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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.26.17] Brazil thriller

Inacio is having a really bad day. He's having an argument with his wife, a disagreement with the cook, he just fired most of the kitchen staff, he just found out that in a few day's time a local food critic will be coming by to check out the restaurant and as if he needed even more shit piled on, a couple has come into the restaurant just before closing and insulted his knowledge of wine.

But Friendly Beast isn't really about Inacio. This is really Sara's story. She's the eager-to-help waitress who seems ready to do almost anything to impress her boss so when a pair of would-be robbers crash into the restaurant and accost both the guests and the staff, she puts her well being on the line to support her boss' ridiculous attempt at heroics.

The robbery only scratches at the surface of Friendly Beast and once the assailants come barging in, the movie, which was already set to a light simmer, quickly rises to full boil.

Friendly Beast begins as a fairly straight forward thriller but it quickly devolves into an ever-changing game of cat-and-mouse. It's never really clear who is chasing whom and though some more discerning viewers may anticipate a few of the plays before they unfold, nothing will prepare you for the depths of nastiness this movie delves into.

Writer/director Gabriela Amaral defies expectation turning every moment on its ear and making unexpected choices and her cast fearlessly follows her lead. Murilo Benicio is wonderful as the slimy Inacio while Irandhir Santos is memorable as Djair, a character who could easily have fallen into a stereotype but which Santos imbues with humanity. But it's Luciana Paes as Sara who really steals the show. The character is constantly in flux and Paes brilliantly captures the character's shifting thoughts and emotions; you can almost see the wheels turning as she contemplates the next move.

Friendly Beast is an extremely enjoyable watch and I'm curious to see how the movie plays on repeat viewings. So much of the joy of the first watch is the surprise that comes in the aftermath of each decision but I have a nagging feeling that knowing how the movie unfolds will change the reading of the characters and the choices they make.

Friendly Beast is definitely a movie that begs to be re-watched. If you have the stomach for it.

Recommended Release: Bitter Feast

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