Film Review: ‘Stoker’ is Park Chan-wook’s invasion of America

Mia Wasikowska plays a deranged teenager in "Stoker" Credit: Macall Polay
Mia Wasikowska plays a deranged teenager in “Stoker”
Credit: Macall Polay

‘Stoker’
Director: Park Chan-wook
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

South Korean director Park Chan-wook isn’t terribly known outside of fanboy circles, but his reputation is secure, thanks mostly to the hammer-wielding, octopus-slurping genre grinder “Oldboy.” Traditionally a cult hit from a foreign filmmaker leads to a dispiriting American stint, but Park is too much a stylist to get ground up by the Hollywood machine. His English-language debut, “Stoker” finds him in the United States but working on its margins. It’s a serial killer pic, but a Park Chan-wook serial killer pic, which is to say it’s obsessed not with plot or even grisly murders but with visual design, outré ideas and a hothouse atmosphere, no doubt gleaned from watching too many American movies.

It’s a good thing the filmmaker doesn’t care about plot, because it’s not “Stoker”’s strongest point. Park decided his first American film should be the first produced script cowritten by Wentworth Miller, the star of “Prison Break.” A teenager with the loaded name of India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her father in a car accident (allegedly!). The funeral brings forth mysterious uncle Charles (Matthew Goode), who intrigues her first with his handsomeness and sex appeal, and then by revealing that he likes to snap necks with his belt.

Of course, there are twists, but Miller’s script also goes to some weird places: India has the hots for her uncle, as does her widowed mom (Nicole Kidman, underused but reliably wild-eyed), and she soon finds herself turned on by his blasé treatment of other people’s lives, leading to a genuinely out there shower scene.

Park grasps onto these elements as tight as he can, doing his best to obscure the silly story with an array of fetishistic phantasmagoria. Park’s images, as ever, are fussy and borderline (and often actually) OCD. It’s not just him showing off (although it’s that, too): the power of surfaces is an idea that tends to be built into his narratives. “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” finds a woman with hot crimson eye shadow whose aggressively stylized revenge masks deeper trauma. Still, despite amplifying its transgressive bits, Park proves unable to get deeper into the script, and frankly seems bored by its machinations. Park works best when astride unbelievable tragedy, as in his best work (thus far), “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.” “Stoker” seems like a placeholder, an excuse to work out his pet themes and talents before a project captures his complete attention.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.