The last time that I saw Jim Sturgess he was rocking a smug grin while just getting the bejesus knocked out of him by Lawrence Fishburn after he was caught counting cards. I have to say that he’s come a long way from 21 in this new thriller out of the UK, HEARTLESS. Slow burn thrillers/horror movies can be a hard sell nowadays that younger audiences have adapted ADHD viewing capacities and either want constant carnage or a breakneck rhythm. I’m not one to complain about either of those in a horror film, but a slow builder can please me just as much and HEARTLESS definitely packs a punch during the stretches I wasn’t on the verge of dozing off into dreamland.
Jamie Morgan is a withdrawn London man that is extremely self conscious about a heart shaped birthmark around his left eye. He begins to see that there are demon-like creatures roaming the streets of London. Jamie then makes a deal with the devil, Papa B (Joseph Mawle), which grants him good looks so that he can feel confident enough to find true love. The deal comes with some caveats though; Jamie must commit a series of crimes which end up being much more sinister than Jamie originally agreed to do. As Jamie struggles with his decision to continue to honor the arrangement he finds that backing down has extremely dire consequences.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually really liked HEARTLESS, but the pacing is incredibly slow. All the violence and more interesting aspects are punctuated in favor of drama, which I’m ok with but the drama isn’t near as good or interesting as the crazier parts of the film. I absolutely love the concept of HEARTLESS; the execution though left a little something to be desired.
Jim Sturgess is great as the lead as he turns in a very moody performance. His presence on screen is very strong especially when he’s got the makeup on depicting the heart shaped scar. The makeup itself gives the character a very clear and interesting look and Sturgess brings it home with his performance. Joseph Mawle also makes a great impression in his limited time on screen as Papa B. Mawle creates a very threatening presence later on in the film but it’s his initial introduction that paints him as more mild tempered that makes him more intimidating later on.
I found HEARTLESS to be a film that succeeds based on its high concept than anything else it has going for it such as the performances and moody atmosphere. The more out of control and crazy the events get the more interesting the movie becomes. Once the events hit a peak and the movie begins to slow back down my interest started to fluctuate. I enjoyed some of the more somber moments at different levels and hated others, because I was so intrigued with the darker elements I never connected to the relationship aspect. My final impression of the film went out on a low know because the ending just didn’t pay off like I wanted so while I liked HEARTLESS overall it failed to create an experience that I find memorable.
In the end HEARTLESS pretty much described my final thoughts of the film; a very appealing hook that drew me in but lacked the heart to make me feel any deep connection once it was over. Much like the devil in the film it lures you in with lots of enticing promises and visuals only to find things weren’t exactly what they seemed. HEARTLESS is good for interesting and creepy sequences peppered in here and there and a story that’s intriguing, but in different hands could have been much more than it was.