Starring Susan Sarandon, Matt Boomer, Eddie Falco, Amir Malaklou, Adepero Oduye
The title doesn’t do the movie any favors, nor does the fact that what Viper Club actually means, is referenced so little in the script, it doesn’t promote the films interest. Viper Club is a composite film of American freelance journalists, who risk their lives to report from war zones that American media won’t travel. However, this story is from the perspective of a mother, dealing with the intense ramifications of her son being kidnapped by radicals, navigating a delicate balance for his return. Oscar winning actress Susan Sarandon is no stranger to involvement in political territory. The activist has somewhat alienated herself from Hollywood in recent years for such strong, often opposing opinions. The conviction in her performance, played both internally and very restrained, is the films only strength.
Keep quiet, tell no one, Helen (Sarandon) is instructed by the FBI. She receives conflicting advice from her son Andrew’s friends and colleagues who tell her she should be doing more, contacting the media, making a scene. Helen is the head nurse at a local New York City hospital where she channels her anger at the situation and frustration with local officials, into healing patients. “What’s wrong with you,” superiors keep asking, as she withholds the truth. She’s told by the FBI to trust the process, but after three months and no word out of Syria of her son, she wants to try something else. Charlotte (Falco) a friend with unlimited resources and money, starts using back channels to raise a ransom, noting that’s illegal for an American citizen to pay a terrorist. Helen puts her house up for sale and will do anything just to keep her son safe.
I hate when people use the word “heavy” to describe a film, like serious subject matter is a negative thing. Viper Club doesn’t make it easy for the viewer to get into the story. The plot already quite the downer, combined with the horrors of being an ER nurse (they feature scenes of young children arriving from a school shooting), and to top it all, it’s set during Christmas time for extra sadness. Viper Club is destination Lifetime, not because of it’s subject matter, but because of the way it’s portrayed. For a film about kidnapping and extreme circumstances, Viper Club is monotonous in it’s delivery. It’s more about the day to day life of someone dealing with the situation at hand.
Viper Club is an online network where freelance journalists comment and report on safe zones for those looking to travel into the most dangerous regions. It’s a forum where unverified reports are given that government agencies wouldn’t have access to. “I didn’t name it” Andrew’s girlfriend explains to Helen. The concept of Viper Club plays into the story so minutely, you wonder, aside from how catchy it sounds, why that title was chosen. It sounds like a bad James Franco flick. Conversations with Falco are the movie’s stronger moments and even Helen’s comradery at the hospital is quite interesting comparatively. Ultimately the film isn’t very effective because it tries too hard to distance itself from any emotion.
Sarandon’s performance is commendable but the film lacks emotion or convictions.