Chew's Reviews - Viper Club

By Gary Chew | October 26, 2018 |

Remember Susan Sarandon playing the part of Helen Prejean in DEADMAN WALKING? Sister Helen is the Catholic nun who gave aid and comfort to a condemned murderer awaiting his dark date with the prison warden. She wrote her nonfiction book using the same title.

VIPER CLUB finds Sarandon as another indefatigable woman, older now, who's not trying to save the soul of a murderer, but the life of her journalist son. Sarandon's character in the film, just opening, is also named Helen, a fictional character; but her ordeal is real and common to journalists working today.

Andy (Julian Morris) is Helen's adult son who works as a freelance reporter. He's been kidnapped by ISIS in Syria. The terrorists will return him alive for a huge ransom. She's a hard-working ER nurse in a large hospital in upstate New York, giving the kind of aid and comfort that Helen of DEADMAN WALKING gave to a hardened killer. The “new” Helen does it for the sick, injured and dying ... young and old… who are mostly innocent. Helen has been at it so long in the ER, she teaches young doctors lessons that weren't in their medical school curriculum. She lives alone and makes a modest income ... working hours not so good, usually.

We receive Helen as already informed by the U-S government that Andy is a hostage. She's been told to not tell anyone while government agencies handle the issue; not even the people with whom she works. Both Helens played by Sarandon have big hearts and don't put up with much shit, if you get my meaning. The oleaginous government folks, played sooo well, give Helen a punking runaround. As time goes by with no word, as far as she can tell, about Andy's current circumstance, she "locks and loads" for bear with the FBI and people at the U-S State Department. The message from one of them is: since Andy is a non-connected, independent journalist, he showed up in Syria to cover the mayhem on his own volition. Hmmm, Helen's not going for that.

She hooks up with a small group of well-off Liberal folks who think journalism is a pretty nifty thing for democracies. The lead on that group is Charlotte, played by the always-great Edie Falco, that well-respected wife of Tony Soprano. Remember her?! Charlotte is well-connected and lives in a gorgeous mansion, but she handles her well-off-ness like a champ. You barely notice. So rare, especially today.

One subtly done scene puts Helen and Charlotte at some high-class men's club where they chat it up with two gentlemen who don't handle well-off-ness with the aplomb Charlotte does. The two women are putting the touch on the men for large contributions to get Andy loose from the demonic terrorists. The gents agree to rather appropriate amounts, but in the conversation between one of the men and Helen, he puts a question to her that's primed with an innuendo suggesting whether there might be any “thing” on the side for his generosity. Helen picks up the low key signal at full volume. Although that small aspect in the scene doesn't go anywhere in the plot, it's yet another feminist example of how some fellows act, even when the other person is in a helpless, vulnerable situation … like trying to make sure a son gets away safely and not put to death.

There's much more to VIPER CLUB than this.  The push of the story is relentless, even if the situation the script allows for isn't unique.  Without strong acting, like that proffered by the seasoned Sarandon, this movie might have slipped over into ho-hum territory. This is a motion picture to watch out for ... in more than one way. It's written and directed by an Iranian-American woman by the name of Maryam Keshavarz.
Copyright © 2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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