(director/writer: Tom Ford; screenwriter: based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright; cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey; editor:Joan Sobel; music: Abel Korzeniowski ; cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield), Amy Adams (Susan Morrow), Michael Shannon (Bobby Andes), Laura Linney (Anne Sutton), Armie Hammer (Hutton Morrow), Karl Glusman (Lou), Isla Fisher (Laura Hastings), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ray Marcus), Robert Aramayo (Turk), Ellie Bamber (India Hastings), Neil Jackson (Christopher); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Salerno/Tom Ford; Focus Features; 2016)

“A violent emotional thriller meant to shock.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival. The movie is based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. Director-writer, the former fashion designer and actor, Tom Ford(“A Single Man”), lets it rip as a violent emotional thriller meant to shock. It’s hypnotic in blending together the past and present into a unified revenge drama.There’s a main movie with a secondary film-within -the -film, whereby the intense minor film is much better than the more tentative soap opera main story. Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is the sophisticated, hard businesswoman and glamorous owner of a hip LA art gallery, who is married to the straying handsome Wall Street wheeler-dealer Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer). Seemingly blessed with a perfect life but in reality she finds herself unhappy, lonely and not liking the work she does. She regrets not becoming an artist and in living such a superficial life pumping up fake art. Susan divorced her aspiring writer first husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) twenty years ago she met while both were attending a NYC grad school because she believed he was too weak to succeed and realized she wanted to live a comfortable life. Her wealthy West Texas mom (Laura Linney) warned her against the marriage, saying she was just like her- at heart a bourgeois. After not hearing from Edward since the divorce, she surprisingly receives a manuscript from him entitled Nocturnal Animals. His first book is dedicated to her, as it tells a violent story about three vicious thugs (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Robert Aramayo and Karl Glusman) on a desolate road at night in rural Texas, who force off the road a family car and rape and kill the wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) of the weak driver Tony Hastings (also Jake Gyllenhaal). A year later with the help of a cancer-stricken cop (Michael Shannon), they team-up to put closure to that cold case and get pioneer justice by not following regulations because of the corrupt local justice system. The novel signals a symbolic revenge message the writer sends to his ex-wife. But there’s not much meaning to grapple with in the novel, even if it’s well-acted and the scenario is haunting. The pulp story is something that can be taken from the latest gruesome tabloid stories, something found daily in our newspapers.