“Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.”
October Gale is pretty much a slight reworking of Knife In The Water, Dead Calm, The Swimming Pool, Labor Day, or any other movie where a mysterious loner, with a ton of baggage and/or some kind of criminal past, is taken in by someone (with their own set of personal baggage) only to have things come to a head in the final act. In this latest film from Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time & Inescapable) Patricia Clarkson plays “Gale” – a depressed widow on vacation who takes in an injured stranger (“Will”) that’s on the run from a gang of thugs looking to kill him. Instead of trying to reach out to the police or a close-by neighbor to defuse the situation, Gale decides to put herself in danger and help Will as he tries to fight off the thugs, led by Tim Roth’s “Tom”, who eventually discover his whereabouts and come to finish him off (sounds like something you’ve seen a hundred times, right?)
Usually Patricia Clarkson’s presence can make even the most lackluster of films watchable (for me at least) but unfortunately that’s not the case here. Within the first few minutes of October Gale I was worried. The first few exchanges of lines delivered by some of the actors are incredibly wooden & stiff, almost like they were rehearsing their lines cold on camera. As the film progresses there’s patches were very little is spoken which could be off-putting for some viewers (this film has a minimal cast). Personally I don’t have a problem with that. I think more movies, both indie & mainstream, should have less talking. But October Gale doesn’t really have anything to make up for the sparse script. And I hate to sound like a run of the mill critic but this movie was filled with the kinds of clichés that would make any cynical movie nerd like myself roll their eyes more than once (but at the same time this film does steer clear of other clichés that I imagine other filmmakers would fall in to).
I was most disappointing in how underused Tim Roth was. Between Made In Britain, Rob Roy, Hoodlum & Selma, Roth has built a reputation for playing despicable antagonists. This was the perfect opportunity for Roth to have fun and go batshit crazy in a bad movie (like Michael Shannon in Premium Rush or Raul Julia in Street Fighter) but his villainous portrayal in October Gale was much more reserved for my liking.
I don’t want to completely shit on this movie. There are a few good qualities. On some level this is an example of a filmmaker stepping outside of their comfort zone to try something new. Almost all of Nadda’s previous films have some kind of socio-political angle. October Gale is just a straight-up thriller that has nothing to do with politics or religion. But at the same time, there are shades of her previous movies here so if you’re a fan of hers you might enjoy this. The slightly awkward male/female tension between the two leads in Nadda’s Cairo Time is revisited in October Gale, only this time it’s under much more chaotic circumstances (not to say the exploration of Gaza in Cairo Time isn’t serious, but the tension in October Gale is much more direct & in your face this time around).
At the end of the day October Gale falls somewhere between a painfully forgettable movie that you’d stream on Netflix when you have nothing to watch and a lifetime movie with established actors. I was so uninspired while watching this that I don’t even feel like completely trashing it. This is something I recommend you pass on…