Viper Club

Susan Sarandon won an Oscar playing Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking), so perhaps she thought going from a Sister, to a mother, also named Helen…might bring a nomination. Despite her strong performance, this movie won’t garner any nominations on the awards circuit. It plays more like a Lifetime film you’d catch on TV.

This Helen is a nurse, who always seems to be the smartest cookie in the room. She can tell a new doctor how to properly tell grieving parents their child didn’t make it. She can bark orders at the FBI and State Department, on how things should be done in order to get her son back. You see, he’s a journalist that has been kidnapped in the Middle East. The military isn’t as concerned as it would be if he were a soldier.

Iranian filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz wrote and directed this picture, and he never creates the proper emotional connection with the audience. It’s also a bit manipulative, and relies too much on flashbacks that aren’t all that interesting.

The U.S. doesn’t pay ransoms (despite President Obama paying one to Iran, but that’s another debate for another time). That has Helen talking even with the Secretary of State, and he won’t talk to the FBI. It seems even the clerk working at the money wiring place doesn’t want to talk to her (she loudly chews her gum, twirls her hair, and makes faces like Mrs. Wiggins in The Carol Burnett Show).

The Viper Club isn’t the place actor River Phoenix died outside of. It’s a fanatical, eponymous group that Andy’s colleague Sam (Matt Bomer) and angry mom Charlotte (the always wonderful Edie Falco) are a part of. Perhaps they can help Helen, and she can help them.

Many of the characters in this are too stereotypical, and not that compelling.

Sarandon plays this character well, but I’ve seen her play similar characters in better movies (one being the criminally underseen Moonlight Mile, with her daughter being killed just days before her wedding).

It was also a bit odd how the movie tried to throw in current political events and debates (immigration, guns, healthcare, etc.).

It was so slow, it’s hard to see how anyone would find this interesting.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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