn’t really a single character you can attach yourself to, as it is just a sea of snobbish art types that you really cannot connect with.  

Another thing is the plot itself. The introduction drags you in and has you interested, but it eventually starts to meander. Then it meanders some more, to the point where I got very annoyed. It never gets into Cronenberg-esque satisfying horror it seems to promise at the start, going for more of a mystery comedy, but it falls flat on that too, as it never finds some sort of balance and neither are effective.

The expression that comes to mind that perfectly encapsulates this movie is ‘a mile wide, and an inch deep’, because that is what it is. The entire film looks like a glossy episode of some CW shovelware show, a stark contrast to “Nightcrawler”’s strong atmosphere.

One of the biggest offenses about “Velvet Buzzsaw” though is that its trailer gives away the best elements of the movie, and manages to be stronger in a couple minutes than a 2 hour runtime. Even if someone went in to this movie having not seen the trailer, the fates of some characters can be predicted quite easily.

In the end, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is another underwhelming Netflix original. What makes it more upsetting than “Polar” is how much promise it showed. It had strong first act, leading you with false hopes of some big, gruesome, satisfying climax that never comes, instead giving you a meandering second and final act that doesn’t get the job done. The film seems to also have some deeper meanings to it, but they’re weak at best. I went in wanting a film resembling a campy horror like “Re-Animator,” and what I got was just an okay movie, that never fully realizes its potential. This is the sort of movie that you can put on in the background while doing something else and you won’t miss a beat, and it’s two hours of my life I’m not getting back.