Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 14, 2020)
Based on its title, one might expect 2020’s Broil to offer a tale of the cooking biz. Nope – instead we get a dark thriller, albeit one that does involve food and a “chef”.
After she causes a violent incident at school, 17-year-old Chance Sinclair (Avery Konrad) gets in trouble. Chance winds up at the estate of her ultra-wealthy grandfather August (Timothy V. Murphy), where she finds herself subject to his strict rules.
Matters take a turn when Chance’s mother June (Annette Reilly) attempts to have August poisoned. This leads to a wild night with many bizarre revelations and violent repercussions.
If you ever wondered “hey, what happened to that cute kid from Jerry Maguire… here he is! Now almost 30 (!), Jonathan Lipnicki has actually worked pretty steadily over the 24 years (! again) since Maguire, albeit mainly in projects the escaped the mass public.
Projects like Broil, in fact. As I scanned Lipnicki’s filmography, my eyes alighted on little I recognized, but of course, that would’ve been the case with Broil if I’d not gone “Jonathan Lipnicki??? He’s still alive???” when I received the press e-mail.
Though not mentioned in my synopsis, Lipnicki plays an assassin chef recruited to poison August. He receives top billing for Broil, but that seems more based on vague name recognition than his actual role/presence in the film.
Not that Lipnicki plays an insubstantial part. While Sydney 'The Chef' Lawson doesn’t appear until the start of the film’s second act, he becomes a reasonably prominent role as matters proceed.
Don’t expect to recognize Lipnicki, as I don’t see much of the adorable moppet from 1996 here. Also don’t expect to find a lot of talent from Lipnicki, as I sense he peaked at the age of five.
Broil chooses to make Lawson a character on the autism spectrum, and Lipnicki tends to overdo those traits. Granted, he avoids too much cartooniness, but he never manages to create a realistic portrait.
Not that he exists in a vacuum, as the other actors fail to manage much from their roles as well. Actually, Murphy manages some dark energy, and Konrad gives us an appropriately immature energy for Chance, but they don’t boast great performances overall.
Outside of the actors, Broil flails because it overdoes so much of its story and tone. Whereas an interesting version of this tale would toy with the viewer and develop its insidious themes slowly, Broil shoves darkness in our face right off the bat and makes subtext text far too early.
This backfires, as the movie ratchets its sinister nature so early that it drains away any potential tension. We know where matters will go and we don’t care, as the horrifying events seem so inevitable that we lose interest early.
This means that when the supernatural crap hits the fan, nothing especially exciting materializes. It doesn’t help that Hugh Wielenga’s score pounds home every attempt at drama to such a ridiculous degree that it subverts those moments.
Even in an overcrowded horror genre, Broil could find some new twists. However, the filmmakers tell their tale in such a clumsy, borderline incoherent manner that it flops.