Velvet Buzzsaw (3 stars)

Velvet Buzzsaw

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo reunite with Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy for a send-up of the art scene

The spirit of the Dr Phibes films is alive and thriving in the latest from Nightcrawler helmer Dan Gilroy. Featuring an A-list cast playing competing cretins, Velvet Buzzsaw is a bloody takedown of the LA art scene, complete with set-piece slaughter.

It gives us a world in which everyone has dreadful name: Jake Gyllenhaal is Morf Vandewalt, an influential but emotionally vulnerable art critic; Rene Russo plays punk-turned-gallery-owner Rhodora Haze, a magnificent schemer squabbling over artists with rival Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge); Zawe Ashton is Rhodora's ambitious assistant Josephina, who makes a game-changing discovery when a mystery man drops dead in her apartment block and she lays claim to his macabre, eerily mesmeric artworks. Revenge is sweet when these paintings of unusual potency turn on those that profit from their sale.

Bullshit trips delightfully from tongues and backstabbing abounds as the characters walk and talk their way through exhibitions towards their various sticky ends. It's a satisfying step up for Ashton (TV's Fresh Meat) who's positioned at the forefront of a major, universally on point ensemble, which also includes Toni Collette and John Malkovich (the latter cast amusingly against type as the least OTT character in the room).

That Velvet Buzzsaw is showing up on Netflix (following its Sundance premiere) is disappointing given the vibrancy of Gilroy's vision, while the way the writer-director sinks his teeth into the satire is substantially more gratifying than the modest yet eye-catching scares, with the film fully laying bare the industry's numerous hypocrisies and dastardly dealings. Although its sense of fun is infectious and ear for artspeak is impressive, Gilroy doesn't always embrace the camp potential of the concept. But the conclusion has a certain gruesome grandiosity, including fitting stings in the tale, and the more bitchy and unhinged things get, well frankly, the better.

Available to watch in selected cinemas and on Netflix from Fri 1 Feb.

Velvet Buzzsaw

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Dan Gilroy
  • Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Billy Magnussen, Toni Collette

The modern art world is rocked by a series of deaths in this satirical horror comedy.