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Lost River Blu-ray Review

Lost River (2015) movie poster Lost River

Theatrical Release: April 10, 2015 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Ryan Gosling

Cast: Christina Hendricks (Billy), Iain De Caestecker (Bones), Saoirse Ronan (Rat), Matt Smith (Bully), Ben Mendelsohn (Dave), Eva Mendes (Miss Kitty Cat), Reda Kateb (Cab Driver), Barbara Steele (Grandma), Landyn Joseph Stewart (Franky), Rob Zabrecky (MC), Shannon Plumb (Fanny), Torrey Wigfield (Face)

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Following in the footsteps of Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert De Niro, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck, Ryan Gosling steps behind the camera to try his hand at directing in Lost River. Big things were expected of this drama, which also marks Gosling's writing debut, since his recent track record in front of the camera has been pretty stellar and
has teamed him with talented filmmakers like Clooney, Derek Cianfrance, and Nicolas Winding Refn. Alas, eleven months after premiering at Cannes in 2014 to jeers, Gosling's movie played just three North American theaters in tandem with a Video On Demand release. This week, it hit Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment saddled more with absolute obscurity than the stench of critical and commercial failure.

Lost River centers on Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two: a very young upsettable boy and Bones (Iain De Caestecker), a young man who seems too old to be hers. (I spent the first half of the movie mistaking Bones for her partner, which raised some interesting questions.) The family lives in a rundown town (apparently supposed to be where it was shot, Detroit, though that's not made clear) that has been hit hard seemingly by hurricane floods. Billy is about to default on a home loan she now realizes she was unqualified for. She is shown neither compassion nor sympathy by Dave (Ben Mendelsohn), the new bank manager at this shady business.

"Lost River" stars Christina Hendricks (of "Mad Men") as Billy, a single mother on the verge of losing her house.

Dave does refer Billy, who is three months behind on payments, to an even shadier workplace: a phantasmagorical night club which specializes in bloody performances. Perhaps the establishment's greatest attraction is Miss Kitty Cat (Eva Mendes), who "dies" for an adoring, splattered crowd every night. Billy starts taking the stage at the club, but she is reluctant to pursue where the real money is: a tight, body-hugging shell outside which the paying customer gets his kicks.

Meanwhile, Bones has been making money by digging through ravaged homes for resalable copper. This pastime puts him afoul of Bully (the recently retired eleventh Doctor Who, Matt Smith), a sadistic hoodlum who rides around town in a convertible with a recliner in its trunk. It's the throne of the young man who proclaims this place Bully Town and has been known to cut off people's lips with scissors.

Bones' apparent girlfriend, Rat (Saoirse Ronan), a girl who carries around with her a pet rat named Nick, believes a legend that their impoverished town, especially her long-mute grandmother (Barbara Steele), is cursed by some kind of spell that Bones can break by exploring a recently-formed reservoir where the remains of a prehistoric theme park lie.

Ryan Gosling's partner Eva Mendes plays Miss Kitty Cat, a gore stage show performer. Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith plays Bully, a feared thug who wears a sparkly gold jacket.

As you can surely tell, Lost River is a film full of ideas. Unfortunately, they are mostly bad ones that get worse as the film progresses, pushing your patience to its limits.

Of Gosling's many collaborators, two-time director Winding Refn has clearly had the greatest influence on him. (Others will cite David Lynch as an obvious influence on Gosling and they wouldn't be wrong.)
Gosling, who resists making so much as a strategic cameo, shares the Danish director's penchant for neon colors in the night, electronic score, and obscure songs you wouldn't think to place so prominently. The qualities that distinguished Drive but damned Only God Forgives do Gosling few favors. Right off the bat, it's tough to take serious the movie star's thoughts on the financial crisis whose consequences many presently face. IMDb claims the Canadian actor will earn "more than $7 million" for his next Hollywood movie.

While there is certainly an element of schadenfreude to film criticism, I don't think we can blame that for Lost River's icy reception. There is just very little to like about this film, an assertive, confident debut that squandered the backing of one of the world's biggest movie studios. Like most of the other majors, Warner doesn't much deal in arthouse fare these days, which is the most generous designation you could apply to an effort that looks to grab your attention early and often with cinematographic flair.

Lost River Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


The bold cinematography of Lost River is nicely rendered in the Blu-ray's sharp, vibrant 2.40:1 presentation. It's not always in focus, but it is flashy and thoughtful. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack has its share of loud sounds and dynamic spikes. I found the English SDH subtitles track useful to make some sense of the film, since it's tough to say what the heck is going on at any given moment. Warner doesn't bother with their usual foreign language options, treating the film to no dubs and only one subtitle translation (in Spanish).

The barebones Blu-ray predictably refashions Lost River's phantasmagorical poster art as a static top menu screen.


The only bonus feature is Digital HD UltraViolet,
directions and a code for which adorn the lone single-sided insert within the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase. There aren't even so much as trailers for other Warner properties, a fact that gives off the impression, true or not, that the movie has been sitting on a shelf for a while, with neither the studio nor Gosling willing to do any more than the bare minimum for it.

The static, silent menu adapts poster artwork. The Blu-ray resumes playback, but does not allow you to set bookmarks.

In a convenience store's soft drink aisle, industrious teen Bones (Iain De Caestecker) fears retribution for his efforts in copper scrap resale.


Lost River will prompt many to implore Ryan Gosling to stick to acting. The heartthrob does show some promise as a director, but he will need material much better than his aimless original script to succeed behind the camera. While I'm reluctant to dismiss this far from shallow effort as a complete waste of time, I honestly feel that will be most viewers' guilty reaction to having carved out 95 minutes for this.

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Reviewed May 7, 2015.

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