What looks like a home invasion turns into a muddle. Some promise, but not easy to follow and not at all exciting.
Chop Chop, the directorial debut from Rony Patel, opens with police on the lookout for a killer who likes to remove his victims’ heads. We then meet a seemingly ordinary and affectionate couple, indulging in a cozy night at home… this is clearly where the bad guy is headed next, carrying a bag of heads. So far so good, tying in with the publicity I read when I accepted this review screener: “An ordinary pizza delivery leads to a night of chaos when a murderous psychopath targets a young couple who might be harboring a secret of their own.”
That line had led me to expect an exciting home-invasion survival horror, but within minutes my expectations were confounded. The home invader was dead (rather too easy for a seemingly ordinary home), so what on Earth was the rest of the film going to be about? The “night of chaos” part had been right, as most of it felt like random misfortune, the case of which was either unexplained or just hinted at.
Written (with Andrew Ericksen, Toxicity) and directed by Rony Patel, who was also involved in several other ways, Chop Chop had tonnes of potential, but the strengths were largely unexplored. A longer film (perhaps with more experienced writers) could have done something interesting with the contrast between the couple (Atala Arce and Jake Taylor) and the bad guys (yes, more emerge later on). The couple – the credits tell me they were called Liv and Chuck – were so calm and unexpressive most of the time that I couldn’t tell if they were in shock from the violence or not shocked at all. The pizza-delivering “psychopath” (David Harper) and Clark (Mikael Mattsson), who indulges in masked torture in the one and only tense scene, are almost comically weird in comparison.
The other aspect that really deserved more attention was the couple’s background: I wanted to know why they were so calm, why they chose to xxxx instead of calling the police about the pizza guy, how come they had an underground connection who could help with that, and so on. But everything was just so sketchy that I was more baffled than intrigued. The majority of the cast had experience in short films or as extras, and the acting was mediocre across the board. None of that would have been a big deal if the writing was better.
Suggesting a home invasion thriller, then presenting chaos, ending in torture and survival is not ideal (yeah, and I still haven’t forgiven Mother!). I will always applaud the arrival of a new director, especially one from an underrepresented demographic, but this is not a good introduction for Mr Patel.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.