Based on the comic-book character, VenomĀ details the chaos that ensues after a disgraced reporter (Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock) is forced to share his body with an vicious and violent alien parasite. Filmmaker Ruben Fleischer, working from a screenplay by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel, does an effective job of initially subverting one’s expectations for a superhero film, as Venom boasts a refreshingly low-key and subdued first half that almost feels more like a character study than a big-budget blockbuster – with Hardy’s decidedly off-kilter turn as the central character effectively perpetuating the unexpectedly (and refreshingly) action-free vibe. (It doesn’t hurt, either, that Fleischer has packed the supporting cast with strong performers like Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate, and Reid Scott, although Riz Ahmed is miscast and, worse, completely bland as the picture’s human villain.) The agreeable atmosphere persists right up until around the halfway mark, after which point Fleischer slowly-but-surely begins infusing Venom with precisely the kind of loud, videogame-like attributes associated with films of this ilk – with the final third’s ceaseless mayham paving the way for an absolutely (and utterly) anticlimactic final stretch. The inclusion of an admittedly fun pre-end credits teaser only highlights the degree to which Fleischer and company have bungled the premise and title character, with the movie’s failure especially disappointing given the massive potential afforded by the stellar cast and strong opening stretch.

** out of ****

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