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Film Review: The Batman & Jockey

Arts Review2022-3-4By: Marc Glassman


Noir—great and small

The Batman & Jockey

Film reviews by Marc Glassman


The Batman

Matt Reeves, director & co-script w/Peter Craig 

Greig Fraser, cinematographer

Robert Pattinson (The Batman/Bruce Wayne), Jeffrey Wright (Jim Gordon), Zoe Kravitz (Catwoman/Selina Kyle), John Turturro (Carmine Falcone), Paul Dano (The Riddler), Colin Farrell (The Penguin), Andy Serkis (Alfred)


The Batman has always been the strangest of the DC’s action heroes because he lacks superpowers. Unlike the very powerful Superman and Wonder Woman, who also started in the Golden Age of Comics in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, The Batman has always relied on fear, gadgetry, human strength and intelligence to beat his outré villains. The fact that his secret identity is multi-millionaire Bruce Wayne also gave him advantages such as the Batmobile—better than James Bond’s car—and a brilliant man servant named Alfred. And it never hurts to be white and privileged, does it? Maybe he almost has a superpower after all.

In the latest incarnation of the Batman saga, the richest man in Gotham City aka The Caped Crusader is incarnated by a brooding punkish handsome man named Robert Pattinson. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Like his Twilight companion Kristen Stewart, Pattinson has taken on deeper roles since achieving superstardom. While appearing as The Batman—with the defining article setting him up as a stern avenging figure—might seem to be a compromise for Pattinson after his roles in The Lighthouse and The King, it’s in keeping with Tenet, another hugely budgeted arty film in which he starred recently. 

The Batman is less a starring vehicle for Pattinson than an auteur statement for Matt Reeves, who seems to have been waiting for this opportunity during his entire career. Reeves was in his early teens 40 years ago when he and J.J. Abrams were hired to do tech work for Steven Spielberg. Though he’s done fine since then, co-producing the hit TV show Felicity, making the quirky monster hit Cloverfield and directing several successful additions to the Planet of the Apes franchise, it seems that he’s never had a truly high-profile film to make before this one. 

At nearly three hours in length with a budget of approximately $200 million, The Batman definitely is an A-list film. Just like Bruce Wayne, Matt Reeves has splashed the cash showily, going for maximum impact in scene after scene in this gargantuan opus. For most of the film, the visual appeal is based on noir effects: this film is even darker than Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. With the storyline not being all that complex, viewers can fully enjoy the eye candy of set pieces set in ornate churches, fancy nightclubs and on vertiginously high rooftops. 

One of The Batman’s outlandish villains, the Riddler, has taken it upon himself to rid Gotham City of its corrupt political hierarchy. As the Mayor, Police Commissioner and District Attorney are killed off in increasingly more elaborate ways, The Batman zeroes in on the remaining gangster element in the city, particularly the old-style mobster Carmine Falcone and his assistant, the Penguin. He acquires an ally in the Catwoman, who as Selina Kyle, works at Falcone’s hottest club. In the film’s best scene, she wears contact lenses, which allows Batman to see what is going on in the club. Kyle is working with Batman in order to help her best friend Annika, who was the mayor’s mistress but, all too soon, she ends up dead, too.

Two thirds of the film unfolds like a detective story, with the Batman bound to discover the identity and whereabouts of the Riddler. But when the Riddler is captured, it turns out that he has a way of unleashing a far more terrifying situation for Gotham than had been previously imagined. 

The Batman is a very bleak film. Reeves has paced its three-hour running time relentlessly. There are many set pieces with suspense building repeatedly. The colour palate is dark and there is a garishness to the look that reminds one of Forties noir thrillers. Pattinson is very persuasive as the obsessed Batman; he may be one-note but it’s a remarkable note. Most of the rest of the performers are just fine, especially John Turturro as Falcone, Peter Sarsgaard as D.A. Gil Colson and Jeffrey Wright as Lt. Gordon, just about the only honest cop on the force. Remarkably bizarre are Paul Dano’s Riddler—he is truly odd—and Colin Farrell’s very strange Penguin. These villains seem unreal, not even part of the dimension that even the Batman inhabits. 

Is The Batman worth seeing? Absolutely but, boy, is it long! With its compelling plot and intriguing characters, it’s bound to be a post-COVID success. And we’ll have more Pattinson turns as The Batman, not the worst fate in the world. 




Clint Bentley, director & co-script w/Greg Kwedar

Starring: Clifton Collins, Jr. (Jackson), Molly Parker (Ruth), Moises Arias (Gabriel), Logan Cormier (Leo), Colleen Hartnett

Shot in Turf Paradise, Phoenix

Adolpho Veloso, cinematographer


Life in the margins of society is never easy, and certainly not in the U.S. right now. In the land of opportunity, there isn’t a safety net. That may motivate people to do their best even if they’re failing physically but it’s a harsh environment to conduct your life. 

Jackson, a veteran jockey who seems to have never raced in the Kentucky Derby or any other major tournament, has nevertheless carved out a career riding horses across the U.S.A. Now in his fifties, his body is failing him, particularly his back and spine, which have taken too many spills. Still, he knows more than most about horses–how to train and ride them. And he has someone backing him, another pro, Ruth, who has been running a stable for years and more than respects Jackson.

Life is hardly copacetic but Jackson is making out fine until he meets Gabriel, a young, needy man who claims that he is his son. Is it true? Jackson had been a lover of Gabriel’s mother, but they had split before she was clearly pregnant, and he had heard nothing from her over the years. But Gabriel is suddenly around, in Jackson’s life, and he shows himself to be a quiet hard working decent kid. 

Clint Bentley and Greg Kedwar, who previously collaborated on the award-winning Mexican border drama Transpecos, have made another gritty film but this one isn’t political. What we see here is a character study of a good man trying his best under tough circumstances. Bentley’s father was a jockey, so he understands the atmosphere, language and social life of characters like Jackson. He has clearly worked with character actor Collins to make Jackson into a three-dimensional figure, one with heart and knowledge and a need to do right even while his body is failing.

Jockey falls neatly into a genre of bleak brilliant movies that go back to Rowland Brown’s early ‘30s gangster flick Quick Millions, the great Robert Wise/Robert Ryan prize fighter Forties noir The Set Up, and Jean-Pierre Melville’s marvellous Fifties gambling black comedy Bob le Flambeur. They’re all about people losing it all but handling it with grace. The finest is John Huston’s masterpiece Fat City, where every character does their best but it’s not enough—not in the unforgiving world in which they barely survive. 

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Jockey to Fat City. Few films can come close to its artless understanding of the lives of its desolate characters. Still, there are many things in Jockey that work well, particularly the relationship between Molly Parker’s Ruth and Clifton Collins’ Jackson. The two share a rare respect and intimacy that is stronger than what passes for love between most people. 

The best scene in the film takes place in Jackson’s trailer as he shares his vulnerability and fear with Ruth, who responds that night as a friend–but no longer wants to employ him as a rider after that evening. 

Jockey is a film that is a little too calculated for its own good. The film has too many gorgeous sunsets serving as brilliant backdrops to revelatory scenes in Jackson’s life, including his difficult relationship with Gabriel. Whether the boy is his son or not, Jackson effectively adopts him and trains him to become Ruth’s next rider. The story is, in its way, too pat, too perfect.

Jockey comes so close to being a truthful and emotional film that one feels betrayed by its rote melancholia. This film doesn’t have to embrace tragedy; it should quietly tell its tale and let us figure out the rest. Clint Bentley should trust his material: Jockey is a fine story, and it can be told without blowing things out of proportion. Too many scenes spell out the meaning of the relationships we see unfolding before us—and we don’t need to hear what we can already see. 

Still, this is a heart-felt film with one great performance by Molly Parker as Ruth and a very good one by Clifton Collins as Jackson. It’s almost a great film, which frustrates me. But it should be seen: you’ll like it. Jockey may have its heart on its sleeve but the story is worth experiencing.



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