Tribeca Film Festival 2012: Thrillers

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival

Photograph: Doug Chamberlain
Francophrenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival

BURN

Detroit is burning. Meet the men and women charged with saving the once-roaring American city that many have written off as dead. With vast stretches of forsaken buildings left as kindling, they face one of the worst arson rates in the world. From executive producer Denis Leary, BURN drives us straight into the heart-pounding fire and introduces us to the characters and controversies that make up the most overworked and underequipped firehouse in the country.

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Cut

Award-winning Iranian filmmaker and TFF alum (Vegas: Based on a True Story) Amir Naderi travels to Tokyo to tell this striking, fiercely unconventional tale of a struggling young filmmaker, Shuji. Desperate to create great cinema, Shuji obtains financing for a few utterly forgettable pictures from his brother—who got the money from the mob. Now Shuji must repay his debts and test his love of the movies by working as a human punching bag for yakuza thugs.

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Deadfall

Familial dysfunctional lurks around every snowy corner in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s recipe for an overdetermined, undercooked thriller. Start with siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), whose abusive childhoods have left them incestuously close. Then, when a car crash following a casino heist strands them in a blizzard, make sure she falls into the rippling arms of a disgraced boxer (Charlie Hunnam)—who happens to be estranged from his retired-sheriff dad (Kris Kristofferson). The pugilist, meanwhile, is being tracked by an officer (Kate Mara); her own police-chief father (Treat Williams) regularly scolds her with sexist insults. And don’t let something as inconvenient as a howling storm keep Addison from stumbling onto a hunting cabin where an ogreish stepfather holds thrall, chasing his baby-toting wife out into the snow. Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) may be an occasionally interesting visual stylist, but storytelling-wise, his second English-language effort couldn’t be more stillborn. Bana and Wilde have equally slippery grasps on an Alabama accent, while Williams seems as if neither he nor his character has completely defrosted after coming in from the cold. That the characters will converge in a single, bloody set piece is foreordained, but it doesn’t feel like much of a culmination, since the movie’s theme hasn’t been developed so much as simply reiterated. Follow Sam Adams on Twitter: @SamuelAAdams

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Francophrenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)

James Franco stunned the film world when he committed to a regular gig on General Hospital, but the Oscar-nominated actor had a clever trick up his sleeve. While shooting a key GH episode, Franco brought along a film crew. TFF award winner Ian Olds (Fixer, 2009) then repurposed Franco's behind-the-scenes footage into an experimental psychological thriller set amid the spectacle of a celebrity's escalating paranoia, creating a mind-bending exploration of identity.

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Graceland

Family man Marlon Villar is the longtime chauffeur of prominent politician Manuel Chango. While he and his daughter accompany his boss' preteen daughter home, Marlon is ambushed and the wrong girl is kidnapped. Suddenly the unassuming driver is propelled into a horrifying downward spiral and, as events in his life unravel, Marlon, Chango, and their families become entangled in a game of deceit and betrayal that will leave no one innocent.

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Rat King

Eighteen-year-old Juri spends his days absorbed in his computer gaming world, to the exclusion of school, friends, and ultimately his exasperated girlfriend. When his internet ally Niki turns up at his door fearing for his life because of a mysterious new online game, Juri eagerly follows him down the rabbit hole. In this taut, violent thriller, the lines between reality and the game blur as Juri and Niki are drawn into its increasingly morbid world.

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