Beast of Burden
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Grace Gummer, Pablo Schreiber
Knowing zero about Daniel Radcliffe’s latest film, it opens with the bearded actor flying a small plane. We quickly assess he is alone in the plane, flying at night, and begins speaking to his wife via the wi-fi. I kept waiting for the scene to end, the plane to descend, but that never happened. Beast of Burden is nothing more than Tom Hardy in Locke minus the talent and cinematic vision. Radcliffe has tried so obviously and intentionally to wave the “I’m more than Harry Potter” flag, it’s led him to always star as a certain type of character, in a certain type of movie. What he does here isn’t impressive, it’s not the makings of a brilliant actor using internal skills to drive a solo performance, it feels honestly more like a desperate stunt.
Sean Haggerty (Radcliffe) has made a lot of mistakes in his life, lying to his wife Jen (Gummer) about continuing to work for the peace core is the latest. Jen only recently found out she has ovarian cancer and neither of them have health insurance for the care she requires. Sean has been running drugs across the border for a while. He’s made a deal with the DEA to in exchange for a new life. As he flies across country in a rickety old plane, he juggles stressful phone calls from Jen, the DEA team leader (Schreiber) and the drop contact he is meeting at the border as he quickly runs out of fuel over the alternating locations.
It takes a special kind of actor, and Radcliffe doesn’t cut it here.
Midway through the film, completely removed from the drama of failed suspense, it occurred to me that something like Beast of Burden might be more effective on the radio. Watching Radcliffe fumble around while flying a plane at nighttime playing switchboard on his smartphone isn’t entertaining. In fact, Radcliffe has given better performances as a corpse. I always say this on movies where one person must carry the entire film in a solo performance, but it takes a special kind of actor, and Radcliffe doesn’t cut it here. The script and story aren’t very compelling either, despite attempts to introduce drones, kidnappings, and gunfire.
Beast of Burden is broken down into two acts, the majority is the confined solo performance in the plane. Everything else is comprised of flashbacks and one final pathetic climax on the ground. The flashback scenes are intended to break up the monotony of endless Radcliffe talking, but also allow for cuts in scenes. The subject matter of drugs and life or death situations are so uninteresting mundane, it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to be involved in this project. There is nothing in Beast of Burden that isn’t done better in another film. The constant hum of the plane (sound editing) is enough to lull the viewer to sleep due to the lack of narrative stimulation.
Another miscalculation for Radcliffe.