Severance

Film
2 out of 5 stars
STAFF CUTBACKS Blakley, rear, holds up her end of the deal.
STAFF CUTBACKS Blakley, rear, holds up her end of the deal.

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

On-the-job rage: Don’t we all know it? The fine line between brainstorming and brain-bashing gets its funniest treatment in Mary Harron’s American Psycho, where cutthroat yuppies compare new business cards like apes fighting over the water hole in 2001. Nonetheless, the well has hardly run dry; Christopher Smith’s Brit-made horror-comedy, Severance, has a title to kill for, along with an equally cheeky premise. A group of corporate defense contractors, led by arrogant fathead Richard (McInnerny), heads into the woods for a mandatory “team-building weekend.” Even if the flick’s opening moments didn’t feature some chaotic bloodletting in a brief flash-forward, you already know certain positions are bound to be eliminated.

Still, to borrow a phrase, can we focus here, people? Disappointingly, Severance strays way too soon into serviceable run-around-screaming scenes, when what we really want are the banal showdowns familiar to fans of The Office—which this is decidedly not. A blond Canadian number cruncher (Blakley) rises to the level of Rambette, but why must she also shed her clipped, all-business veneer to do so? And why must the retreat be set in one of those Eastern European scary zones la Hostel? Wouldn’t a well-manicured golf course have been more satiric? When an American blowhard named George accidentally fires his rocket-launching bazooka (don’t ask) into an overhead jumbo jet, only the dullest latecomers to political snark will guffaw. Too much thriller routineness has been smuggled into to a venture that could have borne more verbal savagery, and that’s snoozing on the job. Call this a written warning. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf

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